Authority and Submission, by Watchman Nee


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 God’s authority and to uphold God’s authority. We must meet God’s 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 (God’s authority) with his feet (man’s energy). He immediately fell down, acknowledged Jesus as Lord, and submitted to the instruction of Ananias in Damascus. Paul met God’s authority. At his conversion, Paul was brought not only into a realization of God’s salvation, but also into a realization of God’s 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 God’s authority, how could he possibly have listened to the words of Ananias? Unless a man meets authority on the way to “Damascus,” he cannot submit to an insignificant, small brother in “Damascus.” 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 God’s 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 God’s 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 God’s authority. Only when we are broken can we come into submission. Then we will begin to learn what God’s authority is. Only when a man meets God’s authority will he submit to the deputy authority whom God appoints.


The greatest demand God has on man is not bearing the cross, offerings, consecration, or self-sacrifice. God’s 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, “To obey is better than sacrifice,/And to heed, than the fat of rams” (v. 22). The sacrifice spoken of here is the burnt offering; it has nothing to do with sin. It is for God’s 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 God’s will.

(Authority and Submission, Chapter 1, by Watchman Nee)