The Importance of Authority
Examples of Rebellion in the Old Testament (1)
Examples of Rebellion in the Old Testament (2)
David's Knowledge of Authority
The Son's Submission
How God Establishes His Kingdom
God Intends that Man Submit to Representative Authority
Authority in the Body
The Manifestation of Man's Rebellion (1)
The Manifestation of Man's Rebellion (2)
The Proper Limit of Submission to Authority
The Kind of Person God Uses to Be His Deputy Authority
The Basis of God's Deputy AuthorityóRevelation
The Character of God's Deputy AuthorityóGracious to Others
The Basis of God's Deputy AuthorityóResurrection
The Misuse of Deputy Authority and God's Government Judgment
The Need for a Deputy Authority to Submit to Authority
The Life and Heart of a Deputy Authority
The Need of a Deputy Authority to Sanctify Himself
The Requirements of a Deputy Authority
In 1949 Watchman Nee released a series of messages on authority and submission in a co-workersí training held in Kuling, Foochow. All who were present in the meetings fell prostrate in the light of God. They had a deep sensation that the work of the unlawful one really fills the earth, while at the same time, the feeling of the Lordís saved ones is very insensitive. At the end of this age, how can the kingdom of God be brought in if the children of God do not bear a testimony for the Lord in submission?
In the last ten years some have edited these precious messages into outlines to be used as study material, and others have distributed copies of personal notes for study. Yet all of these are too brief and incomplete. Therefore, the Gospel Book Room gathered all of the available notes and edited them into eleven messages which were published in a series in the Ministry of the Word magazine last year. Because of the inadequacy of the notes, we feel that these messages as published are still short in content and deviate much from Brother Neeís original utterance and tone. As such, they can only be considered as the most detailed notes available. To meet the need of Godís children in all the localities, we have put these eleven messages into this book with the hope that the Lord will make provisions for a more perfect record to be published in the future.
Taiwan Gospel Book Room
January 20, 1967
Authority and Submission, based on a series of messages given by Watchman Nee in his training at Kuling Mountain in 1948 through 1949, contains two distinct but related parts. In 1988 the Living Stream Ministry published the first part under the title Authority and Submission, covering the general subject of spiritual authority and submission. This edition includes a second, previously untranslated, part covering the matter of being Godís deputy authority.
AUTHORITY AND SUBMISSION
THE IMPORTANCE OF AUTHORITY
Scripture Reading: Rom. 13:1-7; Heb. 1:3; Isa. 14:12-14; Matt. 6:13; 26:62-64
THE THRONE OF GOD ESTABLISHED UPON AUTHORITY
Godís works issue from Godís throne; Godís throne is established upon authority. All things have been created by the authority of God, and all laws on earth are held together through authority. Hence, the Bible says that God upholds all things by the word, which is of His authority (Heb. 1:3b). It does not say that God upholds all things by His power. Godís authority represents God Himself; Godís power only represents Godís works. It is easy to be forgiven of sin against Godís power, but it is not that easy to be forgiven of sin against Godís authority, because sinning against Godís authority is sinning against God Himself. In the whole universe only God is authority. All other authorities are appointed by God. Nothing is greater than authority in the universe; nothing can surpass it. For this reason, if we want to serve God, we must know Godís authority.
Satan became Satan because he overstepped Godís authority. He wanted to compete with God and to stand in opposition to God. Rebellion is the cause of the fall of Satan.
Both Isaiah 14:12-15 and Ezekiel 28:13-17 speak of the transgression and the fall of Satan. Isaiah 14 tells us that Satan violated Godís authority, while Ezekiel 28 tells us that he violated Godís holiness. Violating Godís authority is a matter of rebellion; it is more serious than violating Godís holiness. Sin is a matter of conduct; it is easy to be forgiven of sin. But rebellion is a matter of principle; it is not easy to be forgiven of rebellion. Satan, in trying to set up his throne above that of Godís, violated Godís authority. The principle of Satan is the principle of self-exaltation. Sinís coming into being was not the cause of Satanís fall. Rather, Satanís rebellion against Godís authority, for which he was condemned by God, subsequently gave rise to sin.
Hence, if we want to serve God, we can never violate the matter of authority. To do so is to follow the principle of Satan. We can never preach the word of Christ under the principle of Satan. There is a possibility in Godís work that we can stand in principle on Satanís side, while we stand in doctrine on Christís side. All the while, we may think that we are still doing the Lordís work. This is a very evil thing. Satan is not afraid of us preaching the words of Christ. He is only afraid of us submitting to the authority of Christ. Our service to God can never be according to the principle of Satan. Once the principle of Christ comes, the principle of Satan has to go. Even now Satan is still a usurper in the air; he will not be cast out until the end of Revelation. Only when we wash ourselves spotlessly clean from the principle of Satan can we hope to serve God.
