P A R T T W O
THE HISTORY OF RECOVERY
from Revive thy Work (CFP)
1. Commencement and Continuance of Recovery*
See part 2 of The History of Recovery - 2. The Ruin and Progress of the Church
Commencement of Recovery—Martin Luther
God’s recovery began with Martin Luther. This is not to say that in Luther alone was there recovery, for at that time there were other people who had the same insight. Nevertheless, he appears to stand as the representative of that period of recovery. By that time truth had become tradition and apostolic ministry had turned into papal authority. Moreover, the unity of the Church had degenerated into a Church federation, while spiritual authority had transformed itself into political power. In short, the Church had been taken into Babylonian captivity.
The human concept during that age had come to be understood as the Church controlling the world. Indeed, the Church declared that the entire world belonged to God. As a consequence, the Roman Catholic Church now brought the unsaved into the Church. All Roman citizens automatically became members of the Church. Naturally, therefore, the rite of infant baptism was created. But there was yet another development which resulted from the marriage between the Church and the world. Formerly, Christians had been a company of saints that practiced voluntary poverty. The poor and the Christians were one. After the Church brought in the world, however, voluntary poverty vanished: the Church had become rich. In the Church there should be only two classes of people—both of them poor: thenaturally poor, and the voluntarily poor. Nonetheless, by the time of Luther and even earlier, the Church had only the first class of the poor, the second class having well-nigh disappeared from the scene: apart from the naturally poor the Church was now well populated with the rich. Yet, though these latter folk were rich in wealth, they were poor in faith.
The sad consequence of all this was that there were fewer and fewer spiritual riches in the Church.
*Delivered at Hardoon Road, Shanghai, 12 April 1948.—Translator
The Recovery of Voluntary Poverty
From the time of Clement, truths gradually grew dim. People could analyze and expound, but spiritual life was missing. There was no grace and very little righteousness. Even during the days of Augustine, truths were very unclear. In its history the Church continued to fall further and further till a reaction appeared in the Roman Catholic Church. Francis of Assisi, himself a Catholic, was one of those who reacted. He was dissatisfied with the outward riches of the Church. He himself was a man of wealth, at least he was the son of a rich man. But soon he sold all that was his and gave to the poor. Thereafter he began to live a life of voluntary poverty. Though we can hardly approve of all his writings, his practice of voluntary poverty was right.
In the Church the principle to be followed should be: "He that gathered much had nothing over; and he that gathered little had no lack" (2 Cor. 8.15). To gather much is not sin, but to gather much and have bounty left over is sin. A person who knows the Lord will invest in the Lord. If he says he loves the Lord and yet refuses to invest in Him, his love is false. The Lord Jesus once said, "The poor ye have always with you" (John 12.8). Yet please note that He did not say that there would always be poor brothers in the Church. What He said was that the poor would always be with us. It is not a difficult matter to solve the lack among the Christian brethren. For if the brethren will give away their bounty, the poor in the Church will disappear. Toretain is not the principle of the Lord; to give is His principle. If we should all give, then there shall not be any unwanted wealth. It is an abnormal phenomenon to have too rich a people in the Church. What is left over should be given away. The world loves money more than life. But God demands our lives. No Christian can afford to be careless in this area. God is careful to have our lives far much more than to have our wealth.
Much later after Francis, God raised up Count von Zinzendorf in Saxony, Germany. He belonged to the nobility and was highly educated. For the Lord’s sake he opened his estate in the early eighteenth century to receive the saints from Bohemia, Moravia and other lands—especially those who were being persecuted. Through him, in fact, the Moravian Church was revived after nearly being exterminated a century before. And from that Church more men and women would be sent out as missionaries than from any of the other Churches. Indeed, the ratio of Moravian missionaries to total Church membership was even higher than could be found among the other Church organizations. Still later there was Sister Eva. She was a German. She too chose the way of voluntary poverty.
A century ago the Brethren of Great Britain were raised up. They were strong in truth but also strong in another area. Though they were hesitant in telling about themselves, many leaders among them sold all they had and followed the Lord. This issue of money and wealth must be resolved in the life of the Christian. The Lord will have no outlet if this area is unresolved among Christians. Wherein does the Church fall? It falls when the worldly principle of economics seeps into the Church. For wherever that principle is operative, everything comes under the scrutiny of cost. And thus, the Lord’s way is blocked.
