Authority and Submission, by Watchman Nee


The whole parable in Luke 20:9-16 is on deputy authority. God leased the vineyard to the vinedresser, but He did not come to personally collect the rent. The first, second, and third time He sent His servants; the fourth time He sent His Son. All of these were His representatives. God could have come Himself, but instead He sent His representative. In God’s eyes all those who rejected His servants rejected Him. We cannot hearken to God’s word, yet refuse the word of His deputy authority. We have to submit to God’s authority as well as to His deputy authority. Other than in Acts 9:4-15, which speaks of the Lord’s direct authority, the Lord entrusts His authority to deputy authorities in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. One may say that almost all authorities are entrusted to man. Many think that this means submitting to man. But if you have met authority, you will know that this is God’s deputy authority. There is no need for humility for one to submit to God’s direct authority. But there must be humility and brokenness for one to submit to the deputy authority. Only by laying the flesh completely aside can one accept and obey the deputy authority. We constantly have to see that God does not come personally to collect His rent. God sends representatives to collect rent. What should we do with God? Should we wait for God to come personally? When He comes personally, it will not be for rent, but for judgment.

The Lord showed Paul at one point that for him to withstand the Lord was to kick against the goads (Acts 26:14). When Paul saw the light, he saw authority as well. He said, “What shall I do, Lord?” (22:10). This was Paul putting himself directly under the Lord’s own authority. But then the Lord placed Paul under His appointed deputy authority. The Lord said, “Rise up and enter into the city, and it will be told to you what you must do” (9:6). From that time on Paul knew authority. He did not say, “It is so rare that I meet the Lord Himself; let Him tell me what to do.” At that time, the Lord placed Paul under a deputy authority. It did not please the Lord to tell Paul directly. From the time we have believed in the Lord until now, how many deputy authorities have we submitted to? How many times have we submitted to them? Prior to this, we did not have the light, but today we have to see in a serious way God’s deputy authority. We have been talking about submission for five or ten years, but how much have we submitted to indirect authorities? What God looks at is not His own direct authority. He looks at His established, indirect authorities. All those who do not submit to God’s indirect authorities cannot submit to God’s direct authority.

For the sake of clarity in explanation, we have differentiated between direct authority and indirect authority. Actually, in God’s eyes it is just one authority. We cannot despise authority in the family or in the church. We cannot despise any deputy authority. Although Paul was blind, it was as if he were waiting for Ananias with open eyes. When he saw Ananias, it was as if he saw the Lord. When he listened to Ananias, it was as if he was listening to the Lord. The deputy authority involves such serious matters that if you offend him you get into trouble with God. It is impossible for you to reject light from the deputy authority and hope to receive light from the Lord. Paul did not say, “Since Cornelius asked for Peter, I also can ask God to send Peter or James. I do not want this little brother Ananias to be my authority.” It is impossible for us to reject the deputy authority and to submit to God directly. This is because the rejection of deputy authority is a rejection of the Lord Himself. Only foolish ones will want the deputy authority to fail. He who dislikes God’s representative dislikes God Himself. Man’s rebellious nature likes to submit to God’s direct authority, but reject God’s appointed deputy authority.


Numbers 30 speaks of a woman’s vow. When a woman was young in her father’s house, her father had to silently acknowledge the vow before it would become effective. If the father disallowed it, the vow would not stand. If she was married, then the vow had to be silently acknowledged by the husband. If the husband disallowed it, then the vow was annulled (vv. 3-8). When the deputy authority consents, the direct authority fulfills it. If the deputy authority disallows it, the direct authority disowns it. God is pleased with having deputy authority. He also honors the deputy authority. When a woman is under the authority of her husband, God will not uphold her vow as long as the husband disallows it. God only wants her to submit to authority. But if the deputy authority is wrong, God will deal with him; he will have to bear the iniquity of his wife, and the submitting wife is guiltless (v. 15). This chapter tells us that man cannot overstep the deputy authority to submit to the direct authority. Since God has handed out His authority, even He Himself will not overstep His deputy authority. Even He Himself is bound by the deputy authority. God establishes through the establishment of the deputy authority, and He annuls through the annulling of the deputy authority. God wants to maintain His deputy authority. Therefore, we have only one way with the deputy authority, which is the way of submission.

The whole New Testament upholds deputy authority. Only in Acts 5:29, when the Sanhedrin persecuted Peter by forbidding him to preach in the Lord’s name, did Peter say, “It is necessary to obey God rather than men.” Only when the deputy authority obviously defies God’s commandment and offends the Lord’s person can we refuse the deputy authority. Hence, this kind of word can only be spoken under such a circumstance. Other than this, we have to submit to the deputy authority in any other circumstance. We cannot be careless. We must not fulfill submission by exercising rebellion.

(Authority and Submission, Chapter 7, by Watchman Nee)