Speaking for God, by Witness Lee


The most profitable activity in the church meeting is not the performing of miracles, nor healing, nor the casting out of demons, nor the speaking in tongues, nor the interpreting of tongues. The most profitable activity is prophesying (vv. 23-25).


First Corinthians 14:31 says, “For you can all prophesy one by one that all may learn and all may be encouraged.” Anyone who is saved can prophesy.


The gift the believers need to desire most is the prophesying for the building up of the church. The conclusion of Paul’s speaking from 1 Corinthians chapters twelve through fourteen is that the gift the believers need to desire most is the speaking for the Lord, the prophesying as prophets. The one gift that benefits others the most is also prophesying (14:1, 3, 4b). The Lord not only gives us the permission and the position; He also gives us the ability so that we “can all prophesy one by one” (v. 31). Therefore, we must see that as those who have been begotten of God, we have the position and the ability to prophesy.


Every one of the saints should speak for the Lord by prophesying, but the elders need to take the lead in speaking. If the elders do not speak in the meetings, it will be hard for the saints to open their mouths. Hence, a basic qualification of an elder is that he must be apt to teach (1 Tim. 3:2; 5:17; 2 Tim. 2:2). The phrase apt to has the notion of “being accustomed to,” “having the habit of,” or “being used to.” Hence, the elders needing to be apt to teach means that they should not only be well able to speak the Lord’s word but also be accustomed to, and have the habit of, speaking the Lord’s word. In this way it will be easy for the saints to follow and form a habit so that once they come to the meeting, they are also apt to speak and are used to speaking.

On the other hand, do not occupy too much time when you speak. This is similar to playing basketball. When the ball comes to your hands, you have to pass it on quickly so that ultimately the ball can go into the basket. Therefore, when you speak in the meeting, do not speak too long nor speak too many times; after speaking once, you should wait and let others speak. We should always remember that each of us is just a member of the Body and that there are still many other saints in the meeting. Therefore, we must learn to yield to them the opportunity.

First Timothy 5:17 says that the elders must labor in word and teaching. Labor here is a particular word. In Greek it denotes not the effort exerted in doing a general work but the strenuous effort exerted for “building up a business from scratch”; it does not mean to work but to spend great effort on the Word of God. There is a meaningful cartoon which is an appropriate picture of laboring, depicting how hard the children in Taiwan study. In the picture a boy is studying with the mother feeding him, the father cooling him with a fan, and the younger brother taking his shoes off for him. Many of us know that the education in Taiwan is widespread, yet its standard is higher than most other countries. This is due to the laboring of Taiwan’s children in their education with the help of their parents and siblings.

Therefore, the elders should not be at ease; they must take great pains to study the Bible, and their families must wait on them and support them. Every one of the elders must devote himself to labor on the Word of God. This is what I do myself; I labor daily on the Lord’s word. Every month I have to publish sixteen or seventeen Life-study messages, totaling nearly two hundred pages. Even when I have to travel far away from home, I still do not delay the work; I always have to spend a few days hurrying day and night. I might not be as smart as you are, but I know one thing—I am more diligent than you. Therefore, the New Testament has been thoroughly digested within me from early on, and I can even say that it has been constituted into me. Now, I can use the ball in every possible way. I am quite confident in passing the ball, receiving the ball, and shooting the ball.

Therefore, I hope that the elders would not be too comfortable or at ease; you have to spend more effort and time on the Lord’s word. Furthermore, the elders’ family members must give them a great deal of help so that they may wholeheartedly enter into the Lord’s word. The elders must all labor on the Lord’s word. Over thirty years ago when I went to the Philippines, the Chinese in Southeast Asia were successful in every profession. In whatever line of business or profession they chose, the overseas Chinese were always at the top because they were diligent, they labored hard, and they did real work. However, the amazing thing was that there was only one profession that did not produce topnotch people, and that was the profession of preaching the word. Even the preachers who went to Southeast Asia did not work hard. Therefore, I hope that the elders see this point clearly. When you lead the church, you must be like the successful Chinese in Southeast Asia who have a spirit that is unbeatable in diligence, laboring, and endeavoring.

By the mercy of the Lord, I have been a miner who has opened the mouth of the gold mine of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament. However, you yourself must dig out the gold within the mine. If all of us would do this, then in the Lord’s recovery we would be rich in the word, and the churches in all the localities would also flourish. What we should do by the grace of the Lord is bring people into the Lord’s word and not into our teachings. What we should do is bring all the saints into the riches of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament. This requires us to enter into this together.

Therefore, the elders still have to spend their effort and take the lead in this matter so that the younger generation can follow and also enter in. In this way in five or ten years, the situations in the various churches surely will be different and will draw the respect of people from deep within. When people come into our midst, listening to the prayers of the young people and the sharing of the older saints, and observing the labor of the elders, they surely will feel that this family is rich, that it is a learned family with a great future.

We must labor on the Lord’s word so that when we speak in the meeting, we would speak the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge instead of the loose words, light words, and meaningless tongues. What the saints need is the proper word—the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge.

As a result, everyone who is faithful in the Lord’s word will be able to go forth to speak and teach others. Everyone will be a prophet, and everyone will become an apostle. As they go forth and preach, they will bring some people to be saved and cause some to rise up and love the Lord; in this way they will establish some churches. These are the things done by the teachers, prophets, and apostles. This is a work that glorifies the Lord. We absolutely believe that in these last days the Lord will greatly expand this work.

(Speaking for God, Chapter 4, by Witness Lee)