God’s Work

Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Download book, by Watchman Nee




4. Life Builds


Eph 4:7   But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. 

Eph 4:11   And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 

Eph 4:12   For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 

Eph 4:13   Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: (Eph. 4.7,11-13)


1Cr 12:7   But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.  

1Cr 12:8   For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 

1Cr 12:9   To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 

1Cr 12:10   To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another [divers] kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: 

1Cr 12:11   But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.(1Cor12.7)


1Cr 14:4   He that speaketh in an [unknown] tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church. 

1Cr 14:5   I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater [is] he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.(1Cor14.4,5)


2Cr 3:5   Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency [is] of God; 

2Cr 3:6   Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.(2 Cor.3:5,6)


2Cr 4:1   Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; 

2Cr 4:7   But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. 

2Cr 4:8   [We are] troubled on every side, yet not distressed; [we are] perplexed, but not in despair; 

2Cr 4:9   Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; 

2Cr 4:10   Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. 

2Cr 4:11   For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. 

2Cr 4:12   So then death worketh in us, but life in you.(2 Cor. 4:1,7-12) 



Two Ways to Build the Body

How can we be co-workers with God and build up the body? If our work is only to save people, the worker would appear to play quite an important part. It would also seem in a sense to be a work for man. But if our work has as its purpose to build up the body, then man is completely ruled out; for the body is Christ. It is all for Christ, and therefore nothing of man can come in.


In 1 Cor. 12 the many gifts of the Spirit are set forth, with Paul emphasizing both words and acts; but in 2 Cor. 4 we have acts only. There are two different ways to building up the church. Now just what is the value of these gifts of the Spirit in building up the church? How is such value compared to the value of the life in the Spirit? Paul in 2 Cor. 3 through 10 is emphasizing what his New Covenant ministry is. That ministry does not lie in the gifts, but in the exceeding greatness of the treasure contained in the earthen vessel; that is, Christ in him.


2 Corinthians 4.10,12-"Always bearing about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our body . .  . So then death worketh in us, but life in you"-is an utterly different thing from Romans 6. It means death keeps working: the death of Christ works and works day by day in us, with the result that life flows out to others. ANd thus is the church built up.


Here then, then, do we have the two ways by which the church is to be built up: (a) 1 Corinthians 12, by the gifts of the church; and (b) 2 Corinthians 4, by the death working in us that life may work in others.


Which way has built you up the most? Has your inner life been built up the most by the gifts of the Spirit, or by those whom you have known who know the cross applied to their inmost lives-who always bear about in them  the dying of Jesus that the life of Jesus may be manifested? This is cross-bearing. Let death never cease to work in you and me that life may never cease to flow out to others.


We see people with a rich use of the gifts: the gift of healing, the gift of casting out demons, the gift of utterance, or the speaking in tongues. And we think how rich they are, how much blessed and used of God. But is this really so? These are the gifts of childhood. They are for the baby stage only, useful and necessary during that period; but, we must grow up.


What really edifies and helps most is not the gifts or utterances of those who have these gifts, but the life of those we come in contact with who [b]deeply know the cross[/b], who know the cross within and bear it daily. Take, for example, a company of new-saved Christians. Now for the first few years the Lord may give them gifts to cause them to wonder at His Power and glory and to strengthen their weak faith. But once it is strong enough, HE will remove those gifts and bring in the cross. There are grave dangers associated with the gifts, the greatest of which is "spiritual" pride. One can stand up in the Spirit (that is, the outpoured Spirit) and utter a few wonderful sentences that no one else can utter. "I feel I am really something!" he thinks. Yet his inner life may be infantile compared to another believer who has not the gifts but who deeply knows the cross.


God sovereignly bestows gifts upon one here and one there that they may serve as His mouthpieces for awhile when nothing else will be understood because we are babes and He cannot meet us on any other level. Indeed, He will use any mouth-even that of an ass. But it is a limited ministry of the kindergarden type, and is prone to puff up.


What God really wants and is waiting and working for are vessels in whom the words He may have given us to utter are taken up by His Spirit and inwrought into our inmost being by the cross until they become our very life, life that ever flows out from a death that is ever working in us. So that anyone who trusts the gifts is being foolish, for these gifts do not alter the inner man. A church which tries to build itself up by the gifts will end up being a carnal church always, since it is not God's way for the building up of the church except in the nursery stage.


