Authority and Submission
God’s Throne Established on Authority
The acts of God issue from His throne, and His throne is established on His authority. All things are created through God’s authority and all physical laws of the universe are maintained by His authority. Hence the Bible expresses it as “upholding all things by the word of His power, which means upholding all things by the word of the power of His authority. For God’s authority represents God himself whereas His power stands only for His act. Sin against power is more easily forgiven than sin against authority, because the latter is a sin against God himself. God alone is authority in all things; all the authorities of the earth are instituted by God. Authority is a tremendous thing in the universe—nothing overshadows it. It is therefore imperative for us who desire to serve God to know the authority of God. . . .
Authority, the Controversy of the Universe
The controversy of the universe is centered on who shall have the authority, and our conflict with Satan is the direct result of our attributing authority to God. To maintain God’s authority we must be subject to it with all our hearts. It is absolutely necessary for us to meet God’s authority and to possess a basic knowledge of what it is.
Before he knew authority Paul tried to wipe out the church; after he had met the Lord on the Damascus road he saw that it was hard for the feet (human power) to kick against the goads (God’s authority). He immediately fell to the ground and acknowledged Jesus as Lord. After that, he was able to submit to the directions given him by Ananias in the city of Damascus, for Paul had met God’s authority. At the moment he was saved he knew God’s authority as well as God’s salvation.
How could Paul, being a clever and capable person, listen to the words of Ananias—an unknown little brother mentioned only once in the Bible—if he had not met the authority of God? Had he not encountered authority on the road to Damascus he could never have been subject to that obscure little brother in the city. This shows us that whoever has met authority deals purely with authority and not with man. Let us not see the man but only the authority vested in him. We do not obey man but God’s authority in that man. Otherwise, how can we ever learn what authority is? We are on the wrong road if we meet man first before we obey authority. The opposite is the right way. Then we will not mind who the man is.
God has purposed to manifest His authority to the world through the church. God’s authority can be seen in the coordination of the various members of the body of Christ.
God uses His utmost power to maintain His authority; therefore His authority is the hardest thing to come up against. We who are so self-righteous and yet so blind need once in our life to encounter God’s authority so that we may be broken unto submission and so begin to learn obedience to the authority of God. Before a man can subject himself to God’s delegated authority he must first meet God’s inherent authority.
Obedience to God’s Will—the Greatest Demand of the Bible
The greatest of God’s demands on man is not for him to bear the cross, to serve, make offerings, or deny himself. The greatest demand is for him to obey. God ordered Saul to attack the Amalekites and destroy them utterly (1 Sam. 15). Yet after his victory Saul spared Agag, king of the Amalekites, along with the best of the sheep and oxen and the fatted beasts and lambs and all that was good. Saulwould not devote them to destruction; he argued that these were spared to sacrifice to God. But Samuel said to him: “Behold, obedience is better than sacrifice, attention than the fat of rams” (verse 15.22 Darby). The sacrifices mentioned here were sweet-savor offerings—having nothing to do with sin, for sin-offering was never called an offering of sweet-savor. They were offered for God’s acceptance and satisfaction. Why did Samuel say that “obedience is better than sacrifice”? Because even in sacrifice there can be the element of self-will. Obedience alone is absolutely honoring to God, for it alone takes God’s will as its center.
For authority to be expressed there must be subjection. If there is to be subjection, self needs to be excluded; but according to one’s self-life, subjection is not possible. This is only possible when one lives in the Spirit. It is the highest expression of God’s will. . . .
As God’s servants, the first thing we should meet is authority. To touch authority is as practical as touching salvation, but it is a deeper lesson. Before we can work for God we must be overturned by His authority. Our entire relationship with God is regulated by whether or not we have met authority. If we have, then we shall encounter authority everywhere, and being thus restrained by God we can begin to be used by Him. . . .
