Authority in the Body
The Body being the place for the highest expression of authority
The highest expression of God’s authority is in the Body of Christ, the church. Although God has established systems of authority in the world, none of the relationships with the government or between father and son, husband and wife, and master and servant can perfectly manifest authority. Although God has set up many authorities on earth, they are but systems of authority set up by God. Man can obey them outwardly without submitting to them inwardly. For example, if the government passes an edict, the people can obey it from their heart, or they can obey it, but not from the heart. There is no way to tell which kind of obedience is present. Likewise, there is no way to tell whether a child’s submission to his parents is from the heart or if it is merely superficial or behavioral. Hence, submission to authority cannot be typified by a child’s submission to his parents or a servant’s submission to his master, much less a people’s submission to its government. Without submission there is, of course, no establishment of God’s authority. An outward submission that has no inward correspondence still does not establish God’s authority. Moreover, many kinds of submission are based upon man’s relationship with man — for example, a father with a son or a master with a servant. But master and servant can be separated, and so can father and son. Hence, we do not see absolute and perfect submission in these relationships.
Only Christ and the church have the highest expression of authority and submission. God has not established the church to make it an organization, but to make it the Body of Christ. We think that the church is the gathering together of believers of the same faith, or that it is a gathering together in love. But God sees it differently. The church is not only a convergence in faith or love; it is a body. The church is the Body of Christ, and Christ is the Head of the church. Father and son, master and servant, or even husband and wife can be separated, but the body and the head can never be separated. They are forever joined as one. In the same way Christ and the church can never be separated one from the other. With Christ and the church there is an absolute submission and an absolute authority which are far above all other authorities and submissions. Although the parents love their children, they may make mistakes. They may misuse their authority. Likewise, a government can also give wrong orders, and a master’s authority can also be wrong. Not only is submission imperfect in the world, but authority is also imperfect. For this reason God has to establish a perfect authority and a perfect submission, which is Christ and the church, the Head and the Body. There are some parents who would harm their children; there are husbands who would harm their wives; there are masters who would harm their servants; and there are rulers who would harm their subjects. But there is no head that would harm its own body. Hence, the authority of the head cannot be wrong; it is perfect. Look at the submission of the body to the head; it is also perfect. As long as the head has any desire, the finger will move. There is no need for words; there is no need of force. Everything is so harmonious. God’s will is that we submit perfectly. We must be brought by God to a condition that is like the body submitting to the head. Only then will God be satisfied. This cannot be represented by the husband and the wife and so forth. Authority is of Him, and submission is likewise of Him. Authority and submission are one thing. It is not like the world, where authority and submission are two different things. For a body to move, there is no need for the head to exert strength to give command. As soon as a thought arises, the body will move. There is perfect harmony in this. If we can only submit to the degree that the children are submissive to parents or wives are submissive to husbands, God will not be satisfied. God desires that our submission be like that of the body submitting to the head. It is not a submission by coercion, such as that which is seen in the nations. Rather, it is a submission of the body to the head. As soon as the head has a little intention, there is a harmonious submission.
If you have submitted yourself to God often, you realize that God’s command and God’s will are entirely different. His command is a word out of His mouth, and His will is an idea out of His heart. A command must be uttered, but a will need not be uttered. The Lord Jesus was submissive not only to God’s word but also to His will. Whenever there was a will, the Lord moved and acted. God must wrought into Christ and the church a relationship like that between Christ and the Father. God must work in us until we can submit to Christ in the same way that Christ submits to God. In the first part of His work, God made Himself the Head of Christ. In the second part of His work, He made Christ the Head of the church. He has to work until there is submission even without the need of the dealing of the Holy Spirit. As soon as He has a desire, we will immediately obey. In the third part of God’s work, God will make the kingdoms of the earth the kingdom of the Lord and of His Christ. The first part has already been accomplished, and the third part is yet to come. Today we are in the middle part. If the work in the second part is not complete, the third part cannot commence. Are we here to submit and give God a free way, or are we here to disobey and hinder God? God has never secured authority in the universe. The place where His authority will see a complete success and the place where the tide is turned is the church. The church is the middle part; it is the turning point. For this reason God reserves the greatest glory for us. Without seeing authority there is no way to go on. If this matter is not resolved in us, it will not be resolved in others. We all bear the responsibility of expressing authority.
