The Building Work of Godby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Fourth, all ministries should be for the building up of the church locally, but the church should not be required to be for any ministry. We always stress that as mentioned in Ephesians 4, the work of those who have a ministry, of those who are especially gifted, is to perfect the saints for the building up of the Body of Christ. The goal of their work is not to build up their ministry but to build up the churches locally. This was what the early apostles did. They went from one locality to another locality in the whole of Judea and various places in the Gentile world to carry out their ministry for the building up of the churches. Therefore, although they did a great deal of work in various places, the result of their work ultimately belonged to the local churches and was for the building up of the churches in all the localities. Corinth is an example of this. Paul was the first one to go there. He established the church in Corinth after he had been working there for a while, and a group of people were saved. After a time Apollos went there. Since he was very competent in expounding the Word, a group of people were edified. When he left, he turned over these ones to the church in Corinth. Then after another period of time Peter also came to Corinth. Since he was a great apostle of the Lord, many more received help from him. However, when he left, all the fruit of his work was turned over to the church in Corinth. It is true that in the church in Corinth there were four groups of people and that there were divisions among them. But this was altogether due to the fleshly behavior of the Corinthian believers. It was not due to any impropriety in the work of Paul or the other apostles. Therefore, in his first Epistle to the Corinthians Paul severely rebuked them, saying, “What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Ministers through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave to each one of them” (3:5). He also said, “All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas...all are yours” (vv. 21-22). This means that all the work of those who have a ministry belongs to and is given to the local churches.
Regrettably, however, today those who have a ministry are not like this. Often their ministry is not for the local churches; instead, they want the local churches to be for them. As a result, the local churches will be divided instead of built up. Why are there so many denominations and sects in Christianity today? Honestly speaking, the problem is not with the brothers and sisters in general but with those who have a ministry. These people who have a ministry and who are especially gifted do a great deal of work after they are raised up by God. They bring many to salvation and edify them, but they do not give these believers to the local churches. On the contrary, they attach these believers to themselves and form an independent organization. Consequently, although in various localities there may be some who are saved, who love the Lord, and even who become spiritual; nevertheless, the churches in these localities are torn down.
This matter is very important. If the Lord grants us grace, in the coming days He may raise up among us certain ones who have a ministry. These ones may be able to edify others and help others to be spiritual. However, if we do not see this principle, I am afraid that after these persons are raised up, the churches in various localities will be torn down. Therefore, I hope that all those who work for the Lord and those who are the responsible ones in every locality would have a strong feeling concerning this matter. We have to see that every ministry must be for the building up of the churches locally and that the churches should not be asked to be for any ministry. Although the apostle John’s ministry was strong, and although most of the seven churches in Asia were in a poor condition, the Lord’s desire was to build up those churches, not to build up the ministry of John. The Lord wanted John to build up those churches with his ministry, rather than asking those churches to be for his ministry.
Finally, we need fighting prayer. Please remember that once we touch the building, the enemy will come to attack and frustrate. Therefore, there is the need of fighting. We need to have fighting prayer for the building. I do not need to speak too much concerning this matter, because the words in Nehemiah 4 are very clear. The enemy despised and mocked the children of Israel when they returned from their captivity to rebuild the holy city. Furthermore, the enemy tried a thousand schemes to frustrate and falsely incriminate them so that their hands might be weakened. When Nehemiah saw the situation, he immediately went to pray before God. As soon as he prayed, he became clear inwardly. He knew that this was the strategy of the enemy, so he guarded against it right away. He and his brothers carried out the rebuilding work with one hand doing the work and the other holding a weapon (v. 17). This is to build on the one hand and to fight on the other.
In Ephesians, a book on the building of the church, the matter of spiritual warfare is also emphatically mentioned. Ephesians 4 speaks about building, and chapter 6 speaks about warfare. We cannot merely have the building; we must also have the warfare to guard against the attack of the enemy.
