The Ministry of the New Testament and the Teaching and Fellowship of the Apostlesby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
We all need to be clear that the ministry of the New Testament, which is the ministry of the new covenant, is uniquely one universally.
In the entire universe there have been only two ministries. In 2 Corinthians 3 the ministry of the old covenant is referred to as “the ministry of death” and “the ministry of condemnation” (vv. 7, 9). The ministry of the old covenant did only two things: it condemned people and put people to death. But the new covenant and the ministry based on the new covenant is a ministry of the Spirit and of righteousness, that is, of justification (vv. 8-9). The old covenant ministry of Moses was a ministry of death and condemnation, but the new covenant ministry is the exact opposite: it is a ministry not of death but of the Spirit, that is, of life, and not of condemnation but of righteousness for God’s justification. Thus, we may say that the ministry of the old covenant was a ministry of death and condemnation, and the ministry of the new covenant is a ministry of life and justification.
The unique ministry of the New Testament comprises all the works (ministries) of all the apostles, the ministers of the new covenant. In 2 Corinthians 3 the plural ministers is used clearly in verse 6, and the singular ministry is used in verses 8 and 9. Then, in the first verse of chapter 4 Paul says, “Therefore having this ministry as we have been shown mercy, we do not lose heart.” Here Paul uses the plural pronoun we. He does not say that he (singular) had this ministry; rather, he says that we (plural) have this ministry (singular). We here includes not only Paul but all the New Testament ministers. All of this indicates that there is one new covenant ministry of many new covenant ministers.
The first of the new covenant ministers were the twelve apostles. In Acts 1:17 and 25 Peter used the term this ministry. That ministry was the ministry of the twelve apostles, who were the first twelve New Testament ministers. The ministry is the service, the work, and the ministers are the persons who serve. The persons who serve are many. After the twelve apostles, many ministers, including Paul, Barnabas, and many others, entered into the ministry. Although the ministers were many, all these many ministers had only one ministry.
In 2 Corinthians 4:1 Paul uses the pronoun we, referring to many ministers. Then in 2 Timothy 4:5 Paul charges Timothy to fully accomplish his ministry. In this verse Paul speaks of Timothy’s ministry, referring to an individual’s ministry. This was Timothy’s personal ministry, but this personal ministry was a part of the corporate ministry, “this ministry,” the unique ministry of the New Testament. The ministry in 2 Corinthians 4:1 is the corporate ministry of all the New Testament ministers. In this corporate ministry Paul had his portion, Peter had his portion, and Timothy had his portion. All the ministers have their own portion of the ministry. When we add all the portions together, we have “this ministry,” which is the New Testament ministry.
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