BEGINNING AND ENDING
Let us consider how these three lines begin and end. What was Peter doing when God called him? He was casting a net into the sea with his brother Andrew. What about John? He was mending a net on a ship. It is quite marvelous that God had properly arranged their works when they were called. Peter was casting a net when he was called; later he did the work of casting a net. His work was to charge forward to the front of the battlefield. He started the work with the Jews. He was also the first to preach to the Gentiles. He cast a net and caught many Jews. He cast another net and caught many Gentiles. But later the net (in man’s view) was broken, and the kingdom was forsaken by the people. Fish were leaking out. Therefore, God called John to mend the net and recover it back to the original new condition.
Let us see what God appointed for Paul when he was called. When Paul was about to persecute the believers, God shined a light on him on his way to Damascus. Paul’s first words were, "What shall I do?" (Acts 22:10). His work always involved "what to do." He was not like Peter, who in one day led three thousand or five thousand people to believe in God. He saved only a few or, at the most, a few dozen because his purpose was not to draw people in but to perfect people. The subject of his work was how-to: how to do things right, how to build a house, how to arrange its contents, how to trim the cloth. These were his works. His occupation was tent-making. A tent is a place for a man to dwell. Spiritually speaking, Paul was also a tent-maker. Unlike Peter, who only had a piece of cloth, Paul’s cloth became a tent.
But what was men’s attitude toward the works of these three persons? It was not good at all! It was very bad! We all will sigh. At the end of their days, men rejected their testimony. Second Peter shows us this matter clearly. In chapter two, the false prophets came. They came especially to do a counterfeit work. Therefore, Peter described them as dogs and sows; they made things worse and caused God’s kingdom to be concealed. In chapter three, the mockers came. They despised what Peter preached, treating it as a loathsome and shameful thing! The testimony of the kingdom was completely rejected. Do you know why Peter wrote his second Epistle? It was written because the first Epistle had been rejected and thrown away. This is why he had to write his second Epistle. He described in his second Epistle the final condition of his lifetime testimony. It exposed and proclaimed all of men’s rejection. The situation was bad in Peter’s time. How much worse has it become in the twentieth century! There is hardly anyone who does not oppose the testimony of the kingdom when they hear about it. There is hardly anyone who does not say that we are foolish. No wonder so many people promote the so-called ideal kingdom; no wonder the counterfeit truth is everywhere. Oh, they were there in Peter’s days! It is not surprising or uncommon that they are here today.
Not only did Peter’s testimony end this way; Paul’s testimony ended the same way. The last Epistle written by him was 2 Timothy. Three to five years after writing it, he died. We can see from this Epistle the condition that existed at the end of his life. He said, "All who are in Asia turned away from me" (2 Tim. 1:15). It was too difficult to manifest the Lord; there were too many restrictions, and it was indeed unbearable. Brothers and sisters, at the time of Paul’s and Peter’s death, the church was fully degraded in its outward form. It had fallen into the condition described in Revelation 2 and 3. How much worse is the situation today! The Epistle to the Philippians was written by Paul when he was old. What did he say? He said that everyone was after their own things (Phil. 2:21). Men put Paul’s testimony aside. They considered their own things to be too important. As a result, they gave up the Lord. If a person takes care of himself, he cannot take care of the Lord. Since he does not have enough time to take care of his own business, he has even less time to take care of the Lord’s business. There is nothing else he can do except to ignore the Lord’s business! Paul’s testimony was rejected and forsaken. Therefore, his last words were to exhort the saints to be watchful and be constantly aware of the intrusion of heresies. Paul’s testimony ended this way.
It seems that the testimonies had completely failed in their outward appearance. So the Lord needed to use John. The Lord needed him to take care of the inner works. Consider the Gospel of John. It is not like Matthew’s which emphasized doctrines, or like Luke’s which stressed morality, or like Mark’s which recorded history. John only wrote about the relationship between God and us, a relationship between father and sons. He did not begin his Gospel with Adam or Abraham but with Jesus Christ from the beginning, from the very first beginning. He began this way because outward appearances had failed and neither Adam nor Abraham could turn the situation back. What was needed was that which was from the beginning. Who can shake the beginning? No one can. The beginning can never be shaken. Whatever comes from God can never be shaken. The Gospel of John is on the Word from the beginning, which was expressed in order to lead us back to the condition of the beginning. What was there in the beginning? There was life, light, and love. None of these things can be shaken. Rather, they are the inward realities. John never talked about outward things such as husbands and wives, masters and servants, meetings, and so forth. He never mentioned these things. What he mentioned was just the things on God’s side which are absolutely inward. If we do not see this difference, we will not see anything. We still need to beseech God earnestly until we see the difference.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 19: Notes on Scriptural Messages (3), Chapter 3, by Watchman Nee)