From the book of Nehemiah we can see that there are three aspects of the attack of the enemy. The first aspect is the enemy’s mocking. This is his stratagem from the outside. The enemy said, “What are these feeble Jews doing?” (4:2). “Even their stone wall that they are building, if a fox were to go up on it, he would breach it” (v. 3). This kind of mocking may cause us to despise the work that we ought to do. The second aspect of the enemy’s attack is to set up plots. The enemy sent word to Nehemiah, saying, “Come; let us meet together” (6:2). If Nehemiah had gone, however, the work would have been delayed, and he would have fallen into their trap. The third aspect of the enemy’s attack is to cause there to be weakness among the children of Israel and to cause some to speak discouraging words.
We also have encountered these situations. Nearly thirty years ago when we were first raised up by the Lord in northern China, we were very weak, but we also had the Lord’s presence with us. At that time there were people from the outside saying, “They are just children playing; after a few days they will be finished. Do not pay any attention to them.” These words were the same as those in the book of Nehemiah: “Even their stone wall that they are building, if a fox were to go up on it, he would breach it.” When I heard those words, I also went before the Lord to pray, asking Him to vindicate us. We deeply realized that it was the Lord who had raised us up. What we were doing was not a small thing; it was not children playing but a testimony raised up by the Lord Himself. I still remember very clearly that at that time I read Nehemiah 4 to the Lord.
Also, sometimes the enemy’s stratagem was to have people ask us to go to meetings and discussions. This was also just like what Nehemiah encountered in his time. We altogether refused these invitations. We ignored the mocking words and rejected the enticing schemes. We could not cease doing the work entrusted to us by the Lord.
We also encountered internal difficulties. When the brothers and sisters were serving together, frequently problems arose from within our midst. Sometimes for no reason at all, a brother would feel that the expression on another brother’s face was not good. In addition, the other brother would feel that there was a problem with that brother’s tone of voice. Then these two would begin to be suspicious of each other. The more the suspicions increased, the more the problem grew. We all know this kind of situation, so I do not have to speak too much about this. Satan worked among us by stirring up bad feelings and creating difficulties. Thus, he caused us to be in discord and to be suspicious of each other.
Moreover, sometimes we had problems within, causing us to be discouraged, to be weakened, and to become sick spiritually. As a result, we could not go forward in the matter of building.
We all have to guard against all these attacks of Satan. Hence, we must have fighting prayer. Whenever we encounter a problem, we have to come back to pray before the Lord. When people say that what we are doing is of no significance, we have to bring this word before the Lord and tell Him about it. If people try to harm us with some scheme, we must bring this scheme before the Lord. If the brothers and sisters are suspicious of each other and if they are jealous of each other, we also have to bring this before the Lord. Even when we are weak in ourselves, we have to bring it to the Lord as well. We always have to deal with these matters by means of prayer. We must reject these things and deal with them by our fighting prayer.
If the brothers and sisters in a locality all exercise their functions, if the co-workers and responsible brothers and sisters do not replace the saints but rather perfect them to serve together with them, if all those with a ministry are for the building of the church, and if all the saints are holding weapons, fighting a spiritual warfare by their fighting prayers while doing the building work together, then you will see a glorious church being built up in that locality. You will also see that a miniature of the New Jerusalem will be manifested to be a resting place for God and a home for all His children. God’s presence, God’s throne, and God’s life will all be there. God’s power and God’s light will also be there. The gospel will spread out from there, the saved ones will be built up there, and God will be glorified there. Whenever people come among them, they will sense that God is there. They will say, “This is the house of God, this is the gate of heaven, this is Bethel, and this is oil poured upon stone.” This is a glorious thing; this is what the Lord desires to gain in every place in this age. May the Lord have mercy upon us that we would not take these matters merely as doctrines for our studying. May the Lord impress this vision deeply into us. By His mercy we want to be built up and to build up others in each locality so that the glorious house of the Lord may be manifested in all the localities on earth for God and man to have a habitation.
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