II. BEING SUBJECT TO GOD
AND SUBJECT TO ONE ANOTHER
(JAMES 4:7 AND EPHESIANS 5:21)
James 4:7 tells us to be subject to God, and Ephesians 5:21 tells us to be subject one to another. Brothers, do you see this? Here are two sides once again. On one hand, we have to be subject to God, and on the other hand, we have to be subject to one another. Being subject to God is a personal matter, but being subject to one another is something that we should practice among the brothers. In the church today, some people are unturned cakes. As long as the brothers and sisters agree on something, they follow even if it is a sectarian teaching or heretical doctrine. As long as the majority of the people agree, they follow. As a result, even God’s commands and biblical teachings are set aside. This also is an unturned cake. They have taken care of man’s side but ignored God’s side; consequently, they have become unturned cakes. But there is another group of people who would not care for what other brothers and sisters feel or think. They only do what God says. They are like the brother I have mentioned, who thinks that all that a person needs is zeal and who does not care for his wife at all. This is also an unturned cake.
There are many things that are God’s will, but often they are limited by man’s hand; consequently, there is the need for patience and waiting. It is true that knowing God’s will is enough, but it is also good to have the testimony of two or three brothers. If a finger moves, does only one finger move and the whole body not move? Is it not true that when a member moves, all the other members move as well? A member cannot move by itself because, even though there are many members, the Body is one.
I will say a few words especially to the co-workers. In China we are making a start in many areas. Obviously, there are many dangers that we have to avoid. Not only do we have to learn obedience in our conduct, but we must learn obedience even in the matter of doctrine. Otherwise, division and sectarianism will arise among us. Suppose you receive some light. Since it is from God, you may ignore everything else and start preaching about the light. But the brothers who are with you may not see as clearly as you. In such a case, you should wait for their consent before you preach. If you do not do this, division will occur. You may say that God has revealed this to you, but a brother may say that he has not seen it clearly enough and fears that it may be a heresy. In this instance, you should wait. The Bible says that we should be subject to God, but the Bible also says that we should be subject to one another. When the brothers have different views, they should not argue or be divided. They can wait and pray, and they can gradually learn and watch. Let me say an honest word: nothing helps a person’s spiritual progress more than waiting. If something is genuine, it will still be genuine after a person waits for a while. If something is wrong, there is even more of a reason for waiting. It is fortunate when a person waits; when he waits, mistakes are avoided. However, unless we truly deny ourselves and bear the cross, we cannot wait. To wait humbly requires God’s grace. We should learn this lesson.
We should obey God’s word, will, and command at all cost. Among the brothers and sisters, any problem that can wait for a solution should wait for a solution. Of course, if we care only for waiting and ignore obedience to God, we also become an unturned cake. Many people do not obey just because others object. This is to be an unturned cake. If a matter is doctrinally clear and according to the teaching of the Bible, even if there is the frustration from the flesh, we should not wait for the consent of others before we obey. There is a limit to our being subject to one another. When you intend to be subject to God and I intend to be subject to God, there is the need for us to wait for each other. If a brother is not clear about a certain question, and he asks me to wait a while, I should be willing. I should be willing because I know that this brother is one who is subject to God and seeks to please God. Being subject to one another is only necessary among those who are willing to obey. If a man has never obeyed God, you will not receive his consent even if you waited for a lifetime. In this instance, you cannot wait for him. Otherwise, you will become an unturned cake and be dragged down by him.
Brothers, before the Lord, we have to do our best to pay the price to obey Him. Toward the brothers and sisters, however, we should wait when there is a need for waiting. Individual accomplishments and lonely endeavors are never according to God’s attitude in the church. Acts 13:1-3 says, "Now there were in Antioch, in the local church, prophets and teachers...And as they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, Set apart for Me now Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them. Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away." The denominations call this the ordination and establishment of the clergy. But can teachers ordain apostles? There cannot be such a thing. The laying on of hands here means that one has a share in the affairs of the other. In the Old Testament, when a man put his hand on the head of a sacrifice, it meant that the going away of the sacrifice was his going away, and the death of the sacrifice was his death. The laying on of hands here means that these ones expressed their participation with Barnabas and Paul. Paul and the others went in the condition of one accord among the prophets and teachers in Antioch. This is why they could return to Antioch later and could relate to the others the grace that God had entrusted to them and the works that they had done. This is an important principle. A person has to be subject to God, and he also has to be subject to the brothers. He should consider not only what God has to say, but also what the brothers have to say. This is true not only in the work but also in the meetings. The principle of being subject one to another can take us a long way. We have to be subject to God, and we also have to receive the consent of the brothers and sisters.
Once I wanted to go to the country to preach the gospel. The particular village I wanted to go to had some cases of robbery and murder. Before I left, two elderly sisters advised me not to go. So I canceled my boat ticket and the house I had rented there. Personally, I knew God wanted me to go, but I also knew that God wanted me to be subject to them. The flesh is always in a hurry. However, I was also aware that I should obey the Lord. Later, some other brothers went and many people were saved. Although I had no part in it, I was satisfied. We should obey the Lord. But if we are not subject to the brothers, we will become an unturned cake. We have to be turned this way and that way. If we are not, then we will become an unturned cake.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 19: Notes on Scriptural Messages (3), Chapter 2, by Watchman Nee)