THE PERFECTING WORK OF THE GIFTED PERSONS
In 2 Timothy 1:14 Paul charged Timothy to “guard the good deposit.” Timothy had a deposit; something had been deposited into him. This deposit was the healthy words repeatedly given to Timothy by Paul. Timothy had received all these healthy words into him as a kind of deposit. In 1 Timothy 6:20 Paul charged Timothy to “guard the deposit,” and in his second Epistle he repeats this charge. Then in 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul refers to “the things which you have heard from me through many witnesses.” These “things” were the healthy teachings and healthy words that Timothy had heard from Paul (1 Tim. 1:10; 6:3; 2 Tim. 1:13). Paul charges that these things, the good deposit in Timothy, be committed to faithful men, who would be competent to teach others also (2 Tim. 2:2). The word “also” indicates that Timothy should teach and that there was the need for some others to teach also.
First, Paul was an apostle, a perfecter. He perfected a young man, Timothy. This equipped Timothy with the good deposit and qualified him to perfect others. In 2 Timothy 2:2 the first generation perfecter charges the second generation perfecter to perfect the third generation.
Ephesians 4 says that the Head has given some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as shepherds and teachers for the perfecting of the saints (vv. 11-12). In a family all the young members under the age of eighteen have to be perfected. This perfecting has a goal. In Ephesians 4:12 this goal is indicated by the word “unto.” This word in Greek means with a purpose or with a view to. Therefore, the perfecting of the saints is with a purpose or with a view to the work of ministry. The same word translated “unto” is used twice in this verse: “unto” the work of ministry and “unto” the building up of the Body of Christ. These two phrases are in apposition to each other. The two refer to the same thing. The work of ministry is the building up of the Body of Christ.
THE BUILDING UP OF THE CHURCH
Not Directly by the Head
Ephesians 4 is a crucial chapter because it is the only chapter in the Bible which reveals that the Head of the Body does not build the Body directly. Some have used the Lord’s word in Matthew 16:18—“I will build My church”—to teach that we do not need any persons to build us, but that we need only the Lord Jesus to build us. However, the New Testament is not only Matthew 16. There are the four Gospels, Acts, twenty-one Epistles, and Revelation. Among the Epistles, the fourteen which were written by Paul, Romans through Hebrews, are placed first. Among Paul’s Epistles, Ephesians is a book specifically on the church, and chapter four is on the building up of the church. Although the Lord says, “I will build My church” in Matthew 16, the entire Bible does not show us that Christ builds up His church directly. Rather, chapter four of Ephesians unveils this matter in detail. It is true that Christ is building up His church, but He is doing it as the Head by producing the gifted persons and giving them as gifts to the church. The apostles, prophets, evangelists, and shepherds and teachers are all gifts from the Head to His Body.
The Gifts Produced by the Head
Ephesians 4 tells us that the Lord came down, not only to the earth, but He also descended into the lower parts of the earth, Hades. Then He came out of Hades to the earth in His resurrection, and from the earth He ascended to the height, the third heaven. Therefore, He is the all-inclusive Christ who fills all in all (vv. 8-10). As such a Head, He has received gifts from the Father. According to John 17:2 and 6, the Father has given His chosen ones to the Son that the Son may give them eternal life. At the time Christ ascended to the heavens to show His freshness in resurrection to the Father (John 20:17), the Father gave all of the millions of people which He had chosen in eternity past as gifts to the Son (Psa. 68:18). Immediately, some of these gifts became apostles.
Although Peter, James, John, and the others were appointed apostles before the Lord’s death and resurrection, they were not constituted apostles yet. The Lord needed to die, be resurrected, and then ascend into heaven to see the Father. Then the Father could give all the chosen ones, including Peter, James, and John, to the Son, and the Son could impart His resurrection life into them. By this they were constituted apostles. Peter was a fisherman with a very impulsive disposition. In his natural condition, he could have never been an apostle. Peter was appointed as an apostle, but he was only qualified for fighting (John 18:10). James and John, the sons of thunder, were qualified to fight to be the first among the Lord’s disciples (Matt. 20:21, 24, 27), but they were not qualified to be apostles. Only through Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension can anyone be qualified to be an apostle. In resurrection Christ breathed Himself into His disciples as the Spirit of life, and in His ascension He was poured upon them as the Spirit of power. First, He breathed Himself into them; then He was poured out upon them. As a result, on the day of Pentecost, Peter, James, John and the others all stood up as qualified apostles. They were not appointed only; they were qualified. They were qualified by being constituted with the resurrected Christ as the breath of life and with the ascended Christ as the power of authority. The ascended Head constituted the gifts in this way and gave them to His Body. The first ten verses of Ephesians 4 describe the procedure through which the ascended Head constituted the gifts and gave them to His Body. These gifts are for the perfecting of the saints.
(The Exercise and Practice of the God-Ordained Way, Chapter 23, by Witness Lee)