Authority and Submission, by Watchman Nee


In order for us to learn to be an authority, we must also learn to set ourselves apart from the brothers and sisters. We need to refrain from many things which we otherwise could do or say. We should be separated in our speech and in our emotion. We may hold a certain attitude when we are by ourselves. But when we are with others, we have to set ourselves apart. We can only fellowship with the brothers and sisters to a certain extent. We cannot be flippant or frivolous. We need to give up our freedom and suffer loneliness. Loneliness is a mark of being an authority. All those who are frivolous among the brothers and sisters cannot be an authority. This is not pride. It merely means that for the sake of representing God’s authority, we have to have certain limitations in our fellowship with the brothers and sisters. We cannot be too loose or easy-going. Sparrows fly in company, but the eagles fly alone. If we can only fly low and not suffer the loneliness of flying high, we are not qualified to be an authority. In order to be an authority, we have to be restricted and must separate ourselves. We cannot do what others can freely do. We cannot say what others can hastily say. We have to submit to the Spirit of the Lord. The Holy Spirit within us will teach us. This will make us lonely; it will strip us of excitement. We will no longer dare to joke around the brothers and sisters. This is the price that an authority has to pay. We must sanctify ourselves as the Lord Jesus did before we can be an authority.

As far as being a member in the Body is concerned, an authority has to be absolutely inconspicuous, being the same as the other brothers and sisters, in order to maintain the fellowship of the Body. However, in representing God, an authority has to be restricted by God and sanctified. He should be a pattern to the saints. But in acting as a member, he should coordinate and serve together with others, not setting himself apart as a special class.


Leviticus 10:1-7 records God’s judgment on Nadab and Abihu. They were judged because they did not come under the authority of their father Aaron. Aaron had four sons, who served as priests in the sanctuary; they were anointed the same day that he was anointed. They were not supposed to serve independently; rather, they were to help their father in his service to God. They could not do anything by themselves. But one day Nadab and Abihu offered up strange fire on their own, without the command of their father. This brought in God’s judgment, and they were burned to death. Moses said, “This is what Jehovah spoke, saying, I will be sanctified by those who come near to Me” (v. 3). God wanted to point out that those who draw near to Him cannot be loose. This punishment was more severe and strict than His discipline on the rest of His people.

Nadab and Abihu died on the same day. What should Aaron have done? Before God he was the high priest; in his house he was the head of his household. He played a double role. Can a man be so dedicated to God’s service that he can ignore his sons? According to Jewish tradition, when a man dies, his family has to dishevel their hair and tear their garments. But Moses only ordered the corpses to be carried out. Aaron and his sons were not allowed to dishevel their hair or tear their garments.

Sorrow and grief over death are human affections; they are normal. But here a servant of the Lord could not express his sorrow or else he would die. This is a very sober matter. The judgment that a servant of God can suffer is different from the judgment that an ordinary Israelite can suffer. A servant of God cannot do what an ordinary Israelite can do. It is understandable and legitimate for a father to mourn over his son or for a person to mourn over his own brother. But those who have God’s anointing oil upon them must sanctify themselves. This is not a matter of sin but a matter of sanctification. We cannot say that we can do many things just because they are legitimate and not sinful. It is not a matter of whether or not they are sinful, but whether we are sanctified. It may be right for others to do them, but a servant of God cannot because he must sanctify himself.

The opposite of sanctification is being common. To be sanctified means that we cannot do what everybody else can do. The Lord could not do what the disciples could do. An authority cannot do what his brothers can do. A high priest cannot even express his own emotion which he would otherwise be entitled to express. If he becomes loose in this matter, he will die. The Israelites died because of sin, while the priests died because of the failure of separation. Among the children of Israel, those who kill die, but Aaron would die if he were to weep for his sons. What a difference this is! An authority must pay the price.

Aaron could not even leave the tabernacle. He could only let others bury the dead. The Israelites did not have to live in the tabernacle at all, yet Aaron and his sons could not even leave the door of the tabernacle. They had to carefully guard that which God had entrusted to them. The holy ointment has sanctified us and separated us from all our activities. We have to honor the ointment that God has given us. All of us have to go to God to deal with Him and to ask Him to separate us from others. The world and other brothers and sisters may maintain their family affections, but a deputy authority is set apart to maintain God’s glory. He cannot seek for ease. He cannot hold on to his own feelings. He cannot rebel or be loose. He must instead exalt God for His glory.

A servant of God is one who has God’s holy ointment upon him. He must sacrifice his own emotion and abandon his legitimate sentiments. This is the only way to become a deputy authority. Anyone who maintains God’s authority must also reject his own feeling. One must be willing to pay any price, even to the extent of giving up his deepest affections, his filial sentiments, his friendships, and even his love. If he is entangled by these things, he cannot serve the Lord. God’s requirements are strict. If a man does not give up his own affections, he cannot serve the Lord. God’s servants are those with a distinction, while ordinary people are those without a distinction. God’s servants must sanctify themselves for the sake of His people.

(Authority and Submission, Chapter 19, by Watchman Nee)