Authority and Submission, by Watchman Nee


Why did Nadab and Abihu offer up strange fire? According to Leviticus 10:9, God told Aaron, “Do not drink wine or strong drink, you or your sons with you, when you come into the tent of meeting.” Many who are familiar with the Bible think that these two offered up strange fire after becoming drunk with wine. According to the record of verse 5, it is possible that they became naked in the sanctuary. This is why others came in and carried them in their tunics after they died. It is very easy for a drunken person to expose his body. The Israelites can take wine or strong drink, but a priest could not do the same. This is a matter of enjoyment. We cannot enjoy what others enjoy, and we cannot rejoice in what others rejoice in. (Wine signifies joy.) A servant of God has to be restricted. He has to separate the holy from the common, the clean from the unclean. It is right for us to maintain our fellowship in the Body with the brothers and sisters, but we cannot be loose, because we bear a special service. We cannot engage in anything that will induce us to cast off all restraints.

Leviticus 21 records God’s specific requirement of sanctification on His serving priest:

(1)They cannot defile themselves by death, except for their relatives who are near to them. They have to sanctify themselves (vv. 1-4). This is the general requirement.

(2)One has to be sanctified in his attire and in the body (vv. 5-6). He cannot make any baldness on his head, and he cannot shave off the corners of his beard. (Egyptians did this when they worshipped the sun god.) Neither can they make any cuttings in their flesh. (Africans do this.)

(3)One has to be sanctified in marriage (vv. 7-9).

(4)The high priest is bound by a higher requirement: He cannot touch a dead body, not even when it is his father or mother (vv. 10-15). Therefore, the higher a servant of God stands, the higher God’s requirements are. God pays attention to whether or not His servants are separated. The more a person is near to God, the higher God’s requirements are upon him. The degree of our nearness to God becomes the degree of God’s requirement on us. The more God entrusts Himself to a person, the more He requires of a person. God pays much attention to the sanctification of those who serve Him.


Authority is based on separation. Without separation there is no authority. If you crave the company of others, you cannot be an authority. If your communication with others is unrestricted, you cannot be a deputy authority. The higher an authority stands, the greater is the separation. God is the highest authority. Therefore, He exercises the greatest separation. We all have to learn to separate ourselves from others in unholy things. The Lord Jesus could have acted as He willed, but He sanctified Himself for the disciples’ sake. He separated Himself and stood on the side of holiness. We should willingly and gladly pursue after deeper separations—separation from unholiness. This does not mean that we should separate ourselves from God’s children through self-proclaimed holiness. The more we are sanctified and the more we are restricted by God and bound under His authority, the more we can be an authority. Obedience cannot be maintained in the church if those who are in authority do not behave properly. If the issue of authority is not settled, there will always be confusion in the church.

Those who are in authority do not usurp authority. An authority is a servant of God. He must pay any price to shun excitement. He must climb high, he must not be afraid of loneliness, and he must be a sanctified person. May we be willing to pay the price to recover God’s authority. This is the way the Lord is taking in the church today.

(Authority and Submission, Chapter 19, by Watchman Nee)