Authority and Submission, by Watchman Nee


The Lord uses the phrase among you three times. Today the Lord is establishing authority in the church. Those who are great in the church, that is, those who are established by the Lord as great ones, are actually the servants and slaves of all. Whoever wants to become great shall be the servant of all, and whoever wants to be the first shall be the slave of all. This is the authority in the church. Here we see the two great requirements for a man to be appointed as God’s authority. First, there is the need to drink the cup—obedience to God’s will absolutely—and to accept the baptism—acknowledgment of death for the release of life. Second, there should not be any ambition for power. One should only be a servant, a slave of all. On the one hand, one should have a spiritual basis; he should honor God’s will as the central and highest thing among all things and should release the Lord’s life. On the other hand, one has to be humble, which means having no interest in being the authority among the brothers and sisters and being satisfied with being a servant and a slave. God can only use such people as His authority. All those who are willing to be servants will be appointed by the Lord as the great ones, and they will be entrusted with authority. All those who are willing to be the slaves, that is, who have a heart to serve the brothers and sisters, will be appointed to be the first by the Lord. In other words, a man must have a spiritual foundation on the one hand, and have a proper attitude and view towards authority on the other hand. He must not have any craving for authority. Only men such as this can be God’s authority.

I have laid out these two points in an honest way before you. If you do not possess the first point—a spiritual foundation, it will do you no good to possess the second—humility. You still will be useless even if you become very humble. When the Lord answered James and John, He first dealt with the first criterion. However, this does not mean that a person will be given the right or left side of the Lord after he has a spiritual foundation. The Lord said that it would be given to whoever God wills. After the first qualification, there is the need for the second condition, which is being a servant and a slave among the brothers and sisters. Those who fulfill these two conditions, who see themselves as unsuitable and incapable men, are the ones who are qualified to be the authority. The Lord is after those who consider themselves unqualified men, servants, and slaves. The Lord said that such ones can be made the great ones and the first. In order to be an authority, one has to drink the cup and take the baptism. Otherwise, all is in vain. But in addition to this, he has to be truly humble, considering himself worthy to be only a servant (not in word only, but in inward feeling). The Lord said that such a one can be great. We are afraid of the kind of humility that stays on one’s lips only. Humility must be something that issues from the heart.

In order to be a deputy authority, we must fulfill the condition of spirituality as well as the condition of humility. The qualification of an authority is based on one’s consciousness of his inability and unsuitability. One thing is sure: None of the persons that God used in the Old and New Testaments were proud. I can tell you frankly that as soon as a person becomes proud, God will put him aside. As a worker for over twenty years, I have never seen a proud man who was used by the Lord. Even if a man is just a little proud in private, his words will sooner or later expose him, because a person’s words always disclose the hidden state of his heart. Even a humble person will be greatly surprised at the judgment seat. The surprise that awaits the proud, however, will surely be many times more than that of the humble! We must be conscious of our unprofitableness all the time, because God can only use the unprofitable slaves. We are not saying this to be polite. We honestly should feel that we are unprofitable slaves. We may have tended sheep or plowed the field, but when we come in from the field, we should still acknowledge that we are unprofitable slaves. We should always stand in the position of a slave (Luke 17:10). God never entrusts His authority to the self-confident and self-assured. We have to reject pride and learn humility and meekness. We should not speak for ourselves but should learn to know ourselves and to see things from God’s viewpoint.

Finally the Lord said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). The Lord did not come to be an authority but to serve. The less ambition a man has and the more he humbles himself before the Lord, the more useful he is in the eyes of the Lord. The more a man thinks highly of himself and the more he thinks he is different from others, the less he is useful in the hand of the Lord. The Lord took the form of a slave and became a slave to all. He never seized any authority; all of His authority came from God. The Lord was raised from a lowly place to the height. This is His principle. We should not try to seize any fleshly authority with fleshly hands. We should be the servants of all. Then when God commits certain responsibilities to us, we will learn to represent Him. The basis of authority is ministry, and there is ministry only where there is resurrection. When one has a ministry, he has a service, and when he has a service, he has authority. May the Lord deliver us from haughty thoughts.

A man who tries to usurp God’s authority with his fleshly hands will suffer severe judgment! We have to fear authority as much as we fear hell fire. It is not an easy matter to represent God. It is too great a matter, something unfathomable to man, and something that we dare not touch with our own hands. We should take a straight course in obedience. Our way is the way of obedience, not the way of authority. It is a matter of being a servant, not a matter of being great. It is a matter of being a slave, not a matter of being the first. Moses and David were great authorities, yet neither of them built up their own authority. This should be the way of those who serve as authorities today. We should tremble with fear in our exercise of authority. May the Lord be merciful to us.

(Authority and Submission, Chapter 18, by Watchman Nee)