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In 1 Corinthians 3 some are building and some are laying the foundation. Therefore, Paul says, “As a wise master builder I have laid a foundation, and another builds upon it.” Everyone is a builder; some lay a foundation, and some build upon it. Therefore, the workers should not work according to the way they want. It seems like some have been assigned to lay a foundation, and others have been assigned by God to build upon it. By this we see that some are master builders.
The meaning of the foundation is as follows: Those who lay a foundation have to find solid ground, to locate a site where they can lay the foundation. They go to find a place, they make arrangements related to the place, and they determine the position of the building site. There is no need for those who build upon the foundation to seek out a place or to determine where the best site for the building is. This is not the responsibility of those who build upon the foundation. Their responsibility is to build upon the foundation no matter where it is.
The Meaning of Not Buildingupon Others’ Foundation
When Paul said that he did not want to build upon others’ foundation, he was specifically referring to the work of the brothers in the region of Jerusalem. Paul did not want to build upon their foundation, because he was a person established by God to be one who laid the foundation. But 1 Corinthians 3 shows us that others need to build upon Paul’s foundation. In the future, at the Lord’s judgment seat, they will be judged according to how they built upon it. Some use gold, silver, and precious stones to build, but some use wood, grass, and stubble to build. The judgment at the judgment seat will be a judgment of how one built upon the foundation.
Not Quoting the Word in a Light Way
Because many brothers and sisters have quoted in a careless way the words that I spoke from the Bible during the last few days, I feel bothered. There are words that you cannot quote in a careless way. If we have not attained to a certain state, we cannot apply certain words. We must advance to that state before we can say those words. They are not to be spoken by young people lightly. I have often heard young people say, “I do not want to build upon others’ foundation.” These words are quite out of place. In the Bible there are not that many people who have been raised up by God to lay a foundation.
This Word Being Spoken by Paul
No doubt, there were some brothers in Jerusalem who were raised up by God. Paul was also raised up by God. For Paul to say that he did not build upon others’ foundation was right and was also to be expected because he was a master builder set up by God for the purpose of laying a foundation. If all of God’s children wanted to lay a foundation rather than build upon the foundation, this would result in what is described in Hebrews 6, that is, continually laying a foundation without any building upon it. Paul said that he came to lay a foundation. He said, “I came and I have laid a foundation. I was sent by God.” He said that he was an intelligent master builder, a wise master builder. Paul was not standing on an imaginary position. God actually established him. He was bold to make such a statement, and he was indeed a wise master builder who laid a foundation upon which others needed to build.
All of the brothers and sisters after Paul need to learn to build upon this foundation. In the future when you are judged, you will not be judged according to whether the foundation was right or wrong, but you will be judged according to how you built upon the foundation. When the judgment comes, it will be based upon whether you built upon the foundation with gold, silver, and precious stones or with wood, grass, and stubble. It will not be based upon whether the foundation was right, but on whether what was built upon it was right. Therefore, we should not say loosely that we do not build upon others’ foundation. Paul could say this, but others cannot. We have seen that whoever lays a foundation is a wise master builder. The brothers after Paul should build upon the foundation laid by Paul. Building upon the foundation is their responsibility, while laying a foundation was Paul’s responsibility. This is quite clear, and we need to learn this.
SOME TAKING THE LEAD AMONG THE APOSTLES
You need to keep in mind that Paul was an apostle and that Barnabas was also an apostle when he went out with Paul. In the Bible, just as I said a few days ago, there is no chief apostle. There is no position of a chief apostle. But in the Bible we can see clearly that some take the lead among the apostles.
Andronicus and Junia
Romans 16 implies this thought. That chapter clearly states that Andronicus and Junia were notable among the apostles. Some are especially notable among the apostles, and others are not.
Among the twelve apostles it was apparent that Peter was taking the lead. The twelve apostles did not stand up at Pentecost at the same time. Peter stood up first; then the eleven apostles stood up together with him. You need to pay attention to the order in the Word of God. A great multitude came to Jerusalem during Pentecost. When they heard the sound out of heaven, they were surprised. Wondering what it was, they all gathered at the place where the apostles were. The Bible recorded that Peter standing up together with the eleven, lifted up his voice to speak. Peter stood up, and the eleven apostles stood up with him. Peter was the one who lifted up his voice to speak. Among these twelve, there was spontaneously a leading one.
In the record of Acts 3, the Spirit of God placed Peter’s name first when describing Peter and John going up together to the temple. Though the beggar saw both Peter and John, Peter’s name always appears first. Both Peter and John together gazed at the beggar, but Peter spoke, not John. Later, Peter healed him, not John. At Solomon’s porch Peter opened his mouth to preach, not John. Please remember that it was Peter who preached in chapter two, even though the eleven apostles were also standing there. The preaching in chapter three was also by Peter.
In chapter five it was Peter who dealt with the incident involving Ananias and Sapphira. Therefore, Peter took the lead all the way, even though the other apostles fellowshipped with God, communed before God, and labored together in oneness.
In chapter five, when the apostles were put in prison and then taken out to be judged, “Peter and the apostles answered and said, It is necessary to obey God rather than men” (v. 29). Again it was Peter who spoke. Even if they were all speaking, the Bible specifically says, “Peter and the apostles answered and said.” I want you to read all these portions, and then you can see that the first section in Acts pays special attention to the matter of Peter being in the forefront.
