SPIRITUAL AUTHORITY By Watchman Nee (contributed by Matt Cuthbertson)



Obedience to God’s Will – the Greatest Demand of the Bible

Why did Samuel say that “obedience is better than sacrifice”? Because even in sacrifice there can be the element of self-will. Obedience alone is absolutely honoring to God, for it alone takes God’s will as its center.

Obedience Must Be Recovered

Everyone thinks he is able to distinguish good from evil and to judge what is right or wrong. He seems to know better than God. This is the folly of the fall.

Obedience is a foundational principle. If this matter of authority remains unsolved, nothing can be solved.

Some Lessons on Obedience

1. Have a spirit of obedience.

2. Practice obedience.

3. Learn to exercise delegated authority.

Authority Is God’s Choice, Not Man’s Attainment

Spiritual authority is not something one attains to by effort. It is given by God to whomever He chooses. How very different is the spiritual from the natural.

The Lord Initiates Obedience

God exalts whoever humbles himself. This is a divine principle.

The Riches of Christ Is Authority

We often misunderstand authority as something which oppresses us, hurts us, and troubles us. God does not have such a concept. He uses authority to replenish our lack.

The way God grants His grace to us is twofold: sometimes, though rarely, He grants grace to us directly; mostly He gives His riches to us indirectly – that is, God puts above you the brothers and sisters in the church who are more advanced spiritually so that you may accept their judgment as your judgment. This will then enable you to possess their wealth without you yourself having to go through their painful experiences.

The Manifestations of Man’s Rebellion

In what particular areas is man’s rebellion most obviously manifest? In words, in reasons, and in thoughts. Unless there are practical dealings in these areas, the hope of deliverance from rebellion is very dim.

Ham Broadcast His Father’s Failure

Let us see what Ham did when he saw his father’s nakedness. He went out to tell it to his brothers, Shem and Japheth. He who is insubordinate in heart always expects the authority to fall. Thus Ham got his chance to reveal his father’s fault. His doing so fully proved that he was not at all in subjection to his father’s authority. Ordinarily he outwardly submitted to his father, but it was only half-hearted. Now, though, he had discovered his father’s weakness, so he seized the opportunity to broadcast it to his brothers. Today many brethren, due to a lack of love, enjoy criticizing people and take great delight in disclosing others’ faults. Ham had neither love nor subjection. He is a manifestation of rebellion.

Rebellion Is Linked with Fleshly Indulgence

Christians today lose their power no less through mouth than through act; nay, they lose even more power through mouth. All rebellious ones have trouble with their mouths. Those who cannot control their words cannot control themselves.

Slander Comes from Reason

People of this world live in reason. Wherein, then, are we any different from worldly people if we too live in that realm?

Recapturing the Captive Mind

Whether or not a brother has met authority may be readily discerned by observing:

1. whether he has any rebellious words,

2. whether he reasons before God, and

3. whether he still offers many opinions.

Life and Authority

Difficulties within the church are rarely found in matters of outward disobedience; mostly they are related to a lack of inward submission. But the governing principle of our life ought to be submission, just as that of birds is to fly and that of fish is to swim.

Saints may possess different opinions and yet there still be no insubordination, for even with differing opinions we can nonetheless submit to one another. Thus are we one in the faith. The life we have received is not only for dealing with sin – the negative side – but more is it for obeying – the vital and positive side. If all the local churches walk in this way of obedience, the glorious fact of the unity of the faith will verily appear before our eyes.



Three Requirements for a Delegated Authority

  1. He must know that all authority comes from God.

We ourselves have not the slightest authority in the home, the world, or the church. All we can do is execute God’s authority; we cannot create authority for ourselves. The policeman and the judge execute authority and enforce the law, but they should not write the law themselves. Likewise, those who are placed in authority in the church merely represent God’s authority. Their authority is due to their being in a representative capacity, not because they in themselves have any merit more excellent than the rest.

For one to be in authority does not depend on his having ideas and thoughts; rather does it hinge on knowing the will of God. The measure of one’s knowledge of God’s will is the measure of his delegated authority. God establishes a person to be His delegated authority entirely on the basis of that person’s knowledge of God’s will. It has nothing at all to do with having many ideas, strong opinions, or noble thoughts. Indeed, such persons who are strong in themselves are greatly to be feared in the church.

Only God’s acknowledged judgment is authoritative; whatever comes from man is wholly void of authority, for it can only represent himself.

Do not think that because one is older he can suppress the younger, because one is a brother he can oppress the sisters, or because one is quick-tempered he can subdue the slow in temper.

  1. He must deny himself.

  1. He must constantly keep in fellowship with the Lord.

Those who are God’s delegated authority need to maintain close fellowship with God. There must be not only communication but also communion.

May I speak frankly, that the difficulty today is that many of God’s servants are either too bold or too strict or too overbearing. They dare speak what they have not heard from God!

Never Try to Establish One’s Own Authority

Authority is established by God; therefore no delegated authority need try to secure his authority. Do not insist that others listen to you. If they err, let them err; if they do not submit, let them be insubordinate; if they insist on going their own way, let them go.

Make No Self Defense

Vindication or defense or whatever reaction there may be should come from God, not from man. He who vindicates himself does not know God. No one on earth could ever be more authoritative than Christ, yet He never defended Himself. Authority and self-defense are incompatible.

Resurrection Life Is Basis of Authority

Sprouting of the Dried Rod Keeps Men Humble

Only the foolish can be proud. Those who are favored will prostrate themselves before God, saying, “This has been done by God; there is nothing of which man can boast.”

Touchstone of Ministry Is Resurrection

Men are chosen to exercise spiritual authority not because they are different from the rest but on the basis of grace, election, and resurrection.

What Is Resurrection?

Resurrection is that which I cannot, but which God can; what I am not, but what God is.

Authorities Must Be Both God’s Choice and Church’s Choice

After Saul’s death David inquired of God as to what city he should go to. Humanly speaking, David with his army should quickly descend on Jerusalem, for there was the palace. This was a chance not to be missed. Yet he asked God and God told him to go to Hebron. Hebron was only a small and insignificant city. David’s going there proved that he was not trying to snatch authority on his own initiative. He waited to be anointed by the people of God. Samuel had first anointed him because he was chosen by God. Now Judah anointed him, because he was the people’s choice. This action typifies the church making its choices. David could neither oppose nor refuse the people from anointing him; he could not say, “Since I already have the anointing of God upon me, I do not need your anointing.” To be anointed by God is one thing; to be anointed by His people is another thing. There must be both the church’s choices and God’s choice. No one can force himself upon others.

All those who know God can wait. If one’s condition is right he will be recognized not only by the Lord as His representative but also by the church as God’s representative.

Maintaining Authority

No one should ever permit another person’s authority to be damaged in order to establish his own.

To Be Great, One Must Be a Servant

God has never used a proud soul. God only uses the useless.

To Be in Authority Often Means Loneliness

Loneliness is the mark of authority. It is not due to pride but for the sake of representing God’s authority.

Authority Is Based on Sanctification

He who is in authority does not grasp authority; he serves God, is willing to pay the price. To be in authority requires one to climb high, to not fear loneliness, and to be sanctified.

-many thanks to Matt Cuthbertson from Aniheim California for making this book abstract available to the students of SMS-

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