THE ELDERS CHILDRENPrint This Page.
Question: The Bible indicates that the children of the elders should believe in the Lord. Among us there are a few elders in the church whose children have not yet believed in the Lord. Their children, however, are only in their teens and are not that old. They come to hear the gospel, but they have not yet been saved. What do you think about this?
Answer: I think that your question on the matter of requiring children to believe in the Lord refers to the elders' ability to manage their household. This is the point of emphasis. Therefore, if the children are very young, this does not apply. If a child is very disobedient and rebels against believing, this is a clear indication that the brother has no way to take care of the church. Perhaps he is able to be an apostle, but he does not know how to be an elder. If the young children are not that rebellious or negative and are able to come along with you to listen to the messages, then there is no problem. Of course, when they are young in age, it is impossible to know whether they have genuinely believed. But when they reach a certain age, they should be asked to receive the Lord. I think that the point of emphasis is still on managing one's own household. Therefore, the brother whom you referred to may still be an elder.
THE MEETING BECOMING TOO LARGEAND THE ORIGINAL RESPONSIBLE BROTHERSNOT BEING ABLE TO BEAR RESPONSIBILITY
Question: In the past when various localities began to have meetings, the leading brothers there seemed to be able to bear the responsibility. Later, when the number of saints increased, the responsible brothers did not seem to be able to bear the responsibility as before due to their spiritual condition. What should these responsible brothers do?
Answer: In a certain place there may be a group of saints beginning to meet, with some learning to bear the responsibility. According to God's arrangement in the church, when some better ones are brought in, the responsible brothers in that place should be able to allow the better ones to bear the responsibility. The responsible brothers should then listen to these brothers. I hope that we can reach this stage.
Paul said, "We do not have such a custom of being so, neither the churches of God.'' We do not like to have traditions, but we like to have customs. If one church does things in a certain way, spontaneously other churches will follow. This is a most beautiful thing. Formerly, you were bearing responsibility in a certain locality. Now other brothers have moved to your place. It would be a wonderful thing if you were able to step aside. You may say, "Brother! Come and do it. I will submit to you.'' This is not being passive. Many people, as soon as they stop bearing responsibility, behave like outsiders and do not care for anything anymore. You should say, "I am willing to help you. You bear the responsibility. You are the one taking the lead.'' If every church would practice this, such a custom could be established among the churches. When younger brothers encounter those who are more advanced in the Lord than themselves, they should be able to ask them to step forward. The children of God need to learn to recognize those who have higher authority when they meet them. It is not proper to have a confusing situation.
When several brothers go out together or talk together in a room, spontaneously someone will take the lead, and some others will follow. God keeps the order in every matter, whether great or small. God is a God of order. We should also learn to have everything in order, even more so regarding the things of the church. If a brother who bears responsibility knows spontaneously that another brother who has just come in is ahead of him in the Lord, he should lead him to become acquainted with the brothers and gradually withdraw. If he does not recognize that brother, there could be a big problem. If such a custom of order could be established in every locality, it would be a beautiful thing. This is the church of God. Those who have God's authority should always be in the forefront.
Question: What can we do if he does not see?
Answer: I think that sometimes the brothers who are workers traveling through such places should bear more responsibility in such matters. When a brother who is a worker travels through such a place, he should be the one to make a decision according to the situation in that locality. The apostles should look into it and determine who should or should not bear responsibility. It is clear in 3 John that there was a person who had a view different from that of the apostle John. John has one view, and he has another. "Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not receive us'' (v. 9). The local brothers were not clear concerning Diotrephes, and thought that he was indeed a person of authority. He loved "to be first among them.'' He was not willing to receive people, nor was he willing for others to do so. Therefore, John said, "If I come, I will bring to remembrance his works which he does'' (v. 10). Hence, strictly speaking, the responsible ones in all the places should be considered by the workers who are reliable in the Lord. The latter should determine who may or may not bear responsibility in a locality.
If we can train the brothers and sisters in various localities with a basic education of knowing authority, it will be easy for them to submit when they go to other places to raise up meetings. The problem today is that the basic training is not sufficient; therefore, this kind of situation exists. Once the basic training is sufficient, the problem will be greatly reduced.