Later, a great persecution occurred in Jerusalem, and the disciples were all scattered abroad. They went about preaching the gospel, and some Samaritans received the Lord’s word. When the church in Jerusalem heard this and sent out workers to them, it was again Peter and John who went together. Up to this point, it was still Peter who took the lead.
Acts 10, concerning the events at the house of Cornelius, is a portion of the Word with which we are more familiar. Even though there were twelve apostles, only Peter was sought for. God’s vision was also given to Peter. Later, we see that Peter took some brothers with him from Joppa, but the names of these brothers were not mentioned in the Bible.
Therefore, up to the point of Cornelius’s house in Acts 10, God’s way among the workers in Jerusalem was always that there was one who took the lead, and we can clearly see that this one was Peter.
Following this, the gospel was spreading in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, and we see the conversion of Saul. Because the brothers in Jerusalem suffered persecution, some went to different places. Many people in these places believed in the word of the Lord. Therefore, the church in Jerusalem sent out another person, Barnabas, to go out and visit them. He went as far as Antioch. Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. When he arrived at Antioch, he helped the church in Antioch. After a period of time, Barnabas heard about Saul, and he went to Tarsus to seek for Saul and brought him to Antioch. Then Barnabas spent a whole year in Antioch. Barnabas did not have official duties in Jerusalem. That is why he could live outside of Jerusalem for a year. He did not have to return to Jerusalem like Peter or John, because he was not an elder in Jerusalem. We can say that, within this year, Saul received edification from Barnabas.
After a period of time, due to a great famine, the brothers in Judea became quite poor and suffered greatly. The brothers in Antioch sent money to the elders in Jerusalem through Barnabas and Saul. Because the money was for local use, it was sent to the elders instead of the apostles.
Later, several prophets and teachers were raised up in the church in Antioch. Barnabas was one of them, and Saul was also one of them. Then the Holy Spirit ordered that Barnabas and Saul be set apart to be apostles and sent out to work.
Up to this point, Barnabas was in the forefront. It was Barnabas who established the church in Antioch. The church in Antioch was not established by Saul. It was Barnabas who came down from Jerusalem to establish the church in Antioch. When the church in Antioch sent money to Jerusalem, they sent it through Barnabas and Saul. Saul was the one who followed. When the Holy Spirit came to send people out to work from among the prophets and teachers, the Scripture says, “The Holy Spirit said, Set apart for Me now Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2). Barnabas was still in the forefront.
God Being the God of Authorityand the God of Order
Please remember that in God’s work and in the church of God there can never be a situation in which there is no order. We need to see before God that even with two people, one is put ahead of the other. When ten people are together, there will be one in front and nine in the back. When twelve are together, one will be in front and eleven will be in the back. God is always the God of authority and the God of order. There is never a committee system of three or five men. There is no such thing in the Bible! There may be several elders, but God does not establish a committee. Although God does not set up a chairman, we need to listen to the one whom God establishes among the elders when carrying out the Lord’s affairs. Today when we talk about the matter of the work, it is exactly the same. There were twelve apostles in Jerusalem, but God placed Peter in the forefront. The rest of the eleven had to wait in the back and listen to what he said. The James that we spoke of earlier was not the older brother of John. The older brother of John had already passed away. This James was in the forefront in the local church. We need to see this matter before God. Not only do we have Barnabas and Saul, but Barnabas was spontaneously ahead of Saul. In the work there are always those in the forefront. If two sisters have learned the lesson of recognizing authority, they will immediately realize that one of them needs to stand on the ground of obedience when they are together. The first thing in the coordination of the work is the coordination of the authority of God. Once we do not have the coordination of authority, all the other coordinations are empty.
Please note that God’s word in the Bible is very fine and detailed. “God has placed some in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then...” (1 Cor. 12:28). We must see that God is not a God of confusion but a God of order. God does not believe in disorder or confusion. God believes in order, and God is a God of authority. That is why He says “first.” It does not mean that there is a system of organization or committees, in which everyone has the right to speak and vote. God does not recognize this at all. This is man’s way. In His Word God says, “First...second...third...then....” This is the arrangement of God. Therefore, when the brothers come to work in the church or in any matter, they must see their own place. They must learn to line up. Today if three people are walking together, they should know spontaneously which brother is in front of them. If they have a question, they should ask that brother. This is the principle of the church here. It is very beautiful. When two or three brothers are together and something happens, some should immediately take the position of obedience and ask, “Since this matter must be decided, what do you say?” Even when two are together, we should know who stands before us. This is not a matter of ordination or assignment. If we have to assign, then things have been spoiled already. It is obvious that some stand in the forefront and some stand behind.
