General Sketch of the New Testament in the Light of Christ and the Church, A - Part 2: Romans through Philemon, by Witness Lee


Second Timothy 2:2 says, “And the things which you have heard from me through many witnesses, these commit to faithful men, who will be competent to teach others also.” Timothy learned many things from Paul and exercised them accordingly. Now he was charged by Paul to commit all that he had learned to others, who in turn would be competent to teach others. This is the training of the teachers, as in a teachers’ college, which requires exercise, practice, and learning. As a church grows and the number increases, there is the need of practical instruction. This practical instruction cannot be put into practice in a large congregation. To a large congregation we can only give lectures and messages. In order to put all these things into practice, there is the need of smaller groups of ten or twenty to come together with one or two leading ones who know how to train the saints and bring them into the practice.

According to the instruction of the apostle Paul, Timothy cared for the work of training teachers, faithful men who were competent to teach others also. Timothy first learned from the apostle Paul, and then what he heard, he practiced. Following this, he passed it on to others. When we teach others, we learn more. Much of what I have learned came from teaching others. The principle is that wherever we minister, we should produce disciples. We should not minister all the time and yet not raise up others who can minister. After we minister for a while in a certain place, some who are competent to teach others should be produced by our ministry.

The main thought of this section of the Epistles is that we need instruction in order to know how to conduct ourselves in the church. To do so, there is the need of an appointment or arrangement for the elders, deacons, and deaconesses. There is also the need to exercise unto godliness. All spiritual matters require a certain amount of exercise; even in choosing a hymn, we need to exercise. Then we also need to learn. We should not say that because we have the Holy Spirit within us, we can do everything. We also need to teach others, and if possible, we should try to have a small “teachers’ college” to train others to be teachers, because in the practice of the church there is the need to produce more useful persons. These matters—appointment, arrangement, exercise, learning, and teaching others to be teachers—are the main matters of instruction found in the four books from 1 Timothy to Philemon.

Here we cannot go into much detail concerning these matters, but we can receive the principles. The New Testament always gives us the principles, but it leaves us the room to seek the present guidance of the Lord according to the situation. There is no need to copy anything outwardly. While we have the principle, we need to pray and consider according to the situation, the present need, and the Lord’s leading. Even when we study something in class, we still need the practical application in the laboratory; then we will learn to carry it out in a better way.


Although these four books give us instructions for the practice of the church life, they still stress the inner life. There are a number of important points about the inner life in these books, because in his instructions Paul often refers to life. The matters that we put into practice must be practiced in life. We dare not set up a seminary because that is merely a place to practice things for the sake of practice. Instead of a seminary we need a home. A seminary is based on knowledge, while the basic matter in a home is the life of the family. The practice of the church life must be based on life; it cannot be practiced without life. Although these books do not give us definitions concerning life, they give us many points relating to the inner life.

Having a Good Conscience and a Pure Heart

In these books, the apostle very much stresses a good conscience. According to the context of 1 Timothy 1:5, the practice of the church is a matter not of mere teachings but of love, which issues from a good conscience. In verse 19 Paul says, “Holding faith and a good conscience, concerning which some, thrusting these away, have become shipwrecked regarding the faith.” Second Timothy 1:3 says, “I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers in a pure conscience.” This is not only a good conscience but a pure conscience. When we practice the church life, we need both a good conscience and a pure conscience. Furthermore, 1 Timothy 4:2 says, “By means of the hypocrisy of men who speak lies, of men who are branded in their own conscience as with a hot iron.” These persons make their conscience to have no feeling; the sense, the consciousness, of their conscience has been destroyed. By reading all these verses, we can realize how much we need a good, pure, and sensitive conscience for the practice of the church life. First Timothy 1:5 also tells us that we need “love out of a pure heart.” The heart as well as the conscience must be pure.

(General Sketch of the New Testament in the Light of Christ and the Church, A - Part 2: Romans through Philemon, Chapter 14, by Witness Lee)