Deficiency of the Reformation
In Luther we see the recovery of faith. He is not very clear on righteousness. History tells us that he chastised and beat himself in order to be justified before God. In Rome on one occasion he even climbed on his knees the entire lengthy set of stairsteps of what was called Pilate’s Staircase—so that he might be justified. Ultimately Luther was shown that man is not justified by works but rather by faith.
True, Luther came out of Babylon, but he failed to enter Jerusalem. He brought in the power of politics to help the protesting or Protestant Church, not realizing that such political power would in the end damage the Church instead of help her. The result from Luther’s action was the creation of the national church that in essence was the unequal yoking together of politics and believers. One gives the nation while the other gives the doctrine. The fruit of this combination came to be called the national church. In Germany, for example, the Lutheran Church became the national church of that country. The reason for having accepted secular political influence was to provide a counteraction to the strong power of Rome. Yet, this led to national reform, not Church reform. For as a consequence, the Church of Rome was replaced by the Church of Germany, that is to say, the Protestant German Church. In England it became the Church of England (or Anglican Church). This meant that all Englishmen would henceforth belong to the Anglican Church, in that they would be baptized into that Church when they were born. The question then asked is not whether the person is born again but whether one has English nationality. The resulting implication was, therefore, that as long as one is born in England or has English nationality, he is a member of the Anglican Church. For this reason, the tradition of infant baptism continued to prevail.
Birth of Independent Churches
The rise of these Protestant national churches aroused the dissatisfaction of many who loved the Lord with a pure heart. They were not willing to remain in these national churches. As a consequence independent churches came into being. Not long after the Reformation, in fact, there came to exist more than two thousand independent churches. In Switzerland alone there were more than two hundred of them. During this period, the Roman Catholic Church persecuted the Protestant Church, and the Protestant Church persecuted these small independent churches. For instance, in order to check the growth of these small churches in Britain, the British government passed an ordinance calling for the unification of all churches in the country. And the result? The Nonconformists appeared. These were the people who loved the Lord intensely and who were raised up by God as His faithful ones. They refused to cooperate with Governmental control. So the Government put pressure on them, forbidding their ministers to return to within five miles of their former church parishes. Nonconformists were also barred from taking part in government service. All such who were bona fide civil servants were now relieved of their positions. Whoever violated any of these restrictions would be condemned.
Recovery of the Truths of Believers’ Equality and Baptism
In time the Mennonites appeared. They were the first who saw the error of Sacerdotalism [the belief held by the Roman Catholic and other sacerdotal-minded Churches which assumes that an authorized priesthood is required as mediator between man and God, between man and his divine needs and aspirations—Translator]. They therefore restored the calling or addressing of each other simply as brothers. Some of them even went to Russia to preach the gospel. Beyond these believers, the Baptists were also raised up. They recognized the error of infant baptism. In Baptist congregations people were now immersed, and done so only after they were clear on the truth of salvation and regeneration. Accordingly, many were nicknamed the Anabaptists [meaning rebaptizers; i.e., rebaptizers of adults formerly baptized as infants—Translator] and they were severely persecuted. Nevertheless, the above-mentioned events and groups had mostly to do with the external recovery.
The Recovery of Inner Life
Yet apart from these areas of external recovery, there was also a recovery of the inner spiritual life. Numbered among those involved in this spiritual recovery were Madame Guyon, Father (later Archbishop) Fenelon, and others. These people were commonly labeled as mystics. They learned to deny themselves. They joined themselves to God against their very own selves. They would not excuse themselves, nor would they plead to be spared. And in each age since, there have been those who have followed in their footsteps. But God also raised up other people of the inner life called the Pietists and the Quietists.
Following these saints, the Puritans, too, were raised up. Numbered among them were some brethren from Holland and England who migrated to the North American continent. The "Mayflower" was the now famous ship which carried these emigrating Puritans to America.
The Brethren Recovery
In the preceding century to our own, God engineered a special recovery. This came through the Brethren movement. God began to raise up believers who saw the heavenly calling of the Church. Unlike the children of Israel in the Old Testament period, the Church—these Brethren believers began to see—should not expectearthly blessing since she has a heavenly calling. Their goal, they realized, did not lay in reforming society, for the people of God are nothing more than pilgrims on the earth. They are those who entertain no hope for the world, since the world will soon pass away and all on earth will be judged. The Church, they believed, should hold different views from those of the world: what the Church expects is heaven, not the advancement of this world.