His Way is Life

God's way is life and through life. Many times you go to a meeting and some ignorant, unlearned brother prays or rises and says a few words. Perhaps there is not so much to what he says, yet you feel blessed in the deepest part of your being. "Deep calleth unto deep" (Ps. 42.7). What has happened is, that you have touched life, and you are edified and strengthened and helped. That one has ministered life to you.


The ones who are "whole" or "entire" or "intact" can never minister life, for it is only the broken ones who can minister life. Only out of their brokenness can come forth life. This is God's perfect way. May the Lord cast down every proud one; may He break, and break, and break us again. May He deal with all our natural life. May the cross be drastically and deeply applied-that life may be ministered to His needy ones.


5. Brokeness Releases Life


1Cr 13:8   Charity never faileth: but whether [there be] prophecies, they shall fail; whether [there be] tongues, they shall cease; whether [there be] knowledge, it shall vanish away. 

Eph 4:16   From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. 


There are two ways of serving the body: the one through the gift is objective; the other through the cross inwrought by the Spirit is subjective. In some local churches God must needs use the one, in other local churches He is able to use the other. Spiritual gift can be termed a "Divine loan"; He loans his own power and gift to you. It is something quite outside yourself apart from yourself.


Take as an example the man Samson: he could do most unusual things, things quite unique and different from others; yet the man himself was not at all unusual in God's eyes. God simply loans His power to ordinary people for a time because He has a special need, but it does not mean at all that the individual is a person of any special spirtiual worth or holiness; in fact, later on he may prove to be quite the reverse.


Not Doing but Being

The organized church today emphasizes what a person says and what a person does but pays little attention to what a person is. Many young workers earnestly desire to be able to speak with power, long for eloquence, yearn to be able to preach brilliantly in order to move and help people. They fail to realize that this is not the vital point. The vital issue is: Who and what are you? The thing of value, the preeminently important matter is, not that you are given a gift and therefore you are able to speak, but that you know the Lord and therefore you speak.


We are not gathered a company of young workers here in order to teach them doctrine or even the Bible, or in order to teach them to preach the gospel or to seek gifts or even power, but to help them to be better men and women, to learn the cross. There are plenty of places they can go for the gifts or to learn to preach and so forth, but not where they can learn the cross. If their hope is to acquire more knowledge and gifts in order to help people, then this is not the place.


Are the gifts needed? Yes, they are, up to a certain point; but they are not to continue beyond that point where the Lord seeks to discontinue them and to bring in the working of the cross, to bring in the breaking, the weakening, and the knowing of the Lord-wherein we need no supernatural utterances. Because of the fact that out of the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks, and because Christ has been inwrought by the indwelling Holy Spirit, therefore I can speak out of His life within. We may say today exactly the same thing as we said ten or fifteen years ago, but it is entirely different. Yes, I knew and believed it then, but now it has been inwrought into my very being. It is myself, that is, Christ in me.


Brokenness Produces Ministry

Isaac represents the one who had it all through gifts. For notice that everything he received came from his father. It was an objective thing with him; it was outside himself. Even when Isaac blessed his children, it was rather confused. He was almost blind and got the boys completely mixed up.


Not so with Jacob. Jacob had been broken, really shattered by the Lord; and the Spirit of God had inwrought the very life of God in him till he said, “I have waited for thy salvation, O Jehovah” (Gen. 49.18). When he blessed his children, or rather Joseph’s children, Jacob knew exactly what he was doing. He did it intelligently. Said he, “I know it, my son, I know it” (Gen. 48.19). Jacob had light, Jacob had revelation, because he had been broken.


People say, “Why is it that so many much used servants of God fall or end in being set aside, that is, are no longer used by God?” Who says God is ever really used them? And if He did so, it was just like giving the gifts. God in His sovereign right picked out a person to grant a temporary gift to him, but only used him for a little time because the man was not inwardly worthy of any more ministry.


“But we have the treasure in earthen vessels, that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves” (2 Cor. 4.7)………………….




