7 – The Ministry Bearing the Mark of Death and Resurrection (3)

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

The Mark of Death and Resurrection on the Ministry of Brother Lee

The pattern of Brother Nee was reproduced and continued in Brother Lee’s ministry, which also distinctly bore the mark of death and resurrection. During his month-long imprisonment by the Japanese army in 1943, he was tortured for two three-hour sessions a day, an experience he later described as a walk through “the deep valley of the shadow of death” (Psa. 23:4).48 His experience of nearly dying from tuberculosis immediately following his imprisonment forced him to set aside his responsibilities related to the church and the work for a few years. Brother Lee testified that during that time the Lord dealt with every part of his inner being, cleansing and purifying him thoroughly concerning his motives and intentions (Eph. 5:26; 1Pet. 1:22; James 4:8; 1 John 3:3). Eventually, the Lord healed him not by a gift in power but by grace in the resurrection life—not suddenly with a miracle but gradually through the impartation of resurrection life into his mortal body (Rom. 8:11).49

It was also during this period of recuperation that the Lord revealed to him the controlling vision concerning the tree of life (Gen. 2:9; Rev. 2:7; 22:2, 14), which issued in a revival in Shanghai and Nanking in 1947. The revival spread to a number of local churches in the southern provinces, including Hong Kong, Canton, Swatow, Amoy, and Foochow. Having passed through “so great a death,” Brother Lee experienced the God of resurrection, the One who tears down the old creation within us through the work of the cross and builds up His new creation by dispensing His resurrection life into the depths of our being (2 Cor. 1:8-10; 4:16). After Brother Lee’s God-given ministry had been offered back to God on the altar of the cross, it was gloriously restored to him in resurrection and became a blessing to believers throughout the earth (Gen. 22:9-18; Heb. 11:17-19; James 2:21). Surely Brother Lee’s ministry was one that passed through death into resurrection.

From 1955 through 1961 Brother Lee emphasized the building of the church according to the Lord’s prophecy in Matthew 16:18. For this reason the gates of Hades unleashed an assault of death against his ministry and the churches (v. 18). From 1959 to 1965 there was a storm among the churches in Taiwan caused by several ambitious younger co-workers. These dissenting ones, who had been under Brother Lee’s training, spread inaccurate and insidious claims concerning the end of Brother Lee’s ministry and the churches.50 A letter written in May 1961 by one of these dissenters even compared Brother Lee’s work to the tower of Babel and the image of Nebuchadnezzar and threatened to tear it all down.51 Although a few leading co-workers in Taiwan urged him to leave the United States and return to Taiwan to address the situation, Brother Lee chose not to return to Taiwan for several years. During these years he often gave these co-workers a concise reply:

Let them do it and see how much they can do. You need not worry at all. If the work on the island of Taiwan is of the Lord, they cannot destroy it; if it is destroyed, the Lord will still raise it up in resurrection. If they can destroy it, should it not be destroyed? Let us not worry.52

Brother Lee’s reply clearly alluded to the Lord’s word in John 2:19 concerning His death and resurrection: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” This prophecy was fulfilled two thousand years ago when the Lord’s physical body was torn down in crucifixion and resurrected three days later. Yet the principle of death and resurrection implied in this word has continued to operate in the church, the Lord’s mystical Body, throughout the past twenty centuries: the more the church is devastated by death, the more it is built up in resurrection (cf. Acts 8:3-8, 26-40; 12:1-2, 24; 13:1-4; John 12:24, 32). Brother Lee realized that, in a sense, the ravaging of the church by the enemy is necessary, because, like a refining fire, it destroys everything natural so that what is spiritual may be manifested in resurrection (Dan. 11:35; 12:10; Zech. 13:9; Mal. 3:2-3; cf. 1 Cor. 11:19; 15:46). After passing through the onslaught of death brought in by the turmoil, the churches in Taiwan were not only preserved but also purified and established in resurrection (Isa. 48:10; Jer. 9:7), just as the churches in China were revived and strengthened after the resumption of Brother Nee’s ministry (Eph. 3:16; 6:10; 1 Pet. 5:10). Furthermore, the turmoil in Taiwan was used by the Lord in His leading Brother Lee to migrate to the United States and begin to minister there, a move that issued in the raising up of many churches throughout the Western hemisphere. The result of the turmoil is proof that the ministry in the Lord’s recovery is a ministry in resurrection; the churches in Taiwan, which were raised up through this ministry, were shown to be not the work of man but the work of God, constituted with the death-overcoming resurrection life (John 11:25; Acts 5:38-39).

The operation of death unto resurrection in the churches did not stop with events in Taiwan but continued as the ministry in the Lord’s recovery spread to the United States. The experience of the cross and the God of resurrection is not a one-time event but a lifelong matter; for a genuine minister of the new covenant, deliverance from death must be a continual process (2 Cor. 1:9-10; cf. Phil. 3:10-11). On the eve of the storm among the churches in the United States in the 1970s, Brother Lee went to the Lord in prayer concerning what he perceived as signs of dissension and a deviation from the way of life. The Lord’s word to him was “not to do anything outwardly or make an issue of anything but to go to the cross.”53 By the Lord’s mercy and grace, the more he remained on the cross, the more living messages in resurrection he received. In those days he gave the Life-study of Ephesians trainings as well as conferences, which were published in books such as The Experience of Christ, Life Messages, and The Exercise of the Kingdom for the Building Up of the Church. Brother Lee testified:

Christ crucified is the way of my ministry. When I die with Him, I have much to minister. I have learned this secret. Whenever I need to speak, I go to the cross. Then I receive a word from the Lord. A word from the crucified Christ is a word in resurrection, and a word in resurrection is boundless. If we have merely learned something of dead letters, after we speak it, that is the end of it. But if we go to the cross and are willing to die there, our speaking will be in resurrection. Christ crucified is the way of our ministry.54

Brother Lee likened his ministry to a medical treatment that administered the crucified Christ as a divine antibiotic to the churches.55 In his endeavor to heal the churches affected by the storm, Brother Lee carried out his ministry by contacting the crucified Christ, remaining in Him, receiving a living and bountiful word in resurrection, and imparting this living word to the churches (1 Cor. 1:18, 24; John 6:63, 68; 15:4-5; 17:8; Phil. 2:16; Acts 5:20). He did not merely learn the theological doctrine concerning the cross of Christ and pass it on to others; rather, he experienced the crucified Christ and ministered this very One in resurrection as an experiential reality (1 Cor. 2:2; 15:45b). Instead of exercising his natural human wisdom to develop a solution to problems among the churches, Brother Lee was faithful to simply abide in the crucified Christ and minister this Christ to the churches. Consequently, the storm abated within a year, and many of the churches were healed and strengthened.

48 Life-Study of the Psalms, p. 145

49 Life-Study of 1 Corinthians, pp. 537-538

50 CWWL, 1981, vol. 2, pp. 298, 302-303

51 CWWL, 1965, vol. 4, p. 555

52 CWWL, 1981, vol. 2, p. 299

53 The Recovery of Christ as Everything in the Church, p. 32

54 The Recovery of Christ as Everything in the Church, p. 32

55 The Recovery of Christ as Everything in the Church, p. 31

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