Being in the Forefront Is Having Authority
It is not God’s intention that we listen to the authority that He has established because this person is perfect. Rather, God says that this person’s authority is higher than ours; therefore, we need to listen to him. We do not listen to this person because he is more perfect than we are. We need to listen to him because he is in front of us. The basis for obedience is not that the one to whom you listen is perfect. The basis for obedience is whether or not the one to whom you listen is in front of you. If something goes wrong, he bears the responsibility. Let me illustrate. God says that wives must obey their husbands. The wife should not obey him on the basis of whether or not he is perfect. If husbands had to be perfect, all of the wives in the whole world would not need to obey their husbands, because no husband is perfect. The wife must obey her husband simply because he is the husband. Whether or not he is perfect is not the issue. The issue is whether or not he is the husband. If he is the husband, the wife needs to obey him—period. It is the same in the relationship and coordination among the co-workers in God’s work. If two are put together, then they should spontaneously know their place. When something happens, we should always know when to stand aside and say, “Brother, you speak.” We should wait for him to speak because he is in front of us. We are not obedient to man’s selection, but we are obedient to God’s authority. Once a brother stands in front of us, we should be obedient to him. It would be strange if there were no one to obey and if we could not even find someone to obey. If this is the case, we have absolutely not seen the arrangement of God’s authority in the Bible.
This is the way when two brothers are together in the work: Spontaneously, Barnabas was in the forefront and Saul was behind. In the Holy Spirit’s assignment, Barnabas was naturally put in front and Saul was behind. At the beginning of Acts 13, Barnabas was in the forefront the whole way when they went out. Verse 7 says, “Sergius Paulus...called Barnabas and Saul to him and sought to hear the word of God.” Again, Barnabas is spoken of and then Saul.
In Acts 13:1, I would like for you to notice that Barnabas was the first one among many prophets and teachers and that Saul was the last. Do not think that Paul was advanced at the beginning. There is no such thing! When they went out, the last one was Saul. “Now there were in Antioch, in the local church, prophets and teachers: Barnabas and Simeon, who was called Niger, and Lucius the Cyrenian, and Manaen, the foster brother of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.” Barnabas was first, then Simeon, Lucius, Manaen, and lastly Saul. Among the five, the first was Barnabas and the last was Saul. Perhaps all of these others were ahead of Saul in the Lord at that time. When they went out, the Holy Spirit also recognized Barnabas to be in the forefront. “And as they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, Set apart for Me now Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (v. 2). Again it is Barnabas and Saul.
Later, when they were on the way in verse 7, Sergius Paulus “called Barnabas and Saul to him and sought to hear the word of God.” The Holy Spirit still recognized Barnabas as being in the forefront.
However, something very interesting occurred at this juncture. In verse 9 the Bible records that Paul was filled with the Spirit in the work for the first time. Paul’s being filled with the Holy Spirit previously at his baptism was another matter. He repented, and he was saved and filled with the Holy Spirit. That was a different matter. But in verse 9, the Bible records for the first time that “Saul, who is also Paul, [was] filled with the Holy Spirit.” Here God did something through Paul. Paul performed a miracle by causing a man to be blind.
Later, they came to Pamphylia and then to another place called Antioch, a place with a similar name, except that it was Pisidian Antioch. When they went into a synagogue on the Sabbath and sat down, the synagogue rulers asked them to speak. Then Paul stood up. In the previous instance Paul performed a miracle, and here he preached. This was the first time in Acts that someone preached other than Peter and Stephen. The Bible never records that Barnabas gave a long message. Up to this point, only Peter had given a few long messages in Acts. On the day of Pentecost, he gave one message in chapter two and a few messages in the following chapters until his message in the house of Cornelius. Other than the words of Peter and Stephen, the Bible does not record whatever was preached by others. The Holy Spirit, however, allowed Paul to step forward to speak a strong word; the Spirit used him to be a minister of the word.
From that point forward, the wording in the Bible begins to change. Acts 13:43 says, “And when the synagogue gathering had been dismissed, many of the Jews and the devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas.” Do you see it? Paul is listed first.
Verse 46 says, “And Paul and Barnabas spoke boldly,” and verse 50 says, “But the Jews...raised up a persecution against Paul and Barnabas and cast them out from their borders.”
But this does not mean that this matter was settled. When we come to chapter fourteen, Barnabas was mentioned first one more time. This occurred after they returned to Lystra. From chapter thirteen Paul was clearly in the forefront. Even in chapter fourteen Paul was in the forefront. It was Paul who preached and healed the lame man. Then verse 12 says, “And they called Barnabas, Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, since he was the one who took the lead in the discourse.” Zeus and Hermes were the names of the gods of Lystra. The heathen saw that Paul was the leading speaker. Therefore, when they addressed him with a name of their god, they used a name with a higher status because he was the one speaking and taking the lead. Although verse 14 says, “Barnabas and Paul,” with Barnabas being spoken of first, this is an exception. There is a reason for this exception: When the priest of Zeus (whose temple was outside the city) heard that Zeus had come down from heaven, descending upon a person, he came quickly, bringing bulls and garlands to the gates, and he wanted to sacrifice with the crowds to the apostles. They thought that Barnabas was Zeus; therefore, they put Barnabas in the forefront. The priest of Hermes did not come, but the priest of Zeus came to sacrifice to his own god. This is why verse 14 says, “But when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard this, they tore their garments.” It was natural for Barnabas to take the lead here, because the people thought Barnabas was Zeus. Therefore, Barnabas jumped into their midst before Paul.
Following this, we can see that the crowds originally were sacrificing to both apostles, but the apostles refused to accept such a thing. As a result, “Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, supposing that he was dead.” Formerly, they wanted to sacrifice to him, but now they tried to stone him to death. “But as the disciples surrounded him, he rose up and entered into the city. And on the next day he went out with Barnabas to Derbe.” Paul was the center of this incident. From this point onward until chapter fifteen, Barnabas’s name was placed ahead of Paul’s only one more time. That incidence also had its own reason. Besides these two places, Paul always took the lead.
