THE SPIRIT, THE WORD, AND THE GIFTS
TO CONVEY CHRIST TO THE CHURCH
Scripture Reading: Gal. 1:15a, 16a; 1 Cor. 1:24, 30; 2:2; 10:3-4; Matt. 25:14-15; Rom. 12:4-8; Eph. 4:11, 16
According to the revelation of the Word, the Lord’s central thought and intention is to have the church as His Body to express Himself. Therefore, the church is for nothing other than Christ, and Christ is the very life, the very content, of the church. This must be very clear to us. The church is the Body of Christ. A body is something which contains the life of the head and expresses what the head is. The body is the expression of the life of the head, so the head is the life and the very content of the body. In the same way, the first and most important matter in the church life is that Christ is the Head, and this Head is the life, content, and everything in the church. The church is not merely a meeting; the church is not for a kind of activity; the church is not for a kind of service or for anything else. The church is absolutely to express Christ.
Galatians 1:15a and 16a say, “When it pleased God...to reveal His Son in me.” We need to see how Christ can be realized by, revealed to, and worked into the church. According to the Bible and all the experiences of the saints, Christ is wrought into us by three things. The first is the Holy Spirit. Christ is wrought into us through the Holy Spirit because Christ is the Spirit, and the Spirit is the very reality of Christ (1 Cor. 15:45b; 2 Cor. 3:17). If we have the Holy Spirit, we have Christ. If we do not have the Holy Spirit, we do not have Christ. The second way is by the Word, which contains many teachings, and the third way is by the gifts. It is through the Holy Spirit that Christ is revealed, wrought, and woven into us. But how does the Holy Spirit work this out? It is either by the Word or through the gifts.
TEACHINGS AND GIFTS BEING FOR CHRIST
The Holy Spirit, the Word, and the gifts are the three means by which Christ is wrought into us. However, the church is for Christ, not even, strictly speaking, for the Holy Spirit, the teachings of the Word, or any gift. What then is the position of the teachings and the gifts? They are simply a means. All the teachings are a means, and all the gifts are also a means. The problem throughout all the centuries and even today is that people pay their attention to certain teachings more than to Christ. This creates trouble. Similarly, some people pay their attention more to the gifts than to Christ. This also creates a problem.
Consider how all the denominations and divisions came into existence. The Presbyterian denomination, for example, came into being because some people stressed the government of the church by the presbytery. In the same way, we have the Baptist Church today because some people stressed baptism by immersion rather than Christ, creating a division. These are divisions according to either teachings or practices. Today we also have the Pentecostal Church, because those people stress the Pentecostal things instead of Christ. Of course, they would say that they believe in Christ and exalt Christ. Yes, they do, but more or less they stress something in addition to Christ. Perhaps that one thing is right, but no one should stress it.
All the teachings are for Christ, and all the gifts are for Christ. The gifts should not be for the gifts, nor should the teachings be for the teachings. Regardless of how many teachings we have and how good those teachings are, we have to consider them simply as a means, not as the central item. The central item must be Christ. We need teachings, but our stress and emphasis must not be on the teachings instead of on Christ. If we stress the teachings instead of Christ, the teachings become a substitute for Christ. We have to make this very clear. We need the teachings because we need Christ; the teachings convey Christ to us. But we should not pay attention to the teachings instead of to Christ. We have to pay attention to Christ, whom we receive through the teachings.
THE MEANING OF THE GIFTS
IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
The teachings are more or less ordinary, and certain kinds of gifts are very ordinary, but there are also certain extraordinary gifts. Today too many Christians take things lightly. They talk about gifts, but they may not know what the word gift really means or where in the Bible the gifts are dealt with. We have to study these things. There are several books in the Bible that deal with gifts. Matthew 25 speaks of the parable of the talents and the parable of the virgins. These two parables go together. The parable of the virgins deals with life, and the parable of the talents deals with service. As to life we all are virgins, and as to service we all are servants, bondslaves. These bondslaves were given five talents, two talents, or one talent (vv. 14-15).
After Matthew, there is Romans. Romans 12 speaks of the gifts. In this chapter, the gifts are very ordinary (vv. 4-8). Here, even teaching, extending hospitality to the saints, showing mercy, and giving material things are gifts. In Romans 12 there is nothing extraordinary; there are no miraculous gifts, only the ordinary gifts.
Then in 1 Corinthians we have the miraculous gifts with the governmental gifts. Chapters 12 and 14 speak of miraculous and extraordinary gifts, such as healing, speaking in tongues, and works of power, and also of the governmental gifts, such as the gift to take care of the government of the church.
Ephesians is the fourth book dealing with the gifts. The gifts dealt with in this book are the persons, the members of the Body, such as apostles, prophets, evangelists, and shepherds and teachers (4:11). These are members of the Body, and we all are members of the Body. In Ephesians there are not only these four kinds of members; there are all the members with their functions (v. 16). In this book, the persons are the gifts.
(Dealing with Our Inward Parts for the Growth in Life, Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)