Spiritual Authority

Watchman Nee, CFP white cover - download here

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3. Old Testament Instances of Rebellion (Continued)

 

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5. THE REBELLION OF KORAH, DATHAN, AND ABIRAM.

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The Obedient Follow Faith, Not Reason

 

            For the Israelites to complain that Moses had not brought them into a land flowing of milk and honey nor given them an inheritance of fields with vineyards was not without reason. They were still in the wilderness and had yet to enter the land of milk and honey.  But please notice here; he who walks after reason and sight goes the way of reason; only he who obeys authority enters Canaan by faith. None who follow reason can walk the spiritual pathway, because it is beyond and above human reasoning. The faithful alone may enjoy spiritual abundance, those by faith accept the pillar of cloud and fire and the leadership of God’s delegated authority such as that represented by Moses.

 

            The earth opens its mouth to hasten the downfall of the disobedient into Sheol, for they are traveling in the way of death. The eyes of the disobedient are quite sharp but, alas, all they see is the barrenness of the wilderness. Though those who proceed by faith may appear to be blind, for they do not notice the barrenness before them, yet their eyes of faith see the better promise which lies ahead. And thus they enter Canaan. Therefore, men ought to be under the restraint of God’s authority and learn to be led by God’s delegated authority. Those who meet only fathers, brothers, and sisters do not know what authority is, and hence have not met God. In brief, then, authority is not a matter  of outside instruction but of inward revelation.

 

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4. David’s Knowledge of Authority

 

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Obedience Higher than Work

 

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 David was one who knew the authority of God in his heart. Although repeatedly chased by Saul, he submitted himself to God’s authority. He even addressed Saul as “my lord” or “the Lord’s anointed.” This reveals an important fact: subjection to authority is not a being subject to a person, but a being subject to the anointing which is upon that person, the anointing which came to him when God ordained him to be an authority. David recognized the anointing upon Saul and acknowledged that he was the Lord’s anointed. He would therefore rather flee for his own life than stretch out his hand to kill Saul. True, Saul disobeyed God’s commandment and was rejected by God; this, however, was between Saul and God. David’s responsibility before God was to be subject to the Lord’s anointed.

 

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5. The Obedience of the Son

 

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To Be filled with Christ Is to Be Filled with Obedience

 

            Since the Lord has initiated obedience, the Father has become the Head of Christ. Now because both authority and obedience have been instituted by God, it is natural for those who know God and Christ to obey. But those who know not God and Christ know neither authority nor obedience. Christ is the principle of obedience. He who accepts Christ accepts the principle of obedience. Hence a person who is filled with Christ must be one who is also filled with obedience.

            Nowadays people ask, “Why should I obey?” But men are not qualified to ask in this manner. The Lord alone is qualified; yet He has never said such words nor has such a thought ever entered His mind. Christ represents obedience, which is as perfect as the authority of God is perfect. May God be merciful to those who claim they know authority when obedience is yet missing in their lives.

 

The Way of the Lord

 

            As regards to the Godhead, the Son and the Father are co-equal; but His being the Lord is rewarded Him by God. The Lord Jesus Christ was made Lord only after He emptied Himself. His deity derives from who He is, for His being God is His inherent nature. His being Lord, though, issues out of what He has done. He was exalted and rewarded by God to be the Lord only after He forsook His glory and maintained the perfect role of obedience. As regards Himself, He is God; as regards reward, He is Lord. His Lordship did not exist originally in the Godhead.

 

            The passage in Philippians 2 is most difficult to explain, for it is most controversial besides being most holy. Let remove our shoes and stand on holy ground as we review the Scripture. It seems as though at the beginning a council was held within the Godhead. God conceived a plan to create the universe. In that plan the Godhead agreed to have authority represented by the Father. But authority cannot exist alone. God must therefore find obedience in the universe. Two living beings were to be created: angels (spirits) and men (living souls). According to His foreknowledge God foresaw the rebellion of the angels and the fall of men; hence He was unable to establish His authority in angels or in the Adamic race. Consequently, within the Godhead perfect accord was reached that authority would be reached by the obedience of the Son. From this come the distinctive operations of God the Father and God the Son. One day God the Son emptied himself, and being born in the likeness of men He became the symbol of obedience. Inasmuch as rebellion came from the created beings, so obedience must now be established in the created being. Man sinned and rebelled; therefore the authority of God must be erected on man’s obedience. This explains why the Lord came to the world and was made as one of the created men.

