Question: Can one person possess two gifts?
Answer: Yes, he can. Sometimes a person can even possess three gifts.
Question: Was Peter the first pastor?
Answer: We can say that.
Question: Why did we not mention the matter concerning the elders earlier or even later than now? Why do we have to mention it now and stir up misunderstandings that we have become a denomination by having elders?
Answer: The question of elders was mentioned two to three years ago. At that time, no one was raised up who resembled an elder. That was merely a transitional period. The Bible says that a novice should not be an elder. There must be a transitional period. Now the time has come, and we can bring up the matter of the elders. If we go on without any elders raised up among us, we will become a lawless body.
Question: Among us, we may have men who resemble the elders, but they do not have the official title of an elder. This is like having no official title of apostles at the present time. Is this right?
Answer: This is right. If someone asks you what we are and whether or not we are the church in Shanghai, how should you answer? You should say that we are not the church in Shanghai. If someone asks if we are the church on Hardoon Road, you should say no. We should not admit that we are the church in Shanghai, because besides us there are the Shou-jin Chapel, the Mu-re Chapel, the Chin-lin Chapel, etc. There are many saved ones who are not meeting with us. We do not admit that we are the church on Hardoon Road either, because there may be many people who live on Hardoon Road who are not meeting with us. If we call ourselves the church in Shanghai, we have to include all believers in Shanghai. Otherwise, we cannot be considered the church in Shanghai.
They may then ask you what you are if you are not the church. We admit that we are not the church; we are merely those who meet on the ground of the church. I can illustrate the point by an example. The temple in the Old Testament was built in a splendid way. Later, it was burned, and not one stone was left on top of another. Suppose a man in Jerusalem at that time decided to erect a tent on the foundation of the burnt temple. If others were to ask him what this was, he would say that it was not the temple: rather, it was only a tent on the ground of the temple. The same is true with our meeting today. If others ask us what we are, we have to answer that we are not the church; we are not the church in Shanghai. We are a group of brothers and sisters in Shanghai meeting on the ground of the church. We are those who meet according to the principle of the church as revealed in the Bible. We are those who intend to stand on the ground of the church to maintain the ground of the church. The temple is now in ruins and burned, and we are only a tent. All those who have eyes can see the degradation of the church today; outwardly, everything is in ruins. We cannot and dare not call ourselves the church in Shanghai. We only desire to meet on the ground of the church based on the light we have received concerning the church. We are not the church in Shanghai, but we are meeting in a way that maintains and upholds the church in Shanghai. We are standing on the same ground that the church stands on, yet we are not the very church itself. Therefore, even though we are not the temple, we are a miniature of the temple, and we are here to express the life of the temple. This is why the elders and deacons among us are non-official. The reason we have elders and deacons is that, even though we admit that we are a small tent, we are, nevertheless, erected on the ground of the temple. Therefore, we have to do everything according to the pattern of the temple.
At the time of the Babylonians, the temple was destroyed. After Nehemiah and Ezra returned from their exile and rebuilt the temple, the old men who had seen the glory of the first temple knew that the rebuilt temple could not match the first one. But men like Nehemiah and Ezra still offered sacrifices according to the former principle of offerings even though the temple was no longer the same as the first temple.
The temple mentioned in John 2 was not the first temple; it was merely a rebuilt temple. Yet the Lord Jesus drove out the cattle and sheep from that temple and said that it was “My Father’s house” (v. 16). The Lord said that because He was standing on the ground of the temple. Although the temple was no longer the same as the first one, the ground of the temple was the same, and the principles of the temple remained. Although the outward structure may collapse, the ground remains, and upon this ground, there is still the possibility of maintaining the principle of service to God on a small scale.
There were twelve tribes in the nation of Israel. Yet God established Jerusalem as the place He chose to put His name. All the tribes had to come to Jerusalem three times a year to offer sacrifices and worship God. Later when Rehoboam was king, the nation was divided into Judah and Israel. The nation of Judah had two tribes and continued to worship God in Jerusalem. The nation of Israel had ten tribes, and Jeroboam was their king. Nevertheless, they obeyed God’s command to go to Jerusalem three times a year to worship Him. However, Jeroboam was afraid that journeying to Jerusalem three times a year would turn the people’s heart to the king of Judah, causing them to rebel against him and leave him. Therefore, he set up an altar in Bethel—the place which men considered the best—made a golden calf, and charged the people to worship there instead of going to Jerusalem to worship. At that time, a young prophet rebuked him, prophesied, and gave a sign by putting forth his hand to the altar. When Jeroboam heard the word of the prophet, he put forth his hand and tried to lay hold of the prophet, but his hand dried up, and he could not pull it in again to him (1 Kings 13:3-4). In the end, he had to allow the people to return to Jerusalem. From this we see that although the people were divided outwardly, the principle of service to God should not be lost. The human Bethel can never replace God’s Jerusalem. The outward law cannot replace God’s ordination. No political division can change God’s principle. Therefore, no outward destruction, failure, or desolation can ever change God’s ordained principles.
When the Israelites divided the land, nine and a half tribes remained on the west side of the Jordan in the land promised by God, while two and a half tribes preferred to dwell on the east side of the Jordan. Under the hand of Joshua, the two and a half tribes finished the division of the land. Then they erected a great altar by the river Jordan. When the whole congregation of Israel heard this, they went up to attack the two and a half tribes because they thought the two and a half tribes were trying “to build an altar...besides the altar of the Lord our God” (Josh. 22:29). Not only is it a sin to turn away from following Jehovah, it is a sin even to offer the burnt offering, meal offering, and peace offering on an altar other than the altar of the Lord. The two and a half tribes answered that they had no intention of erecting another center of worship, and that they were not erecting a new altar but were merely making a testimony. Only the altar before the tabernacle of God is the proper place of worship (Josh. 22). The two and a half tribes represent those who have failed spiritually. But the ones who have failed cannot change the principle of worship that God has ordained. Although, after the separation, Israel was no longer one nation outwardly and no longer the original kingdom of David, all of the Israelites still had to worship in Jerusalem. Therefore, although there is division and failure in Shanghai, although there is division and failure in the churches everywhere, and although there is desolation outwardly, we still have to worship God by standing on the ground of the church. This is a matter of principle. This is also the reason for us to appoint the elders. This is why we have elders among us today, but these elders are not official ones. We do not have elders like those in the denominations.