Elders' Training, Book 09: The Eldership and the God-Ordained Way (1), by Witness Lee

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If we enjoy such a Christ, we will surely grow in life. In the previous chapter we saw that the growth in life issues in the development of the gifts. We also have to realize that according to 1 Corinthians 3, the growth in life first issues in the precious materials for the building up of the church (vv. 6-7, 12). For us to be transformed into gold, silver, and precious stones is not for individual spirituality. As the materials, we must be precious because we are for God’s building. The growth in life first issues in the precious materials for God’s building and then in the development of the gifts. To build any kind of building, first you need the materials. Then you need the skills to build it. The materials and the skills are the issues of the growth in life by our enjoyment of the all-inclusive, processed Christ, who is the embodiment of the Triune God, as the life-giving Spirit. The ultimate consummation of the enjoyment of Christ for the growth in life is the church built with the materials and by the skills.


In chapter thirteen Paul tells us that love is above prophesying. Verse 8 says that love will remain forever, but prophecies shall be done away with. In the first verse of chapter fourteen, Paul says, "Pursue love, and desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but rather that you may prophesy." In chapter thirteen Paul made love higher than all the gifts, but in chapter fourteen he made prophesying more desirable. We may say that Paul was promoting prophesying in chapter fourteen. In Philippians 3 Paul promoted one thing—Christ. Christ was promoted to the top by Paul in that chapter. He annulled and belittled everything else to the extent that everything other than Christ was dung (v. 8). In 1 Corinthians 14 Paul also promoted prophesying to the uttermost.

In verse 12 he says, "Since you are zealous of spirits, seek that you may excel to the building up of the church." The adjective "zealous" is actually the noun "zealots" in the Greek. What does Paul mean when he says the Corinthians were zealots of spirits? Galatians 3:14 says that the promised Spirit is the very blessing of God’s salvation. The top blessing in God’s salvation given to us by God is God Himself as the Spirit. Before they were saved, the Corinthians were zealous for demonic spirits, but now that they are saved, they should be zealous for the Holy Spirit. Now that they are believers, they need to seek the excelling Holy Spirit for the excelling gift of prophecy. The word "excel" may also be translated into "abound." Because the context of this verse is one of comparison, that is, one of comparing prophecy with speaking in tongues, "excel" is the right translation here. In 1 Corinthians 14 Paul is not talking of abundance or scarcity but of being low or excelling. To speak in tongues is too low, whereas to prophesy is to excel. We should seek to excel for the purpose of building up the Body of Christ.

Paul promoted prophesying so highly because this is the top gift that builds up the Body of Christ. On the one hand, Christ was promoted by Paul to the uttermost in Philippians 3. Everything other than Him is dung. On the other hand, in building up the Body of Christ, nothing is higher than prophesying. In 1 Corinthians 14:4 Paul says, "He who prophesies builds up the church." First Corinthians 14 is a chapter on prophesying for the building up of the church as the Body of Christ. This is the goal of the entire book of 1 Corinthians. First Corinthians is on the enjoyment of Christ for the growth in life, and this growth accomplishes two things. First, it produces the precious materials for the building up of the Body of Christ. Second, it issues in the gifts, which are the skills, the techniques, to build up the church of Christ with the precious materials produced by the growth in life. Eventually, this book begins with the enjoyment of Christ and consummates with the built up church.

In 1 Corinthians 14 Paul promoted prophesying, but he did not tell us how to prophesy. In verse 31, though, he says, "You can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn..." If we speak something and others learn something, that means that we ourselves had to learn first. To speak in tongues is purely miraculous and does not require any learning, but to prophesy is a miraculous normality. Because the one who hears the prophecy learns, the prophesier has to learn first. Paul charges and urges us to prophesy in 1 Corinthians 14. In a sense, he even requires us to prophesy. As long as we are Christians, members of Christ, we must prophesy. Paul was burdened to perfect the saints to prophesy.

(Elders' Training, Book 09: The Eldership and the God-Ordained Way (1), Chapter 8, by Witness Lee)