1. Turning Away from the Ministry Versus Keeping the Word

  2. Speaking the Same Thing According to the Taste of the Lord’s Recovery

  3. Teaching Different Things from the Unique Ministry of God’s Economy Creating Division and Destroying the Recovery

  4. Lessons Concerning the Oneness of the New Testament Ministry

  5. No Uncertain Sounding of the Trumpet in the Lord’s Ministry

  6. Being Restricted to One Publication Work for the Fulfillment of the Lord’s Commission to His Recovery

  7. Entering into the Lord’s Ministry in the Present Age

  8. The Up-to-Date Way to Fulfill the Lord’s Ministry—Many Brothers Serving Together in the Way of Blending

REMAINING IN THE UNIQUE
NEW TESTAMENT MINISTRY OF GOD’S ECONOMY
UNDER THE PROPER LEADERSHIP IN HIS MOVE

I. TURNING AWAY FROM THE MINISTRY
VERSUS KEEPING THE WORD

Remaining in the Apostles’ Teaching,
the New Testament Ministry

In his Epistles, especially in 2 Timothy, Paul spoke thoroughly concerning the degradation of the church. He said that all who were in Asia turned away from him (2 Tim. 1:15). This means that the churches established by Paul in Asia turned away from him. The saints in those churches did not forsake Paul himself; rather, they turned away from his New Testament ministry, the apostles’ teaching which he preached. All that Paul had preached to them, all that he had nurtured them with, all that he had taught them, and all that he had shown them were completely abandoned by them. The first thing that happened in the degradation of the church was the turning away from the apostles’ teaching. If all of us today in the Lord’s recovery did not care for the apostles’ teaching preached by Brother Watchman Nee and me, the church and the Lord’s recovery would become degraded. To remain in the apostles’ teaching is a tremendous grace. (How to Be a Co-worker and an Elder and How to Fulfill Their Obligations, p. 44, Witness Lee)

In 2 Timothy 1:15 Paul says, “...all who are in Asia turned away from me.” Asia was a province of the Roman Empire in Asia Minor, far away from Rome where Paul, who was in prison, was writing his Epistle to Timothy. When Paul said that all who were in Asia turned away from him, this does not indicate that they turned away from the person of Paul because the person of Paul was far away from them. This verse indicates that they all turned away from Paul’s ministry. Among the churches in Asia was the church in Ephesus, which was fully established by Paul’s ministry as recorded in Acts 19. They received the gospel, the teaching, the edification, and the establishment from the ministry of the Apostle Paul. But by the time Paul was imprisoned in Rome, they had all turned away from his ministry.

Paul’s second Epistle to Timothy was written about A.D. 68. About thirty years later, the Lord used John to continue His divine revelation. The Lord came back to all the churches in Asia who had turned away from Paul. Because they turned away from Paul’s ministry, the churches in Asia declined into a situation full of degradation. The degradation of the churches in Asia as recorded in Revelation 2 and 3 was due to their turning away from the proper ministry. This degradation began with their losing of the first love toward the Lord, which transpired at Ephesus (2:4), and ended with the lukewarmness (3:16), the Christlessness. The Lord as the Head of the church is standing outside the degraded church, knocking at her door (3:20).

In these seven epistles in Revelation 2 and 3, the striking point of the churches’ degradation was three kinds of teachings: the teaching of Balaam, a Gentile prophet (2:14), the teaching of the Nicolaitans to build the hierarchy (2:15), and the teaching of the woman, the so-called prophetess, Jezebel, full of heresies and fornication (2:20). These three kinds of teachings crept in because they left the teaching of the apostle. Why has Christianity become degraded? Because they turned away from the apostle’s teaching. Thus, all the different teachings came in.

