Life-Study of 2 Corinthiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
After the introduction (1:1—2:11), Paul comes to the ministry of the new covenant (2:12—3:11). The ministry is absolutely different from the outward, miraculous gifts. In 1940, while giving messages on 2 Corinthians, Brother Nee strongly emphasized the difference between 1 and 2 Corinthians. He pointed out that the first book deals with the outward, miraculous gifts, especially tongue-speaking. Brother Nee used the illustration of Balaam’s donkey speaking a human language, pointing out that that was a genuine miraculous gift. It certainly was a miracle for a donkey suddenly to receive the ability to speak a human language. Brother Nee went on to say that a gift can be received in a sudden way. However, he pointed out that it may take twenty years to produce a ministry.
In speaking concerning the ministry, Brother Nee said that Christ must be woven into our being. This means that Christ must be constituted into us. The ministry is a matter of constitution. We need to be constituted with what Christ is, with what He has done, with what He has attained, and with what He has obtained. Christ has obtained the throne, the glory, and the highest power. Christ also has certain attainments. His attainments are the result of what He has accomplished and achieved. Today what Christ is, what He has done, what He has obtained, and what He has attained are all in the life-giving Spirit. This means that the life-giving Spirit is the embodiment of Christ in these four matters. The all-inclusive Spirit is the embodiment of what Christ is, of what Christ has done, of what Christ has obtained, and of what Christ has attained. This all-inclusive Spirit is an all-inclusive drink, a drink that has many ingredients.
As we have pointed out a number of times, the all-inclusive Spirit is typified by the ointment in Exodus 30. This ointment is composed of oil compounded with four different kinds of spices: myrrh, cinnamon, calamus, and cassia. This ointment portrays the all-inclusive life-giving Spirit. This Spirit is now being constituted into us. The result is a constitution of the processed God with redeemed human beings. A believer who is so constituted with this all-inclusive Spirit will become a minister of Christ, and his work and service will be the ministry in the New Testament.
The ministry in the New Testament is unique. The New Testament has just one ministry. Both Paul and Peter had a part of this ministry. All the apostles shared in the one ministry in the New Testament. This unique ministry is the ministry of the new covenant. Such a ministry is not gained by prayer and fasting. Anything received in that way would be a gift, not a ministry. The ministry is brought forth as a result of being constituted of the all-inclusive life-giving Spirit. Christ, with all that He is, has, and has obtained and attained, must be constituted into the fiber, into the very being, of God’s chosen and redeemed people. This is the only way to have a ministry.
My burden is not simply to preach the gospel or teach the Bible. My burden is to carry out this New Testament ministry and to help those who sincerely seek the Lord and care for the desire of His heart to have a share in this ministry. This is the ministry Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians, especially in chapter three, where the word ministry is used a number of times. Paul compared this ministry to that of the old covenant. The ministry of the new covenant is far superior to that of the old covenant. The new covenant ministry is not only a matter of life; it is a constitution in life and of life. Therefore, this ministry takes time to grow and mature.
In 1943 I contracted tuberculosis and came very close to death. I thank the Lord that, for Himself and for His ministry, He spared me and has kept me. Brother Nee used to tell us that because it takes years for the Lord to gain one who has been constituted of Himself, we need to take care of our health in a proper way. This means that we should do everything possible to prevent an early death. If we are truly spiritual, we shall learn how to take care of our health in order to have a long life.
It takes more than a few years to grow and be constituted of the Triune God. As one who has passed through many things over the years, I can testify that a person needs to be at least sixty years of age before this constitution reaches maturity. However, for this to take place in a person by the age of sixty, he should be saved before the age of twenty. One who is saved in his forties probably cannot be matured in the divine constitution by the age of sixty. During the first twenty years of our Christian life, we need to learn certain matters. Then we need another twenty years to be constituted of the life-giving Spirit.
When the young people hear this word about how long it takes to be constituted into a minister of the new covenant, they may be disappointed. Young people, I encourage you not to be discouraged by the fact that it may take twenty years to learn things and another twenty years to be constituted. We are dealing with the highest life, the divine life, constituted into our human life. Surely this requires time. Even in the natural human life, a man is not adequately matured by the age of forty. I certainly would not have confidence in a president who is only forty years old. In everything we do, we need experience. This is true even in driving a car. The more years we drive a car, the more experienced we become, and the more skillful. I do not believe that a person under sixty years of age is mature enough to be fully adequate as a president or head of state. This is an illustration of the fact that life needs time to grow.
There is the need of more among us who are matured. I hope that in the years to come there will be a number of fathers in the Lord’s recovery. It is a blessing to have such fathers, such matured ones, among us. Their very presence among us is a great blessing.
I say again, the ministry cannot be formed in a short time. I am happy that I heard such a word concerning the ministry from Brother Nee in 1940. Approximately twenty years later, the Lord sent me to this country.
Now we are ready to consider 2:12-17, some verses which are the introduction to the section on the ministry of the new covenant. Chapter 1:1—2:11 is the introduction to the entire book of 2 Corinthians. But 2:12-17 is the introduction to the section on the ministry. Following this section, we have a long section concerning the ministers of the new covenant (3:12—7:16).
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