These words, of course, are quite familiar to our ears today. But near the beginning of the nineteenth century, they represented a tremendous recovery; indeed, in their day they constituted a radical departure in Church thinking and approach.
The next thing recovered was the unity of the Church. Due to their seeing the oneness of the body of Christ, these Brethren viewed the Church of their day as having fallen into ruin. Bible expositors among them such as J. N. Darby and R W. Grant believed the present Church to be in ruin.
Recovery of Sanctification by Faith
Apart from the recoveries among the Brethren movement, John Wesley was also raised up by God. Through him the doctrine of sanctification was recovered. Man is not onlyjustified by faith, he is also sanctified by faith. Wesley was a true servant of God and was greatly used by the Lord. He is our brother, and his witness is true. Though he used the wrong Scripture to prove his point, his doctrine is nonetheless correct. For example, Wesley quoted 1 John 1.7 as proof for sanctification. Some people have rejected his doctrine because of his inaccurate citation. This is over-reacting. For Scripture may be misquoted, but if the man is right and his doctrine is right, his mistake is not decisive. On the other hand, if a person’s quotation is correct but his character is questionable, the problem is more serious. Rather is it better to be the right person with the wrong quotation than to have the right quotation but be the wrong person. Even though his Scripture may be misguided, the person can nonetheless be sanctified by God.
After Wesley came Robert Pearsall Smith, husband of Mrs. Hannah Smith who wroteThe Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life. He was a porcelain merchant. At that time people were not very clear on the teaching of holiness. God raised up brother Smith to preach especially on consecration. Sanctification is not just by faith, preached Smith; it also needs consecration: man needs to be sanctified by consecration as well as by faith.
Then there arose the Keswick movement. Among those involved were Evan Hopkins of England, Theodore Monod of France and the aforementioned Smith of the United States. Andrew Murray was also being raised up. These brothers stabilized the work of recovery. At the same time the hymns of Frances Ridley Havergal enriched the recovery.
Recovery of the Crucifixion of the Old Man
Hence in the past century, through all these brethren God caused people to see consecration and its importance. Nevertheless, what they saw still did not go deep enough. This was because consecration is more than a kind of exchange—more than an offering up of all we have in exchange for what God has and is. For example, Darby noted that consecration is based on the putting off of the fleshly man: the aim of the gospel is more than the forgiving of the sins of the sinner: it is also the crucifying of the sinner himself: that is to say, the gospel is also for the co-crucifixion of the sinner. How careful must we be in preaching the gospel lest we preach wrongly. The gospel gets rid of the "old man" in the flesh as well as the sins of the flesh. He who is going to heaven is a new man, not an old carnal man. All spiritual lessons—such as obedience, service and so forth—must be practiced in accordance with this principle. Even the lessons learned by such a spiritual person as Madame Guyon must be sought for according to the principle propounded by brother Darby.
Romans 7 mentions that we were made dead to the law (v.4). Hence, we can be married to Christ. We are not just dead to our sins, we are even more so dead to ourselves. It is illegal for anyone who is not dead to self to be married to Christ. Else this would make that person an adulteress. Being dead to self, one is no longer the same person, since the cross has put that person away (Gal. 2.20). Today, whoever is dead to sin is a dead old man (Rom. 6.6). The cross has put away the old man. Such, then, is the gist of Darby’s preaching.
Mrs. Jessie Penn-Lewis was then raised up to proclaim the truth of the cross. She told people how to deal with the old man. Her understanding was more advanced. Yet our understanding of today even surpasses hers.
Recovery of the Truth of Resurrection
Following Mrs. Penn-Lewis, brother T. Austin Sparks saw resurrection in a clearer light. We ourselves have preached resurrection for a number of years, yet I am afraid we were not sure just what resurrection really is. Mrs. Penn-Lewis herself wrote two books on resurrection, but neither was clear on the matter. Not till 1926, when brother Sparks wrote on the subject in "The Overcomer" magazine did the world for the first time see what resurrection truly is. When Miss Margaret E. Barber and I saw the writings of brother Sparks, we were immediately captivated by their message. Many—including ourselves—have talked and preached about resurrection in the past, but the reality of resurrection was not truly known. But when brother Sparks spoke and wrote on resurrection, clear light was finally released.