Christians Should Obey Authority
There is no authority except from God; all authorities have been instituted by Him. By tracing all authorities back to their source we invariably end up with God. God is above all authorities, and all authorities are under Him. In touching God’s authority we touch God himself. God’s work basically is done not by power but by authority. He upholds all things by the powerful word of His authority, even as He created them by the same word. His word of command is authority. We cannot say how God’s authority works; nevertheless,we know that He accomplishes everything by it.
A beloved servant of a centurion was sick. The centurion knew he was both under authority and in authority over others. So he asked the Lord to but say a word, believing the work of healing would thus be done—for are not all authorities in the Lord’s hand? He believed in the Lord’s authority. No wonder our Lord commended him for his great faith: “Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel” (Matt. 8.10). Touching God’s authority is the same as meeting God. Today the universe is full of authorities set up by God. All the laws of the universe are established by God. Everything is under His authority. Whenever a person sins against God’s authority he sins against God. All Christians must therefore learn to obey authority. . . .
No Unity of Body Without Authority of Head
God is working towards recovering the oneness of the body. But for this to be accomplished there must first be the life of the Head, followed next by the authority of the Head. Without the life of the Head there can be no body. Without the authority of the Head there can be no unity of the body. To maintain the oneness of the body we must let the life of the Head rule.
God wishes us to obey His delegated authorities as well as himself. All the members of the body should be subject to one another. When this is so, the body is one with itself and with the Head. As the authority of the Head prevails, the will of God is done. Thus does the church become the kingdom of God. . . .
Philippians 2.5-7 forms one section and verses 8-11, another. In these two sections our Lord is seen as having humbled himself twice: first He emptied himself in His divinity, and then He humbled himself in His humanity. By the time He came to this world, the Lordhad so emptied himself of the glory, power, status, and form of His divinity that no one then living, other than by revelation, knew Him nor acknowledged Him as God. They treated Him as a man, as an ordinary person of this world. As the Son He willingly submits to the Father’s authority and declares that “the Father is greater than I” (John 14.28). Thus there is perfect harmony in the Godhead. Gladly the Father takes the place of the Head, and the Son responds with obedience. God becomes the emblem of authority, while Christ assumes the symbol of obedience.
For we men to be obedient it should be simple, because all we need is but a little humility. For Christ to be obedient, however, is not so simple a matter. It is much harder for Him to be obedient than for Him to create the heavens and the earth. Why? Because He has to empty himself of all the glory and power of His divinity and take the form of a slave before He is even qualified to obey. Hence obedience is initiated by the Son of God.
The Son originally shared the same glory and authority with the Father. But when He came to the world He on the one hand forsook authority and on the other hand took up obedience. He willingly took the place of a slave, accepting the human limitation of time and space. He humbled himself further and became obedient unto death. Obedience within the Godhead is the most wonderful sight in the whole universe. Since Christ was obedient unto death—suffering a most painful and shameful death on the cross—God has highly exalted Him. God exalts whoever humbles himself. This is a divine principle.
To Be Filled with Christ Is to Be Filled with Obedience
Since the Lord has initiated obedience, the Father has become the Head of Christ. Now because both authority and obedience have been instituted by God, it is natural for those who know God andChrist to obey. But those who know not God and Christ know neither authority nor obedience. Christ is the principle of obedience. He who accepts Christ accepts the principle of obedience. Hence a person who is filled with Christ must be one who is also filled with obedience. . . .
Learning Obedience through Suffering
It is told in Hebrews 5.8 that Christ “learned obedience through what He suffered.” Suffering called forth obedience from the Lord. Please note here that He did not bring obedience to this earth; He learned it—and He did so through suffering.
When we meet suffering we then learn obedience. Such obedience is real. Our usefulness is not determined by whether or not we have suffered, but by how much obedience we have learned through that suffering. The obedient ones alone are useful to God. As long as our heart is not softened, suffering will not leave us. Our way lies in many sufferings; the easy-goers and pleasure-lovers are useless before God. Let us therefore learn to obey in suffering. . . .