It being most spontaneous and harmonious for the Body to submit to the Head
Today God has made everything ready. The Body and the Head already have the same life and nature. Therefore, submission is very spontaneous, while not being submissive is rather strange. For example, if the hand is raised up according to the desire of the head, there is nothing strange about it. But if the hand cannot move, then it is a strange thing. Perhaps the hand is sick. The Spirit of life that God gave to us is the same as that which is in the Lord. The life and the nature that He gave us is likewise the same as that in the Lord. Here again there is no possibility of disharmony and disobedience. Some of our bodily movements are conscious, while others are unconscious. The oneness of the body with the head does not depend only on a conscious submission, but on an unconscious submission. It is like breathing. There can be conscious deep breathing or there can be unconscious and spontaneous ordinary breathing. This is like the heart which beats without consciousness. There is no need to give it an order; it keeps on beating by itself. This is submission in life. For the body to submit to the head, there is no noise, no imposition, and no friction. Everything is in harmony. It is not enough for some to just submit to commands. In the commands is the will, and in the will is the law of life. Only when one submits to the law of life is his submission perfect. If the submission is not like that of the body submitting to the head, it is not called submission. The submission of some is with such reluctance that it cannot be considered as submission.
The Lord has put us into the Body. Here the union is perfect and the submission is perfect. It is a wonder that even the mind of the Holy Spirit can be guided by the members. There is no possibility of separating two members from the other to make them distinct wholes. A harmony spontaneously exists between the members. There is no need to even think about this submission. Its harmony is beyond the description of human words, and its submission to authority is the most perfect that can be found. For this reason we cannot be a sick member, one that makes noise and causes friction. We are living in the operation of God’s authority; there should be a very spontaneous submission. The church is not only the place of fellowship for the brothers and sisters; it is also the place for the manifestation of authority.
Rejecting the authority in the members being to reject the head
The authority in the Body is sometimes not manifested directly, but indirectly. Not only does the body submit to the head; its members submit to and help one another also. The left and the right hands do not have direct fellowship with each other. The head moves the right hand, and the head moves the left hand. The left hand does not control the right hand, nor the right hand the left. The hand does not order the eyes to see. It only informs the head. The head then directs the eyes to see. No matter how far the members are from the head, their relationship with the head is the same, and all their works relate back to the head. If my eyes see, my hands work, or my feet move, then I say that I see, I work, or I move. Hence, many times the decision of the members is the decision of the head. The authority of the members is the authority of the head. The hand cannot see by itself; it needs the decision of the eyes. It is wrong for the hand either to ask the head to see or to ask itself to see. Both are impossible. But this is often the problem with God’s children. Hence, we must take other members as the deputy authority of the Head. The function of the hand is just that of a hand, the function of the foot is only that of a foot, and the function of the eyes is only that of the eyes. We must accept others’ function as our function. We cannot reject the function of the members. If the foot rejects the hand, it is rejecting the head. Consequently, when we accept the authority of the members, we are accepting the authority of the Head. Every member is my authority in fellowship. Although the function of the hand is great, it has to accept the function of the foot in the matter of walking. The hand cannot feel color; it needs the authority of the eyes. The function of the members is the authority of the members.
Authority being the riches of Christ
Today it is impossible for every member to be the whole Body. For this reason everyone should stand in his position as a member, receiving the function of the other members. When others see and hear, then I see and hear. Receiving the function of the members is receiving the riches of the Head. There is no one member who is independent. I am only a member. A member cannot do the work of the Body. What the other members have done is what the Body has done. It is also what each member has done. In today’s situation, the eyes have seen, but the hand says that it has not seen and that it is waiting to see. Man wants to have everything and to be able to do everything; he does not want to receive the supply of the members. This makes him poor, and the church is dragged into poverty. Authority is the riches of Christ. To receive others’ function, which means to receive their authority, is to receive the riches of the whole Body. If we submit to the authority of every member, we obtain the riches of every member. If we reject the authority, we have poverty. When the eyes are illuminated, the whole body is illuminated. When the ears hear, the whole body hears.