What, then, is resurrection? Resurrection is life entering into death and coming out of death. In other words, what can die dies; what cannot die comes forth. It is that which death cannot swallow. And such is resurrection life.
Recovery of Kingdom Reality (Welsh Revival)
Let us look at another matter, that of the kingdom. Kingdom is too general a subject. It is therefore futile to talk about the kingdom without having its manifestation. When and where have we ever really seen the kingdom? One instance comes to mind. We may say that the kingdom appeared during the great Welsh Revival. In 1901-2 a great stirring of God broke out in Wales through the instrumentality of Evan Roberts. That revival surpasses all in the past history of the Church. None else can be compared to it. Its effect was deep and wide. At the time of its outbreak Evan Roberts had been a coal miner. He was not a highly educated person, but he was greatly used by God. He was only in his twenties, quite a young man for such a task. He did not know how to preach. Even so, his spirit was strong, and his prayers were heard by God. English was taught brother Roberts by Mrs. Jessie Penn-Lewis as well as by J.C. Williams. Though his education was limited, people got saved as they came into contact with him. He was not at all eloquent and during the Welsh Revival he did not preach much. Indeed, whenever he stood up to speak he usually did so for only fifteen minutes. Yet even those who listened surreptitiously got saved.
Some have said that the Welsh Revival was actually influenced by China. As was said earlier, the Welsh Revival occurred in 1901-2; but just a year be fore, in 1900 during the Boxer Uprising in China, many Christians were martyred.∗ Immediately after this violent
∗The Boxer Uprising, known also as the Boxer Rebellion, was a movement by members of a secret society in China whose literal name was "Righteous Harmonious Fist" but whose members came to be called "the Boxers" by Westerners. The society initially was anti-Manchu in character because of reactionary measures taken by the Imperial family and especially by its court followers against carrying out domestic reforms agreed upon following China’s humiliating defeat by Japan in 1895. But after 1899 the Boxers’ chief animosity turned towards those other foreign nations—nearly all European—who had been stripping China of land and power. In June 1900, therefore, the Boxers began a violent campaign to eliminate all "foreign devils" from Chinese soil and to compel indigenous converts (the "secondary devils") to renounce Christianity—the foreign religion of these Western "devils." Though the Uprising ultimately failed of its goals, many Europeans and indigenous Christians in China were killed, and the legations at Peking were besieged by the Boxers for many weeks. An eight-nation Western army, the International Relief Force, pushed its way to Peking from the coast in August of 1900 and released the legation prisoners.But before the Uprising was finally brought to an end, 250 missionaries and over 32,000 indigenous Christians had been slaughtered! "Westerners were hacked to death, children were beheaded in front of their parents’ eyes and carts were driven backward and forward over the half-naked bodies of young Chinese women evangelists until they were dead." So writes the China-born Christian author, Os Guinness of England, whose grandfather, a missionary doctor in China, was an eyewitness to much of the Uprising and who for thirty days had himself "survived the massacre hair-raisingly by the grace of God…" Yet, adds Guinness, the retaliation by the Western nations proved to be even worse than the bloody violence perpetrated by the Boxers. "After entering Peking and rescuing the legations," he notes, "some of the foreign troops set off on an orgy of systematic slaughter and looting. Peking was sacked, the imperial palace looted and stripped, and thousands of innocent Chinese were massacred in a cruel and bloody rampage." Guinness, The American Hour, a Time of Reckoning and the Once and Future Role of Faith (New York and Toronto: The Free Press, 1993), 7. In the end China was compelled to apologize for the murder of foreign officials and to pay a large indemnity. Interestingly, however, America returned most of its indemnity, inspiring the Chinese government to set aside this sum for financing the sending of students to American universities.—Translator
Uprising had been quelled, Christians throughout the world prayed for the work of God. And it would appear that the answer to these prayers was poured out by God upon one person in particular: Evan Roberts.He was subsequently confined to his home from 1903 to 1909 because of illness. After his recovery, however, whenever he stood up to speak he spoke on the kingdom. It was recorded in "The Overcomer" magazine that many times during the meetings he was asked what he was going to release in spoken ministry. Yet he himself did not know what word should be released. But always as he opened his mouth, something real came forth. ∗
During these years, I began to see what the kingdom of God really is. It is a tremendous matter. I pray for the kingdom of God because God wishes to have His kingdom come on earth (Matt. 6.10,33). Yet for God’s kingdom to come to earth, it requires the prayer of the Church. What, then, is the kingdom? Kingdom reality is when and where people occupy geographic territory for God. Wherever the kingdom of God is, there is God’s occupation of that land. Today people misunderstand the kingdom to be a historical affair, but it really is a geographic matter.
