The Vital Groups, by Witness Lee


The constituents of the vital groups are the disciples of Christ (Matt. 5:1). In Matthew 28:19 the Lord Jesus said to His disciples, "Go therefore and disciple all the nations." The nations here are the Gentiles. To disciple the Gentiles is to constitute the Gentiles into the disciples of Christ. The Lord Jesus, in particular, discipled four people of two families: Peter and Andrew and James and John. He discipled them for about three and a half years. They followed the Lord and stayed with Him day and night, traveling with Him, eating with Him, and doing everything with Him. They were living with Him and were around Him all the time. They saw how this God-man behaved. They observed Him. He was a Jew, who no doubt bore a Jewish countenance. He had Jewish blood and Jewish flesh with the human life and nature. But He lived by another life in His human life. This other life is the divine life. Because He lived the divine life in His human life, His human life became mystical, a mystery. Out from His human life came something divine.

Whatever the Lord did on earth in those three and a half years was a sign, signifying something (John 2:11—note 2). Every miracle is a sign. The Lord’s feeding of the five thousand with five loaves and two fish was a miracle. The disciples must have been excited when they saw such a great thing, but afterward the Lord directed them to pick up all the fragments which were left over. That was also a sign (Matt. 14:20—note 1). The Lord was divine and mystical. He did and said everything as a sign.

In John 8 a sinful woman was brought to the Lord. Eventually, He said to her, "Has no one condemned you?" (v.10). "And she said, No one, Lord. And Jesus said, Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more" (v. 11). This was also a sign. The Lord Jesus was God expressed, yet He would not condemn a sinner. Is this not something mystical? He was a divine and mystical person living in the divine and mystical realm, doing everything in a divine and mystical way. We should be such persons. If we are working in an office, those around us should have the feeling that there is something extraordinary about us. This extraordinary thing is divine and mystical. We all need to be discipled by the Lord to be divine and mystical persons.

By the Lord’s mercy, I was able to write Hymns, #203 because of the Lord’s discipling. Stanza 4 of this hymn says:

We’re Thy total reproduction, Thy dear Body and Thy Bride, Thine expression and Thy fullness, For Thee ever to abide. We are Thy continuation, Thy life-increase and Thy spread, Thy full growth and Thy rich surplus, One with Thee, our glorious Head.

I wrote this hymn in my sixties, after I had been discipled by the Lord for about forty years.

The disciples who followed the Lord for three and a half years saw what He did, how He behaved, and how He spoke. That discipled them. They saw Christ’s human living, His death on the cross for six hours, and they saw Him in resurrection. Christ used these three processes—His human living, His all-inclusive, all-terminating, life-releasing, and new-man-creating death, and His life-dispensing resurrection—to disciple His followers.

In resurrection He became the life-giving Spirit and entered into them. He breathed Himself into them, saying, "Receive the Holy Spirit" (John 20:22). In Genesis 2 God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into man the breath of life (v. 7). This caused man to become living, that is, a living person. On the day of His resurrection Christ breathed Himself into His disciples and they also became living. They were made alive with the divine life. The Spirit of life and of reality who was breathed into them would guide them into all the reality of what they had observed of the Lord when they were with Him for three and a half years. I was in the recovery observing how Brother Watchman Nee acted for eighteen years. All that I observed in him became things discipling me.

A. Christ’s Human Living

The followers of Christ were discipled through Christ’s human living on the earth, as the model of a God-man—living God by denying Himself in humanity (John 5:19, 30), revolutionizing their concept concerning man (Phil. 3:10; 1:21a). The concept of the disciples was revolutionized by what they saw of the Lord Jesus living God by denying Himself in His humanity.

(The Vital Groups, Chapter 2, by Witness Lee)