Those who are set up by God are to exercise authority for Him. Since all governing authorities are ordained and instituted by God, they are meant to be obeyed. If we would indeed learn how to obey God, we would then have no trouble recognizing on whom God’s authority rests. But if we know only God’s direct authority, we may possibly violate more than half of His authority. Upon how many lives can we identify the authority of God? Is there any room for us to choose between God’s direct authority and His delegated authority? No, we must be subject to delegated authority as well as to God’s direct authority, for “there is no authority except from God.”
As to earthly authorities, Paul not only exhorts positively towards subjection but also warns negatively against resistance. He whoresists the authorities resists God’s own command; he who rejects God’s delegated authorities rejects God’s own authority. Authority, according to the Bible, is characterized by a unique nature: there is no authority except from God. He who resists authority resists God, and those who resist will incur judgment. There is no possibility of rebellion without judgment. The consequence of resisting authority is death. Man has no choice in the matter of authority. . .
Be Fearlessly Subject to Delegated Authority
What a risk God has taken in instituting authorities! What a loss God will incur if the delegated authorities He institutes misrepresent Him! Yet, undaunted, God has set up these authorities. It is much easier for us to fearlessly obey authorities than for God to institute them. Can we not then obey them without apprehension since God himself has not been afraid to entrust authority to men? Even as God has boldly established authorities, so let us courageously obey them. If anything should be amiss, the fault does not lie with us but with the authorities, for the Lord declares: “Let every soul be in subjection to the higher powers” (Rom. 13.1). . . .
Authority Finds Its Fullest Expression in the Body
The fullest expression of God’s authority is found in the body of Christ, His church. Though God has established the procedure of authority in this world, none of those relationships (rulers and people, parents and children, husbands and wives, masters and servants) can give authority its fullest expression. Because the many governing authorities on earth are all institutional, there is always the possibility of the appearance of subordination without there being the real subjection of heart. There is no way to detect whether the people are following an order of the ruler from their hearts or merely rendering lip-service. It is equally difficult to tell whether the children are hearkening to their parents whole-heartedly or not. Hence subjectionto authority cannot be typified by the way children are subject to their parents, servants to their masters, or people to their rulers. Though God’s authority cannot be established without subjection, neither can it be if the subjection is not from the heart. Then again, all these instances of subjection lie within the scope of human relationships; consequently they are temporal and are subject to separation. So it is clear that absolute and perfect subjection cannot be found in them.
Only the relationship between Christ and the church can fully express both authority and obedience. For God has not called the church to be an institution; He has ordained her to be the body of Christ. We often think of the church as a gathering of believers with the same faith or as a meeting of loving hearts, but God looks at her differently. She stands not only for the same faith and united love but even more so as one body.
The church is the body of Christ, while Christ is the Head of the church. The relationships of parents and children, masters and servants, and even husbands and wives may all be severed, but the physical head and its body are inseparable; they are forever one. In like manner, Christ and the church too can never be sundered apart. The authority and obedience found in Christ and the church are of such a perfect nature that they surpass all other expressions of authority and obedience. . . .
For the Body to Obey the Head Is Most Natural and Agreeable
God has provided that the head and the body should share one life and one nature. It is therefore most natural for the body to obey the head. Indeed, in such a relationship disobedience would be strange. For example, it is normal for the hand to be raised at the instruction of the head; should the hand fail to respond, something would be wrong! In like manner, the Spirit of life which God has given us isone and the same as that which the Lord has; so is the nature of our life the same as His. Thus, there is no possibility of discord and disobedience. . . .
Yet right here lies the common fault of God’s children. We need to recognize in other members the authority of the Head. The function of each member is limited; the eye is to see, the hand is to work, and the foot is to walk; we must therefore learn to accept the functions of the other members. We ought not refuse the function of any member. If the foot should reject the hand, it is the same as rejecting the Head. But if we accept the authority of a member, it is the same as accepting the authority of the Head. By way of fellowship all other members can be my authority. Although the function of the hand of the physical body is tremendous, it has to accept the function of the feet when it comes to walking. The hand cannot feel color, so it needs to accept the authority of the eye. The function of each member constitutes its authority.