∗For a brief discussion of the direct impact in China itself of this worldwide prayer while the Boxer Uprising was actually taking place, please see below, Part Three, Chapter 1 ("The Recovery of Body Life"), in the Appended (c) section therein.—Translator
Recovery of Spiritual Warfare
Yet in order to have the kingdom—that is to say, to occupy territory for God—there must needs be warfare. For this reason, the restoration of the kingdom necessitates that there be a recovery of spiritual warfare. The message on this subject was recovered by none other than Mrs. Penn-Lewis. While sick on one occasion, she experienced spiritual warfare. She came to realize that many were deceived because they did not understand this kind of warfare. Later, she co-authored with Evan Roberts himself the book entitledWar on the Saints, in which the truth of spiritual warfare was released. Such light had not been seen for almost two thousand years. This light, of course, had originally been given by the apostle Paul in Ephesians 6, but believers since then had failed to experience it. Now, though, it had been recovered through Mrs. Penn-Lewis.
Recovery of the Reality of the Body of Christ
Around 1930 brother Sparks began to see the Biblical concept of the body. Subsequently he often spoke on the body of Christ. His release of such a message amounted to some 500 to 600 pages. Nevertheless, what he released was but words. The reality was yet to appear.
The Church of the Lord is a body. It is the product of our life in the Lord. That life is the Lord’s life which is also the life of the Son of God. Since the body comes from one life, the members ought to be coordinated. We cannot be independent. We are parts of the whole. It is like auto parts which, coming from various places, are assembled into a whole automobile. Today we need to see that the life we have in Christ is abody life. What we each possess is but a part of that one life. Therefore, we should not seek after personal edification before or ahead of body coordination. Individual building up actually grows out of the coordination of the body of Christ. If we ourselves see this fact, then all who are saved afterwards will themselves immediately see and enter into this fact. As soon as they are saved, they instantly commit themselves to the Church.
Today the gospel lacks authority because there is not the manifestation of the normal Church. In anormal local church, as soon as a person gets saved he is a committed one, for he has seen the body. Today too many people, after being saved, have not thoroughly consecrated their lives. Hence we need to return to the lessons of consecration. Due to the lack of a normal Church, we are unable to show the newly saved what is the normal condition of a local expression of the body of Christ. The obstacle stands in our way because we fail to give the remedial lesson. If today there are enough brothers and sisters standing on the ground of God’s complete redemption—namely, that upon being saved, believers are immediately wholly consecrated and fully committed—then the local expression of the Church will have the authority to witness for the Lord and bring people to the right standing from the first day of their salvation.
Today’s Responsibility of Recovery Is upon Us
The responsibility of recovery is today upon us. The issue of recovery is also upon us. How much God will do in China, nay, in the world, rests upon our shoulders. The responsibility is ours. We need to see that there is but one life in the body of Christ. And after seeing this, we shall also see the need of coordination. Indeed, the problem of brothers and sisters falls upon us. If each of us is not the right kind of person, how can we preach the right kind of gospel?
The gospel does not merely cause people to be delivered from sin, the world and self; it even enables us to be liberated from individualism, wealth and everything else so that we may enter into the reality of the body.
The Lord’s recovery proceeds step by step. It has advanced so much that today there seems to be nothing more to be recovered. In fact, the extent of recovery has in our day already reached to the recovery of the body. This may be the last stage of recovery, though no one can say for certain. But so far as we know, the coordination of the body and the manifestation of authority seem to be the last areas of recovery.
Yet for us to reach this particular recovery ourselves, God demands that its authority be made manifest in us. For this to be achieved, however, we need to walk in the way of obedience. If we obey, God will be able to obtain the increase among us. Accordingly, today’s urgent need is for this recovery to be found in us first. We should be well-balanced persons, that is to say, those who have all kinds of experiences in our lives. The gospel we preach is an all-inclusive one. As people accept the gospel, they are not only having their sins forgiven, they are also being brought into the body of Christ. If we can succeed in this after a few years, the condition of the Church will be totally different from that of today. Today’s responsibility is therefore wholly upon us workers.