 

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7. Men Should Obey Delegated Authority

 

Authorities Instituted by God

1. IN THE WORLD

            Let every soul be subject to the authorities that are above him. For there is no authority except from God. (Rom. 13.1 Darby).

            Be subject to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as sent by him for vengeance on evil-doers and for praise to them that do well. (1 Peter 2.13-14)

 

God is the source of all authorities in the universe. Now since all governing authorities are instituted by him, then all authorities are delegated by Him and represent His authority. God Himself has established this system of authority in order to manifest Himself. Wherever people encounter authority they meet God. It is possible for men to come to know God through His presence; but even without His presence they can still know Him through His authority.

 

In the garden of Eden men knew God through His presence, or, during His absence, by remembering His command. Today though, men seldom encounter God directly in the world. Today, though, men seldom encounter God directly in the world. (This, of course, does not apply to those in the church who live constantly in the spirit, for they often see God’s face.)

 

The place today where He manifests Himself the most is in His commandments. Only those who are foolish like the foolish tenants in the parable of Mark 12.1-9 have to have personal presence of the Owner of the vineyard in order to obey, for in the story are not the servants and His Son sent ahead of Him as His representatives?

 

Those who are set up by God are to exercise authority for Him. Since all governing authorities are ordained and instituted by God, they are meant to be obeyed. If we would indeed learn how to obey God, we would then have no trouble recognizing on whom God’s authority rests. But if we know only God’s direct authority, we may possibly violate more than half of His authority. Upon how many lives can we identify the authority of God? Is there any room for us to choose between God’s direct authority and His delegated authority? No, we must be subject to delegated authority as well as God’s direct authority, for “there is no authority except from God”.

 

As to earthly authorities, Paul not only exhorts positively towards subjection but also warns negatively against resistance. He who resists authorities resists God’s own command; he who rejects God’s delegated authorities rejects God’s own authority. Authority, according to the Bible, is characterized by a unique nature: there is no authority except from God. He who resists authority resists God, and who resist will incur judgment. There is no possibility of rebellion without judgment. The consequence of resisting authority is death. Man has no choice in the matter of authority.

 

During Adam’s time God gave men dominion over the whole earth. What they were to govern, however, were the living creatures. After the flood God handed the power of governing man’s fellowman to Noah, stating that “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed” (Gen. 9.6). From then on, the authority of governing man was invested in men. Ever since then there has been human government under which men are placed.

 

After having led His people out of Egypt into the wilderness, God gave them the Ten Commandments and many ordinances. Among these was one which declared: “Though shalt not revile God, nor curse a ruler of they people (Ex. 22.28). This proves that God had put them under rulers. Even in Moses’ time, the Israelites who resisted authority were actually resisting God.

 

Although the rulers of the nations did not believe in God and their countries were under the dominion of Satan, the principle of authority remained unchanged. Just as Israel was God’s kingdom and King David was chosen by God, so the Persian Emperor was likewise said to have been set up by God. When our Lord was on earth He was subject to the governing authorities as well as to the authority of the high priest. He paid taxes and taught men to “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Matt. 22.21). During questioning, when the high priest adjured Him by the living God to tell whether He was the Christ the Son of God, the Lord immediately obeyed (Matt. 26.63-64), thus acknowledging in all these instances that they were the authorities on earth. Our Lord was never a party to any rebellion.

 

Paul shows us in Romans 13 that all who are in authority are God’s servants. We must be subject to the local authority under which we live, as well as to the authority of our own nation and race. We should not disobey local authority simply because we may be a different nationality. The law is not a terror to good conduct but to bad. However different the laws of nations are, they are all derived from the law of God; the basic principle of all God’s laws is punish the evil and reward the good. All powers have their own laws. Their function is to maintain and execute their laws that the good may be approved and the bad disciplined. They not bear the sword in vain. In spite of the fact that some powers do exalt evil and suppress good, they have to resort to distortion by calling the evil good and the good evil. They dare not come out openly and declare that the evil person is exalted because of his wickedness while the good one is chastened because of his goodness.

 

Up to the present, all powers are still flowing – at least in principle – the rule of rewarding the good and punishing the bad. This principle has not been changed; therefore the law of God remains in force. The day shall come when the lawless one who is the anti-Christ shall be in power; he then will distort the entire system of law and openly label the good as bad and vic versa. Then the good shall be killed and the evil shall be exalted.

 

The symbols for subjection to earthly authorities are fourfold: taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, and honor to whom honor is due.

