From chapter one of The Ministers in the Lord’s Recovery – Genuine Ministers of the New Covenant
The publications that have negatively impacted a number of saints in the local churches are characterized not only by false accusations of certain wrongdoings against the leading ones in the Lord’s recovery but also a gross mischaracterization of both the person and ministry of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee, with the intention of undermining the saints’ confidence in the ministry and even prompting them to forsake it. This recalls the situation among the saints in Corinth at the time Paul wrote his second Epistle to them. The authenticity of Paul’s apostleship had been called into question, not only by the false Judaistic apostles but by the Corinthians themselves. Due to the saints’ accusations and their failure to come to his defense, Paul was forced to vindicate his own apostolic authority. He felt compelled to do so not for his own sake but for the sake of the Corinthians, for their “building up,” so that they might be brought back to a sober realization concerning their relationship with the apostle (1 Cor. 11:16-17; 12:1, 19). Regretting this shameful necessity, Paul told the Corinthians that his commendation as an apostle should have come from them, among whom the signs of his apostleship had been wrought (v. 11). For my part, I refuse to commit the same error. As a beneficiary and a witness of the many signs of the new covenant ministry that have been wrought among us in the local churches by Brother Nee and Brother Lee, I cannot be silent in the face of the attacks that have been directed against these faithful servants of the Lord. I consider it my privilege and duty to commend the ministry in the recovery as the authentic ministry of the new covenant and by so doing to encourage the saints who have been shaken to return to a proper understanding and full enjoyment of this ministry.
Concerning this Witness Lee says:
We should learn from this verse [2 Cor. 12:11] that there are occasions when we need to say something on behalf of the elders or those in the ministry. If a certain brother is the target of attack or opposition, he may not be able to say anything to defend himself. In such a situation we need to speak up and commend him. For example, years ago when Brother Nee was the target, I did something to vindicate him. The young ones especially need to learn to commend someone in such a situation. They should be bold to speak out. They should not be silent, and they should not be held back.1
The Divine Standard of Ministry
My burden in this document is to consult the Bible for a divine standard of what constitutes the genuine New Testament ministry. Among so many voices affirming or questioning, upholding or denying, whose voice rings true according to the pure revelation of the Word? Upon detailed investigation, an unmistakable correspondence emerges between the New Testament pattern of proper ministers and the ministry carried out in the Lord’s recovery by Watchman Nee, Witness Lee, and those co-workers who have closely followed them to live to and serve the Lord in the same spirit and in the same steps (2 Cor. 12:18, cf. 2 Tim. 3:10). Such a comparison will serve to strengthen the saints’ trust in, and uplift their appreciation of, the ministry of Brother Watchman Nee and Brother Witness Lee, which has been continued by the co-workers in today’s recovery. The goal is not to elevate these men, who are but slaves of Christ for our sake, or in any way to give them an air of infallibility, but rather to maintain the saints in the divine truth and grace that this ministry so richly imparts for the fulfillment of our God’s desire and purpose (Eph. 3:2, 7-11). May we all be spared from being tossed by waves of dissent and carried about by the winds of different teachings in the sleight of men, and may we hold to the truth of God’s New Testament economy revealed in His Word in order to grow up into our Head, Christ, in all things, so that out from Him the Body may build itself up in love (Eph. 4:14-16).
The Unique and Genuine New Testament Ministry
According to the Bible, what is the ministry of the new covenant (which I will also call the New Testament ministry)? It is the service that the believers render to God in order to carry out God’s new covenant of grace for the accomplishment of His New Testament economy. The book of Ephesians reveals that the work of the new covenant ministry is to impart the unsearchable riches of Christ into the believers for the building up of the Body of Christ (3:8, 18; 4:12-13). Although this ministry is uniquely one (2 Cor. 3:8; 4:1; Acts 1:17, 24-25; 1 Tim. 1:12), it is not the ministry of any one person but the corporate ministry of the Body of Christ carried out by the personal ministries (i.e., services) of all the perfected members of the Body (2 Tim. 4:5; Col. 4:17; Acts 21:19; Rom. 11:13; 1 Cor. 12:5; Eph. 4:12). Because he clearly saw the corporate nature of the unique New Testament ministry, Brother Lee acknowledged that the ministry in the Lord’s recovery is not “one man’s individual ministry but a corporate ministry of the Body.”2 He further clarified that his own ministry did not encompass the entire New Testament ministry but was only “a part of the one ministry.”3 Therefore, let no one mistake the purpose of this document, which is not to contend that the ministry of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee is the only ministry of the New Testament or equivalent to the entire New Testament ministry—a claim that they themselves would wholeheartedly deny. Rather, my intention is to investigate whether or not theirs meets the biblical standard of ministry.
That standard is clearly laid out in 2 Corinthians, which contains the definitive description of the genuine new covenant ministry. Indeed, to present such a description is one of the main purposes of this Epistle. Against the backdrop of the inauthentic and false apostleship of his opposers, Paul defines the characteristics of legitimate and true ministers. All ministries must therefore be measured according to this standard. After much study, I am convinced that the ministry in the Lord’s recovery is fully genuine, as it closely adheres to the pattern of the New Testament apostles. But concerning this matter the burden of proof lies mainly with the testimony borne by the conscience of the saints, to whom the apostles commended themselves in vindicating their ministry (2 Cor. 4:2). Dear fellow saints, let us consider together the characteristics of the new covenant ministry and examine whether the ministry in the Lord’s recovery matches the criteria laid out by the apostle.
1 Life-Study of 2 Corinthians, p. 494
2 CWWL, 1994-1997, vol. 1, p. 27
3 CWWL, 1988, vol. 3, p. 407
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