In the Lordís prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 there is the phrase, ďAnd do not bring us into temptation.Ē Temptation speaks of Satanís work. There is also the phrase, ďBut deliver us from the evil one.Ē This refers to Satan himself. Following this, the Lord said, ďFor Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.Ē This is the most important declaration. The kingdom is Godís and so is the authority and the glory. Everything is Godís. What sets us completely free from Satan is seeing this most precious thingóthe kingdom is Godís. The administration of the whole universe is under God. For this reason we have to learn to submit to Godís authority. No one can steal Godís glory.
Satan showed the Lord all the kingdoms of the earth, but the Lord said that all the kingdom of the heavens is Godís. We need to see to whom authority ultimately belongs. When we preach the gospel we are bringing people under the authority of God. If we are to establish Godís authority on earth, is it then possible for us not to meet authority ourselves? If we do not, how can we deal with Satan?
ALL DISPUTES IN THE UNIVERSE BEING A MATTER OF AUTHORITY
The center of dispute in the whole universe relates to who has the authority. We have to contend with Satan by asserting that authority is with God. We have to set ourselves to submit to Godís authority and to uphold Godís authority. We must meet Godís authority face-to-face and have a basic realization of it.
Before Paul realized authority, he wanted to eradicate the church from the earth. But after he met the Lord on the way to Damascus, he realized that it was difficult to kick against the goads (Godís authority) with his feet (manís energy). He immediately fell down, acknowledged Jesus as Lord, and submitted to the instruction of Ananias in Damascus. Paul met Godís authority. At his conversion, Paul was brought not only into a realization of Godís salvation, but also into a realization of Godís authority.
Paul was an intelligent and capable man, while Ananias was a very insignificant, small brother. The Bible refers to him only once. If Paul had not met Godís authority, how could he possibly have listened to the words of Ananias? Unless a man meets authority on the way to ďDamascus,Ē he cannot submit to an insignificant, small brother in ďDamascus.Ē This shows us that anyone who has met authority will deal with the authority alone; he will not deal with the person involved. We should only think of the authority, not of the person, because our submission is not to a person but to Godís authority in that person. If this is not our attitude, we do not know what authority is. If we deal with the person before submitting to authority, we are completely wrong. If we touch the matter of authority first and then submit to the person, irrespective of who he is, we are on the right path.
God has only one goal in the church, which is to manifest His authority in the universe. We can see Godís authority from the coordination in the church.
God exercises the utmost of His strength to uphold His authority. His authority is stronger than anything else. We who are so self-confident, but who are in reality so blind, have to come face-to-face at least once with Godís authority. Only when we are broken can we come into submission. Then we will begin to learn what Godís authority is. Only when a man meets Godís authority will he submit to the deputy authority whom God appoints.
THE GREATEST DEMAND IN THE BIBLE BEING SUBMISSION TO GODíS WILL
The greatest demand God has on man is not bearing the cross, offerings, consecration, or self-sacrifice. Godís greatest demand on man is submission. God commanded Saul to smite the Amalekites and utterly destroy all that they had (1 Sam. 15:1-3). But after Saul overcame the Amalekites, he spared Agag the king of Amalek. He also appreciated the best sheep, the best oxen, and all that was good and refused to destroy them, hoping instead to offer them as sacrifices to God (vv. 7-9, 14-15). But Samuel said to him, ďTo obey is better than sacrifice,/And to heed, than the fat of ramsĒ (v. 22). The sacrifice spoken of here is the burnt offering; it has nothing to do with sin. It is for Godís acceptance and satisfaction. However, Samuel said that to heed and to obey are better than sacrifice. This is because even in this kind of sacrifice there was the possibility of a mixture with the self-will. Only in heeding and obeying is there an absolute honoring of God and an exaltation of His will.
Obedience is the other end of authority. In order to have obedience, one must first keep the self out of the picture. One must not try to obey with the self. There the possibility of obedience only by living in the spirit. Obedience is the highest expression of response to Godís will.
THE LORDíS PRAYER IN THE GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE
Some have considered the Lordís prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, where His sweat fell as blood, as a sign of His weakness in the flesh and His fear of the cup (Luke 22:44). But this is not true. The prayer in Gethsemane is the same in principle as what is recorded in 1 Samuel 15:22. The Lordís prayer in Gethsemane is the highest expression of submission to Godís authority. Our Lordís submission to Godís authority far exceeds His sacrifice on the cross. He earnestly sought to know Godís will. He did not say, ďI will take the crossĒ or ďI must drink the cup.Ē He only heeded and obeyed. He said, ďIf it is possible, let this cup pass from MeĒ (Matt. 26:39b). Here His own preference is not seen, because following this, He said, ďYet not as I will, but as You willĒ (v. 39c). Godís will is absolute, but the cup (i.e., the cross) is not. If it had not been Godís will for Him to be crucified, the Lord Jesus very well could have disregarded the cross. Before the Lord was clear concerning Godís will, the ďcupĒ and ďGodís willĒ were two different things. But after He was clear, the ďcupĒ became the ďcupĒ that the Father had given to Him, and it and Godís will became one thing. A will is the representative of an authority. Hence, when submission comes from knowing Godís will, that submission is a submission to authority. If there is no prayer and no willingness to know Godís will, how can there be submission to authority?