 

A Christian obeys the law not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of his conscience. His conscience reproves him if he is disobedient. Hence we must learn to be subject to local authorities. The children of God should not carelessly criticize or denounce the government. Even the police on the streets are instituted by God for they are commissioned to a specific task. When the tax-collectors or revenue inspectors come to us, what is our attitude towards them? Do we hear them as God’s delegated authorities? Are we in subjection to them?

 

How difficult it is to obey if we do not see the authority of God. The more we try to obey the harder it becomes. “But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of defilement, and despise dominion. Daring, selfwilled, they tremble not to rail at dignities” (2 Peter 2.10). How many lose their power and forfeit their lives through reviling. Men should not fall into a state of anarchy. We need not be overly concerned with how God will deal with that which is done unrighteously, though we should pray for God’s discipline on the ground of righteousness. In any event, insubordination to authority is mutiny towards God. If we are insubordinate, we will be a helper to the principle of anti-Christ. Let us ask ourselves, When the mystery of lawlessness is at work are we a restraint or help?

 

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3. IN THE CHURCH.

            But we beseech you, brethren, to know them that labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them exceeding highly in love for their work sake. Be at peace among yourselves. (1 Thess. 5.12-13)

            Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and in teaching. (1 Tim. 5.17)

            Now I beseech you, brethren (ye know the house of Stephenas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have set themselves to minister unto the saints), that ye also be in subjection unto such, and to every one that helpeth in the work and laboreth. (1 Cor. 16.15-16)

 

God sets in the church authorities such as “the elders who rule well” and “those who labor in preaching and teaching.” They are the ones who everyone should obey. The younger ones in age must also learn to be subject to other ones. The apostle exhorted the Corinthian believers to honor especially men like Stephenas whose family was the first converts in Achaia and who was willing to serve the saints with great humility.

 

In the church the women ought to be subject to the men. “I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God” (1 Cor. 11.3). God has arranged to have the men represent Christ as authority and the women represent the church in subjection. Therefore, the women ought to have a veil (Greek: authority) on their heads because of the angels (1 Cor. 11.10), and they should be subject to their own husbands.

 

“As in all the churches of the saints, let the women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but let them be in subjection, as also saith the law. And if they would learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home” (1 Cor. 14.33-35). Some sisters ask, Supposing our husbands cannot answer our questions? Well, God tells you to ask, and so you ask. After awhile your husband will know, since being repeatedly asked he will be forced to seek for understanding. And so you help your husband as well as yourself. “Let a woman learn in quietness with all subjection. But I permit not a woman to teach, nor to have dominion over a man, but to be in quietness. For Adam was first formed, then Eve” (1 Tim. 2.11-13).

“All of you gird yourselves with humility, to serve one another” (1 Peter 5.5). It is most shameful for anyone to consciously display his position and authority.

 

God has also instituted authorities in the spiritual world. “But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of defilement, and despise dominion. Daring, selfwilled, they tremble not to rail against dignities: whereas angels, though greater in might and power, bring not a railing judgment against them before the Lord” (2 Peter 2.10-11). Here we are told of a most significant fact: that there are authorities and glorious ones in the spiritual world under whom angels are assigned.  Although some of them have failed, the angels dare not revile them because once they were superiors. After their fall, though you may recount the fact of the fall, you may not add on your judgment, for the fact plus judgment is reviling.

 

“But Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing judgment, but said, The Lord rebuke thee” (Jude 9). Why? Because at one time God had made Lucifer the chief of the archangels; and Michael, being one of the archangels, had been under his authority. Later Michael, in obedience to God, sought the body of Moses because one day Moses was to be raised from the dead (possibly at the Mount of Transfiguration). When Michael was hindered by Satan, he could, in a rebellious spirit, have dealt with that rebellious one, Satan, by opening his mouth and reviling him. But he dared not to do so. All he said was, “The Lord rebuke thee.” (With men it is a different story, since God has never placed men under the authority of Satan. Though once we fell into his rule, we were never under his authority.)

 

On the same principle, David at one period submitted himself to the delegated authority of Saul. Subsequently, he still dared not overthrow Saul’s fading authority. How dignified is delegated authority in the spiritual realm. It should not be despised; any reviling of it will result in the loss of spiritual power.

 

If you ever once in your life meet authority you will then be able to see God’s authority everywhere. Wherever you go, your first question will be: Whom should I obey, To whom should I hearken? A Christian ought to have two senses: the sense of sin and the sense of authority. Even when two brothers consult together, though each may voice his opinion, only one makes the final decision.