6. Prophetic Ministry


But we will continue stedfastly in prayer, and in the ministry of the word.(Acts 6.4)

And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governements, diverse kinds of tongues.(1 Cor. 12.28)

Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers.(Acts 13.1)

Follow after love; yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophecy. For he that speaketh in a tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God; for no man understandeth; but in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men edification, and exhortation, and consolation. He that speaketh in a tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.(1 Cor. 14.1-4)

And he gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets, and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.(Eph. 4.11)


In relation to the gifts, God puts heavier emphasis on the gifts of utterance such as prophecy, teaching, and so forth than upon the gifts of acts like healings and miracles. But the apostles say here through the Spirit, "We will continue stedfastly in prayer and in the ministry of the word."


There are two kinds of gifts to the church: one is the gift of things-like miracles, healings, tongues, etc.; the other is the gifts of people to minister-such as prophets, teachers, pastors, and evangelists. These latter gifts-of people-have all to do with the ministry of God's Word. The gifts of healings and miracles do not give us more of the life of Christ within. They do substantiate God's word, but that is all; they are an outward matter, not an inward one. However, the ministry of God's word by these gifts of prophets, teachers, and so on, build up the inner spiritual life of the church.


7. Minister in Life


2Cr 4:1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.
2Cr 4:2 We have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways; we refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.
2Cr 4:7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us.
2Cr 4:8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;
2Cr 4:9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;
2Cr 4:10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.
2Cr 4:11 For while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
2Cr 4:12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.
2Cr 4:13 Since we have the same spirit of faith as he had who wrote, "I believed, and so I spoke," we too believe, and so we speak,
2Cr 4:14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.
2Cr 4:15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
2Cr 4:16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day.
2Cr 4:17 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, (2 Cor. 4.1-17)


The Second Letter to the Corinthians is a very important book because it tells us what kind of person the one who served the Lord should be. For example, Chapters 8 and 9 tell us, among other things, what the attitude of the servant of the Lord should be towards money. We see in 2 Corinthians what is meant to minister in life.


Of all Paul’s epistles 1 Corinthians is the most shallow and superficial, for it deals primarily with right and good and so is not too deep. 2 Corinthians, however, is the deepest of all his epistles (Ephesians of course is the highest, but 2 Corinthians is the deepest.) 1 Corinthians deals with many outward questions and problems, yet in the midst of all this there shines forth a number of vital inward spiritual realities which are most precious. One of these is that God has chosen the weak things of this world, the despised things, the ignorant and the foolish, the nothings and the nobodies, to put to shame them that are wise, so that no flesh should glory in His sight.


Another one is that all we have we have received from God, that no man should boast. Still another one is in Paul’s speaking of the various gifts and their values. Moreover, he puts in the wonderful chapter on love. Then too, in the midst of the chapter on head covering, Paul gives us the tremendous principle that the church must come under authority according as God has arranged the order-Christ under God, man under Christ, and woman under the man. And earlier in the letter the big question of unity is dealt with, showing how all our oneness depends on the flesh being drastically dealt with.


Teachings Based on Life

Although all of 1 Corinthians is simple, easy to understand, and not too deep, God did not just plan to have this one letter written; he also planned to have 2 Corinthians added to it. For in the that letter we see what kind of person it was that gave us 1 Corinthians, and that is what gives the first letter its value. 1 Corinthians is built upon the personal spiritual life of the one who wrote 2 Corinthians-and that makes all the difference in the world.


The teaching of money in 1 Corinthians only has its value because of what Paul’s own attitude-expressed in 2 Corinthians-was towards money. He said he had never taken their money but had worked with his own hands to spare them as would a mother.


The teaching on resurrection in 1 Corinthians is of value because it was a living experience with him. He knew the resurrection life of Christ in him right then; as he said, “We also believe, and therefore also we speak; knowing that he that raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also with Jesus, and shall present us with you” (2 Cor. 4.13,14). He mentioned elsewhere, “Yea, we ourselves have had the sentence of death within ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who  raiseth the dead” (2 Cor. 1.19) and “Knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord . . . and are willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be at home with the Lord” (5.6,8).


Take, too, Paul’s teaching on love. Of all the churches, that at Corinth had certainly treated him the most ungraciously. The Corinthian believers assailed him, misunderstood him, lightly esteemed him, criticized him fiercely, did him all manner of injustice, and wounded him deeply; nevertheless, in 2 Corinthians we see how Paul took it all with meekness and loveliness. Said he, “The . . . God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our afflictions, that we may be able to comfort them that are in any affliction, through the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (2 Cor. 1.3,4) He reacted with love, not reproaches; with tender understanding and tears and many prayers and much forgiveness.


