THE ORDINARY GIFTS BEING MORE IMPORTANT
THAN THE EXTRAORDINARY ONES
In Matthew 25, Romans 12, and Ephesians 4 there is nothing miraculous. Only in 1 Corinthians are some of the gifts miraculous. Which of all these kinds of gifts are important? We may say that all are important, but there is no doubt that the talents, the ordinary gifts, and the persons as gifts are more important. Of course, under certain conditions and in certain places we need the miraculous gifts, but the miraculous gifts are not as important as the talents, the ordinary gifts, and the persons as gifts. At home we have certain kinds of medicine, but are the medicines more important than the ordinary food? Only for sick people are medicines more important than food. However, we do not expect to have a home with only sick people. In a normal family life, we do not serve three meals of medicine. Rather, we always serve meals of food with the proper vitamins.
We should not say that we have only teachings and not the gifts. Praise the Lord, we have many gifts. The question is what we mean by gifts. In the matter of gifts, Matthew, Romans, and Ephesians are more important than 1 Corinthians. In the more important books we do not find the miraculous gifts. Romans is a book on the general sketch of the Christian life. In such a book there are no miraculous gifts. Ephesians is the main book that speaks of the church. In this book on the church we again do not have anything miraculous. In the last book of the Bible, Revelation, chapters 2 and 3 contain seven epistles. In those seven epistles there is nothing miraculous. Rather, there is the tree of life, the hidden manna, and the feast with the Lord (2:7, 17; 3:20).
The reason that the more important books do not have the miraculous gifts is that the miraculous gifts are not the main item, just as medicine and drugs are not the main items of our diet. The main items in our diet are milk, bread, eggs, and fruit. When we have trouble, lose our appetite, or catch a cold or something worse, we need a special cure. Consider the book of 1 Corinthians. Was the church in Corinth a healthy church? We have to say that this church was sick. The church in Ephesus, however, was a strong, healthy church. Even the church in Rome at that time was also sound and healthy. The regrettable thing is that the sick church in Corinth took too much “medicine.” They trusted in the medicine more than in the normal food. Therefore, the apostle wrote 1 Corinthians to adjust them, telling them not to take so much “medicine.” Rather, they should take more of Christ as wisdom, power, and their spiritual food and drink (1:24, 30; 10:3-4). Paul told them, “I did not determine to know anything among you except Jesus Christ, and this One crucified” (2:2).
THE MIRACULOUS GIFTS
BEING ONLY FOR SPECIAL PURPOSES
If we read the book of Acts, we will realize that the miraculous things are for three purposes. First, they are for the beginning of a work in a new place, a new territory, where the name of Christ has never been preached. In such a case, God may do something miraculous to start the work. Second, the miraculous acts are for special occasions. The apostle Paul, for example, had such special occasions. Once in the night the Lord stood by the apostle, not inwardly but outwardly (23:11). That was something special. It was not ordinary but miraculous. Paul told us that the Lord is within us all the time, but in Acts on that one occasion the Lord stood beside the apostle. That was something special for the purpose of strengthening him.
More than thirty years ago I heard many people talk about miraculous dreams. Whenever they had a meeting, it seemed to be a “dream meeting.” Someone would stand up and say something like, “Last night I had a dream. I was in the third heaven, and I saw Paul eating the tree of life.” Then on the next day someone else would stand up and say, “I had a dream last night. We were all eating manna. I saw how big the manna is, and I could even smell it.” I heard many such dreams. This caused me not to believe much in miraculous dreams. Those people based their dreams on Acts 2:17, which says, “Your old men shall dream things in dreams,” but it was not mainly the old ones among them but the young ones who had such dreams.
However, during the time I was persecuted by the Japanese army for the sake of the gospel, I had some miraculous dreams. Before the enemy came, I had a dream in which I saw clearly how they would come. In this way I knew that the Japanese military police would come to arrest me, so I was able to clear up my affairs beforehand. As a result, they could not find anything as evidence against me. Then they brought me to their office and eventually put me into prison. At that time, another dream came in the night, showing me how they would put me on trial and torture me. In that dream, however, the Lord showed me that He would preserve my life safely. Because of this, I had very much confidence. I knew that regardless of how much they would torture me, I would still live. After more than three weeks, they had done much damage to my body. In the last week before I was released, a third dream came in the night. In it I saw clearly how I would be released and how the enemy would leave.
After I was released, the Japanese did not give me full liberty. They still exercised a certain control over me, and I was still under their threatening. At this point I had not only a dream but a vision. In the afternoon of the first Lord’s Day after I was released from prison, we were at the Lord’s table. As I was sitting there, while the bread and cup were being passed, I was suddenly in something like a dream, but I was not sleeping. I saw a vision and heard a voice, saying, “Be at peace. The enemy will be defeated.”
Such things as miraculous dreams and visions are for special occasions. Other than these special occasions, however, we have the Lord indwelling us and anointing us all the time. We mainly know the Lord’s will by His inner anointing (1 John 2:20, 27). As we have said, according to the book of Acts, the miraculous things are either for the beginning of a work or for a special occasion. The third purpose for the miraculous things is to care for an unhealthy condition. When people are spiritually unhealthy, they need a certain kind of gift to heal them. If we are unhealthy, we may need some miraculous gifts to come in to heal us.
THE MORE NECESSARY GIFTS CONVEYING CHRIST TO US
We have to see that the more necessary gifts are not the miraculous ones, but the talents in Matthew 25, the ordinary gifts in Romans 12, and the persons in Ephesians 4. The talents, the ordinary gifts, and the persons as gifts are the means to convey Christ to us. Therefore, the church is not for any of the gifts. The church is for Christ. We need the teachings, but we are not for the teachings. If we are for any of the teachings, eventually we will be a sect of that teaching. Likewise, we need the gifts, but we are not for the gifts. If we are for any gift, we will become a division of that gift. This is why in the past we have always proclaimed that we have to be general. We take all the proper teachings as the conveyances of Christ. In like manner, we take the proper gifts as a means to convey Christ, but our attention is never on the teachings or on the gifts. Our attention is on Christ.
We have a very good example of this in Acts 8. When Peter exercised his gift to do something, a man named Simon came to try to receive that gift (vv. 18-24). That man had no intention for Christ; his intention was only for the gift. We are not here for anything but Christ. We have to be very clear to help people to know Christ through the teachings and to help people to realize and experience Christ by the gifts, but we have to be careful not to bring people to pay their main attention to the teachings or gifts.
(Dealing with Our Inward Parts for the Growth in Life, Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)