What we need in our day is body consciousness, for the reality of body life can only be achieved through such consciousness. This, however, is something which can neither be learned nor pretended. In Kuling one brother inquired of me concerning his personal future. His very question, however, closes off the book on his future; for in the body, we do not have personal futures. There is only the future of the body. We would obey the body rather than violate it by seeking to further our personal futures.
Guidance of the Body
As a matter of fact, we make many mistakes in our lifetime. Who is responsible for these mistakes? Of course, we ourselves are responsible. Since we individually tend to err, why not rather be willing to err in the corporate body? Any mistake made in the body will be better than the mistake we may make in ourselves. Suppose today there are three or five, even thirty or fifty, people who know the will of God whereas I myself am uncertain of His will about a certain person or thing. Would it not be better for me to accept their judgment than my own? When anything happens to me, I am subjectively involved. I may not be able to see matters clearly because I am affected by the various factors surrounding that matter. But the body is immune to personal affects. Its judgment, therefore, is more dependable inasmuch as it is being less affected.
Were we not possessed of spiritual reality, such a word might sound like the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. Indeed, without spiritual reality, portents of the Roman Church will inevitably arise. However, if there be spiritual reality, we will see that the spiritual sense of the body as exhibited in its spiritual members far exceeds our personal judgment. Body consciousness is something which cannot be forced. If a member feels uncomfortable or uncertain, it is wise to submit himself to the body.
Today we must learn to obey God’s authority. We see man’s rebellion everywhere. In whatever organization, there is rebellion and insubordination. People desire to be free and independent. All have their own opinions and subjective views. But in the kingdom of God none of these things exists. There we find only order and submission. Nothing in the world is better than obedience; nothing is more beautiful than order. There is obedience as well as submission to one another. There is no strife nor seeking to be the greater. A divine order prevails. All seek to submit. How very beautiful is this!
Let me give a little testimony of my own. In 1922 I began to learn this lesson of which we have been speaking. At that time I was often bathed in tears as I learned to obey. Although the person I submitted to might not necessarily have been right and I might perhaps have been right, I had to obey, else I would not receive the discipline of the body. Perhaps I should not talk of this period in terms of the discipline of the body since such language was foreign to me then; but at least I could receive the discipline of the Holy Spirit. This was the time when I started to serve the Lord. I was rather young in age. I had a fellow worker who was five years older than I. He was quite zealous, yet he did not see much. I, through the mercy of God, was given much light. During that period many would admonish people to believe in Jesus, but they could not explain why they should believe. I, though, seemed to have more light on the gospel.
Now on one occasion, more than sixty people had wanted to be baptized. Ninety percent of these were brought to the Lord by me. Since they came to the Lord through me, I naturally felt I should be the one to baptize them. But the other brother insisted that he would do the baptism because he was older. Yet the Bible seems to indicate that he who preaches the gospel performs the baptism (see Acts 8.35-38). I felt that was most reasonable. I later went to see Miss Margaret Barber. She reckoned, however, that I should let that brother undertake the baptism. I asked her why. She said it was because that other brother was older. But then I found another brother who was older than the brother in question. I suggested to her to let this third brother do the baptism. Miss Barber still maintained that the former brother should perform the baptism. Upon hearing this I grew very angry. She told me that I should not argue. She further said, "Look, from today onward, you must learn to listen to his word." Why must I listen to him, I persisted, since he was clear on neither truth nor way? Such a situation continued for three years. But this was the lesson God wanted me to learn. And through such learning I am able to walk together with others today.
The Scriptures record the word of the centurion: "I also am a man under authority, having under myself soldiers" (Matt 8.9). This is submission. I have always felt that an insubordinate person is wild and confused. He who lives in the church should be one who obeys authority. Anyone who is insubordinate, though he may be saved, does not walk like a regenerated person. Whenever a person denies authority, he denies the church. He has no proper way.
God has His anointing oil. That oil is poured upon the Church, the body of Christ (cf. Ps. 133). Therefore, we each need to submit to the anointing oil in the local church as well as to the anointing oil that is upon us individually.