The Riches of Christ Is Authority
It is impossible to make each member a whole body; we must each learn to stand in the position of being a member and of accepting the workings of the other members. What others see and hear is reckoned as my seeing and hearing. To accept the workings of other members is to accept the riches of the Head. No member can afford to be independent, since each is but a member in the body; whatever the other members do is taken as the doing of all the members and hence the doing of the body. . . .
We often misunderstand authority as something which oppresses us, hurts us, and troubles us. God does not have such a concept. He uses authority to replenish our lack. His motive in instituting authority is to bestow His riches on us and to supply the need of the weak. He would not have you wait for decades and pass throughmany dark and painful days before you are able to see by yourself. By that time you might have led many into darkness. Indeed, you would become the blind leading the blind. What damage would God suffer through you! No, He first works in the life of another, and works thoroughly, so that He may give that person to you as an authority above you for you to learn obedience and to possess what you have never possessed before. This man’s wealth becomes your wealth. Should you overlook this divine procedure, though you may live for fifty years, you may still lag far behind the attainment of that person.
The way God grants His grace to us is twofold: sometimes, though rarely, He grants grace to us directly; mostly He gives His riches to us indirectly—that is, God puts above you the brothers and sisters in the church who are more advanced spiritually so that you may accept their judgment as your judgment. This will then enable you to possess their wealth without you yourself having to go through their painful experiences. God has deposited much grace in the church; but He dispenses to each member some grace in particular, just as each star has its own particular glory. Hence authority brings in the riches of the church. The wealth of each member is the wealth of all. To rebel is to choose the way of poverty. To resist authority is to reject the means to grace and richness. . . .
In the past both authority and obedience were objective, that is, an outward subjection to an outside power. Today authority has become a living thing, something inward. Authority and obedience meet each other in the body of Christ. Instantly both turn subjective and the two are merged into one. Herein is the highest expression of God’s authority. Authority and obedience reach their consummation in the body. Let us be built up here; otherwise, there is no way. The place where we meet authority is in the body. The Head (the source of authority) and the members (each with its function, ministering to each other as delegated authority as well as being obedient toauthority) are all in the church. If we fail to acknowledge authority here, there is no way. . . .
Difficulties in the Church Often Derive from Slanderous Words
Speaking inadvertently is largely responsible for the breaking of the unity of the church and the losing of power. Probably most difficulties in the church today are due primarily to slanderous words; only a minor part of the difficulties are real problems. In fact, most of the troubles in this world have been created through lies. If in the church we can stop slandering we will have eliminated the major part of our difficulties. How we need to confess our sins before God and ask for His forgiveness. All our words of reviling must be carefully and thoroughly terminated before God. “Doth the fountain send forth from the same opening sweet water and bitter?” (James 3.11) There ought not come from the same lips loving words and slanderous words. May God set a watch over our lips, and not only over our lips but also over our heart, that we be delivered from rebellious thoughts and reviling words. May reviling words forevermore depart from us. . . .
“I Am the Lord Your God”—This Is the Reason
In Leviticus 18-22, each time God orders the people of Israel to do certain things, He interpolates a phrase: “I am the Lord your God.” This is not even prefixed with the preposition “for.” It means “I so speak because I am the Lord your God. I do not need to give any reason. I, the Lord, am the reason.” If you see this you will never be able to live by reason any more. You will say to God: “Whereas in the past I lived by thought and reason, now I bow and worship You; whatever You have done, because it is You who have done it, is sufficient for me.” After Paul fell on the road to Damascus his reasonings were all cast aside. The question he asked was, “What shall I do, Lord?” He instantly put himself in subjection to the Lord.No one who knows God will argue, for reason is judged and set aside by the light.
To argue with God implies that God needs to get our consent for all He does. This is utmost folly. When God acts He is under no obligation to tell us the reason, because His ways are higher than our ways. If we bring God down to reasonings we will lose Him because we make Him one of us. In reasonings we shall not have worship. As soon as obedience is absent, worship is lost. By judging God with our reason we set ourselves up as gods. Where, then, is the difference between the potter and the clay? Does the potter need to ask the consent of the clay in his work? May the glorious appearing of the Lord put an end to all our reasoning’s. . . .