In chapter fifteen they returned to Antioch. What did they do when the trouble arose in Antioch? “No little dissension and discussion with them came about through Paul and Barnabas” (v. 2a). Later, when the brothers sent people to Jerusalem, “the brothers directed Paul and Barnabas and certain others among them to go up to the apostles and elders in Jerusalem concerning this question” (v. 2b).
Barnabas spoke first in the meeting and then Paul because Barnabas was one who had come out of Jerusalem. Therefore, Barnabas naturally spoke first in the meeting, and then Paul gave an answer. The weighty persons always speak later. Hence, those who speak later have a more respectable position. The last one who spoke was James.
The Bible says, “It then seemed good to the apostles and the elders with the whole church to choose men from among them to send to Antioch together with Paul and Barnabas” (v. 22). Paul was standing in the forefront, but when they wrote the letter, it was written by “Barnabas and Paul” (v. 25). Barnabas was in front. They could not have said that they sent Paul and Barnabas, because Barnabas was from Jerusalem. This is the reason.
After the problem in Acts 15 was resolved, it was still Paul and Barnabas, who “stayed in Antioch, teaching and announcing the word of the Lord as the gospel with many others also” (v. 35).
No Coordination without Obedience
We have spent only a little time to see that the matter of who should be the leader and who should obey in the work is spontaneously arranged before God. When Christians are together there should be fellowship as well as obedience among them. We hope that brothers and sisters can eventually learn that when two are together there will always be one who obeys. When three people are together, there will always be two who obey. This is the basic coordination in the work. Without obedience there is no coordination. When two or three brothers or eight or ten brothers live together, we should never allow a confused situation to exist in which they do not know whom they should listen to. Such a confused situation would prove that we have received very little instruction before God. Whenever God’s children live together, they will spontaneously and immediately know whom they should listen to if they have been instructed before God. When brothers live together or when brothers fellowship together, spontaneously there is one who is in the forefront among them. Whenever something happens, learn to obey. Once we have learned this matter, there is no need for man to tell us or teach us. We will automatically stay in our position and ask, “Brother, what do you think I should do?” After he speaks, the matter will be settled and it will be arranged that way. We need to keep our place, knowing what our position is and knowing that this is what God wants us to do.
The first thing in God’s work and in the coordination among workers is to ask God to open our eyes that we may know the authority among us. When we are together with brothers, we should know which brother is ahead of us. We need to humble ourselves to see that as soon as a word is spoken, a matter is decided, or an opinion is expressed, we need to obey. We are persons who obey. We are not here to elect or nominate, but to stand spontaneously in our place. Recognizing authority is the first principle of coordination. If we do not recognize this fact, we will find that it is impossible to coordinate.
FELLOWSHIP BEING NEEDED
In coordination, the first matter is authority, and the second matter is fellowship.
Co-workers Being Those to WhomWe Can Open Up Our Heart
A basic need among co-workers is that they be ones to whom we can open up our heart and with whom we can have fellowship. Coordination opposes individualism. Coordination is for the service of the Body. It is we who serve, but we serve according to the principle of the Body. Therefore, we need the mutual fellowship, having our hearts open to one another and helping one another. If a member rejoices, the entire Body rejoices. If a member suffers, the whole Body suffers. If a member is sorrowful, the whole Body is sorrowful. This is called coordination.
Two Persons Being as One Man
Several people living together is not necessarily coordination. Suppose a brother has a very thick, heavy, solid outer shell; whether he lives alone or with ten people, he remains an individual. This is not coordination, and he is not in coordination. Many people, whether they are alone or with ten people, pray, seek God, speak to God, and seek the will of God as individuals. How can we say that this is coordination? This is not coordination. Putting two people together as co-workers does not mean putting two individuals together. Do we see this? We must not have the misconception that this is coordination. Formerly, we worked by ourselves; now two are working together. If one person is working alone, he is working individualistically. If two persons are working together as two individuals, there is still no coordination. It is useless if one person is an individual or if two persons remain as individuals! Formerly, one person was working, but now two persons need to work together as one. When two or three get together, what should they do? They need to be in one accord! This means that before God we are able to open up to our brothers.
Needing to Disclose Our Affairsto the Co-workers
Many brothers cannot pray with other brothers at all. No one knows their affairs. They cannot open up to other brothers. Many people can bear their difficulties alone. They will not consult with other brothers. They may have many difficulties, but when they encounter problems, they still hold on to their individualism, thinking that they can handle their own problems and solve them before God by themselves. Please remember, we may live among brothers, but our spirit may not be with the brothers. Our body may be among the brothers, but we may not live like a member of the Body.
In order to coordinate we need to recognize authority, and we absolutely need to know what fellowship is. To fellowship, one should be able to open up to others. Such a one has several co-workers by his side; they are the ones to whom he opens his affairs. He can say to them, “Brothers and sisters, I cannot get through in this matter. How should I take care of it?” or “Brothers and sisters, I cannot get through in this matter. Can you pray together with me?” Please remember, people who cannot bear others’ burdens cannot coordinate with others. People who cannot open up their heart to others, also cannot coordinate with others.