In 1 Timothy 1:3 and 6:3 Paul warned not to teach differently. The saints should teach according to Paul’s teaching. Those in Asia definitely turned away from Paul’s teaching, and the result of this turning away was that they received three kinds of heretical teachings. The teaching of Balaam to worship the idols, the teaching of the Nicolaitans to build up the hierarchy, even the papal system, and the teaching of Jezebel to bring the leaven of evil, heretical, and pagan things into the fine flour of Christ (Matt. 13:33) came in because the proper teaching was rejected. Within thirty years after Paul’s final Epistle to Timothy, these churches had reached such a point of degradation. It is dangerous to leave or turn away from the apostle’s teaching, from the apostle’s proper revelation.

The Lord came in these seven epistles to judge those degraded churches. His eyes were as a flame of fire (1:14) to observe, search, and enlighten, and out of His mouth proceeded a sharp two-edged sword (1:16), which is His discerning, judging, and slaying word (Heb. 4:12; Eph. 6:17). They turned away from the right word, so the Lord came with this word to judge them. The Lord’s feet were like shining brass, as having been fired in a furnace (1:15). Brass signifies divine judgment (Exo. 27:1-6). The Lord’s coming to the churches in such a way fit in with their turning away from the apostle’s teaching and their picking up of different teachings.

One church was unique, and was highly appraised by the Lord—the church in Philadelphia. The Lord highly appraised them and even appreciated them because they kept the word (3:8). That means they did not turn away from the apostle’s proper teaching. Although they were weak, the Lord still appraised them highly, telling them that they had a little power and that they had kept the word.

To turn away from the proper teaching is a terrible thing that will result in degradation and in picking up other teachings. I say this as a warning to those dear ones who would not take the new way. To reject the proper revelation, the proper teaching, of the leaders among you is a dangerous thing. You will open the door for other teachings to come in and suffer degradation. I hope that all of the church people in the recovery would not be followers of those in Asia who turned away from Paul’s ministry. Rather, I hope we would follow the pattern of the church in Philadelphia—keeping the Lord’s word even though we only have a little strength. Let us keep the word of the Lord, which is to remain in the teachings of the apostle, to remain in the healthy words, to remain in the unique revelation from the Lord with the proper leadership. Then we are safe. (Elders’ Training, Book 7: One Accord for the Lord’s Move, pp. 128-130, Witness Lee)

Being Nourished and Blessed
by Following the Ministry

With Paul and Timothy we see an excellent pattern. As we have pointed out, Paul told Timothy to lay “these things before the brothers,” referring to the things which he was writing in this Epistle. However, before Timothy could lay these things before others, he first had to feed on them himself. He had to digest them, assimilate them, and allow them to saturate his inner being. Then he would be able to lay them before the brothers. Today we should follow Timothy’s example and lay before the saints the things with which we have been nourished by the Lord through the ministry. How wonderful the church life would be if we all did this! However, if we turn from the ministry and seek to produce something different, we may give place to differing teachings. It was not Timothy’s intention to teach anything different from what Paul taught. Rather, he would lay before the brothers what he had received from Paul.

At this point, I would like to say a word concerning my burden in putting out the Life-study Messages. The aim of these messages is to produce groceries for the local churches. My burden is not mainly to “cook” these spiritual groceries; it is to produce them and supply them to the churches that every local church may be a well-stocked supermarket, filled with a variety of nourishing foods. If the leading ones in a local church lay before the saints the riches contained in the Life-studies, the saints will be abundantly nourished. I have received many letters testifying that this has happened.

It is a fact of history in the Lord’s recovery that any church which follows the ministry is strong and blessed. But those churches which neglect the ministry and try instead to do something on their own have become a failure. However, in saying these things, I wish to make it very clear that I by no means insist that the churches or the saints read the Life-study Messages. To repeat, my burden is to produce groceries. The churches and the saints are free either to use them or to disregard them. But if the saints cast away the nourishment found in these messages, I wonder what they will feed on. We are what we eat. If we eat the “groceries” produced in today’s religion, we shall be part of religion. Let me say in frankness and honesty that the leading ones need to take “these things” and lay them before the saints that they may be nourished. (Life-study of 1 Timothy, pp. 70-71, Witness Lee)

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