Authority and Submission, by Watchman Nee


Following this, the Lord talked about authority. Verse 41 says that when the other ten disciples heard about James and John’s request, they became indignant. It appears that James and John asked the Lord in secret, but later the ten disciples found this out. Subsequently, the Lord taught them. Here is the subject of the whole passage. He gathered the disciples around and taught them things concerning the future glory. He said, “You know that those who are esteemed as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wants to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you shall be the slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many” (vv. 42-45). The two disciples’ question led to a discussion on authority. The Lord told them that the issue is not with the future but with today. The spirit of this subject is applicable not only to future glory but also to today. The Lord introduced the spirit that will be applicable from that day until the present. Here were two persons who wanted to sit on the throne to rule over others. The Lord showed them that among the Gentiles, there are those who are esteemed as rulers and great ones who lord it over them. Among the Gentiles there is the hunger for authority. Men like to be kings; they like to rule over others or to be great ones to control others. But it is not so among us. It is good if some among us seek for future glory, but such ones should not have the thought of lording it over God’s children today. They should not have the thought of controlling or ruling others.

There is nothing wrong for man to want to sit on the Lord’s right or left side. But there should not be any striving for supremacy among God’s children. There should not be any thought of struggle for power or any intention of controlling others. If we do, we will fall into the same condition as that of the Gentiles. Nothing is more unsightly than a person who struggles to be an authority. It is the most ugly thing for a person to try to control others in an outward way. Ambition for authority or to be a great one is something that belongs to the Gentiles. We should drive this kind of spirit from the church. The Lord can only use those who know His cup and who are willing to be baptized with His baptism. If we drink His cup and take His baptism, authority will be ours spontaneously. This is the God-ordained way, the root of everything. If we do not take this way yet try to reach our destination, or if we do not have the root yet try to produce fruit, we are trying in vain. We must abound in our knowledge of God’s will and must accept all the breakings so that the life within can be released. As far as our position before God is concerned, it is up to God’s preparation. If anyone wants to climb above other children of God, or if he wants to take control and rule, I will say that such a one is a Gentile in reality. We must first drive out this Gentile spirit from among us. Among us, we should not tolerate the spirit of the Gentiles. We are after those whom God can use, not those who can rule over others. Such a Gentile spirit must be thoroughly purged from us before we can go down from this mountain to help others or handle business affairs.

The more a person wants to be an authority or a great one, the less we can entrust him with authority. God never grants authority to those who want to be His authority. The more Gentile spirit a person has, the less God can use him. I hope none of us are politicians, manipulating, controlling, and hushing others, while allowing only ourselves to be the ones to issue the orders. We cannot do this. The more a person realizes his foibles, the more authority God will give to him. Since this is how the Lord selects men, this is the way we should take. We must never be a politician and must never play politics. We should never say, “If we do not give this man some position, he will rebel against us.” We cannot deal with others this way. In God’s house we can only take the spiritual way according to the spiritual principle; we cannot take the way of politicians. I hope that you will be faithful. You should be meek and pliable in your attitude, but you have to be faithful before the Lord. A man can only be used by God after he has prostrated himself before Him. When a man is standing tall, God can never use him.

In verses 42 and 43 the Lord said that the Gentiles have rulers and great men to rule over them, but “it is not so among you.” I like the words among you. This means that there is a great difference between the Gentiles and the church in the matter of authority. If we are not careful in this matter, we will have no way to go on in the church. The Gentiles rule according to position, but the church serves according to its spiritual life. Once the church is contaminated with this Gentile practice, it is ruined. The church has to maintain a strict separating wall between it and the Gentiles. Among the Gentiles, one only sees power struggles. Among us, the more a person thinks that he is authority, the less he is qualified to be the authority. The more a person thinks he is qualified, the less he is qualified. We should maintain this attitude among us at all times.

(Authority and Submission, Chapter 18, by Watchman Nee)