We may perceive whether or not one has met authority by observing whether his words, reasonings, and thoughts have been duly dealt with. Once one encounters God’s authority his tongue dare not freely wiggle, his reasonings and, deeper still, his thoughts can no longer be loosely expressed. Ordinarily man has numerous thoughts, all fortified with many reasonings. But there must come a day when God’s authority overthrows all the strongholds of reasoning which Satan has erected and recaptures all a man’s thoughts so as to make him a willing slave of God. Whereupon he no longer thinks independently of Christ; he is wholly obedient to Him. This is full deliverance.
One who has not met authority often aspires to be God’s counselor. Such a person does not have his thoughts recaptured by God. Wherever he goes, his first thought is how to improve the situation there. His thoughts have never been disciplined, hence his reasonings are so many and so unceasing. We must allow the Lord to do a cutting work in us, to cut to the very depth of our thoughts until they are all taken captive by God. Thereafter we will recognize God’s authority and will not dare to freely reason or counsel. . . .
Testimony of the Kingdom Brought In through Obedience
God does not look at how fervently we preach the gospel or how willingly we suffer for Him; He looks to see how obedient we are. God’s kingdom begins when there is an absolute obedience to God—no voicing of opinion, no presenting of reasonings, no murmuring, no reviling. For this glorious day God has waited since the creation of the world. Although God has His firstborn Son who is the first-fruit of obedience, He is waiting for His many sons to be like the Firstborn. Wherever there is a church on this earth which truly obeys God’s authority, there is the testimony of the kingdom and there Satan is defeated. Satan is not afraid of our work so long as we act on the principle of rebellion. He only laughs in secret when we do things according to our own thoughts. . . .
Submission Is Absolute, but Obedience Is Relative
Submission is a matter of attitude, while obedience is a matter of conduct. Peter and John answered the Jewish religious council: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to hearken unto you rather than unto God, judge ye” (Acts 4.19). Their spirit was not rebellious, since they still submitted to those who were in authority. Obedience, however, cannot be absolute. Some authorities must be obeyed; while others should not be, especially in matters which touch upon Christian fundamentals—such as believing the Lord, preaching the gospel, and so forth. Children may make suggestions to their parents, yet they must not show an insubmissive attitude. Submission ought to be absolute. Sometimes obedience is submission, whereas at other times an inability to obey may still be submission. Even when making a suggestion, we should maintain an attitude of submission. . . .
When delegated authority (men who represent God’s authority) and direct authority (God himself) are in conflict, one can rendersubmission but not obedience to the delegated authority. Let us summarize this under three points:
1. Obedience is related to conduct: it is relative. Submission is related to heart attitude: it is absolute.
2. God alone receives unqualified obedience without measure; any person lower than God can only receive qualified obedience.
3. Should the delegated authority issue an order clearly contradicting God’s command, he will be given submission but not obedience. We should submit to the person who has received delegated authority from God, but we should disobey the order which offends God. . . .
Indispensable Signs Accompanying the Obedient
How can we judge whether a person is obedient to authority? By the following signs:
1. A person who has known authority will naturally try to find authority wherever he goes. The church is the place where obedience can be learned, since there is not really such a thing as obedience in this world. Only Christians can obey, and they too must learn to obey—not outwardly, but from the heart. Yet once this lesson of obedience has been learned, the Christian will look for and find authority everywhere.
2. A person who has met God’s authority is soft and tender. He has been melted and is not able to be hard. He is afraid of being wrong and thus he is soft.
3. A person who has truly met authority never likes to be in authority. He has neither the thought nor the interest to become one in authority. He does not take delight in giving counsel, nor does hetake pleasure in controlling others. The truly obedient is always in fear of making an error. But alas, how many there are who still aspire to be God’s counselors. Only those who do not know authority are those who wish to be authorities.
4. A person who has contacted authority keeps his mouth closed. He is under restraint. He dare not speak carelessly because there is in him a sense of authority.