Needing to Bear Others’ Burdens
Some people are full of their own burdens. There is absolutely no way for them to bear anyone else’s burden because they only think about themselves day and night. Whenever someone asks them to pray for him, they do not pray. Whenever someone asks them to pay attention to a certain matter, they do not take care of it; rather, they leave that matter uncared for and unattended. If you ask them how this matter should be handled, they have no heart to pay any attention to it. There is no coordination with them whatsoever. They still strongly hold on to their individualism. Although they are members of the Body, they still act independently. For example, if I cut off my finger and leave it in Nanking, it would be useless. Likewise, if I sever my leg so that it loses its oneness and fellowship with the body, it would be useless. The basic principle of the Body is fellowship. Therefore, the basic principle of the work is also fellowship.
We are used to accommodating ourselves, bearing our own responsibilities, and not paying attention to others’ affairs. Today we need to learn to bear the burden of others and to bear the burden with others. We may feel that this is very difficult; we may feel that it is hard to obey others, and we may even feel that it is hard to fellowship with others.
Needing to Seek For Fellowship
I do not mean that some among us should not be responsible before God for our own affairs and that we should just cast these affairs upon other brothers. The word I have spoken is not to those who are lazy before God. It does not mean that we need not be desperate before God and that we need not seek and ask before God. It means that we are still responsible toward God, that we still draw near to the Lord, and that we still seek after Him. We should not cast our responsibility on others without bearing any of it ourselves. It means that when we bear our responsibility, we always seek fellowship with other brothers and sisters. When I see that there are important things that are very much related to my future, I need to say, “Brother, would you have some fellowship with me, consider with me, and seek together with me how I should handle this matter? Would you wait on the Lord together with me?” We should take up our own burden and also coordinate and fellowship with other brothers and sisters. We need fellowship and coordination not only in our daily living but also in the work.
We need to learn to be an open person. Many brothers and sisters can open up only after others open up. It is not easy to ask them to be an open person. Many people will open up only when others open up to them. It is good to have someone open up to you first, but you should also open up. You need to learn to be an open person.
Brothers and sisters, I can tell you this, that one day when you are really clear about the principle of fellowship, you will be amazed at how some Christians whom you consider not so capable can render you such great help. Those members whom you consider not very useful can strengthen your hand. This is something that you would never have thought of, something completely outside of your expectation.
Bringing In the Powerby Seeking the Lord with One Accord
For instance, if three, five, or eight brothers in the work are going to Tsingtao and all of them are still individuals, there is no co-working and there is no coordination. In the case of the brothers who are going to Wenchow, if each one is still individualistic and his spirit is not open to the others, it will be useless even though they may live together. It will be useful only when the twenty persons are as one. If twenty remain as twenty, that is useless because there is no coordination. When they get to Wenchow, if everyone is an open person and everyone seeks the Lord together with one accord, the power will come. If two or three seek with one accord in prayer, God will hear them. If each one prays his own prayer, this is not being in one accord. They may call themselves co-workers and live together, but each one is still wrapped tightly in himself and doing his own thing. If this is so, where is the Body on the earth? Where are the members on the earth? That is a paralyzed person with no living members!
Needing to Cast Off Individualism
Brothers, do you see? We need to cast off many things before we go back. Even our individualism has to be left here. We need to learn to be an open person. Toward our brothers, our spirit needs to be open, our thinking needs to be open, and many times even our mouth needs to be open. Many times because our mouth is shut, our spirit is also shut. There are people who have never asked for help in their entire life. While we are here on the mountain, I hope that those among us will ask for help at least once. I hope there will be those among us who can say to the brothers or sisters, “I have had trouble with this one matter for many years. Please help me overcome it.” If this is the first time in our life that we ask for help, let it be here.
Oh, we do not know what proud persons we are! Many people simply do not realize how proud they are. Many people also do not realize how tightly they are wrapped in themselves. Many say that they are broken before God; however, if we turn them around and put them before other people, they are not broken in the least. Actually, if a person is broken before God, he is broken wherever he is. If a person has been broken before God, he is really broken. Asking for help is called fellowship, and we need to reach out to seek fellowship.
One should not cast off responsibility onto others. For such a person to petition and pray is useless. Those who are responsible and who seek after the Lord have learned to be broken before God and actively seek out the help of the members of the Body. Thus, when they go to another place, they will pray with others and will discuss and consider things together with others before God. Otherwise, what does it mean to be a co-worker? Actually, there would be no co-worker.
I am afraid that there are some brothers who cannot bear responsibility with anyone even after working for ten or twenty years. For ten or twenty years perhaps they have not had any co-workers or learned to bear responsibility with other people before God. Maybe they are proud to such an extent that they bear all the responsibility alone. Perhaps they do not care for the things of others; they do not have a heart for the things of others. Has there been one time when some brother shared a certain matter with you, and you brought this matter to God in prayer? Have you truly been burdened for one and fasted concerning his situation? Have you truly wanted to know God’s will so that you could tell him, “This is how I feel”? Brothers, if we do not learn how to bear the burdens of others, and if we do not seek out the help from others regarding our own burdens, we do not know what the Body is, nor can we have coordination in the work.
I hope that you would seek the Lord and pray together with some brothers and sisters when you go out to work in a region today. It is the best sign when you can pray together with others and when you hide nothing in your prayer. Of course, the problems of a personal nature that we deal with before God are another matter. However, in the work there are many things that we can pray together about and open to one another. We can bear each other’s burdens. Sometimes you bear my burden, and sometimes I bear your burden. If we go out in this way, we can be at peace and thank the Lord that there is coordination.
