Second Corinthians speaks concerning the ministry, which is constituted with, and produced and formed by, the experiences of the riches of Christ through sufferings, consuming pressures, and the killing work of the cross. The ministry is not merely a matter of gift. A person may be able to speak fluently and eloquently and give many good illustrations and proverbs, but this is just a gift. What the church, the Body, needs today is the ministry. The Body needs some brothers and sisters who have been thoroughly wrought by God and with God so that they may have something of Christ, not merely in their mentality as knowledge to teach others but as the very riches of Christ in their spirit and in their entire inward being to pass on to others. I expect that these ones will go out to certain places to have contact and fellowship with people. Eventually, we will see the growth in life and the building of the saints in the places that these ones visit. Today there are many teachings, much knowledge, and many gifts, but there is a great shortage of the ministry. We have to be desirous of this kind of ministry. We need to pray, “Lord, be gracious to me so that I might be delivered out of my concept concerning the gifts. How I long to be wrought through with something of God in Christ as the Spirit. May I have something of the divine element wrought into me to minister to others that I may have a divine ministry of Christ.” The church needs the ministry much more than the gifts.
COMFORTED BY GOD
Second Corinthians 1:4-6 says, “Who comforts us in all our affliction that we may be able to comfort those who are in every affliction through the comforting with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For even as the sufferings of the Christ abound unto us, so through the Christ our comfort also abounds. But whether we are afflicted, it is for your comforting and salvation; or whether we are comforted, it is for your comforting, which operates in the endurance of the same sufferings which we also suffer.” Pray-reading these verses again and again will help us to see that what the church needs today is the ministry. God comforts us in all our affliction for a purpose—that we may be able to comfort others. The Greek word for comfort in verse 4 also means “consolation.” To be comforted by God means to be consoled by God.
THE WORKING OF THE CROSS
The more that the sufferings of Christ abound unto us, the more comfort or refreshment we will be able to enjoy. If we are going to minister something of God in Christ to others, we have to suffer to have the experience. It is by the way of the cross that we may have some riches of Christ to minister to others. The ministry comes out in no other way but by the working of the cross.
Paul told us that God put him into a situation where he was “pressed out of measure” (v. 8—KJV), or “excessively burdened” in order that he might be able to comfort others. You may have asked yourself why you have so many troubles. You may have trouble with your spouse, with your children, and even with your physical body. Have you noticed that in this book there is the phrase “excessively burdened,” or “pressed out of measure”? You may be pressed, but are you pressed out of measure? This means the working of the cross has terminated you, has brought you to an end.
Paul told us that he and his co-workers were excessively burdened, beyond their power or strength, so that they “despaired even of living” (v. 8). Many of the young brothers have strength. But sooner or later the Lord will press you again and again, and you will be trying to endure the suffering. Eventually, you will say, “Lord, I give up my enduring because Your pressure is something far beyond my strength.” When you are under a certain kind of suffering, never try to exercise your own strength to endure it by yourself. Never try to overcome it by yourself. You have to realize that eventually the Lord will press you beyond your strength. When the pressure comes, you may exercise all your strength—physically, mentally, and spiritually. But the more you exercise your strength, the more you will be pressed. Eventually, you will concede that the pressure is far beyond your strength. Praise the Lord for the pressing out of measure, beyond our power!
After Paul told us that he and his co-workers were so burdened that they despaired even of living, he said, “Indeed we ourselves had the response of death in ourselves, that we should not base our confidence on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead” (v. 9). When the apostles were under the pressure of affliction, despairing even of living, they might have asked themselves what the issue of their suffering would be. The answer or response was “death.” The experience of death, however, ushers us into the experience of resurrection. Resurrection is the very God who resurrects the dead (John 11:25). The working of the cross terminates our self so that we may experience God in resurrection. The experience of the cross always issues in the enjoyment of the God of resurrection. Such experience produces and forms the ministry (2 Cor. 1:4-6). This experience is further described in 4:7-12.
Paul’s word shows us that we need to be terminated. We need to be brought to an end. Then we will learn not to trust in ourselves but in God. For us to say that we need to trust in God and not in ourselves is easy, but to be wrought through in this matter needs a certain amount of experience. God is working through the cross to terminate us. God is working to bring us to an end, even to bring our spirituality, our spiritual attainment, to an end. We may trust so much in our spiritual attainment, but even that has to be terminated.
In 1:12 Paul said, “For our boasting is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in singleness and sincerity of God, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and more abundantly toward you.” In his conscience Paul had the testimony that he was walking, moving, having his being, on this earth not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God. To some, wisdom may be a clever way to meet a situation, but this wisdom comes from our flesh. Fleshly wisdom is what we have in order to do something for ourselves. The grace of God is that we do not do anything but that God does everything within us. It is not that we do something to meet the situation but that we let God do everything in us and for us. This is the grace of God.
Paul said that he conducted himself in the singleness and sincerity of God. Singleness can also mean “simplicity.” God is simple and God is single. The more we are in the flesh and in the soul, the more complex we are. Then we do not have the simplicity but the complexity. A soulish person is very complex. But the more we are in the Holy of Holies, the spirit, the simpler we become. The more we are in the spirit, the more we are simple and single. We are single in motive, single in aim, and single in all our desires. In 1:12 are the simplicity, or singleness, of God, the grace of God, and the sincerity of God. If we have been dealt with by the cross so that the cross has brought us to an end, we will be peaceful persons who are enjoying and experiencing the grace of God taking care of everything for us. We will be so simple and so single in our motive and in our aim. We will enjoy the grace of God and have the simplicity and the singleness of God.
(Autobiography of a Person in the Spirit, An, Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)