The Building Work of God, by Witness Lee

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One of the crucial truths in the Scriptures is the building of the church. In the New Testament building is a very important word. Unfortunately, in many instances in the Chinese translation of the Bible, the word build is rendered as edify. We should know that there is a great difference between edification and building. We may say that building includes edification, but edification may not be building. Let us use a pile of stones as an illustration. Before we can use them to build a house, we have to process them one by one. We have to knock off all the unnecessary corners and make the uneven spots smooth. Only when this is done can they be built together. This processing work on the stones is edification. Therefore, edification is for building and building includes edification.

However, there is a kind of edification that involves only edification. For instance, if a craftsman takes a rough piece of jade and works on it, carving it into a beautiful little monkey or a little horse for people to admire, this is mere edification, not building. I am afraid that for years many brothers and sisters have received only edification and not building. I am also afraid that for all these years the co-workers in all the localities have been just like craftsmen carving jade. All they have produced are some beautiful brothers and sisters for people to admire. One of these co-workers might say, “Oh, before I came to work here, these brothers and sisters did not read the Bible. They did not have spiritual fellowship with God, and even the more they did not know what it meant to be dealt with. They all had big tempers and a lot of other problems. But after being edified by me for a period of time, they are now reading the Bible, they know how to fellowship with the Lord, and they are learning to be dealt with. Oh, look at their condition now. How beautiful they are! How worthy to be praised and admired!” We must remember, however, that merely to make someone beautiful through edification does not necessarily make him useful. Little sculptured monkeys and horses surely look beautiful and are admirable, but they are altogether useless for building a house.

Once when I was in a certain place, the brothers there spoke highly about two persons among them, saying that these two persons loved the Lord so much and were very spiritual. Initially I was not clear about their real situation since that was my first time there. After observing them a little bit during the few days that I stayed there, I felt that the condition of that brother and that sister was genuinely good and admirable. But at the same time I also felt that they were not built into the church. When you contacted them, you had the sense that they were isolated, exceptional, and that they had the flavor of being above everybody else. They loved the brothers and sisters, but they were not connected to any of them. They lived alone before God and had very little fellowship with others. They thought that this was to follow the Lord in loneliness. They even felt that their situation was just like the situation of the Lord Jesus when He was in the garden of Gethsemane and no one was able to watch with Him in prayer. From this, you can see that the spiritual condition of these two saints was questionable. Seemingly they were very spiritual and very beautiful, but actually they were useless in the church. Later, I said to the brothers in a humorous way, “Indeed, you have two very beautiful saints here. I feel, however, that it is a mistake for them to be here. They should be sent to the museum for people to appreciate.”

Brothers and sisters, we need to see that joining ourselves only to the Lord is not enough. That kind of joining is off-center and unbalanced. We also need to be joined to our brothers and sisters. Regardless of how spiritual you may be, you still need to coordinate together with the brothers and sisters in your locality. You need to pray with the weak ones and fellowship with the young ones. Moreover, you need to speak the same things that they speak. You need to approach and support even those who have fallen or backslidden. Only when you are joined to others can you really be spiritual, strong, and useful.

In a local church, which is part of the building of God, we are not concerned that the stones are uncomely but that they are unwilling to be built together. No matter how beautiful a stone is, it is useless unless it has been built. The local churches need the building. When a stone is built into a house, there is a stone pressing it from above, a stone supporting it from below, stones crowding it on two sides, and a stone connected to it from behind and attached to it in the front. In other words, there are stones above it, below it, and all around it—on the left, on the right, in front, and in back. These stones may not be so beautiful, but they are firmly joined together to become an inhabitable building. These stones would be worthless if they were sent to a museum, but when they are placed in the house, every one of them is indispensable and useful.

(The Building Work of God, Chapter 5, by Witness Lee)