The Peak of the Ministry of the Word

The Ministry of God's Word, CFP, 43-45, by Watchman Nee


Besides the Lord Jesus who Himself is the Word become flesh, there are two other kinds of ministers of the word: the Old Testament ministers and the New Testament ministers. In principle, Old Testament ministry is entirely objective, that is, the ministers do not have any subjective experience. Though prophets like Jeremiah and Isaiah did have many subjective experiences, these were only their personal experiences and are not to be considered as touching the principle of Old Testament ministry. So far as this principle goes, God puts His word into the mouth of man for him to utter, thus constituting him as one who proclaims the word of God. Man receives word on the one hand and sends the same out on the other. Even Saul and Balaam ranked among the prophets. So in the principle of Old Testament ministry, we do not find much relationship between the word of God and the one who delivers the word. Man in this case is like a water pipe through which water flows in and out. So long as the word is accurately passed on, Godís revelation is preserved without any other complication.

The New Testament ministry, however, is quite another story. Should it succeed in attaining Godís purpose it excels the Old Testament ministry in glory; but should it fail to arrive at Godís aim, it exceeds the Old Testament ministry in danger. In the New Testament God commits the word to man for him to exercise his own thought, feeling, understanding, memory, and words in the delivery. If he is able to deliver Godís word in pureness, his glory far surpasses that of the Old Testament ministers. For though man has been blended in, the outcome is still Godís word. The word has not been changed or damaged. This is manifestly most glorious. But contrariwise, should there be any defect in the messengeróeven the slightest defectóthe word of God immediately incurs loss.

Perhaps some will wonder why God employs such a troublesome way to proclaim His word. A question of this kind belongs to the same category of questions often asked by unbelievers, such as: Why does God not take away the tree of knowledge of good and evil? Why does He not create a species of man who cannot sin? For would not man then avoid the plight of sinning and God escape the dilemma of atonement? The same answer can be given to the question concerning the ministers of the word as to these similar inquiries. God does not will that the man He creates be like a machine, having no freedom of choice but having to obey perfectly. It would be easy for Him to make such a perfect machine. There would be no trouble with man, but neither would there be glory for God. Such obedience and goodness have no spiritual value. There may not be any fault or sin, yet neither can there be holiness, for the obedience is passive. God rejects such a thing.

What God desires to have is the kind of man who knows his right hand from his left. He accordingly creates a mankind that is capable of choosing the evil as well as the good, the wrong as well as the right. If the man God created were capable of choosing obedience to Him only, the glory he would render to God would not exceed that which a machine can present. God gave man a free will, capable of choosing good or evil. In such a circumstance, if man should choose good, a glorious thing is done by him. Although the possibility of doing evil is a great danger, that of doing good is of exceeding glory. This explains why God does not create a machine-like man who can only do good and obey God, but why instead He makes a man free to choose good or evil. God decrees it to be a matter of glory for man to choose good and to choose to obey under his own initiative.

Now God applies this same principle to ministry of the New Testament order. In terms of difficulties, it surely gives God much trouble to speak through man. He would have no trouble, though, if He were to speak directly, nor would He incur any trouble if He used angels to communicate His word. Even speaking by an ass is less troublesome than speaking through man, since an ass is far less complicated and, therefore, poses less obstacles in the areas of the mind, understanding, memory, intention, and so on. Nonetheless, speaking by an ass is an exceptional case. God used the ass to speak only after the prophet failed. He never intended to make an ass a prophet, because He always calls man to be the prophet.

Godís wish is to use man. Man was created for Godís specific purpose. As He did not make an obedient machine at the time of creation, so He now rejects the use of a preaching machine. He does not want an automaton; He wants a man with free will. It is a calculated risk with God to choose man as a minister of His word. Yet in spite of the complexity of man and his many problems such as sin, defilement, weakness, the outward man, and natural resistance, God still entrusts His word to man. Through the greatest rigor God obtains His highest glory.