LEARNING TO EXERCISE THE SPIRIT AND TO WALK ACCORDING TO THE SPIRIT
Man is always confused in his perception of spiritual things. There is always the lack of power of discernment. Truth is not received. On the contrary, rumors are taken to be true. The reason for this is that there is a shortage in the knowledge of the spirit. Since 1980 the Lord has shown us God’s New Testament economy, which is the Triune God dispensing Himself into the three parts of the believers. We have repeated this point again and again and have even published many messages. However, not only are these messages not spoken of in Christianity, but even among us not many are speaking them. Many times, what spread fastest are the rumors. Some are even saying that every local church is a Body. We know that as far as congregations are concerned, there can be thousands upon thousands of them. But as far as the Body is concerned, Christ has only one Body. In the body there is nothing autonomous or federated. In the body there is only the circulation of the blood. One can never divide the body.
As a matter of fact, the apostles never abandoned the churches after they established the elders. Paul not only wrote letters to the churches and visited them, but he also stayed in Ephesus for three years. According to the record in Acts 20, during Paul’s last journey to visit Jerusalem, in the midst of his busy schedule, he sent men to Ephesus to invite the elders; he spoke to them, telling them that from the first day that he set foot in Asia he taught them publicly and from house to house (vv. 18-20). Within Paul’s charge there were also exhortations and warnings. He did this not only to the church in Ephesus but to the church in Corinth as well. Actually, every letter of Paul’s was written to churches where elders were already established.
After Paul appointed elders in every place, even though he might not have been able to visit those places personally, he wrote letters to fellowship with them. He said to the church in Corinth, “And the remaining matters I will set in order when I come” (1 Cor. 11:34). If the apostles took their hands off the churches after the elders were appointed, to whom then were all the Epistles in the New Testament written? Paul said that “the anxiety for all the churches” was pressed upon him daily (2 Cor. 11:28). Some among us have misapplied the words of Brother Watchman Nee in his book The Normal Christian Church Life, claiming that the apostles should not touch anything in a local church after they have appointed the elders. Those saying these kinds of things have not read Brother Nee’s book Church Affairs written ten years later. In that book, Brother Nee said that after the apostles have appointed the elders, they still have to stay there to teach and to lead the elders, showing them how things should be done. If we do not check with the Bible and do not verify the facts, we will easily take in all kinds of hearsay.
Paul told the Ephesian believers to be no longer babes tossed by waves and carried about by every wind of teaching in the sleight of men. This teaching is based on man’s craftiness with a view to a system of error. This is a crafty work (Eph. 4:14). This morning I want you to know that the reason Christianity is divided into so many denominations is because no one is calm before the Lord in their spirit. The spirit is most noble and transcends everything. It is not affected by human emotions. On the contrary, it influences our emotion, our love, and our natural inclinations. If you are not willing to use your spirit and would not live in the spirit but would only walk according to the preference of the soul, you will surely be deceived. On the other hand, if you are not in the emotion or in the natural preference but are walking according to your spirit, you will be saved from deception. You young ones have just come into the Lord’s recovery. There is a long way ahead of you. I hope that you would learn to use your spirit right from the beginning.
You are going down to the villages for the gospel spread in January of next year. Each team will have twenty people working for two weeks in a place. After that, two will stay behind to care for the newly baptized ones. Suppose the leading brothers make an arrangement that is not that proper. For the first two weeks you may serve grudgingly. But after two months, the discontent may grow stronger and stronger within you. The wall of anger may become higher than the Great Wall of China. What should you do then? It is not easy to turn to the spirit then. If someone were to say to you that you should not be suppressed by others, that you should be autonomous, and that you should not come under the restriction of coordination, the words will become very appealing to you and will suit your appetite very well. You may think, “Let us all be autonomous!”
In the Bible there is a case of co-workers being divided in their ways. Acts 9 shows us that after Paul was saved, no one dared to receive him (v. 26). It was Barnabas that sought him out and brought him to Antioch (Acts 11:25-26). They met together in the church there for a full year. In chapter fourteen we see Barnabas and Paul appointing elders in Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch and strengthening the disciples there. By chapter fifteen the two of them went to Jerusalem to solve the problem of circumcision. Later they intended to visit the brothers and to see how they were doing. Barnabas was determined to bring along Mark his cousin; but Paul considered it unsuitable to take Mark along because Mark deserted them in Pamphylia and did not co-work with them any longer. A great dissension arose between Barnabas and Paul, so much so that the two parted their ways. From that time on, Acts no longer recorded the name of Barnabas. Never be too confident that you have been trained for four terms and that there are no more problems. Actually, Barnabas was a good brother. When others were reluctant to receive Paul, he sought Paul out. He had also sold his field and brought the sum of money and placed it at the feet of the apostles (Acts 4:37). Acts 14 calls Paul and Barnabas the apostles (v. 14). Even such a good brother could deviate from the Lord’s way if he did not live in the spirit.
(Messages in Preparation for the Spread of the Gospel, Chapter 4, by Witness Lee)