Due to the protection afforded by the body, we as Christians are today most secure. In the past, people might err a long way because there was no demarcation then. But today many truths have been established. We therefore have no reason to deflect from the right way. As we remain in the body, we shall receive the anointing oil and its attendant blessing (Ps. 133.3).
It is imperative for us to see that today’s problem rests upon us workers. We should realize the greatness of our responsibility. Owing to our own unfaithfulness, we dare not preach the full gospel to sinners. To preach the gospel that transforms people, we ourselves must be transformed persons. To proclaim a unique gospel, we need to be unique. It takes a recovered person to preach the gospel of recovery. It requires a coordinated man to proclaim the gospel of coordination. Without our being the right person, how can we announce the right gospel? We need to be the people of Acts 2 in order to preach the gospel of Acts 2 and to produce the converts of Acts 2. What can I say to you if you make your family, profession, wealth, or position your center? This only can I tell you: you are unable to be coordinated and the glorious scene of Acts 2 will have no opportunity to appear. How can we expect others to be right if we ourselves are not right? If we are unwilling to be absolute, God will raise up absolute people later on. Whether God finds His way inthis generation or not depends on whether there are absolute people in it.
Impact of the Gospel
In the early Church, though the saved were relatively few compared to today’s gospel harvest, yet they were as a blazing fire. Compared to today, they did not preach as much; but their martyrdom spoke much more than what we do in our entire lives. Today’s need is none other than absolute consecration and absolute submission. This will bring in power. In hisDecline and Fall of the Roman Empire, the English historian Edward Gibbons has described the sufferings of the martyrs: how they were persecuted, exiled and killed by the Roman soldiers. Yet the more the persecution, the greater the number who became saved. Today’s issue is, What is the place of the gospel in our lives? The greater its place is in our lives, the greater shall be the power of the gospel.
Whether or not the next generation will be like the people mentioned in Acts 2 hinges on the performance of this our generation. Are we willing to be fully surrendered? Recovery may come to us or it may pass us by. If God finds His way in us, hereafter the saved will be different from those we see today: a better race of spiritual men and women will be raised up. Insignificant are the words and judgments of men; what is important is, What kind of people are we before God?
Our God is an ongoing God: "My Father worketh even until now," the Son once said, "and I work" (John 5.17). When we lay down our all—including our time and wealth—at His feet, power shall break forth. Can today’s call be less demanding than it was in the early days when our Lord called His disciples to lay down their lives for His way? Whereas in the past we persuaded people to believe in the Lord by patting their shoulders and speaking to them a few soothing words, now we call for their lives. Formerly, in believing, people thought they were doing the Lord a favor. Such is not to be so in our day, for they shall see that in believing they must surrender their very lives.
The Way before Us
In order to comply with the work of God, there need to be adjustments made in our future way. Here let me mention a few:
1. The need for training. In training, special attention should be paid to the vessel itself. The vessel must be right before the work to be done by that vessel can be right.
2. The need to strengthen today’s work.
3. The need to learn how to discuss and deal with people. Those workers who have been too harsh towards the believers must be restrained, and those who have been too lenient need to be strengthened. In the future, the Bible tells us, we shall judge the world and the angels (1 Cor. 6.2-3). Hence today we should learn how to judge. However, the first to be judged is our very own self. Unless we judge ourselves, our judgment of others is faulty. With self-judgment, though, our judgment elsewhere can be accurate. In this respect, the ministers of God’s word must truly master this lesson.
4. The need to see that money must have no grip upon the lives of fellow workers. Fellow workers must be delivered from the control of money. Money consciousness should be totally broken. We expect that this will lead eventually to the reality of this: "all that believed were together, and had all things common" (Acts 2.44).
5. The need for the local church to pay attention in learning how to help the newly saved. There should be good preparation for the giving of clear instruction. Such instruction comes in two areas. In one area is the preaching of the gospel. The gospel should be preached throughout the year. The other area is the instruction of new believers. Fifty-two basic lessons should be prepared as a basis for giving continuous instruction to new believers. These should be fixed lessons to be used from the year’s beginning to year’s end.∗ Those who instruct should be well prepared with adequate tools.
Concerning this matter of consecration, every saved individual should be a consecrated person. All consecrated brothers and sisters work together with the workers.