If we stay in our former condition, we will still be tightly wrapped up in ourselves, and our outer shell will not broken. My affairs will still be my affairs, and I will not let you touch them. My work will still be my work, and I will not let you interfere. When problems come, you may go desperately to the Lord alone; this is right and necessary. However, have you never once sought out the help and supply of the co-workers? If only you go to God alone, you do not know the coordination of the Body, and it will be impossible for anyone to entrust any burden to you. You will always be busy bearing your own burden, and you will not be able to bear the burden of anyone else.
Whether or not the co-workers can pray together is the greatest test. The greatest test is whether or not the co-workers can discuss things before God in one accord: “I have this problem, and you have that problem; let us put all these before God together.” I hope that from now on none of us will bear any burdens individually. Yes, we do need to bear burdens, but we cannot bear them in an individual way without seeking out fellowship. By all means, we need to learn to seek out fellowship.
The Head Giving the Authority,and the Members Having the Fellowship
The usefulness of the Body is in the fellowship. The first principle of the Body is authority, and the second principle is fellowship. The supply from the coordination depends on the supply from the authority and also the supply from the fellowship. What comes from the Head is authority, and what comes from the members is fellowship. The Head provides the authority so that we can have order in the Body and order in the church. However, there is also the mutual fellowship among the members. These are the basic principles. Fellowship is very important.
There are many brothers and sisters in our midst. I want to charge you again to test yourselves thoroughly concerning this matter: “O Lord, am I a person who closes up his heart and never asks for help?” Please remember that we cannot find such an aloof Christian in the entire Bible. Being aloof is not the way of a believer. Never think that you should take care of everything by yourself and not care about the matters of other brothers and sisters. You cannot be a Christian on the earth in this way. You need to learn from the beginning how to coordinate with the brothers in the work. This is the way to have spiritual usefulness. Otherwise, when twenty brothers go to Wenchow, they will still be twenty individuals, twenty units there, and when twenty brothers go to Tsingtao, there will still be twenty units there. If this is the case, their going will be useless. On the one hand, we need to learn to submit to authority, and on the other hand, we need to have fellowship to the extent that we can say, “Thank the Lord! Praise the Lord! We bear the burdens in one accord. We have fellowship, and we have the authority. When there are problems, we take care of them step by step and level by level in an orderly way.”
Both authority and fellowship are needed. Neither can be lacking. If we go out to work and experience failure, we should realize that if there is no problem concerning authority, then there must be one concerning fellowship. The work is a matter of authority and fellowship.
AUTHORITY AND FELLOWSHIP IN THE BIBLE
In the New Testament there are many arrangements and much fellowship in God’s work. Especially with Paul we can learn that there are many arrangements, and we can find a basic principle—in these arrangements there is authority and also fellowship. Therefore, if we spend some time to look into the record in the Bible, we can repeatedly see that there are many arrangements in which the young brothers should listen to instructions in the work. These arrangements denote authority and also fellowship. When a brother has received knowledge and light, he not only uses authority to send some brothers to carry things out, but he also fellowships knowledge and light with them. Brothers, have you seen this? The arrangements in the Bible do not only denote authority. If they did, Paul would have simply told his young co-workers to do something and they would have done it. In these arrangements Paul had light and knowledge before God, and he imparted them to his young co-workers. Therefore, on the one hand, we need to see that this is a matter of authority, and on the other hand, we need to see that it is a matter of fellowship, because Paul shared his knowledge with his young co-workers.
Sending Tychicus and Onesimus
Colossians 4:7-8 says, “All the things concerning me, Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow slave in the Lord, will make known to you, whom I have sent to you for this very thing.” Do you see? Tychicus was sent to Colossae by Paul. Verse 9 continues, “With Onesimus, the faithful and beloved brother.” Here you see that Paul sent Tychicus and Onesimus to Colossae together.
In God’s work the master builders have authority to send people. It is recorded in the Epistles that Tychicus was a very good brother. The book of Philemon tells us that Onesimus was a beloved brother. But both of them were sent by Paul.
Sending Timothy and Epaphroditus
Let us continue with Philippians 2:19: “But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged by knowing the things concerning you.” Verse 25 says, “But I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus.”
Here the sending of two other brothers is spoken of; one was Timothy and the other, Epaphroditus. Timothy was like a son to Paul, as was Onesimus, whom we mentioned earlier. These two were young brothers, and Paul sent them out. Epaphroditus was a co-worker of Paul and was raised up after Paul was; therefore, Paul sent him. Thus, the Bible clearly shows us that in the coordination of the work, the leading workers are those who send people out. The young workers need to take orders. Only when the older ones have the assurance before God, can they send people out. Paul said, “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly.” He was very clear before the Lord that he should send Timothy; he was sending Timothy according to his hope in the Lord Jesus. I hope that you will learn something from this.
Tychicus Also Going to Ephesus
Ephesians 6:21 says, “But that you also may know the things concerning me, how I am doing, Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make all things known to you.” Tychicus was sent to Colossae earlier; now he was being sent to Ephesus. Verse 22 says, “Him I have sent to you for this very thing.” Tychicus was also sent by Paul to Ephesus.