PETER AND PHILIP MOVING INDIVIDUALLY?
Question: Philip went to Samaria by himself, and Peter went to Caesarea by himself. Were these individualistic activities?
Answer: I would like to see these kinds of fruitful individualistic activities. From now on we need to be very careful with this kind of expression—individualistic activities. There may be many brothers who live together with eight or ten other brothers, yet they can still act individualistically. Not acting individualistically does not mean that we have someone sleeping next to us, or that we have someone eating with us, or that we always buy two tickets when we travel. As long as one has not seen the Body of Christ, he still acts individualistically. He may do things with others physically, but in reality he has not learned to obey authority or to fellowship. This is the kind of person who acts individualistically. Philip could go out by himself, but not act individualistically. Others can go out with eight or ten, yet still act individualistically.
The matter of authority is a very wonderful thing in the church. When some workers of God or believers are together, they spontaneously are confronted with the matter of authority. God never does things in a disorderly fashion. Even between two persons, God sets one up as the authority.
Names Having Order
The order of names in the Bible is consistent. There are special reasons when they are not consistent. For example, in the Old Testament God set up Moses as the authority; it was always Moses and Aaron. You cannot reverse the order to have Aaron and Moses. When they were together, one always represented authority and the other represented submission. Even with those sent out by our Lord two by two—those whose names are mentioned—one was before the other. If it was so with two, it is more so with many.
Believing in the Presence of the Holy Spirit
Whenever God's children are together, they should immediately fall in line. This does not mean to line up physically, but that we realize that a brother is in front of us. Since the Lord is working among us, He must have a mouthpiece; therefore, we must believe in God's presence. We should declare, "I believe in the presence of the Lord. I believe in the presence of the Holy Spirit.'' Consequently, when several brothers have the presence of the Holy Spirit, you must believe that God has a mouthpiece among them.
Not Submitting to a Perfect Person
The reason God's authority cannot be established among His children is that His children are always criticizing others and always asking for perfection. To them there is only one man in the whole world whom they admire—the perfect man. That man has not existed before, does not exist today, and will not exist in the future. Therefore, they cannot submit. They want to submit to a perfect man, but that man does not happen to be around. Therefore, they will not submit to anyone. Yet God does not give His authority to a perfect man; He gives His authority to a man who is being perfected. God gives His authority to a person who is in front of you. This is a basic principle in the Bible. God gives His authority to a brother in front of you.
When God's children are together, they spontaneously should fall into a good order. This is not a matter of organization. It does not mean that when several brothers are together, you need to elect a team leader or a person in charge. But you must realize that even when several go out for a walk on the mountain or when you all gather together, someone will be in front of you. In those five or ten minutes of walking, you need to learn to be a submissive person. Wherever God's children are, regardless of the environment or occasion, there are those in authority and those who should submit. This is a very beautiful thing.
When a person is governed by such a principle, there will be no individualistic activity. When a person does not submit to authority, he will still act individualistically no matter how many others may be with him. What is individualism? Individualism means that you cannot be under authority. When a person is individualistic, he has no way to be under authority. Once he comes under authority, individualism has to go. Once you receive authority, individualism cannot exist.
Not Submitting Selectively
It is not a matter of receiving one authority, nor a matter of receiving ten authorities; it is a matter of receiving authority.
Let me give you an example. I have used two servants. They started working for me at different times, one earlier than the other. When the first one came to my house, I charged him saying, "There is a basic requirement for you to be a servant—you need to obey. No matter how smart you are, just do whatever I ask you to do.'' Later, I also told the other servant, "You need to learn to obey. You need to listen to me, and you also need to listen to the servant who came before you.'' However, the servant who came later obeyed all of my words, but he did not obey the words of the servant who came earlier. He always tried to find ways to point out the mistakes of the other servant. Do you think that this person submitted to authority?