We always think that the purpose of authority is to suppress us, smite us, and embarrass us. But God does not have this thought. We are wrong. God uses authority to fill up that which is lacking in us. God set up His authority in order to dispense His riches to us and to fill up the lack of all the weak ones. God cannot wait until we reach a certain stage or until a certain number of years have passed before He shows us something. If that were the case, we would have to pass through a countless number of dark and painful days, and a countless number of people will be led into darkness. It would truly be the blind leading the blind. How much loss God would suffer! This is why God first works thoroughly on the people who are used by Him so that when He gives them to us as our authority to help us learn submission, we can receive what we never could have otherwise received. Their riches will become our riches. If we neglect this, we might have to pass through fifty years without attaining what they have learned.
God’s grace to us is twofold. On the one hand, it comes to us directly. This happens rather infrequently. On the other hand, there are indirect riches. In the church God has set brothers and sisters before us to be our authority. Through their discernments becoming our discernments we can receive their riches without going through their sufferings. In the church there is much grace which God will only give to others, not to you. Every star has its own glory. Therefore, authority is the riches of the church. Individual riches are riches for the many. To rebel is to take the way of poverty. To reject authority is to reject the way of receiving grace and riches.
Delegated function being deputy authority
No one dares to say that he would not submit to the Lord’s authority. But there is also the authority of the members in coordination that we have to submit to. We have to realize that all the members are joined together. If we do not receive help from other members, we are in rebellion. Sometimes the Lord uses one member directly. At other times, the Lord uses a member to supply another member. When the head directs the eyes to see, the whole body takes the seeing of the eyes as its own seeing because when the eyes see, the whole body sees. This delegated function, which is deputy authority, is also the authority of the Head. If any other members think that they can see for themselves, they are in rebellion. We cannot be so foolish as to think that we are almighty.
Never forget that we are just members. We need to receive the function of the other members. When we submit to the authority of the seeing function, we will have no barrier with the Head, because the supply is in the authority. Whoever has the gift has that ministry; and whoever has the ministry has the authority. No one else can see except the eyes. If we want to see, we have to submit to the authority of the eyes and receive their supply. God’s appointed ministry is His authority. No one should reject it. Everyone wants to receive God’s direct authority. But God wants us to submit to indirect authorities (i.e., deputy authorities) so that we may receive spiritual supply.
Submission being easy with life
For unbelievers and Israelites, submission is a difficult matter because they are not related to other unbelievers and Israelites in life. We, however, are related in life. Therefore, it is not a difficult matter to submit, for within we are all one, sharing the same life and the same Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit directs all things. Mutual submission brings in a happy state and a lifetime of rest for us. If we take all burdens upon ourselves, it will be a tiring job. If they are distributed among the members, it will be a relaxing matter. If we are willing to be restricted by the Lord, we will have true rest. Hence, to submit to the authority of the members is a great release. Otherwise, we stand in the position of others, while causing ourselves to be under great strain. For us, submission is spontaneous, and disobedience is awkward. Why do we have to devour one another? Why do we have to criticize one another? For us these should be awkward things.
The Lord has taught us not only to learn submission in the family and in the world, but also in the Body, in the church. If we learn submission well in the Body, we will learn it well everywhere else. This is the only place to start. Hence, the church is the place of testing. It is also the place of perfection. If we do not learn well here, anything done elsewhere will not be successful. If the lesson is learned well in the church, the problem of the kingdom is solved, the problems in the world will be solved, and the problems in the universe will be solved.
In the past authority has been too objective to many, and submission also has been objective. We have tried to apply outward submission to a subjective body. Today authority has become a matter of life. In other words, it has become an inward matter. In the Body of Christ, authority and submission meet in one Body, and both have become subjective, living, and united. This is the highest expression of God’s authority. Authority and submission are in one Body, and they are being brought to the highest peak. Let us be perfected here. Otherwise, there will be no way for us to go on. The place to meet authority is in the Body. The Head as the source of authority is in the church. The members who operate according to the measure of each one part, with a mutual supply between those who represent authority and those who submit to it, are also in the church. If we do not meet authority here, there is no hope for us elsewhere.