Entreating Titus and Sending Another Brotherto Go with Him
At another time Paul entreated Titus to go to Corinth. Second Corinthians 12:18 says, “I entreated Titus and sent with him the brother.” The word used here is quite interesting. This time he did not send Titus but entreated him to go. Paul often did not like to send people. This is what you can see in the book of Titus. Paul was a person with much authority as far as Titus was concerned. Titus was a young person and was sent out by Paul; Paul had much authority over him. But here Paul only entreated him. Sometimes there was only the entreating, not the sending. There are two brothers in this verse; Paul did not mention the name of the other brother whom he sent. Therefore, some were sent. Some were sent because of the assurance that Paul had before God. Some were left in a place like Titus. Paul entreated him to go. Titus went because he obeyed. He received the entreaty; therefore, he went. This was different from Apollos in 1 Corinthians 16.
Urging Apollos, His Not Wanting to Go,but His Going in the Future
First Corinthians 16:12 says, “And concerning our brother Apollos, I urged him many times to come to you with the brothers; yet it was not at all his desire to come now, but he will come when he has opportunity.” Do you see the beauty here? It is very beautiful! Paul entreated Titus, and Titus obeyed and went. Titus was a young man, so he obeyed the entreaty. Apollos was not a young man; he was about the same age as Paul. In other words, he and Paul were of the same generation. Cephas, though, was ahead of Paul. In the church in Corinth some said, “I am of Cephas”; some said, “I am of Paul”; and some said, “I am of Apollos.” Apollos’s standing in the church in Corinth was that he belonged to the same generation as Paul. For this reason he was entreated, not sent. Paul did not send Apollos. Paul could not send Apollos; he could only entreat him. Furthermore, Paul entreated him not only once, but again and again. The good point here is that Apollos did not go. Paul entreated him and said, “You go with the brothers.” He urged him once, twice, and three times. Apollos was willing to go, but he said that he definitely could not go at that time. Apollos was quite serious that he definitely did not want to go at that time. But Paul added a word: He was quite certain that Apollos would go. This is very beautiful! The older ones should be entreated; if they do not listen, do not worry. They will go because this is their way before God.
Therefore, the entreating of Apollos in 1 Corinthians 16 and that of Titus in 2 Corinthians 12 are different. Paul could have ordered Titus, but he did not; rather, he entreated him. But Titus took Paul’s entreaty as a command. Paul could entreat Apollos, even twice or three times, but Apollos did not go. However, Paul was certain that he would go. Thus, the arrangement of the work is such that there is the authority and the fellowship. This is very precious.
Controlling Timothy’s Movementsand the Fellowship of Revelation
First Corinthians 16:10 says, “Now if Timothy comes....” Verse 11 says, “But send him forward in peace that he may come to me.” In other words, give Timothy a message that when he comes to you, you need to send him forward, and that he needs to come to me. “For I am awaiting him with the brothers.” Paul was expecting that Timothy would come with the brothers. Have you seen this? Paul was controlling their movements in the work. He was clearly asking Timothy to come to him. Therefore, toward younger brothers, the words in the Bible are quite clear. We need to learn before God that the authority established by God can control the movements of the young brothers. However, among the older ones, there is only entreaty, not commandment.
Let us look further at the Epistles to Timothy.
First Timothy 1:18 says, “This charge I commit to you, my child Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you might war the good warfare.” This shows us clearly that in the case of Timothy, Paul gave orders. This charge I commit to you, that you might war the good warfare. To Timothy, Paul gave orders directly.
First Timothy 3:14-15 says, “These things I write to you, hoping to come to you shortly. But if I delay, I write that you may know how one ought to conduct himself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and base of the truth.”
In chapter two Paul spoke of males and females. In chapter three he spoke of elders and deacons. What was the reason that he especially wrote of these matters to Timothy? He said, “I am hoping to come to you, but I am afraid I might be delayed. In case I am delayed, you would not know what to do in the church; therefore, I am writing to you first. In such a case, I am writing to you so that you may know how one ought to conduct himself in the house of God.” In other words, Paul did not leave ground for Timothy to find a way himself. Paul did not allow Timothy to do things according to his own way. Have you seen this? Paul wrote to him: “When I am present, you can ask me in person; when I am not present, you can read my epistle. When I come, you can ask me; but before I come, you can read my epistle.”
Let me say again, there is the principle of authority, and there is also the principle of fellowship. Because Paul was an elderly brother, he had authority. Writing a letter to a younger brother is fellowship. Because Paul knew before God and Timothy did not know, Paul fellowshipped what he knew with Timothy. When Timothy obeyed, he received the fellowship. Please remember that obeying does not mean losing your position in the work. Obeying allows you to obtain what the older brothers have obtained; obeying causes you to gain the revelation that they have gained in the work. According to your way, you may be wrong; according to their way, you will not be wrong. Therefore, you should receive guidance from them.
This kind of word is very common in the Epistles to Timothy. We do not have time to study them in detail; we will read only the portions concerning the outward way of the work.
Second Timothy 4:9 says, “Be diligent to come to me quickly.” What we see here is neither discussion nor hope, because we know that Paul was martyred not long after he wrote 2 Timothy. This is Paul’s last Epistle. Therefore, he says, “Be diligent to come to me quickly.”
Verse 10 says, “For Demas has abandoned me, having loved the present age, and has gone to Thessalonica.” Here there was a rebellious one who went out.