5. A person who has touched authority is sensitive to each act of lawlessness and rebellion around him. He sees how the principle of lawlessness has filled the earth and even the church. Only those who have experienced authority can lead others into obedience. Brothers and sisters must learn to obey authority; otherwise the church will not have any testimony on earth. . . .
There is no one who is fit to be God’s delegated authority unless he himself first knows how to be under authority. No one can know how to exercise authority until his own rebellion has been dealt with. God’s children are not a heap of yarn or a mixed multitude. If there is no testimony of authority, there is no church nor work. This poses a serious problem. It is essential that we learn to be subject to one another and subject to delegated authorities.
Three Requirements for a Delegated Authority
Beyond a personal knowledge of authority and a life lived under authority, God’s delegated authority needs to fulfill the three following principal requirements:
1. He must know that all authority comes from God. Every person who is called to be a delegated authority should remember that “there is no authority except from God; and those that exist are set up by God” (Rom. 13.1 Darby). He himself is not the authority, nor can anyone make of himself an authority. His opinions, ideas and thoughts are no better than those of others. They are utterly worthless. Only what comes from God constitutes authority and commands man’s obedience. A delegated authority is to represent God’s authority, never to assume that he too has authority. . . .
For one to be in authority does not depend on his having ideas and thoughts; rather does it hinge on knowing the will of God. The measure of one’s knowledge of God’s will is the measure of his delegated authority. God establishes a person to be His delegated authority entirely on the basis of that person’s knowledge of God’s will. It has nothing at all to do with having many ideas, strong opinions, or noble thoughts. Indeed, such persons who are strong in themselves are greatly to be feared in the church. . . .
2. He must deny himself. Until one knows the will of God he should keep his mouth shut. He should not exercise authority carelessly. He who is to represent God must learn on the positive side what God’s authority is and on the negative side how to deny himself. Neither God nor the brothers and sisters will treasure your thoughts. Probably you yourself are the only one in the whole world who considers your opinion as the best. Persons with many opinions, ideas, and subjective thoughts are to be feared. They like to be counselors to all. They seize upon every opportunity to press their ideas on others. God can never use a person so full of opinions, ideas, and thoughts as the one to represent His authority. For example, who would ever employ a spendthrift to keep his accounts? To do so would be to invite acute suffering. Nor will God engage a man of many opinions to be His delegated authority lest He too should suffer damage.
Unless we are completely broken by the Lord we are not qualified to be God’s delegated authority. God calls us to represent His authority, not to substitute His authority. God is sovereign in Hispersonality and position. His will is His. He never consults with man nor does He allow anyone to be His counselor. Consequently, one who represents authority must not be a subjective person. . . .
3. He must constantly keep in fellowship with the Lord. Those who are God’s delegated authority need to maintain close fellowship with God. There must be not only communication but also communion.
Anyone who offers opinions freely and speaks in the name of the Lord carelessly is far away from God. He who mentions God’s name casually only proves his remoteness from God. Those who are near to God have a godly fear; they know how defiling it is to carelessly express their own opinions.
Communion, therefore, is another principal requirement for one in authority. The nearer one is to the Lord, the clearer he sees his own faults. Having been brought face to face with God, he dare not thereafter speak with such firmness. He has no confidence in his flesh; he begins to be afraid lest he err. On the other hand, those who speak casually expose themselves as being far from God. . . .
Authority is representative in nature, not inherent. It means that one must live before God, learning, and being wounded so as not to project oneself into it. One should never be so mistaken to consider oneself the authority. God alone has authority; no one else possesses it. When God’s authority flows to me, it can then flow through me to others. What makes me different from others is God, not myself.
Hence we must learn to fear God and refrain from doing anything carelessly. We should confess that we are no different from other brothers and sisters. Since God has so arranged that today I should learn to be His delegated authority, I must live in His presence, commune with Him continuously, and seek to know His mind. Unless I have seen something there with God, I have nothing to sayhere to men. . . .