The Lord told us that "ye have the poor always with you" (Matt 26.11). It is not right to accumulate things in the house of God. To help the poor is a basic principle in the Bible and is demanded of the believer to do. Whether the one in need is of your household or not, the call of God’s word is for you to give away. Your heart will not expand if you do not care for the poor. But when you give, you learn enlargement of heart as well as expansion of horizon. Few there be today who have enlarged hearts and extended horizon. We are taught by the Scriptures not to be bound up by material things. And all which the Scriptures teach must be kept. We will suffer loss if we fail to keep any of the Bible’s commandments. It is easier to give to the brethren than to the outsiders. Nonetheless, the Bible instructs us to look after the poor—no matter who they be.
∗These 52 Lessons for new believers the author himself soon afterwards prepared and then presented in a sequence of spoken ministry before those assembled for the First Workers Training Session that was convened for several months during the summer and early fall of 1948 at Mount Kuling, near Foochow, China. Of these 52 Lessons, 48 of them were translated into English, re-arranged and variously grouped together into six volumes, and published under the general title of the Basic Lesson Series (New York: Christian Fellowship Publishers 1972-75). The six individual volume titles in this series are as follows: A Living Sacrifice (1972), The Good Confession (1973), Assembling Together (1973), Not I But Christ (1974), Do All to the Glory of God (1974), and Love One Another (1975). Of the remaining four Lessons, one of them was translated into English and incorporated into the chapter entitled "Sickness" found in Watchman Nee, The Spiritual Man, 3 vols. (New York: Christian Fellowship Publishers, 1968), III:179-95. The other three Lessons, also translated into English, appear as Part Two ("Three Basic Lessons") in Watchman Nee, The Spirit of Judgment (New York: Christian Fellowship Publishers, 1984), 55-94.—Translator
Many brothers and sisters are ignorant of the difficult way the fellow workers spend their days. Some workers have not been able to cook any food for five days. Some are not able to take care of their own families’ livelihood or their own children’s education.
Brothers and sisters should be helped in the choosing of a profession. In body coordination, some need to bring in money. But who will go out and earn moneyfor the Lord? Only those who are fully consecrated will do so. Such earning of money is most useful. When the children of Israel left Egypt they brought out the wealth of that land with them (Ex. 12.35-36). Then when they crossed the Red Sea, wealth, too, crossed over. Such wealth would have been unprofitable had it remained in Egypt. Only the people who crossed the Red Sea were able to use the gold and silver to build the tabernacle. So here we see that first of all, men came out; second, wealth must follow out; and third, the tabernacle would be built.
Formerly I dared not say this, but lately I can say that unless people first consecrate themselves, God will not ask for their money. Unfortunately many must see the mistake of the golden calf before they can see the issue of gold. In worshiping the calf idol, the gold which should have gone towards the construction of the tabernacle went instead into the making of the golden calf. Hence, worshiping the golden calf was more than a matter of sin, it also involved a loss to the tabernacle. It was wrong for the gold to go towards the making of the golden calf, but it would have been right for this same gold to have gone towards the making of the tabernacle. Thus we see that the same material could go to either of two diametrically opposite centers: to the idol or to the tabernacle. It is significant that the New Testament places together both covetousness and idolatry, thus showing that they join hands (Col. 3.5). Accordingly, where the deliverance from idolatry is, there also is the deliverance from money and wealth. Today all fellow workers must go forth, bearing all tribulations for the sake of the Lord. But brothers and sisters must also learn to be consecrated people. Saying this does not mean that all should step out to be preachers. It simply means that everyone must be a consecrated person. To be fully consecrated is the need of this day. Not all are preachers, yet all must serve God full time.
Wherever there is a company of people walking in the way of God, there we shall see the appearing of the men of Acts 2. With consecration God finds His way; otherwise, the word of God will suffer and be degraded. The people in Acts 2 are like people arriving at an intersection. They see the way ahead and know how to walk in it; and so they have the boldness to tell others of God’s way. The more we harbor fear of people’s unbelieving, the more we shallbeg them to believe. But if we have sufficient spiritual weight, knowing clearly the way to go, we will have courage to speak and people will also dare to believe the full gospel. The reason they dare not believe us today is because we ourselves lack faith. But if we workers are clear, others will follow. Yet should we not be clear, we will tend to lower the word of God. Therefore, today’s problem lies wholly with us.