What about the other two? “Crescens to Galatia; Titus to Dalmatia.” Perhaps both of these were sent to those places.
Verse 11 says, “Luke alone is with me.” He only had Luke there with him.
Needing to Bring Mark
Verse 11 continues, “Take Mark and bring him with you.” This is the Mark about whom Paul and Barnabas contended. Remember that in Acts Barnabas wanted to take Mark with them, but Paul disagreed because Mark went away when the work was at a crucial time. In the beginning they went together; but when the work was intense, Mark left, Mark got sick, and Mark was not able to work. Therefore, Paul did not agree to take Mark with them. At that time Barnabas wanted to take Mark with them, perhaps because Mark was his relative. Therefore, the two had a sharp contention, and they went their separate ways. The amazing thing is that later Barnabas did not have the opportunity to work with Paul, but Mark had such an opportunity. Remember that Mark later had learned many lessons from Peter. The Gospel of Mark was dictated by Peter and written down by Mark. Shortly before Paul’s death, Paul said, “Take Mark and bring him with you.” For what reason? “For he is useful to me for the ministry.” Mark was profitable to Paul for the ministry.
Verse 12 says, “But Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus.” This shows us that this was the arrangement of the work. Paul asked Timothy to come, he asked Timothy to bring Mark with him, and he also sent Tychicus to Ephesus.
Verse 20 says, “Erastus remained in Corinth.” Do you see? Paul was the one who knew the condition of the work the best.
Leaving Trophimus at Miletus
“Erastus remained in Corinth, and Trophimus I left at Miletus sick.” Trophimus is one of the famous sick persons in the New Testament. Epaphroditus was one, and Trophimus was another.
“Trophimus I left at Miletus sick.” Many times sick persons need to obey; they cannot say that they want to move around. If they are sick, they must stop for a little while. Paul said that he left Trophimus at Miletus. It was better for him to be left at Miletus and not be occupied with so many things.
Concerning Timothy, Paul said “Be diligent to come before winter.” Paul gave him a definite time limit. Do not decide for yourself when to come. Be diligent to come before winter.
Brothers, we should see that this way is very clear. A brother like Paul, who walked before God, should be obeyed by Mark, Timothy, and Trophimus. If so, spontaneously, we will see that there is fellowship in the church, and spontaneously we will also be able to understand what authority is.
Titus Being Left in Creteand Being Diligent to Go to Nicopolis
Concerning Titus we do not need to say much. A few verses from the first and the last chapters of Titus are sufficient.
Titus 1:5 says, “For this cause I left you in Crete, that you might set in order the things which I have begun that remain and appoint elders in every city, as I directed you.” Are we clear? Titus was a young brother. In 2 Corinthians Paul indicated that he had entreated him to go to Corinth. They went to Crete together. Then Paul left Titus in Crete to complete the unfinished business. Paul told him how to set in order the things that were lacking, as he charged him. Here we can see authority and also fellowship.
Titus 3:12 says, “When I send Artemas to you or Tychicus, be diligent to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there.” Do you see? This is the way of the work. Paul said, “I want to send one of two brothers to you, maybe Artemas or Tychicus. It has not been fully decided; in any case, one will come to you. When he gets there, you need to come to me quickly in Nicopolis.”
Here we see how an elderly brother arranged many things and how a young brother listened to his word.
Charging Timothy to Keep the Commandment
Finally, we should say more concerning what Paul said to Timothy.
First Timothy 6:13-14 says, “I charge you before God, who preserves all things in life, and Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate, to keep the commandment spotless.” You see how weighty a matter this is—“I charge you before God, who preserves all things in life, and Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate, to keep the commandment spotless.”
Verse 20 says, “O Timothy, guard the deposit.” The commandment that I gave you, you need to guard.
Please remember that the young brothers need to learn what has been entrusted to the older brothers and learn to obey them. Then they will be able to walk the way ahead of them in a good way.
Paul Also Needing Fellowship
I hope that we can see how the work was carried out in the New Testament. The work in the New Testament is one that has arrangements, authority, and fellowship. I believe you still remember what I told you some days ago. Even though Timothy was a young brother, do you remember what was recorded in the book of Acts concerning what Paul did when Timothy came to him? “When both Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul was constrained by the word, solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ” (18:5). I feel that in the Bible this verse is the best. Paul was one who knew the Lord and was used much by Him. Yet because Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, he was constrained by the word. With Paul, fellowship was also necessary. When Timothy and Silas came, it was a great encouragement to him. This is what you can see from Acts 18.
Acts 17:14 says, “And immediately the brothers then sent Paul off, to go as far as the sea.” Here Paul listened to the brothers’ word. “And Silas and Timothy remained there.” “There” refers to Berea, which is the name of a city in Macedonia. Macedonia is the name of a region, and Berea is the name of a city. Verse 15 says, “And those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as quickly as possible, they went off.” Paul commanded Silas and Timothy to come to him as quickly as possible. But after Paul went to Corinth, and after Silas and Timothy came to Corinth from Macedonia, Acts 18:5 says that Paul was constrained by the word. You see how good that situation was!
I hope that you brothers can see this principle in the work. Today we are like children learning to walk—step by step, slowly walking before God. I hope that all the children of God would know how to have the mutual coordination in the work; then we will be able to do the work in a good way.