LIFE AND GROWTH IN LIFE IN FIRST CORINTHIANS
Why do I say that the growth in life is the primary thing in the practicality of the church life? I will refer you to 1 Corinthians. People misuse this book very much. The main thing the Brethren picked up from 1 Corinthians was the doctrines. To pick up only the doctrines is an inadequate application of the book of 1 Corinthians. The main thing the Pentecostal people picked up from 1 Corinthians was the gifts. This is also a misuse of 1 Corinthians.
Paul said, “I gave you milk to drink” (1 Cor. 3:2). Is this teaching? Is this gifts? He also said in 1 Corinthians 13:1, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, [the expression of life], I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal [something that gives sound, but is without life].” Paul said further that when he came to Corinth, he did not come with the enticing words of men’s wisdom, eloquent teaching, but with the demonstration of the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:4). Then in chapter fourteen of 1 Corinthians he said that when he comes to them again, if he comes speaking in tongues, what shall he profit them (v. 6). Also, he said that he would rather speak five clear words than ten thousand words in a tongue (v. 19). These verses show us clearly that Paul did not appreciate the teachings or the gifts very much.
However, Paul did appreciate life. In 1 Corinthians after Paul said, “I gave you milk to drink,” he said, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God made to grow” (3:6). He also declared that the last Adam became a life-giving Spirit (15:45) and that he who is joined unto the Lord is one spirit (6:17). These verses relate altogether to the matter of life and growth in life. They clearly reveal that the primary practice in the local church is the feeding, the planting, the watering, and the growing with the realization that today Christ is not only a giver of gifts, but a life-giving Spirit. Life is the real practicality. Teachings are for this and even the gifts are for this. But today most Christians have divorced all the teachings and gifts from life. They care only for teachings or gifts, but not life. The normal, proper thing is that we need all the teachings and also the gifts, but we need them for the growth in life.
LIFE AND GROWTH IN LIFE FOR OUR PRACTICE
Life and growth in life are not our Christian faith, but they are necessities in our practice. If we pay our attention only to teachings and gifts, we are still a local church, but I assure you, either we will be a dead one or a dissenting one. First, we will become dissenting among ourselves, and then we will have a split. We will be deadened, and then we will have a division. Only life and growth in life can keep us alive and keep us in oneness all the time.
When we all turn to our spirit, realizing the need for life and the growth in life and calling on the name of the Lord, love, the uniting power, is there. All the ingredients and elements of Christ will be sweet and nourishing to us. We all will grow together, and none will care to dispute over doctrines or impose gifts on others. This is the way for the practice of the church life.
LIFE AND GROWTH IN LIFE IN EPHESIANS
Paul, in the book of Ephesians, said, “Until we all arrive at…a full-grown man” (4:13)—not a highly-educated man, but a full-grown man. Then Paul continued, “That we may be no longer babes…but…may grow up into Him in all things” (4:14-15). This book also reveals that life and the growth in life is all we need. The teachings and gifts are at best the means for ministering the nourishing element to people, but they are not the nourishing element itself. For cooking there are certain utensils, but we do not serve people the utensils. We serve the nourishing element. Gifts and teachings have their place, but the nourishing elements are Christ, the Spirit, and the living Word.
If we practice this, we all will grow until we arrive at maturity, at a full-grown man, and no one among us will still be a babe. We will grow up into Him in all things. Even as Ephesians 2:21 says, we will all grow into a temple, into a real building. This is not accomplished by teaching, or by the exercise of gifts, but altogether by life and the growth in life.
LIFE AND GROWTH IN LIFE IN 1 PETER
Peter says that as newborn babes we all have to desire the milk of the Word that we may grow (1 Pet. 2:2). We will grow by the milk of the Word and then we will become living stones being built up a spiritual house (1 Pet. 2:5).
A FINAL WORD
I hope that we all will realize that in the normal church life, the proper practice is to pay our full attention to the matter of life and the growth in life. Otherwise, we may be a genuine local church; yet, we will be a dead one full of problems. May the Lord be merciful to us. We stand on our Christian faith, but we practice life and the growth in life. This is the first item of the practicality in the local church.
(The Speciality, Generality, and Practicality of the Church Life, Chapter 5, by Witness Lee)