THE GROWTH IN LIFE
First we have the aspect of life, then the aspect of service. We have the life matter settled first, then, based on that fact, we have the matter of service. Without life and the adequate growth in life, we cannot have the service. The little children can do many things, but they cannot serve, because they simply do not have the adequate growth in life.
To serve the Lord, the growth in life is required. The service is not mentioned in Romans 6 or 7. It is not mentioned until chapter twelve, where sinners have been redeemed, justified, and delivered from the old nature, and they are walking in the Spirit. They have the real growth in life. Now they are the practical and functioning members of the Body. The Christian service is an issue of the growth of life.
If you do not have life, you cannot serve. Even if you have life but are short of the growth in life, still young, childish, and even like a babe, you cannot serve. The service requires life and the growth of life, the maturity of life. It is a life matter, and it is a matter of the growth in life. We cannot serve the Lord without growing in the life of the Lord. This is something very basic. This is why we have been stressing the matter of life in view of our expectation of having a church life with the service. Without the growth in life, there is no possibility for the church to be built up, and without the building up of the church, there is no possibility of having the church service, the Christian service.
SERVICE IN THE BODY
The Christian service is a matter of life and in the Body. It is a matter in the Body and a matter of the Body. You cannot serve the Lord properly as an individual Christian. To serve the Lord, you need to realize that the Lord’s service is something in the Body.
Every believer is a member of the Body, a part of the Body. An individual is not the Body. A member of the Body cannot function without the Body. The hand is good, quite useful, but if it is cut off from the body, it becomes not only dead but also ugly, terrible, and even terrifying. You may love to shake my hand, but if this hand were detached from the body, it would be terrible.
Today many Christians are detached, separated from the reality of the Body. It is as if they are disembodied members. The members of a body are beautiful as long as they are attached where they belong in the body, but in any other place they are terrible. How sad it is that many Christians today are like ears that have been detached and put on the shoulders. How could they serve the Lord? How could we serve the Lord without being built up together as members of the Body? It is impossible.
I am not speaking on this point according to knowledge or doctrine. By the mercy of the Lord, I can testify to you from my experience that for many years I have simply been unable to serve the Lord without the Body. It is impossible to serve the Lord without the Body, without the church life, without the church practice.
The Body life is in Romans 12, and the church service is in this Body life with the members of the Body, of the church, functioning, serving. This matter is very clear in the Word. We need to check ourselves to see whether or not we have the reality of the Body life. If not, we are wandering saints. If you say that you are in the reality of the Body, you need to consider seriously where the Body is, practically speaking. If we could give up the service of the Lord, there would be no need for us to talk about the Body, the church life. But if we do have the sincere heart to serve the Lord, we need to realize that the service is in the Body.
THE PRIESTHOOD AND THE BODY
The Christian service is the service of the priests. We know that all the believers are priests and that the function, the duty, the responsibility, of the priests is to serve the Lord. The service of the priests in the Old Testament was not that of individual priests serving the Lord. All the priests serving the Lord need to be built up together as a body. The priestly service is not a service of individuals but a service of a corporate body. To serve the Lord, we need to be built up together with others as a corporate body. Peter told us that we will be the priesthood after we have been built up together as the spiritual house (1 Pet. 2:5).
(Basic Principles for the Service in the Church Life, Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)