THE MINISTRY OF MENDING
John’s Gospel is not a book of teachings or gifts. In the Gospel of John and in Revelation as well, we do not see the teachings or the gifts, but the life. John’s ministry was a ministry of the mending of life. There are many holes in us; there are many broken things which need to be mended. The more gifts we have, the more holes we will have. Gifts bring in the breaks, the divisions. We can only be mended by the ministry of life.
First Corinthians speaks of the matter of divisions and shows that the cause of the divisions was the gifts. In 1 Corinthians Paul says that the Corinthian believers were behind in no gifts (1:7). They had all the gifts; they paid too much attention to the gifts and overused the gifts; therefore there were divisions. They needed the ministry of mending, and the Apostle Paul ministered to them in this way. Chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians is the ministry of mending, the mending by love in life. The breaks and holes must be mended by love in life. Though we may speak in tongues and speak even the language of the angels, if we do not have love in life, we are just as sounding brass, a sound without the life. How different this is from a branch in the vine or a grain of wheat—they both quietly live by Christ.
It is by life that the building is realized. Let us take for example two local churches: in one church, the brothers seek to go on in the way of the grains and the branches. They live quietly, take Christ as their life, abide in Him, and allow Him to abide in them. In the other church the brothers take the way of gifts, speaking in tongues every day. After three years have passed, you will see a great difference between these two groups. The gift-centered group will either be dispersed or dissolved. But the group centered and living in Christ will continue to grow. We are not opposing the speaking in tongues, but we are much concerned lest we waste our time. We can never have a proper building of the church by teachings or by gifts. The only way is to live by the inner life. It may seem slow, but it is steady and it will hit the mark. The only way to obtain the goal of the proper church life is to go on steadfastly in the way of life.
THE MAJOR NEED TODAY
We live today in an environment full of confusion and division. In such a situation the building up of the church desperately needs the mending ministry of life. Life which issues in building is the central message of the entire Scriptures. Firstly in Genesis 2 and lastly in Revelation 22, we see the tree of life. Oh, we must realize and practice this secret of life! By regeneration another source of life, Christ Himself as the Life-giving Spirit, has come to live in our spirit. Now we must learn to live in the spirit, living by Christ rather than by ourselves. As we thus abide in Him, we sense the need for the church life, and as we continue abiding, we will have the church life in a proper way. The spontaneous issue will be the real building up of the church. Then we will be the enlarged tabernacle, the corporate expression of Christ. Wherever we are located, we will be together with other Christians as the living and proper church, a real expression of Christ, a real glory to God, and a real blessing to those who are seeking the Lord.
In a certain sense we do need the teachings and occasionally we need the gifts. But the central requirement for the building up of the church today is the mending ministry of life. It is in this ministry that we experience Christ as our life and as the tabernacle, the dwelling of God. By this ministry we will have the enlarged tabernacle as the very expression of Christ. I am convinced that it is God’s intention to have such a building on this earth today. By taking Christ as our life we will all become a real, practical, living part of this greater tabernacle.
(The Vision of God's Building, Chapter 14, by Witness Lee)