In 1 Corinthians Paul shows us that God has chosen the things that are weak and foolish and stupid, and that he is just as foolish and weak as they are. Yet in 2 Corinthians he says: We are indeed weak, utterly weak, but there is something to be glorified in. Christ in us is not weak. He is strong, he is mighty, He is all sufficient. “My grace is sufficient for thee,” said the Lord to Paul, “for my power is made perfect in weakness.” “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my weaknesses,” Paul responds, “that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12.9)


Paul tells them in 1 Corinthians to be willing to be losers in financial matters and never to go to law; while in 2 Corinthians he shows himself to be one who never stands up for his own rights but accepts whatever loss or poverty or trial comes to him.


The Cross-the Basis of Ministry of Life

2 Corinthians is beyond everything else a book of suffering. We see there God’s servant-His chosen vessel-going through terrific, fiery trials and suffering such as perhaps no other apostle or servant of the Lord has ever gone through. We see sufferings written all through the book: some are physical, some mental, some spiritual; some are temporary while some others are continuous. But says, “Always bearing about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be manifest in our body.” This is the basis of all ministry in life. There must be suffering, there must be pain, there must be the cross-if there is ever going to be the life of Christ manifested. “So then death worketh in us, but life in you.”


Whenever there is a shrinking from the cross, a dodging of Calvary, a refusal of the pathway of pain and suffering, an unwillingness to pay the price and to suffer pain and loss, then there will be poverty, death, and shallowness, an emptiness that can give out nothing with which to minister to God’s people. “Let death never cease to work in me that life may never cease to flow out to others (these were brother Nee’s parting words as his boat pulled out of Shanghai for England in 1938-Editor).


What is the reason for such appalling shallowness and poverty these days? Because the ministers have experienced so little themselves. They have managed to dodge the cross whenever God offered it to them or appointed it for them. There is very often a way out, another way that is less costly, a lower path and not the way of the cross. How few and rare are those who are truly rich spiritually. And why? Because their sufferings have not abounded.


God arranges most perfectly. He knows what kind of sufferings each one needs-whether it be physical, material, mental, or spiritual. When God in His wisdom brings it to us because He sees that we need it, let us rejoice and see the Lord in it. Let us accept it with joy, acknowledging that we are absolutely equal to it. He indeed is, and in the circumstance we do find Him in His fullness and sufficiency. We come to really know God because we find Him doing in us and for us what we cannot do.  Thus are we able to minister Him in life to others, to build up the body, to scatter life-His life-wherever we go. Whenever death is really working in us, just then and only then can life really flow out to others.

8. Priestly Ministry


Act 13:1 Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyre'ne, Man'a-en a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
Act 13:2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." (Acts 13.1,2)


Num 16:1 Now Korah the son of Izhar, son of Kohath, son of Levi, and Dathan and Abi'ram the sons of Eli'ab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben,
Num 16:2 took men; and they rose up before Moses, with a number of the people of Israel, two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation, chosen from the assembly, well-known men;
Num 16:3 and they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said to them, "You have gone too far! For all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them; why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?"

Num 16:19 Then Korah assembled all the congregation against them at the entrance of the tent of meeting. And the glory of the LORD appeared to all the congregation.
Num 16:20 And the LORD said to Moses and to Aaron,
Num 16:21 "Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment."

Num 16:33 So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol; and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. (Numbers 16.1-3, 19-21, 33)


Num 17:5 And the rod of the man whom I choose shall sprout; thus I will make to cease from me the murmurings of the people of Israel, which they murmur against you."

Num 17:8 And on the morrow Moses went into the tent of the testimony; and behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds, and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds.

Num 17:13 Every one who comes near, who comes near to the tabernacle of the LORD, shall die. Are we all to perish?"(Numbers 17.5,8,13).


All who serve the church serve first and preeminently the Lord. Sometimes they are called ministers of Christ, sometimes ministers of God. Prophets and  teachers are especially spoken of a serving or ministering to the Lord.