 

In Acts 15 there was a council. The young as well as the old could rise up and speak. Every brother could offer his opinion. Yet after Peter and Paul had finished their words, James got up to give the decision. Peter and Paul only relate facts, but James made the judgment. Even among the elders or the apostles there was an order. “For I am the least of the apostles,” says Paul (1 Cor. 15.9). Some apostles are greater, some are lesser. This order is not arranged by man; nonetheless, each needs to know where he stands. What lovely testimony and beautiful picture this is. It is what Satan is afraid of, for eventually it will cause the downfall of his kingdom. For after we are all on the course of obedience God will come to judge the world.

 

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To Reject God’s Delegated Authority Is an Affront to God

 

            In the past God overlooked our transgressions because we were ignorant, but now we ought to be serious about God’s delegated authorities. What God stresses is not His own direct authority but the indirect authorities which He has established. All who are insubordinate to God’s indirect authorities are not in subjection to God’s direct authority.

 

            For the convenience of explanation, we distinguish between direct authority and delegated authority; to God, though, there is but one authority. Let us not despise the authorities in home and in church; let us not neglect all those delegated authorities. Although Paul was stricken blind, he waited for Ananias with his inner eyes wide open. To see Ananias was like seeing the Lord; to hearken to him was like hearkening to the Lord.

 

            Delegated authority is so serious that if one offends it he is at odds with God. No one can expect to obtain light directly from the Lord if he refuses to have light from delegated authority. Paul did not reason: “Since Cornelius asked for Peter, I will ask for Peter or James; I will not have this little brother Ananias to be my authority.” It is absolutely impossible for us to reject delegated authority and yet be subject directly to the Lord; rejecting the first is the same as rejecting the second. Only a fool takes pleasure in the failure of delegated authority. He who dislikes God’s delegate dislikes God Himself. It is the rebellious nature of man that makes him want to obey God’s direct authority without being subject to the delegated authorities God has established.

 

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8. The Authority of the Body

 

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Authority Finds Its Fullest Expression in the Body

 

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            Only the relationship between Christ and the church can fully express both authority and obedience. For God has not called the church to be an institution; He has ordained her to be the body of Christ. We often think of the church as a gathering of believers with the same faith or as a meeting of loving hearts, but God looks at her differently. She stands not only for the same faith and united love but even more so as one body.

 

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For the Body to Obey the Head is Most Natural and Agreeable

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            The Lord has put us in His body wherein is complete union and perfect obedience. It is truly marvelous to see the mind of the Holy Spirit worked out in its members, who are not even conscious of being different members because their relatedness is so indivisible and their coordination so harmonious. Sometimes we do not even need to think in order to coordinate the functions of various members. It is truly beyond human words to describe the harmony which exists among its members. But let us each one be careful lest we be a sick, friction-causing member. By living under God’s authority we should be able to obey most naturally.

 

            In short, the church is a place not only for fellowship of brothers and sisters but also a for the manifestation of authority.

 

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9. The Manifestation’s of Man’s Rebellion

 

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1.WORDS

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Korah and His Company Attacked Moses

 

            Where one submissive to authority he would surely control his mouth; he would not dare speak so loosely. When Paul was judged by the council he spoke as a prophet to the high priest, saying, “God shall smite thee, thou whited wall” (Acts 23.3). But he was also a Jew, so that as soon as he was told that Ananias was the high priest he turned around and said, “I knew not, brethren, that he was high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of a ruler of thy people” (verse 5). How careful he was with his words and how strictly he controlled his mouth.

 

 

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2. REASONS

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“I Am the Lord Your God” – This is the Reason

 

In Leviticus 18-22, each time God orders the people of Israel to do certain things, He interpolates a phrase: "I am the Lord your God." This is not even prefixed with the preposition "for". It means "I so speak because I am the Lord your God. I do not need to give any reason. I, the Lord, am the reason." If you see this you will never be able to live by reason anymore. You will say to God: Whereas in the past I live by thought and reason, now I bow and worship You; whatever You have done, because it is You who have done it, is sufficient for me." After Paul fell on the road to Damascus his reasonings were all cast aside. The question he asked was, "What shall I do, Lord?" He instantly put himself in subjection to the Lord. No one knows God will argue, for reason is judged and set aside by light.