What is submission to authority? Submission to authority does not mean choosing the person to whom you will submit. If you choose the person to whom you will submit, you do not know authority. He who knows authority recognizes it whenever he encounters it. When he encounters it, he knows he should submit. If you cannot submit, it proves that you have never known authority. You may have submitted to man, but not to authority. At best you merely fear a man, and when you meet him you obey him. You have never been under authority because you have never known authority. Authority is not a matter of one place or another place. There is authority in every place and on every occasion. Regardless of where one may be, he who knows authority recognizes it whenever he encounters it.
When a person is under authority, individualism cannot exist. If you stand on the ground of individualism, you will have no way to submit yourself to authority. This is a very important matter as far as spiritual principles are concerned. A person needs to learn to know authority. For Christians it is not a matter of who a person is. Christians should submit to authority whenever we encounter it.
Individualism cannot exist if one seeks fellowship. With individualism one always tries to maintain his individual spiritual life before God, his individual visions before God, and his individual work before God. He is always an individual; it is not easy for him to seek fellowship. This is the problem among us. Such a person does not seek fellowship, but struggles and labors by himself. Many children of God today can say only in words that they cannot do without other brothers or that they must have the church in order to live. Actually, many can live without the church and without fellowship. This proves that they are individualistic. If a person receives the principle of fellowship and the principle of the Body only in concept, yet in actuality lives and works by himself, has a spiritual life without fellowship, and does the work of the Lord without fellowship, then this person has never been broken before God. He is altogether an individualistic person. Fellowship is versus individualism. It is not what you say about fellowship; rather, it is a matter of whether fellowship is a part of your life, whether you really cannot live or work without fellowship. One day God will bring you to this stage. I feel that this is the greatest step.
Not Merely a Matterof Lacking Faithfulness and Faith
When many people come to an impasse, they only consider that there are problems with their faith or faithfulness; they do not consider that there is a problem with their fellowship. The education which many people have received in the past and the books which many have read instruct people to be faithful, to believe, and to submit directly to God. Therefore, a problem occurs when they are unable to get through. When they cannot get through in their personal lives, they always consider that they themselves have a problem, that their faith has a problem, or that they are lacking in faithfulness. This is right, but many only see that their failures and difficulties are due to problems in their personal faith, their personal faithfulness, or their personal submission. They do not see that there is something else in the Bible called fellowship. If there are problems with fellowship, they can also arrive at the same point of failure and difficulty.
Many people's problems have nothing to do with the matter of faith or believing in God, but the matter of fellowship. Sometimes the Lord must allow this kind of person to struggle in his faith, faithfulness, and submission so that he reaches a point in his Christian life where he simply cannot believe or submit no matter how hard he tries. Perhaps he will then realize that he cannot make it simply as one member, nor can he make it merely by his union with Christ. He must be joined with the Body of Christ in order to get through. Perhaps he will then begin to see that he needs the help of other Christians in order to make it. Many have not yet been brought on this way; they are still walking on the way of individualism, laboring by themselves. It is God's great mercy to bring a person to a point where he cannot get through, and where his eyes are opened to see that while submission, faith, and faithfulness do not suffice, fellowship does suffice.
This is a great revelation! One day God's children will be brought to a stage where all their ways are exhausted, and where they see that even such a great item as faith does not avail. Faith is not a small matter, and we should not despise it. Faith, faithfulness, and submission are all great matters. However, one day you will reach a point that even when all these conditions are fulfilled, you still cannot get through. Faith, faithfulness, and submission to God are all weighty matters in the Bible. But even with these weighty things, you still have no way to get through until your eyes are opened one day and you begin to realize that fellowship is also a great matter. Without fellowship, you cannot get through. Only a person who has passed through this pathway before God can escape individualism, not doing things individualistically. Those who only know the doctrine of fellowship or the doctrine of the Body of Christ can still be individualistic for the rest of their lives. They can believe in the doctrine of fellowship in a very individualistic way. God needs to bring them on a path where everything is exhausted, where the way is impassable, and where their problems still cannot be solved even though they continue to believe, be faithful, and submit. When God gives them a little light one day, they will see that their problem was actually in the matter of fellowship. Then their individualism will depart.