Never Try to Establish One’s Own Authority
Authority is established by God; therefore no delegated authority need try to secure his authority. Do not insist that others listen to you. If they err, let them err; if they do not submit, let them be insubordinate; if they insist on going their own way, let them go. A delegated authority ought not strive with men. Why should I demand a hearing if I am not God’s established authority? On the other hand, if I am set up by God, need I fear lest men not submit? Whoever refuses to hear me, disobeys God. It is not needful for me to force people to listen. God is my support, why then should I fear? We should never say so much as one word on behalf of our authority; rather, let us give people their liberty. The more God entrusts to us, the more liberty we grant to people. Those who are thirsty after the Lord will come to us. It is most defiling to speak on behalf of our own authority or to try to establish authority ourselves. . . .
This is life out of death. Only those who have passed through death and come out in resurrection are recognized by God as His servants. The touchstone of ministry is resurrection. No one may point to his position; it must be of God’s choice. After God made Aaron’s rod sprout, bud, and bear fruit, and the other leaders had all seen it, they had nothing more to say.
Authority, then, does not come by striving. It is set up by God. It depends not on a position of leadership but on the experience of death and resurrection. Men are chosen to exercise spiritual authority not because they are different from the rest but on the basis of grace, election, and resurrection. It requires great darkness and blindness to be proud! As far as we are concerned, though we might deposit our rods for a lifetime they would still not sprout. The difficulty in this present day is that so few fall on their faces acknowledging that theyare no different from the others. . . .
Authority is of God, not of us. We are merely stewards of His authority. Such an insight makes us fit to be delegated authorities. Whenever we attempt to exercise authority as if it were our own, we are immediately dispossessed of any authority whatsoever. The dried rod can only dispense death. Where resurrection is, there is authority, because authority rests in resurrection and not in the natural. Since all we have is what is natural, we have no authority except in the Lord. . . .
Nothing is more serious nor regarded more severely than for a delegated authority to do wrongly. Every time we execute authority we must ask to be united with God. If a mistake is made let us swiftly separate it from God lest we incur His judgment. Before we decide anything, let us seek to know His mind. Only after ascertaining His mind may we do it in His name. Moses could not claim that what he had done at the waters of Meribah was done in the Lord’s name. Let us not be foolish, but let us learn to fear and tremble before God. Do not render judgment carelessly; rather, control your spirit and your mouth, especially at the time of provocation. The more one knows God, the less he is careless. There are some times when one may receive forgiveness after having fallen into God’s governmental hand, but this does not always happen. The government of God ought not be offended. Let us be clear about it. . . .
Authority Comes from Ministry, Ministry from Resurrection
A person’s authority is based on his ministry, and his ministry is in turn based on resurrection. If there is no resurrection there can be no ministry; and if there is no ministry, there is no authority. Aaron’s ministry came from resurrection; without that, he could not serve at all. God has never set up as an authority anyone who is withoutministry.
Today authority is not a matter of position. Where spiritual ministry is lacking, there can be no positional authority. Whoever has spiritual service before God has authority before men. This means that one’s spiritual ministry gives him authority among God’s children. Who, then, can fight for this authority, for there is no way to strive for ministry. Just as ministry is distributed by the Lord, so authority is also decided by Him.
All authority is based on ministry. Aaron possessed authority because he had service before God. His censer could atone for the people and cause the plague to cease, whereas the censers of the two hundred fifty leaders were cursed by God. The rebellion in Numbers 16 was directed not only against authority but also against ministry. Aaron was in authority for he possessed ministry. No one’s authority can exceed his ministry.
We should not attempt to outdo the authority of our ministry. Our attitude must always be that we dare not occupy ourselves with things too great and too marvelous for us (see Ps. 131.1). Let us learn instead to be faithful before God according to our portion. Many brothers mistakenly imagine that they can take up authority at random, not knowing that the authority which comes from ministry never lords it over God’s children. One’s authority before men is equal to one’s ministry before God. The measure of ministry determines the proportion of authority. If authority exceeds ministry it becomes positional, and is therefore no longer spiritual.
