VI. DELEGATED AUTHORITY
Lastly, we have to see that in the universe, only God is the direct authority to man. Other than God, all authorities are delegated. The parents represent God as the children’s authority, and the husbands represent God as the wives’ authority. The civil officers represent God as the citizens’ authority, and even the teachers in the schools, the managers in the offices, and the policemen on the streets are all delegated authorities. The elders in the church also represent God as authority. Today while living on earth, seldom do we live under God’s direct authority. Almost all the authorities that we submit to are delegated authorities. Please understand that to say that the church should have no authority amounts to saying that there should not be delegated authorities in the universe. But if this were the case, it would amount to the universe having no authority at all. The reason for this is that there are not many cases where God acts directly as authority. In almost all circumstances, God’s authority is delegated.
I would like the brothers and sisters to know that it is easy today for man to submit to God’s direct authority, but it is not easy to submit to the delegated authority God has appointed. The reason for this is that you may not consider the delegated authority better or stronger than you are. Right here, however, is the lesson you have to learn. The question is whether or not a certain one is a delegated authority in the universe. When you come to a local church, the elders there may not have been saved as long ago as you were. They may not be as spiritual as you are, and may not have received as much education as you have received, or be as capable as you are. But when you are there, you have to accept that delegated authority and submit to it.
I say these words not to all the brothers and sisters, but to the elders. The elders should know these things; only then will they be proper elders. This does not mean that you should be proud. It does not mean that you should boast that you are the authority of the church, or that you are a delegated authority! If you do, that would be one of the ugliest things on earth. Every elder should know why there is the need of elders in the church. Why does God set up elders in the church? It is for no other reason than that the church would be strong on earth and would be delivered from the element of confusion and corruption. If you do not believe me, you only need to imagine what kind of confusion and corruption would come into a place if there were a city without any policemen or any law court! Hence, we should never despise that little bit of delegated authority. Of course, we all admit that human society is corrupt. Although human society is corrupt, nevertheless you cannot deny that a normal situation is established to a certain degree. This degree of normality is established by the delegated authority. If you were to overturn the police department, the whole city would immediately be thrown into turmoil, and much corruption would break out. In the same principle, we, the redeemed and regenerated ones, are children together in the house of God, serving the Lord in the church. If we were to remove from the church the delegated authority, the church would be thrown into a similar kind of confusion.
Hence, an elder has to know God’s plan for the church, and he also has to know God’s government and administration in the universe. Furthermore, he has to know God’s government and administration in the church. In the end, he has to know that this authority in the church, like nearly all the other authorities in the universe, is a delegated authority, and not a direct one. It is a great and glorious thing for an elder to be such a delegated authority in the plan of God.
(The Elders' Management of the Church, Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)