THE AUTHORITY OF THE CHURCH
Brother Witness Lee asked: What is the authority of the church, and who can represent the church?
The Authority of the Church
Being with the Elders, whereas the Authority
of the Work Being with the Apostles
Brother Nee answered: The authority of the local church is in the hands of the elders, whereas the authority of the work is in the hands of the apostles.
Oneness with the General Church
Bringing in Authority
Since you are the church, you have the authority. God’s authority is with the church. Do not think that an individual believer does not have any authority. As long as such an individual believer is one with the general church, he can have the authority also, and he can even be the authority. Suppose Brother Lee has offended me. While I am with him alone, I point out his mistake, and the matter is taken care of. While I am taking care of the matter, the church is brought in; the reality of the church is brought in. Of course, in terms of the actual procedure, the church is not involved. In the Bible, not only can an individual represent the church; the principle of two or three can also be a principle of the church. When two or three are one, that oneness makes them the church. When these two or three deal with anything, it will be the church dealing with the matter. The only difference between that and the church actually dealing with the matter is that the church has not said anything directly. In actuality, these two or three are one with the church, but the church is not directly involved. However, what they say becomes what the church says. Hence, the two or three become the church.
Here we can see a unique fact of oneness: An individual can have the authority of the church, two or three can also have the authority of the church, and the whole church can also have the authority of the church.
The Authority of the Apostles
Other than these authorities, we see before the Lord that God has established some special authorities. These authorities have to give an account before God in the future. First God established the elders as the authority. Other than the elders, God has also established the apostles as the authority. Accusations against an elder should be presented to the apostles (1 Tim. 5:19). The elders are the authorities, and the apostles are also the authorities. Moreover, the elders have to submit to the authority of the apostles. A man should learn coordination before God.
Submitting to the Authority
Assigned by the Head
We believe that a man should submit to the authority of the Head in the church. A believer should learn submission in the church to such an extent that his submission means more than his sacrifice. We should look for opportunities for submission. Every believer should practice submission. If they do this, others will see that here is a group of people who bear a proper testimony in the schools, the hospitals, and so forth. Here is a group of people who have not overstepped and who maintain their proper standing. In the homes, you do not see the children dominating the parents or strong wives dominating their husbands. If we have the light, we will see that God hates confusion (1 Cor. 14:33). Whether or not we like it, we have to recognize authority. Once there is authority, there is submission. This time, when we handed over ourselves, not only do we have to offer up our money, but we have to learn coordination as well. We have to pursue submission, not only to the Lord, but to those whom the Lord has placed in our path. If we do this, we will find grace before God, and we will be able to go on in a proper way. As long as there are four or five brothers living together, some have to learn to exercise headship, and some have to learn submission. Whenever man fails to recognize the sovereign arrangements of the Head, everything falls into confusion. Whenever we find submission, there we find a proper testimony.
(Messages Given During the Resumption of Watchman Nee's Ministry (2 volume set), Chapter 78, by Watchman Nee/Witness Lee)