2 – The Ministry of the Spirit and of Righteousness (1)

From chapter two of The Ministers in the Lord’s Recovery – Genuine Ministers of the New Covenant

The Ministry of the Spirit

According to Paul’s word in 2 Corinthians, the ministry of the new covenant is first “the ministry of the Spirit” (3:8). This implies that the Spirit, who is the realization of the resurrected Christ (John 14:17-20; 2 Cor. 3:17), is the essence of the new covenant ministry. This corresponds with the prophecy in Jeremiah 31:31-33, in which Jehovah declares, “I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah…I will put My law in their inward parts and write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they will be My people.” In Ezekiel 36:26-28 Jehovah makes a similar proclamation to the children of Israel: “I will also give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you…And I will put My Spirit within you…and you will be My people, and I will be your God.” Whereas Jeremiah 31:33 speaks of God putting His law into our inward parts and hearts, Ezekiel 36:27 speaks of God putting His Spirit within us, indicating that the law of God here is none other than the Spirit of God who is dispensed into us (Rom. 8:9, 11). In contrast to the outward and objective law of the old covenant, in God’s new covenant of life He dispenses His own Spirit as His law—“the law of the Spirit of life” (Rom. 8:2)—into us so that we may be saturated with the new essence of His life.

Today in His heavenly ministry, Christ as the Mediator of the new covenant executes God’s promise to impart into us the life-giving Spirit as the reality of all the bequests in the new covenant (2 Cor. 3:6; 1 Cor. 15:45b; Isa. 42:6; Phil. 1:19). Likewise, in cooperation with Christ, the genuine ministers of the new covenant dispense not the letter that kills but the Spirit who gives life (2 Cor. 3:6). Hence, the authentic new covenant ministry is appropriately referred to as “the ministry of the Spirit” (v. 8), as it is constituted with the life-giving Spirit. It should come as no surprise then that the new covenant ministers are able to impart the life-giving Spirit to others only by being saturated with this Spirit themselves (Acts 6:3, 5, 10; 13:52). What qualified Paul and his fellow apostles to be sufficient as ministers of the new covenant was not a religious education or the accumulation of theological knowledge but the constitution of the life-giving Spirit in their inward parts (2 Cor. 3:5-6). In fact, the profound view that Paul presents is that the ministry is not simply a work that the ministers carry out. Rather, it issues out of their constitution, that is, their Spirit-saturated being.

The new covenant ministers impart the Spirit with whom they are constituted into the believers to make them a “letter of Christ,” “inscribed not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tablets of stone but in tablets of hearts of flesh” (vv. 1-3). The resurrected Christ, who as both Alpha and Omega constitutes the entire spiritual alphabet, is realized as the divine ink of the life-giving Spirit inscribed upon the believers as letters of Christ through the apostles as the writers (Rev. 22:13; 1 Cor. 15:45b). The effect of the apostles’ ministry is that the believers become not only individual letters conveying Christ to others but also a corporate letter of Christ, the Body of Christ as His universal expression (Eph. 2:15-16; 1:22-23).

Brother Lee’s ministry followed this pattern of the genuine new covenant ministry in both content and goal. Although he did not possess a theological degree, he was a sufficient minister of the new covenant because he was thoroughly constituted with the Spirit. Indeed, he was fully occupied and possessed by the Spirit. Perhaps this was because his personal discovery of the reality of the Spirit represented a major turn in his experience of the Lord:

I tried to change my behavior for years, but I was never successful. One day I realized that I had been anointed and sealed [with the Spirit]. When I saw this, I was happy, beside myself, and full of praise to the Lord. It seemed that I forgot where I was. Spontaneously I began to be kind to my mother, yet I had no realization that I was being kind to her…According to my feeling, I had no change, but actually I was altogether a different person, a person bearing the image of God. This was not the result of trying to improve my behavior; it was the result of His anointing.4

Anyone who has even a casual familiarity with Brother Lee’s ministry knows that he disparaged self-improvement and behavioral correction. Instead, the unique emphasis in his ministry in helping the saints to live a proper human life, family life, Christian life, and church life was to exhort them to turn their hearts to the Lord and exercise their spirit to touch the Lord Spirit (2 Cor. 3:16-18). Since the Spirit had become his own content—the content of his being and living—the Spirit also became the content of his ministry.

