The History of the Church and the Local Churches, by Witness Lee


The Ministry Produced
by Revelation and Suffering

Now that we have seen something concerning the revelations Brother Nee received from the Lord and his sufferings, we want to see something concerning his ministry. Following the sufferings is the ministry. The ministry comes out of revelation plus suffering. Without revelation, a person cannot have any ministry because he has nothing with which to minister. But if a person has revelation without suffering, he still does not have a ministry. He may have a gift to teach, but there is a great difference between a gift and a ministry. The ministry is something higher, deeper, and more valuable. A gift in itself may be superficial, low, and cheap.

If we have the revelation, God will put us into the furnace, the oven, so that we can pass through the sufferings. Through the sufferings, we learn the real lessons in life. Then we will have the ministry. We all have to be deeply impressed with these two things—revelation and suffering. The ministry comes out of revelation and suffering.

The book of Acts and the Epistles of Paul show us his sufferings (Col. 1:24). We know by Paul’s writings that before he passed through the sufferings, he received revelations (2 Cor. 12:1, 7). He firstly received the revelations, but this does not mean that after receiving them he immediately went out to eloquently pass on his knowledge to people. If he had done this, it would not have been the ministry. What he shared would have been merely a teaching or an exercise of his gift, but not the ministry. We know, however, that the apostle Paul was not like this. After he received the revelations of the Lord, the Lord put him into the oven, into the fire, to be burned, to suffer. In his writings we see the sequence of the revelations first and then the sufferings. Then the ministry came out of these two things.

The revelation has to be burned into us. We may use the illustration of making a certain kind of porcelain vase. An artist may paint a picture on the vase, but the vase then needs to be burned. Then the picture is burned into the vase. After the picture has been burned into the vase, it can never be erased because it is one with the vase. Our receiving the revelation may be compared to the vase receiving the picture. But after this the revelation needs to be burned into us in order to make the revelation one with us. To receive revelation is one thing; to be burned with the revelation is another thing.

The revelation is burned into us by suffering. No real minister of God can avoid suffering. This is impossible. We all need it. How much life and how much reality of the riches of Christ we can minister depends upon two elements—how much revelation we have received plus how much we have suffered for what has been revealed to us. Suffering has to be added to revelation. Then we have a ministry.

In all the Epistles, we can see three things—the revelation, the suffering, and the ministry. Then there is the work. The work comes not out of the teaching or the gift, but out of the ministry. Paul said that he had received this ministry (2 Cor. 4:1) and that he was made a minister of the new covenant (2 Cor. 3:6). Today the word minister has been spoiled because of being misused in Christianity. We have to realize what a minister is. A minister is one who has a real ministry which was created with two things—revelation plus suffering.

(The History of the Church and the Local Churches, Chapter 8, by Witness Lee)