THE PERFECTING OF THE SAINTS
In order to have what is described by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 14, we must have the perfecting of the saints by the apostles, prophets, evangelists, and shepherd-teachers in Ephesians 4. Some have said that after the apostles establish the churches with the elders, they should keep their hands off, having nothing to do with the churches and elders anymore. If the apostles did this, however, how could they perfect the saints?
Acts 20 tells us that on Paul’s way to Jerusalem, he could not forget his burden for the church in Ephesus. From Miletus he sent for the elders of Ephesus to come to him. Paul told them that he was with them for three years (v. 31), teaching them publicly and from house to house (v. 20). For Paul to teach the saints publicly means there was some public exhortation, probably in front of the saints as a congregation. He also taught them according to their homes, admonishing them night and day with tears (v. 31). Paul did not keep his hands off the church in Ephesus. Rather, he remained with them for three years. When Paul was on his way back to Jerusalem in Acts 20, that was the latter part of his ministry, and the church in Ephesus was an established church. Even with such an established church, the apostle still bore the responsibility to perfect them. He asked the elders to remember how he was perfecting the saints night and day for three years. An apostle should not only speak publicly but also go to the saints’ homes day and night to perfect them, to teach them mouth to mouth.
If the gifted persons—the apostles, prophets, evangelists, and shepherd-teachers—do their perfecting work, spontaneously all the perfected saints will do the same work that they do. The saints will participate in the work of the ministry, which is to build up the Body of Christ. Ephesians 4 tells us that the church as the Body of Christ is not built up by the gifted persons directly. Their work is to perfect the saints. Then the perfected saints do the direct building of the Body of Christ (vv. 11-12).
Ephesians 4:16 says that the Body builds itself up in love. Where is the reality of such a verse on the earth today, and where can we see a meeting according to 1 Corinthians 14:26? In the early church, there was such a reality for a short time, but it disappeared through the degradation of the church. The Lord needs to recover the reality of 1 Corinthians 14:26 on the earth. We have to believe that now is the time for the Lord to recover this matter. Fifty years ago our senior co-worker, Brother Nee, saw and presented this to us. He is not here today, but this truth remains with us in his books. We are following his steps to recover 1 Corinthians 14:26 for the building up of the Body of Christ. If we are not the persons to recover this verse, who are? If today is not the time, when is the time? Should we go back to the old way to remain in our comfortable situation and forget about this verse, giving up what Brother Nee spoke and published?
(Elders' Training, Book 09: The Eldership and the God-Ordained Way (1), Chapter 7, by Witness Lee)