In keeping with the apostles’ pattern, the goal of Brother Lee’s ministry was to produce letters of Christ by inscribing the life-giving Spirit of the living God into the saints. Concerning this matter he stated:

I am not here just to preach the gospel or teach the Bible. My burden is to write living letters of Christ…It is not my desire merely to pass on doctrine…Rather, I care for the writing of Christ in life. Then the saints will receive not only the knowledge of doctrine, but the actual inscribing of Christ in their hearts.5

Whereas many teachers in traditional Christianity speak of the Spirit in terms of power or influence, few speak of—much less minister—the life-giving Spirit as the reality of Christ. Brother Lee realized that proclaiming the scriptural yet overlooked truth concerning the resurrected Christ being the life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45b; 2 Cor. 3:6, 17-18) would make him unpopular and would draw fierce opposition from organized Christianity and even from some in the local churches. Indeed, a former co-worker of Brother Nee, though admitting the truth that Christ became the Spirit, strongly warned Brother Lee that if he taught this, he would not be received by most Christian teachers in the United States.6 It is a testament to Brother Lee’s unwavering faithfulness to the Lord that he nevertheless declared this crucial truth with boldness and perseverance, ministering the life-giving Spirit into the believers in order to produce them as letters of Christ. So central was the Spirit to his ministry that he regarded the resurrected Christ being the life-giving Spirit as “the most significant item of truth recovered by the Lord in the twentieth century”7 and testified, “If I could not speak on Christ as the Spirit, I would have nothing to speak.”8

The organic issue of their ministry of the Spirit becomes the apostles’ boast and vindication. As a tree is known by its fruit (Matt. 7:15-18), Paul and his fellow apostles did not need any validation in addition to the believers in Corinth, who had become their living letters of commendation (cf. 1 Cor. 9:1-2). Similarly, countless saints in the Lord’s recovery can testify that the ministry of Brother Lee has dispensed and continues to dispense the Spirit as the “ink” into their hearts, producing an indelible inscription of Christ within and a radiant expression of Christ without. The thousands of saints who have been saved and perfected under Brother Lee’s ministry are not only letters of Christ but also living letters of commendation for Brother Lee and his ministry. In particular, graduates of the full-time training, who dedicated two years of their life to being constituted with the ministry in the Lord’s recovery, now number in the thousands, while hundreds more sign up to attend year by year throughout the earth. Many of these saints have been inscribed with the Spirit to such a degree that not only do they themselves testify of the benefits they have received from this ministry, but their family, friends, and colleagues can read Christ in their renewed manner of life. In their post-training journey the graduates pass through deep valleys of weeping as well as high peaks of unspeakable joy (Psa. 84:5-6; 1 Pet. 1:8), and some may even experience a winter of spiritual dormancy before entering into a spring of spiritual revival (S. S. 2:10-13; Acts 3:20; cf. Hosea 6:1-2; Hab. 3:2). Yet despite their varied circumstances and changing spiritual seasons, the great majority of the graduates of the training continue to receive and participate in the ministry in the Lord’s recovery. They have especially been trained to exercise their spirit in their daily life for the release of the spirit in the church meetings to contribute to the ministry of the Spirit in the local churches for the expression of Christ. Under this ministry, they have become both letters and letter-writers of Christ.

In stark and sobering contrast, like the Judaizers in the apostle Paul’s day, those who recklessly spread false accusations and distorted rumors against the faithful co-workers in the Lord’s recovery have cast the ministry of the Spirit aside. What they minister is not the life-giving Spirit to produce shining letters of Christ but evil suspicions and unhealthy gossip that produce spiritual death (1 Tim. 6:4, 20; 5:13; 2 Tim. 2:16, 23). Who can testify that upon reading their defamatory publications, the readers were supplied with the Spirit to express Christ? Or who can attest that they read the person of Christ in the vitriol broadcasted to an unsuspecting audience online? It is a tragic and serious matter to cut oneself off from the ministry of the Spirit, and thus from the bountiful supply of the Spirit and the unsearchable riches of Christ. Let us all receive mercy from the Lord to remain in this ministry that the Spirit of the living God may be inscribed into our hearts day by day, constituting us with the all-inclusive Christ and making us a living letter of Christ, His organic corporate expression (Acts 2:42; 6:4; 1 Tim. 4:6; 2 Tim. 3:10).

4 CWWL, 1977, vol. 2, p. 324

5 Life-study of 2 Corinthians, pp. 53, 170-171

6 CWWL, 1990, vol. 2, p. 395

7 CWWL, 1981, vol. 2, p. 108

8 CWWL, 1990, vol. 2, p. 395

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