BUILDING UP THE ORGANIC BODY OF CHRIST
Needing Christ as the Head
For the building up of the organic Body of Christ, firstly there is the need of Christ as the Head. In order to have a body, you must first have a head; this head is Christ Himself. Christ being the Head is through His overcoming, which is His death and resurrection. He defeated the enemy on the cross and through death destroyed the Devil who has the power of death. Moreover, He came out of Hades by overcoming death, and then He ascended to the heavens. Through the victory of His death and resurrection, as well as His ascension and exaltation, He captured the captives and perfected the gifted ones. Originally, we were those chosen by God before the foundation of the world; however, due to the fall, Satan had captured us through sin and put us into death. But God has not forsaken us; He Himself became flesh, passed through death, resurrection, and ascension to deal with our sins, to destroy Satan, to abolish death, and to capture us from the hands of Satan that we may sit together with Him in the heavens. It was in this kind of setting that we were redeemed, regenerated, and received the life of God and the Holy Spirit. Here we are being transformed and are growing; thus, some become the gifted persons. Peter, Paul, and the many apostles, prophets, evangelists, and shepherds and teachers, were all this kind of persons.
Following this, Christ gave these gifted ones to His Body. This was so not only during the apostles’ age, but also throughout the generations. Among the thousands of believers, the Lord has perfected many gifted persons: some became apostles, some became prophets, some became evangelists, and some became shepherds and teachers. These the Lord gives to the church for the building up of the Body of Christ.
Needing the Gifted Ones
These gifted ones, the apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers, are perfected by the Head, Christ; these are needed by the Body. Their work is not to build up the church directly, but to perfect the saints so that they can also do the work of ministry, to build up the Body of Christ. Although the direction of the work of these four groups of people is different, their goal is the same, that is, the building up of the Body of Christ, yet not directly, but through the perfecting of the saints. The old way in the tradition of Christianity is to have a pastor do the preaching and a sanctified class of people do the holy work; the church is built by a clerical class, while the thousands of congregational members are not the builders. However, the new way ordained by God is carried out by a few gifted members who do not build up the church directly, but perfect every saint to do their work, which is the work of ministry, the building up of the Body of Christ.
What we have to do in the new way is to perfect the saints. The former old way only required the brothers and sisters to come to the meetings and listen to messages. As a result, decades have passed and not many have been perfected. It is as if we were conducting spiritual education for the last few decades, yet today not many have graduated, and not many teachers have been produced, so that it is difficult for us to increase and spread. This adequately proves that our way had problems. Therefore, we have to change to take the new way to perfect the saints.
Although the work of all the gifted ones may differ, they are all for the perfecting of the saints. For example, to be an apostle implies primarily three things: 1) pioneering to preach the gospel and bring people to the Lord; 2) establishing churches; 3) setting doctrinal principles and expounding the truths. The apostles are those who not only can do these things, but who also perfect others to do what they do. The prophets are also like this. They not only speak for God, and speak forth God, but also perfect others to be prophets. We also have the need of the evangelists among us today to lead the brothers and sisters in how to preach the gospel by knocking on doors, and to seek out the sons of peace among the wolves. All this requires practice, so even the more, they need to do the work of perfecting. There are also shepherds and teachers who are those taking care of people, shepherding people, and teaching people. Similarly, they need to go to perfect others to cause more and more saints to be able to do these things.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, the new way is a way which allows the gifted ones in the church to perfect all the saints. First, they perfect each one of the saints to be able to preach the gospel and to bring people to the Lord. Following that, they set up meetings in the new believers’ homes and lead them to testify for the Lord, to read the Lord’s Word, and even to speak for the Lord. Then they learn to care for one another, to feed one another, and to function organically. If we would learn humbly and practice faithfully according to this way revealed in the Bible, with all of the gifted ones—the apostles, prophets, evangelists, and shepherds and teachers—going to lead every believer to do these four things and to perfect them to do these things, then among the saints there will be an abundance of those who are apostles, prophets, evangelists, and shepherds and teachers. What a blessing the church will receive.
Needing the Perfected Members
For the sake of building up the organic body of Christ, all the perfected saints need to hold the truth in love, that is, to hold to the real things such as God, Christ, the Spirit, life, and the church, so that we can grow up into the Head, Christ. Then, out of the Head we will have something real which is for the building up of His Body. Then through every joint of the rich supply and through the operation of the measure of each one part, the whole Body can be joined and knit together to cause the growth and increase of the Body of Christ so that she builds herself up in love. When every member is thus perfected, growing in life, functioning organically, and being built up into a Body in the organic union, the Lord will have an organic Body in our midst to be His full expression. What a glorious and blessed situation that will be. I hope that all the brothers and sisters can see this vision clearly and pray for this that they themselves may become blessed persons on this God-ordained way, manifest the organic functions, and be built up in the organic Body of Christ.
When you have this desire, you will need to get into many things and learn in each matter. Learn how to preach the gospel, learn how to speak for the Lord, learn how to care for people, and also learn how to perfect others to do these things. You also need to learn to be apostles pioneering to establish churches and expounding the truths. Thus, every saved person among us, and whoever walks in this God-ordained way, will be functioning and will know how to preach the gospel, speak for the Lord, shepherd, and perfect others. As a result of this, the church will greatly expand, and the Lord will have a built up and organic Body. May we all see the goal of this new way accurately, endeavor wholeheartedly, learn seriously, overthrow the old way, and walk in this God-ordained way.
(Spoken by Witness Lee on April 20, 1988 in Taipei, Taiwan)
(Messages Given to the Working Saints, Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)