COMPLETING THE WORK OF INTERPRETING THE NEW TESTAMENT
By 1973 and 1974 I began to have the sense that there was still a lack in putting out the intrinsic truths in the Lord’s recovery. Brother Nee and I had co-labored together for eighteen years. I knew the riches in him and his heart’s desire very well. He had released many messages; however, the majority of them had not been put into print. As a result, we have suffered a great loss. Today the number of writings by Brother Nee remaining among us is quite limited. Learning a lesson from this failure in the past, I felt that we could not go on in the way we were taking; otherwise, the truths that would remain among us would definitely be inadequate.
Hence, in accordance with the development of the work of the Lord’s recovery in America, we began in 1974 to have large-scale life-study trainings twice a year, once in the winter and once in the summer. The number attending the training was always between three to four thousand; and the duration of the training was ten days. In this way, thirty messages were released each time. Our goal was to finish the study of the entire New Testament. Thank the Lord that He has truly blessed this matter, having completed this very thing.
Preparation for the trainings was not easy. Since there was one such training every six months, generally I needed two and a half to three months, a period of almost one hundred days, to write the footnotes for the New Testament. Under my leadership, several brothers who were capable in English and quite good in Greek re-translated the New Testament text. Following that, I revised it and made decisions regarding the truth. We called this new translation of the English New Testament the Recovery Version. Then based upon this new translation, I finished writing the footnotes. The preparation work included not only the revision of the scriptural text and the writing of the footnotes but also the writing of the outlines for the training messages. Then after the ten-day training, what I had spoken in the training, which had been videotaped and tape-recorded live, was put into print.
My burden in fellowshipping these few matters is so that you all may know what we went through in the past years. Now we all know that the twenty-seven books of the New Testament not only have a new translation of the text but also have footnotes and references, plus twelve to thirteen hundred accompanying messages. For the completion of this work of interpreting the entire New Testament, we truly rejoice. This has been an important work in the Lord’s recovery.
REASONS FOR PROMOTING THE CHANGE OF SYSTEM
The Lord’s recovery among us began in the Far East, with mainland China as the first cradle and Taiwan as the second. In Taiwan the Lord blessed His recovery greatly so that within a few years there was a hundredfold harvest, from four or five hundred people to forty or fifty thousand people. Today on the island of Taiwan, the number of people baptized has probably exceeded 100,000. Nonetheless, we have observed that in the last decade or so there has not been much expansion or advancement. Hence, we have already begun to pay attention to this matter and have also fellowshipped with the co-workers in Taiwan that we should take heed to improve the work in Taiwan or else we will go backward. In our constant observation, although our condition truly has been worrisome, we have been following the leading of the Lord according to His timetable. At the completion of my writing of the footnotes for the entire New Testament, I put down my pen and returned to Taiwan.
After my return, I observed all kinds of situations and realized the need to have some thorough fellowship with you all. First, with the completion of the work on the entire New Testament, we can say that the truths among us truly are abundantly rich; moreover, they have all been published as books. Those who have read them can witness to the riches. Second, I hope that we would all realize that we, especially those in the Far East, have not been using the truths very much. Rather, it has been the outside Christian organizations that have been using our publications to a great degree. According to the latest estimation of the Taiwan Gospel Bookroom, the volume of sales to outside Christian organizations was at least one-third of the total. Furthermore, their favorite purchases are publications that expound the Bible, such as the life-studies and the Recovery Version of the New Testament. This proves that they have been using the riches; in contrast, our own usage has not been so thorough.
Third, the Lord’s recovery among us began with Brother Nee. He truly had a clear vision. In his book The Normal Christian Church Life, his word on home meetings is very clear (Collected Works of Watchman Nee, Vol. 30, pp. 167-171). Unfortunately, even though he clearly presented these points to us early on, we have never seriously practiced them.
Fourth, our meetings everywhere have come to a standstill. In Taipei there has even been a tendency to regress. The Lord began His work in Taiwan in 1949 with one meeting hall. During the next five years the number of saints grew to such an extent that there was the need for more and more meeting halls. As the number of saints grew, small groups for shepherding were formed in each meeting hall. In the first five years, these groups were a great help to the increase of the church, resulting in the addition of a good number of people. Furthermore, a good number of the saints that were added, if not all, remained.
However, in the past ten or so years, these small groups gradually disappeared although we still had the bigger home meetings. In 1975 and 1976 Taipei had almost one hundred such meetings, of which at least seventy or eighty participated in the breaking of bread. As time passed, the home meetings were gradually combined and moved into the meeting halls. In other words, we have been gradually slipping away from the light and practice that the Lord had given us in the recovery. Since the degree of decline was very small, not precipitous, we did not even notice that we were going downhill. There is an ancient saying: “A slight error in the beginning results in a big mistake in the end.” Even though we had gone off just a little, as time passed that little mistake became tremendous.
By 1984 the situation of the churches in Taiwan in general was one of everyone attending large meetings on the Lord’s Day with one speaking and all the rest listening. In short, the regular large meetings were no different from the so-called worship services in degraded Christianity. This situation forced me to return anew to the New Testament, to once more study carefully all the verses related to Christian meeting from Matthew to Revelation. The light within me that the situation in Christianity was altogether different from the genuine Christian meetings portrayed in the Bible became even clearer; Christians have altogether fallen into the custom of “going to church.” Among us, at least seventy percent of the saints, if not one hundred percent, have just been “going to church.” This is the reason why we have not been able to spread or increase.
In October 1984 I returned to Taipei to hold a special conference for all of Taiwan, speaking on the increase of Christ. The Lord showed us that the reason the church could not spread or increase was due to several serious errors. One of these errors was that of holding large meetings so people could “go to church.” If the church life is focused on the large meetings for so-called worship services, it will be difficult to continue expanding. These kinds of large meetings for worship services inhibit the truth from entering into the saints, thus making it hard for the saints to grow in life, to be built up together into the Body, and even more to function. If these matters are difficult, then bringing others in as the increase, retaining them, and holding them will be even more difficult. From that time on, this light among us has become very clear.
(Speaking for God, Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)