The Normal Christian Church Life, by Watchman Nee


Before considering the question of spiritual authority, let us read a few passages of Scripture bearing on the relationship between the workers, as they throw considerable light on our subject. “Timothy…Paul wanted this one to go forth with him” (Acts 16:1-3). “When he [Paul] had seen the vision, we immediately endeavored to go forth into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to announce the gospel to them” (Acts 16:10). “And those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as quickly as possible, they went off” (Acts 17:15). Paul “resolved to return through Macedonia. And Sopater of Berea, the son of Pyrrhus, accompanied him” (Acts 20:3-4). “We, going ahead onto the ship, set sail for Assos, from there intending to pick up Paul, for so he had arranged” (Acts 20:13). “If Timothy comes, see that he is with you without fear.…Send him forward in peace that he may come to me.… And concerning our brother Apollos, I urged him many times to come to you” (1 Cor. 16:10-12). “We entreated Titus” (2 Cor. 8:6). “Titus…received the entreaty.…And we sent together with him the brother” (2 Cor. 8:16-18). “We sent with them our brother” (2 Cor. 8:22). “Tychicus, the beloved brother…I have sent to you” (Eph. 6:21-22). “But I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus” (Phil. 2:25). “All the things concerning me, Tychicus…will make known to you” (Col. 4:7). “Luke, the beloved physician, greets you, as well as Demas” (Col. 4:14). “And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry” (Col. 4:17). “We sent Timothy” (1 Thes. 3:1-2). “Be diligent to come to me quickly.…Take Mark and bring him with you.…But Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus” (2 Tim. 4:9-12). “Trophimus I left at Miletus sick. Be diligent to come before winter” (2 Tim. 4:20-21). “For this cause I left you in Crete, that you might set in order the things which I have begun that remain and appoint elders in every city, as I directed you” (Titus 1:5). “When I send Artemas to you or Tychicus, be diligent to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. Zenas the lawyer and Apollos send forward diligently that nothing may be lacking to them” (Titus 3:12-13).

The above Scriptures show us that among the workers of God dependence upon Him does not render us independent of one another. We saw that Paul left Titus in Crete to complete the work he himself had left unfinished, and that he afterwards sent Artemas and Tychicus to replace him when he instructed him to proceed to Nicopolis. On various occasions he appointed Timothy and Tychicus to do certain work, and we read that he persuaded Titus and Apollos to remain in Corinth. We observe that these workers not only learned to work in teams, but the less experienced learned to submit to the direction of the more spiritual. God’s workers must learn to be left, to be sent, and to be persuaded.

It is important to recognize the difference between official and spiritual authority. In an organization all authority is official, not spiritual. In a good organization the one who holds office has both official and spiritual authority; in a bad organization the authority wielded is only official. But in any organization, no matter whether the office-bearer himself has spiritual authority or not, the authority he holds in the organization is actually only official. What is the meaning of official authority? It means that because a man holds office, therefore, he exercises authority. The authority is exercised solely on account of the office he holds. As long as the office-bearer retains his position, just so long can he exert his authority; as soon as he resigns office, his authority ceases. Such authority is altogether objective; it is not inherent in the man himself. It is connected not with the person, but merely with his position. If he holds the office of superintendent, it follows as a matter of course that he superintends affairs, no matter whether he is spiritually qualified to do so or not. If he holds the office of director, then automatically he directs, even if lack of spirituality should really disqualify him from exercising control over other lives. The life of an organization is position; it is position that determines authority.

(The Normal Christian Church Life, Chapter 7, by Watchman Nee)