III. SUBMITTING TO AUTHORITY
Once a person encounters authority, he cannot help but submit to authority. It is useless to have a thousand arguments that are right. Only through submission can one have life. Only through submission can one live. Only through submission can there be blessing, and only through submission is there a way to go on. Keep in mind that we are not speaking about the matter of obedience, but submission. I have seen some children who acted according to their parents’ desire, yet they were not at all submissive. They did what their parents said, but there was no inward submission. I have also seen the opposite: some children are not at all acting according to their parents’ desire, yet they are full of submission. In some cases, you may have conflict with authority and may find that you cannot obey, but your spirit is still one of submission, as is your attitude. In still other cases, you may be acting in obedience to authority, yet in reality there is no submission. What we are talking about here is not the question of obedience, but the question of submission. That which we obey may not be the authority. Only that which we submit to is the authority.
Do not have the misconception that submission to authority means that you are obligated to do even things that are wrong; this is not true! Even when you find the authority proposing something that is wrong, you can still submit, without doing the thing that is wrong. It is not a question of obedience, but altogether a question of submission. Every elder must be aware of this fact; he must be full of a spirit of submission. Only then will a spirit of submission prevail throughout the whole church. If the whole church lacks a spirit of submission, the elders are responsible for this lack. An unsubmissive person will only bring forth an unsubmissive church; he will never be able to bring forth a submissive church. Some may say that the Lord is our only Head. This is right. Nevertheless, you and I must learn to touch something called authority and to submit to this authority. Only then can we bring into the church an atmosphere and a spirit of submission, and only then will the church have a way to go on. Otherwise, there will be no way to go on: You can boast about your ability or capability, but be prepared that one day the whole church will have an unsubmissive spirit towards you. Only those who are submissive can bring forth the spirit of submission, and only they can bring forth a submissive church.
To obey is one thing, and to submit is another. Praise God, throughout the Bible these two terms are used in our relationship to God. We need to submit to God and to obey Him as well. The Bible does not say that the wife should obey the husband. If the Bible told the wife to obey the husband, that would be terrible. Some husbands demand that their wives worship idols with them. Should the wives obey? Of course not! The Bible only charges us to submit to those who are in authority; it never requires us to obey them. If God had charged us to obey those in authority, that would be terrible. King Nebuchadnezzar commanded Daniel’s three friends to worship the image. If they were to obey him, that would have been terrible. God says to submit, yet they could not worship the image, nor could they obey the king’s command. At the same time, they should still submit to the authority. Here was an authority which they had to come under.
(The Elders' Management of the Church, Chapter 5, by Witness Lee)