Life-Study of 2 Corinthiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Today many Christians talk about different ministries and speak of receiving all kinds of ministries. The matter of the ministry or of the ministries is not simple. According to 2 Corinthians, there is just one ministry, the unique ministry. In 4:1 Paul says, “Therefore, having this ministry, as we have received mercy we do not lose heart.” On the one hand, here Paul says “we”; on the other hand, he speaks of “this ministry,” not these ministries. According to this verse, there are many who have the one ministry. However, in 1 Corinthians 12:5 Paul says, “There are distributions of ministries.”
How can it be that the ministry is unique and yet at the same time there are many ministries? The answer is that in the New Testament God has only one operation. Furthermore, He has just one ministry to carry out His unique operation. All the apostles—Peter, James, John, Paul, Timothy—carried on the same ministry. Peter did not carry on one ministry, Paul another ministry, and Timothy yet another ministry. This is the situation among preachers, teachers, and ministers today, who carry on different kinds of ministries.
Because there are different kinds of ministries, there are many different denominations. The Baptists carry on the Baptist ministry to accomplish the Baptist operation. The Presbyterians carry on another kind of ministry to accomplish the Presbyterian operation. The same is true of the Episcopalians, Lutherans, and Methodists. All these denominations carry on different kinds of ministries for the sake of their own operations. According to the New Testament, this practice is not right. The New Testament reveals that there is a unique ministry. Today the local churches are not carrying out different kinds of ministries to accomplish many operations. God has one operation to be carried out by the unique ministry.
Now we must see what this unique ministry does. The unique ministry in the New Testament serves Christ to others. It inscribes Christ into people as the Spirit within them and as righteousness outwardly. This is the function of the unique ministry. When we preach the gospel, we should preach in this way. Likewise, when we teach the Bible, edify the saints, or build up the churches, we should do these things in this way. Everything we do in the church life should be to inscribe Christ into the saints. Regarding this, we do not have many different ministries.
Although the New Testament clearly indicates that the ministry is one and unique, it also speaks of different ministries. These ministries refer to various services in the church. When 1 Corinthians 12:5 speaks of ministries, it means the different services. In the church life the saints are involved in different services. For example, some take care of the children. This is one kind of service. Some shepherd the younger ones or the weaker ones. This is another kind of service. These different services, however, all carry out the unique ministry, the unique service. As we have seen, the function of the unique service is to minister Christ into God’s chosen people. In what way should we take care of the children? We should do so in the way of ministering Christ to them. Likewise, how should we shepherd the younger ones or the weaker ones? In shepherding we should minister Christ to others. Even when the sisters meet together to pray, they all should minister Christ. The many services are for the unique service; the many ministries are for the one ministry.
We accept all ministries that are accomplishing the unique ministry for God’s operation. But we cannot accept a ministry that is seeking to establish or accomplish something different from God’s unique operation. For example, we cannot accept a ministry which has as its goal the establishing of the Presbyterian denomination; neither can we accept a ministry that seeks to carry out the Baptist, Lutheran, or Episcopalian operations. These ministries are divisive; therefore, we cannot accept them. The ministries we accept are those that are for the unique New Testament ministry.
If you take note of this understanding of the ministry and the ministries and read through the New Testament again, especially the Epistles, you will see that this understanding is accurate. I would encourage you to study the Epistles along this line, paying special attention to the words ministry and ministries. If you make such a study, you will see that the different ministries, services, are all for the carrying out of the one new covenant ministry.
For the carrying out of God’s New Testament economy, the ministry is uniquely one. But for the accomplishing of this unique ministry, especially in the church life, there is the need of many services, the need of diverse ministries. But again I would emphasize the fact that these different ministries and services are all for the carrying out of the unique ministry, which is the ministry of the new covenant. This ministry inscribes the saints with the all-inclusive God, who is the Spirit within us and righteousness as our expression outwardly.
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