8 – The Ministry Abounding with Glory (3)

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

The New Covenant Ministry—the Heavenly Treasure in Earthen Vessels

The new covenant ministry is a matter of the Christ of glory as the precious treasure shining in the believers as earthen vessels. When Paul refers to Christ as the treasure of glory indwelling him and his fellow workers in 2 Corinthians 4:7, he states that the treasure is in earthen vessels, not golden boxes. As descendants of Adam, Paul and his fellow apostles in and of themselves were nothing more than earthen vessels; they were weak, poor, “sinful, fallen, and low.”63 Similarly, although the ministers of the word in the Lord’s recovery contain, express, and minister Christ as the treasure, they as earthen vessels are not without weaknesses and imperfections. Brother Lee was not ashamed of acknowledging this:

We must humble ourselves and admit that we are all earthen vessels. You are an earthen vessel, and I am also an earthen vessel; we all are earthen vessels. Nevertheless, a treasure is contained in these earthen vessels. The co-workers, elders, deacons, and brothers and sisters all have weaknesses because they are earthen vessels. How can earthen vessels not have weaknesses? Are we not earthen vessels? Do we not have weaknesses? We must admit that we all have the same problem, and we all need the Lord’s mercy…I will never deny that I am full of problems, because I am an earthen vessel in Adam. However, please do not forget that we all have many problems, because we are all earthen vessels in Adam…We all have defects, and we all are earthen vessels.64

Recognizing that he was an earthen vessel, Brother Lee emphatically disclaimed any pretense to infallibility: “Today I testify before all that I am also a fallen man. I have made mistakes, and I have my weaknesses. This cannot be denied.”65

Not even the apostle Paul was free from mistakes. At the conclusion of his third apostolic journey, he disregarded the Spirit’s admonition not to set foot in Jerusalem (Acts 21:4) and participated in a Nazarite vow, a Judaic practice belonging to the Old Testament dispensation. According to his own teaching, such practices should be renounced in light of God’s New Testament economy (vv. 15-26). Paul’s involvement in this practice jeopardized God’s New Testament economy by bringing in a mixture of Judaism. Therefore, God allowed a riot to prevent Paul from completing his Nazarite vow (vv. 27-30). However, his subsequent arrest and imprisonment were arranged by God so that he would have a quiet environment in which to write his last eight Epistles for the completion of the divine revelation (Col. 1:25). These eight Epistles were included in the canon of the New Testament alongside the six Epistles written by Paul prior to his failure, showing that it did not invalidate his ministry but rather afforded the sovereign God an opportunity to manifest His wisdom for the carrying out of His economy (Eph. 3:10). Brother Lee testifies that this was also his experience:

Our failures, mistakes, defeats, and wrongdoings have also given God opportunities to display His wisdom. None of us likes to be mistaken; on the contrary, we all want to be right. Although I have always intended to do the right thing, I have nevertheless made many mistakes, even some big mistakes. I certainly hate these mistakes, but I can testify that they have afforded God the opportunity to show forth His wisdom.66

But though Paul and his co-workers were not perfect in the eyes of God, they nevertheless lived a life that was worthy of the new covenant ministry, conducting themselves irreproachably in the eyes of men (1 Tim. 3:2). In 2 Corinthians 6:3 Paul boldly declared, “We give no occasion of stumbling in anything that the ministry may not be faulted.” Similarly, Paul called on the Thessalonians to bear witness to the holy, righteous, and blameless manner in which he and his fellow apostles conducted themselves toward the believers (1 Thes. 2:10; cf. Heb. 13:18). For this reason Paul had the standing in the Lord to exhort the believers to imitate him, an imitator of Christ, that they also might be imitators of Christ (1 Cor. 4:16; 11:1; Phil. 3:17). In the same manner, those taking the lead in the Lord’s ministry in His recovery live a life that matches their ministry. Although in the sight of God they are not blameless, for no flesh is such (Gal. 2:16), in the sight of men they are without reproach. They have kept themselves unspotted from the world, fully separated from the world according to God’s holy nature (James 1:27), and they are holy, good, pure, and excellent in all their manner of life in Christ (1 Pet. 1:15-16; 2:12; 3:2). Hence, their holy, God-expressing, and Christ-magnifying living, the foundation of their ministry, is a proper pattern that is worthy of our imitation (2 Thes. 3:7, 9).

63 Life-Study of 2 Corinthians, p. 89

64 Christ Making His Home in Our Heart and the Building Up of the Church, p. 89

65 CWWL, 1981, vol. 2, p. 320

66 Life-Study of Ephesians, p. 273

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