If a delegated authority errs, God will come to judge. The highest principle in God’s government is His own vindication. Since God is willing to give His name to us and allows us to use it—just as someone trusts his seal to us for us to use—then He must exonerate himself if we misrepresent Him. He will tell the people that the fault is not His but ours. . . .
All who are used by God to be in authority must have the spirit of David. Let no one defend himself nor speak for himself. Learn to wait and to be humble before God. He who knows how to obey best is he who is best qualified to be in authority. The lower one prostrates himself before God the quicker the Lord will vindicate him. . . .
Authority Is Not Lording Over but Humbly Serving
The Lord continued His teaching on the matter of authority. He called His disciples together and instructed them about future things in glory. He said that, among the Gentiles, men seek for authority in order that they may rule over others. It is good for us to seek for the future glory, but we ought not have the thought of ruling or lording it over God’s children. To do so would cause us to fall into the state of the Gentiles. To exercise authority and to rule are the desires of the Gentiles. Such a spirit must be driven from the church. Those whom the Lord uses are the ones who know the Lord’s cup and the Lord’s baptism. As we drink the cup and receive the baptism we will naturally have authority. It is a most ugly thing if we seek to rule over men externally. We must drive this spirit of the Gentiles out from us. Else we are unfit to lead others. . . .
To Be Great, One Must Be a Servant
The authority whom God appoints must have a spiritual background—he must drink the cup, that is, absolutely obey God’s will; and he must receive the baptism, that is, accept death in order to release life. He must also not have any intention of exercising authority; on the contrary, he must be prepared to serve as the servant and slave of all. In other words, he possesses spiritual ground on the one hand and the spirit of humility on the other. Because he does not seek to be authority God can use him as one. It is irrelevant to talk about authority if the cup is not drunk and the baptism notreceived. To one who is truly humble and considers himself unfit for anything except to be servant of all, to that one the Lord announces that he may be great.
The condition for authority is consequently a sense of incompetency and unworthiness. From the Bible we can conclude that God has never used a proud soul. The moment a person becomes proud, at that moment he is laid aside by God. His hidden pride sooner or later will be revealed through his words, for words do not cease to leak out. At the future judgment seat of God even the humble will be greatly surprised. And if that be true, how much more shall be the horror of the proud on that day! We must sense our incompetency, because God only uses the useless. Polite diplomacy is not the thing here; rather is it having a sincere sense that we are but unprofitable servants. Though we have tended the flock and tilled the field, yet in coming back we still acknowledge ourselves as unprofitable servants. We do not forget to stand on the ground of a servant. God never entrusts His authority to the self-righteous and the self-competent. Let us reject pride, learn to be humble and gentle, and never speak for ourselves. Let us learn to know ourselves in the light of God. . . .
Authority Is Based on Sanctification
Authority has its foundation in sanctification. Without sanctification there can be no authority. If you wish to live with the crowd you cannot be an authority. You cannot represent God if you maintain a very liberal and loose communication with the people. The higher the authority the greater the separation. God is the highest authority; consequently He is above all. Let us learn to be sanctified from things unclean or common. The Lord Jesus may do whatsoever He likes, but for the sake of His disciples He sanctifies himself. He steps aside and stands on the side of holiness.
May we heartily desire to please God too and thus seek after deeper sanctification. It means we will be distinguished from the common, although not separated from God’s children as though we were holier than they. The more we are sanctified and are subject to the authority of God the more we may be delegated authorities. If those in authority in the church fail, how can obedience be maintained? Unless this matter of authority is solved the church will always be chaotic.
He who is in authority does not grasp authority; he serves God, is willing to pay the price, and seeks not excitement. To be in authority requires one to climb high, to not fear loneliness, and to be sanctified. May we be those who lay our all on the altar so that God’s authority may be restored. This is the way of the Lord in His church.
—SA 10, 12-15, 24, 50, 69-70, 76-8, 80-3, 91, 97-8, 101-2, 105, 107-10, 118, 142, 145, 151-3, 167, 174-6, 185