Life-Study of 1 Corinthiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In dealing with the gifts, Paul emphasizes six matters: speaking, the Spirit, the Body, God’s administration, love, and the superiority of prophecy for the building up of the church. In chapter twelve Paul speaks of the Body again and again, at least eighteen times. But in chapter fourteen he speaks of the building up of the church. Thus, in chapter twelve we have the Body and in chapter fourteen, the church.
The Body and the church are synonymous; both refer to the same thing. The Body is the church, and the church is the Body. Nevertheless, in chapter twelve Paul emphasizes the Body, and in chapter fourteen he emphasizes the church. There is a distinction between the Body and the church. The Body is an organism for Christ as the believers’ life to grow and express Himself. The church is an assembly for God to operate His administration. Christ as life is the essence of the Body as an organic entity. This organism is not for organization; it is for living to express Christ. Christ is the essence of His Body, and His Body is an organic entity which lives, grows, and matures with Himself until it eventually expresses Him.
In 12:12-27 the main thought is not activity or enterprise. It is that the Body is an organism to live, grow, mature, and express Christ as the inward essence. For this reason, verse 3 tells us that when we say, “Lord Jesus,” we are in the Spirit. It is the Spirit who brings us into the Body, for the Spirit is the life-giving Spirit, the Spirit of life, not merely the Spirit of God as found in Genesis 1:3. We have received the Spirit who brings us into the Body organically.
In Romans 10:13 Paul says, “Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” We need to put this verse together with Acts 2:21: “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Here in Acts 2 to be saved is to receive the initial gifts of the Spirit. To receive the Spirit as the initial gift is equal to being saved. This takes place not only by believing, but also by calling on the Lord. Everyone who truly believes in the Lord Jesus will also call on Him and say, “Lord Jesus.” If we say, “Lord Jesus,” the Spirit will come into us, and we shall be in the Spirit. The Spirit is the pneuma, the breath, the air, for us to breathe. It is impossible for us to breathe without taking air into us. When we breathe, the air is in us, and we are in the air. Likewise, when we call on the Lord Jesus, we are in the Spirit who gives life and brings us into the Body.
According to 12:13, in the Spirit we have been baptized into the Body. The water of baptism is a symbol of the fact that we have been baptized into the Triune God (Matt. 28:19) and baptized into Christ (Gal. 3:27; Rom. 6:3). When we were baptized into Christ, we were baptized into His Body and became part of this organic Body. First Corinthians 12 clearly reveals that we have become members of the organic Body of Christ. Hallelujah, we are now in the Body! We have called, “Lord Jesus,” and have been brought into the Spirit, the Spirit has ushered us into the Body, and now we are organically in the Body.
After speaking so much concerning the Body in 12:12-27, Paul begins to speak of the church in verse 28: “And God has placed some in the church: firstly apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly teachers; then works of power, then gifts of healing, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.” The church is for God’s administration. When Paul mentions the church, his emphasis is not on an organic entity, but on God’s administration. The Body is for the expression of Christ; the church is for the administration of God. In chapter fourteen Paul’s concept is not mainly related to organic growth, but to governmental administration. In chapter twelve the emphasis is on life; in chapter fourteen it is on government. Therefore, we may use the term “organic expression” to describe chapter twelve and the term “governmental administration” to describe chapter fourteen. Furthermore, the building up of the church is for administration, but the building up of the Body is for the expression of Christ organically. To express Christ we need the Body; to carry out the divine administration we need the church. For this reason, chapter twelve emphasizes the Body organically for growth and the expression of Christ, but chapter fourteen emphasizes the church governmentally for the carrying out of God’s eternal purpose.
At this point I would ask a question related to speaking in tongues: For the Body to grow organically and express Christ, can tongue-speaking ever be helpful? We need to answer this question carefully. It would be wrong to say that tongue-speaking could not be of any help to the growth of the Body. Speaking in tongues is somewhat related to the Spirit, and the Spirit is for the Body. For this reason, we should not say that tongue-speaking could never be helpful to the Body. The decisive factor concerns our realization regarding tongue-speaking and our application of it. If you apply tongue-speaking only for your self-seeking, this will damage the Body. But if you seek tongue-speaking for the Body and if you take care of the Body, then your tongue-speaking will be helpful to the Body. Some among us have testified that tongue-speaking stirred them inwardly to seek Christ. This is a fact which cannot be denied. Certainly to seek Christ is by the Spirit and for the Body. However, those who are stirred up by the Spirit through tongue-speaking to seek Christ may not realize that their seeking of Christ should be for the Body. In such a case, their realization regarding tongue-speaking is somewhat short. For tongue-speaking to be helpful to the Body depends on the proper realization and application.
Now let me ask another question: Is tongue-speaking helpful in the building up of the church for God’s administration? The answer to this question is a clear and definite no. Especially as practiced today, tongue-speaking is of no help to God’s administration. On the contrary, in case after case it damages the church, tears down God’s administration, and overthrows the divine government.
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