 

To argue with God implies that God needs to get our consent for all He does. This is utmost folly. When God acts He is under no obligation to tell us the reason, because His ways are higher than our ways. If we bring God down to reasonings we will lose Him because we make Him one of us. In reasonings we shall not have worship. As soon as obedience is absentk, worship is lost. By judging God with our reason we set ourselves up as gods. Where, then, is the difference between the potter and the clay? Does the potter need to ask the consent of the clay in his work? May the glorious appearing of the Lord put an end to all our reasonings.

 

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10. The Manifestation of Man’s Rebellion (Continued)

 

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Recapturing the Captive Mind

 

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            We act as if there were two persons in the universe who are omniscient: God and myself. I am counselor who knows everything! Such an attitude clearly indicates that my thoughts have yet to be recaptured, that I know nothing of authority. If I were one whose strongholds of reasoning had really been overthrown by God’s authority, I could no longer offer counsel, nor would I have interest to do so. My thoughts would be subordinate to God, and I would no longer be a free person. (Natural freedom is the ground of Satan’s attack; it ought to be forfeited.) I would be willing to listen. Man’s thought are controlled by either one of two powers:  either by reasoning or by the authority of Christ. In fact, noone in the universe can freely exercise his will, because he is either captured by reasonings or apprehended by Christ. He consequently either serves Satan or serves God.

 

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Warnings to the Opinionated

 

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3. NADAB AND ABIHU

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""Being in readiness to avenge all disobedience, when your obedience shall be made full" (2 Cor. 10.6). Perfect obedience is possible only after the thoughts are recaptured. All who still incline to offer counsel to God are not fully obedient. The Lord is ready to avenge all disobedience when our obedience has been completed. If we as a company of believers can turn so thoroughly as to obey God absolutely, fearing our own ideas and opinions, then God will be able to manifest His authority on earth. How can we expect the world to be obedient if the church does not obey? A disobedient church cannot expect unbelievers to obey the gospel. But with an obedient church there will come obedience to the gospel.

 

We must all learn to accept discipline that our mouths may be so instructed as not to speak loosely, our mind not to argue, and our hearts not to offer counsel. The way of glory is just ahead of us. God shall manifest his authority on earth.

 

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18. The Daily Life and Inward Motivation of Delegated Authorities

 

Mar 10:35   And there come near unto him James and John, the sons of Zebedee, saying unto him, Teacher, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall ask of thee.

Mar 10:36   And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you?

Mar 10:37   And they said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and one on [thy] left hand, in thy glory.

Mar 10:38   But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink the cup that I drink? or to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?

Mar 10:39   And they said unto him, We are able. And Jesus said unto them, The cup that I drink ye shall drink; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized:

Mar 10:40   but to sit on my right hand or on [my] left hand is not mine to give; but [it is for them] for whom it hath been prepared.

Mar 10:41   And when the ten heard it, they began to be moved with indignation concerning James and John.

Mar 10:42   And Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they who are accounted to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great ones exercise authority over them.

Mar 10:43   But it is not so among you: but whosoever would become great among you, shall be your minister;

Mar 10:44   and whosoever would be first among you, shall be servant of all.

Mar 10:45   For the Son of man also came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

 

Drink the Lord’s Cup and Be Baptized with the Lord’s Baptism

 

 While on earth our Lord rarely taught people how to be in authority, for this was not His purpose in coming to the world. The clearest passage in which the Lord did instruct on authority is this one found in Mark 10. If anyone wishes to know how to be in authority he ought to read this passage. The Lord shows us here the way to authority. It all begins with James and John. They longed to sit on the two sides of the Lord in His glory. Knowing the inappropriateness of such a request, they dares not come out with it directly but subtly suggested that the Lord grant them anything they might request. They wished to first obtain a promise from the Lord.

 

But the Lord did not quickly comply; instead, He asked what they wanted Him to do for them. So they said, “Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and one on thy left, in thy glory.” Such a request carried two meanings: one, to be near to the Lord; two, to have more authority. It was right for them to desire nearness to the Lord, but their request went far beyond that in their desire for more authority in glory than the other ten disciples. How did the Lord answer them? As He had earlier wondered what they wanted Him to do, now He says that they themselves do not know for what they are asking.

 

The Lord did not reject the desire to be near Him or to be in a position of authority, nor did He find fault with the longing to sit at His right hand and left. He simply answered that they must drink His cup and be baptized with His baptism before they could sit at His right or left. James and John thought they could get what they wanted just by asking, yet the Lord replied that it was not for the asking but for the drinking the cup and receiving the baptism. It is therefore evident that except men drink in the Lord’s cup and receive the Lord’s baptism they can neither get near to the Lord nor possess authority.

 

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