THE WORK OF THE NEW TESTAMENT PRIESTS OF THE GOSPEL IN OFFERING SACRIFICES
Nourishing the Saved Ones So That They Also Present Themselves as Living Sacrifices to God
We have seen that the complete work of the gospel, the work of the New Testament priests of the gospel in offering sacrifices, includes four major steps. The first step is to help sinners repent and believe into the Lord and thereby be regenerated as the children in God’s family. The second step is to nourish the newborn babes. This is the feeding of the Lord’s lambs mentioned in John 21. In 1 Thessalonians 2:7 Paul said, “We were gentle in your midst, as a nursing mother would cherish her own children.” In the original language, cherishing here includes nourishing; it indicates care that is more tender than mere nourishing. Only this can keep infants from an early death. In the past, many have been baptized in the churches, but those who remained were few. The reason is that those who begot them did not feed them. If those of us who bring people to salvation feed them as lambs, according to the Lord’s word, and cherish them as Paul did, I believe that more than half of them will remain. In John 15:16 the Lord said that He chose us and set us that we would go forth and bear fruit and that our fruit would remain. For this reason, we should not only beget through the gospel, but we should also be nursing mothers to nourish and cherish the babes whom we have begotten in the Lord.
We know that to nourish and cherish babes is not accomplished in one or two days; it is a daily, continual work that requires a long period of time. First Peter 2:2 says that it is by the guileless milk of the word that newborn babes grow. This requires the nursing mothers’ nourishing. Paul regarded the Corinthian believers as infants in Christ and gave them milk to drink, not solid food (1 Cor. 3:1-2), and he did the same thing for the Hebrew believers (Heb. 5:12). He was truly a pattern to us. If we all are willing to do this, those whom we have brought to salvation will not suffer an “early death”; rather, they will receive adequate feeding and will grow in life so that they can present themselves to God as living sacrifices. When they are first saved, we offer them to God as sacrifices, but after we have fed them, they can present themselves to God. This is the work of what we have referred to as the home meetings.
Perfecting the Saints to Present Them Full-grown to God
The third step is to bring them to the small group meetings to be taught and perfected until they can do the work of the building up of the Body of Christ, as the gifted ones do, in preaching the gospel, nourishing, teaching, prophesying for the Lord, and even establishing churches. According to the organic practice revealed in the New Testament, the perfecting work in this step can be carried out only through the group meetings, because the work in this step requires mutuality. Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “Let us consider one another so as to incite one another to love and good works, not abandoning our own assembling together.” We believe that this refers to the small group meetings. Paul stayed in Ephesus for three years, on the one hand, ministering to the saints publicly in the meetings, and on the other hand, teaching and admonishing them from house to house. This step of the work is greatly lacking among us. In order to perfect the saints that they may all function in a full way and may be presented to God full-grown in Christ, we need to have people in the churches who do the work of teaching and perfecting in the small groups.
Leading the Saints to Prophesy That They May Minister Christ for the Building Up of the Church
The fourth step is to work out a meeting for mutual speaking and mutual listening, a meeting in which the perfected ones can all prophesy, speaking for the Lord, speaking forth the Lord, and speaking the Lord into others. This is the most excellent matter. When someone has knowledge in truth and experience in life, and he also receives the Lord’s inspiration by his continual contact with Him, then having these three things, he can speak for the Lord, speak forth the Lord’s desire, and release the Lord’s riches. In this way, he ministers Christ’s mysteries, riches, and sweetness into others. This meets the need of all the saints so that all are edified and the church as a whole is built up.
This kind of meeting, a meeting for all to prophesy, has disappeared from church history for nearly nineteen hundred years. This is because it is a culminating work that requires labor. Hence, throughout the centuries the church has been afraid to touch this matter and therefore has simply evaded it. It seems that the Bible in the hands of Christians today does not have chapter fourteen of 1 Corinthians, a chapter in which Paul speaks of nearly nothing else but prophesying. He begins by saying, “Pursue love, and desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy” (v. 1). Then he goes on to say, “He who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but he who prophesies builds up the church” (v. 4). He also says, “So also you…seek that you may excel for the building up of the church” (v. 12). Speaking in tongues is a low gift since it does not minister to people or build up the Body of Christ. However, prophesying, speaking for the Lord, speaks forth His desire, releases His riches, and ministers His transcendence and sweetness to all the saints. This is the most excelling gift.
Who can do such an excelling thing? Paul says, “You can all prophesy one by one” (v. 31). Although prophesying is an excelling gift, God’s grace will enable us to attain it if we pursue it faithfully. We are not able, but He is able. It is not we but the grace of God (15:10). At the end of chapter fourteen, he says, “So then, my brothers, desire earnestly the prophesying” (v. 39). To this day this chapter of the divine Word has not yet been fulfilled. We believe that the Lord will recover this matter among us. He has been waiting for more than nineteen hundred years. Is today not the right time for Him to recover this chapter in the Bible among us?
(The Church Life in the Lord's Recovery Today, Chapter 3, by Witness Lee)