Authority and Submission, by Watchman Nee


Self-motivated service cannot find acceptance in the eyes of God. In fact, no one can render any service at all by himself. A man must serve by standing on the ground of resurrection before his service can be approved. The Lord does not want us to be misguided to assume that authority comes from someone other than God. We are not the authority; we are only here to represent authority. The flesh has no place. We must also tell others that everything wrong comes from us and everything right comes from God. Every time we talk to men or deal with matters, we have to remember that we cannot trust in ourselves and that we have to understand God’s will. We cannot go out on our own and make suggestions or decisions lightly. Authority does not rest with us; we are merely the deputy authorities. If we act according to our own will, we will create big problems. The church cannot be without authority, and the church cannot tolerate the misuse of authority. God has only one mind, which is to build up His own authority.

In the church submission to authority is absolute, and fear and trembling on the part of the deputy authority should also be absolute. Without submission there is no church. At the same time, a deputy authority must not make suggestions or decisions loosely, and he must not speak carelessly or dictate others’ pathways. It is wrong to judge the brothers or to interpret the Bible lightly. Our submission must be absolute, and our representation of authority must also be absolute. There are two problems in the church today. One is the lack of absolute submission, and the other is the misrepresentation of authority. We must learn not to speak loosely or make proposals casually. Our spirit has to be open to the Lord all the time, and we have to look to His light. If we do not, we will implicate God in our mistakes. We may even say that we are acting in the Lord’s name or on His behalf. Actually, none of our actions are of the Lord. We must learn to submit on the one hand, and learn to represent God on the other hand. Hence, we must know the cross, and we must know resurrection. Whether or not the church will have a way to go on depends on how we have learned this lesson.


A man’s authority is based on his ministry, and his ministry is based on resurrection. Without resurrection there is no ministry, and without ministry there is no authority. Without resurrection, Aaron could not serve. His service was based on resurrection, and his authority before men was also based on resurrection. Resurrection enables us to serve before God and establishes us as an authority before men. God will never appoint a man who has no ministry to be His authority.

Authority today is not a matter of position. Without a spiritual service, there cannot be any positional authority. Only after a man has a spiritual service before the Lord can he have authority before men. This means that God will appoint you as an authority among His children only after you have acquired a spiritual ministry. Hence, authority is based on one’s ministry before God, and ministry is based on resurrection. For this reason, there is no dispute in the matter of authority, for there is no dispute in the matter of ministry. Ministry is something given by God. Hence, authority is also something decided by God. If a ministry has not been given to you, no authority has been assigned to you. All authority is based on service. Without service there is no authority. Aaron had authority because he had a service before the Lord. His censer could make propitiation and stop the plague, while the censers of the other 250 leaders were cursed by God. The rebellion in Numbers 16 was not only a rebellion against authority, but a rebellion against ministry. Aaron had a spiritual ministry because he was in resurrection. He was able to be the authority because he had such a ministry.

We should not have any authority that extends beyond our ministry. No one can acquire an authority that goes beyond his ministry. We should not boast of any authority that is apart from our ministry. We have to learn to be faithful in our ministry before the Lord and faithful in our authority before men. We should have the attitude that we will not go about in things too great or too wondrous for us (Psa. 131:1). We have to learn to be faithful to our portion before the Lord. Many people make the mistake of thinking that anyone can assume authority. Little do they realize that any authority which issues from a ministry never goes beyond its own service to rule over God’s children. Your measure of authority before men must match your ministry before God. The amount of service you have before God determines the amount of authority you have before men. As soon as authority goes beyond ministry, it becomes a positional authority, and it is no longer spiritual.

Authority issues from ministry, and when it flows to others, it brings the presence of God with it. Ministry grows out of resurrection and is rooted in God. If a minister misrepresents authority, his ministry will stop, just as Moses’ and Aaron’s ministries were stopped. We have to learn to maintain the Lord’s authority and not to say things loosely. Otherwise, we will suffer God’s judgment.

(Authority and Submission, Chapter 16, by Watchman Nee)