THE FISHING MINISTRY, THE BUILDING MINISTRY, AND THE MENDING MINISTRY
According to the New Testament record, there were three prominent and leading apostles: Peter, Paul, and John. With all of these apostles, we can see the Lord’s heart’s desire to have the one new man. Peter played a prominent part in the initial record of the New Testament. In the Epistles, the Apostle Paul occupies a very prominent position. John’s writings are the conclusion and finalization of the New Testament. We can say that the New Testament began with Peter, was somewhat completed with Paul, and was fully touched by the Apostle John.
When Peter was called by the Lord, he and Andrew were “casting a net into the sea” (Matt. 4:18). They were made fishers of men (v. 19). Eventually, Peter became the first great fisher for the establishment of the kingdom of the heavens on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:37-42; 4:4). Peter’s ministry may be considered as a fishing ministry, the ministry that brings in the material. On the day of Pentecost, the Lord used Peter to bring in many Jewish believers, and he was also used by the Lord to bring in the first group of Gentile believers in the house of Cornelius (Acts 10:44-46). According to the record of the New Testament, Peter caught the fish, gathered the materials, for the building up of the church. Paul was a tentmaker (Acts 18:3). His trade was a building trade, and his ministry was a building ministry. When John was called by the Lord, he and James were mending their nets in the boat (Matt. 4:21). Eventually, John became a real mender, mending the breakages in the church by his ministry of life. (See his three Epistles and Revelation 2 and 3.) Thus, in the New Testament we see the fishing ministry, the building ministry, and the mending ministry. With all three of these leading ministries, the light was shining strongly on the new man.
Peter and the One New Man
God used Peter to bring in many Jewish believers on the day of Pentecost. Under the Lord’s sovereignty, many of them were from different cultures and spoke different languages (Acts 2:8-11). This implied something of God’s desire to gather together different peoples with different languages into one. After the day of Pentecost, Peter probably still held on to the concept that only the Jews as God’s chosen people could be saved for the church. In Acts 10 while Peter was keeping his hour of prayer, he received a vision concerning God’s plan and move. When Peter was praying, he was, no doubt, in the spirit. When he was in the spirit, he saw a vision. Acts tells us that “a trance came upon him” (10:10). A trance refers to a state in which a man passes out of himself and from which he comes to himself (12:11), as in a dream, but without sleep. In this trance, Peter saw a vessel like a great sheet descending onto the earth, in which were all manner of unclean animals.
The Word tells us that when Peter was praying “he became very hungry and desired to eat” (10:10). Then the trance came upon him and a voice said to him, “Rise up, Peter, slay and eat!” (v. 13). Peter’s response was, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything common and unclean” (v. 14). His response indicated that he went back to his religious mentality. In the spirit while he was praying, a trance came upon him and he saw a wonderful vision. But when he heard the voice, he immediately returned to his Jewish, religious mentality.
When we read this story concerning Peter in Acts 10, we need to apply it to ourselves. In listening to a message or in our prayer we may see the vision of the new man. Then the Lord will come to us and tell us to rise, kill, and eat. For us to rise, kill, and eat means to take in what we do not like, digesting and assimilating it into our being. When we eat something, what we eat becomes us. There is a saying that says, “We are what we eat.” The four-footed animals, reptiles, and birds in the great sheet that Peter saw symbolized men of all kinds. To eat, in this sign, is to associate with people (10:28), to have fellowship with the Gentiles. For a Jew to associate with Gentiles was like eating unclean things. To eat something is to take that thing into us and make it one with us. Peter’s refusing to eat the unclean things contained in the great vessel that descended from the heavens is a portrait of the Jews’ unwillingness to take in the Gentiles and to be one with them. Any Jew who would go to the Gentiles and become one with them would be like a person who eats unclean things.
We need to apply this vision to ourselves. The Japanese brothers need to take in the Chinese brothers and be one with them. The Chinese brothers also need to take in the Japanese brothers and be one with them. Both the Japanese brothers and the Chinese brothers need to rise, kill, and eat. Some of us may respond the way Peter did and tell the Lord that we would not eat anything unclean. In your prayer and in listening to a message you may say, “Hallelujah for the one new man!” But in your practice you may not want to take in something that is unclean to you.
Peter received an exceedingly clear vision from the heavens concerning fellowship with the Gentiles, and he took the lead to practice it in Acts 10. But in Galatians 2 Peter shrunk back from eating with the Gentile believers out of fear of those of the circumcision. In order to be faithful to the truth of the gospel, Paul rebuked Peter to his face (Gal. 2:11-14). We have to believe that, at least to some extent, Peter was renewed in the spirit of his mind. In Galatians 2 Paul tells us that Peter was eating with the Gentiles (v. 12). This was altogether against the Jewish ordinance. Although Peter was renewed, he was afraid of being criticized by those of the circumcision. As a result, he pretended that he would not eat with the Gentiles.
(The One New Man, Chapter 7, by Witness Lee)