Again the Lord said, ďThe cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?Ē (John 18:11). Here the Lord was upholding the authority of God. The Lord was not upholding His own cross. At the same time, when He understood that drinking the cup (i.e., being crucified for our redemption) was the will of God, He immediately said, ďArise, let us be goingĒ (Matt. 26:46). He promptly obeyed. Since the cross means the accomplishment of Godís will, the Lordís death is the highest expression of submission to authority. Although the cross is the center of the whole universe, it is not higher than the will of God. The Lord upholds the authority of God (the will) more than He upholds His own cross (the sacrifice).
Our service to God is not a matter of voluntary sacrifice or of denial of our self. It is a matter of accomplishing Godís will. It is not a matter of picking up the cross. Rather, it is the submission to Godís will. This is the basic principle. If the principle of rebellion is present, even a sacrifice is an enjoyment and a glory to Satan. Saul could offer up sheep and oxen, but God would not recognize that as a sacrifice because the principle of Satan was present. To overturn Godís authority is to overturn God. Hence, the Bible says that rebellion is like the sin of divination, and insubordination is like idolatry and teraphim (1 Sam. 15:23).
We who are involved in the Lordís work are the servants of God. As such, the first thing we touch is the matter of authority. Touching authority is as real as the matter of touching salvation. For us this is a deeper lesson. We must be touched and smitten at least once by authority. Only then can we work the work of God. In our relationship with God, nothing is more important than touching authority. Once we touch it, we will see it wherever we turn. Only then can we be restricted by God, and only then can we begin to be used by God.
THE JUDGMENT OF THE LORD AND OF PAUL
In Matthew 26 and 27 the Lord was summoned for two kinds of judgment: from religion before the high priest (26:57-66) and from the civil government before Pilate (27:11-14). When interrogated by Pilate, the Lord could choose not to answer, because He was not bound by earthly rule. But when the high priest adjured Him by the name of the living God, the Lord had to answer. This is a question of submission to authority. Again in Acts 23 when Paul was judged, after he realized that Ananias was the high priest of God, he readily submitted. We who are workers of the Lord must come face-to-face with this matter of authority. Otherwise, our work will not be in the principle of Godís will, which is the principle of submission to authority. Instead, we will be in the principle of Satanís rebellion, which is the principle of working without Godís will. This matter indeed requires a great revelation.
In Matthew 7:21-23 the Lord rebuked those who prophesied, cast out demons, and performed many wonderful works in His name. What was wrong with this work in the Lordís name? It was wrong because man was the source in all these works. Out of themselves men were working in the name of the Lord. This was the activity of the flesh. For this reason the Lord considered it to be lawlessness. Their work could not be considered as work. Following this word, the Lord said that only those who do the Fatherís will can enter the kingdom of the heavens. This shows that all works should originate from submission to Godís will. God has to be the source. All works are assigned by God. No work should be sought out by man. Only when a man understands Godís will in His assignment can there be the experience of the reality of the authority of the kingdom of the heavens.
THE REALIZATION OF AUTHORITY BEING A GREAT REVELATION
In the universe there are two great things: believing unto salvation and submitting to authority. In other words, to trust and obey. The Bible shows us that the definition of sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4). In Romans 2:12 the phrase ďwithout the lawĒ is the same as ďlawless.Ē To be lawless is to disregard the authority of God, and to disregard the authority of God is sin. To transgress is a matter of conduct, but to be lawless is a matter of attitude and heart. The present age is one of lawlessness; the world is full of sins of lawlessness. Even the lawless one is about to be manifested. At the same time, authority will have less and less place in the world. In the end all authority will be overthrown. What remains will be a reign of lawlessness.
Hence, there are two principles in the universeóGodís authority and Satanís rebellion. We cannot serve God on the one hand, while taking the way of rebellion with a spirit of rebellion on the other hand. Although a rebellious person can preach, Satan will laugh, because the principle of Satan is there in the preaching. Service is ever attendant to authority. Do we want to submit to Godís authority or not? We who serve God must gain this basic understanding at some time. It is like touching electricity. Once one touches it, he will never be careless with it. In the same way, once a man meets Godís authority and is smitten by it, his eyes will be enlightened. He will be able to discern not only himself, but others as well. He will know who is and who is not lawless.
May God be merciful to us that we would be delivered from the way of rebellion. We can lead Godís children in the proper path only when we know Godís authority and have learned the lesson of submission.