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Today we have two questions which we want to resolve: Who are our co-workers, and who are the apostles?
A GREAT MISUNDERSTANDING
I think that these questions have been greatly misunderstood among God's children. Even though we have talked about this from the beginning, this misunderstanding still continues to exist. Many consider that the requirement on a co-worker is in the matter of finances. Who are the co-workers? Some think that the co-workers are a group of people who have dropped their jobs and fully rely on God. If this is true, then Paul was not our co-worker, because he did not drop his job.
Many consider that an apostle is a person who has no other income or revenue and puts all his time into the work. If he is not so, he is not an apostle. If this concept is true, then Paul definitely would not be an apostle, because Paul did not drop his job altogether. Paul still made tents on the side. If we take the view of God's children today, Paul was not an apostle or a worker, because he did not spend twenty-four hours of his day on the work. He spent some time making tents. Regardless of his purpose in making tents, and regardless of what the income from his making of tents was used for, as long as he made tents, Paul would lose his qualification as a worker and as an apostle. Please remember, however, that this is a basic mistake.
Therefore, I hope that you brothers will be thoroughly clear concerning what God really shows us in His Word as to who an apostle is and who a worker is. Is being an apostle based on one dropping his job? Is being a worker based on whether or not one has a job? Or is being an apostle before God based on something else? You see clearly today that according to tradition and habit in the church, people always consider that being an apostle is based upon the matter of a job. If the question of job and finances is not resolved, one is not an apostle or a worker. I do not know if you have seen this kind of situation. This is today's situation. People always think that an apostle should drop his job entirely and put all of his time into the work. I want the brothers and sisters to see that this mistake is not unreasonable. You may say that it is not a mistake but only a misunderstanding. Many people have not seen thoroughly before God what a worker is and what an apostle is; therefore, they have made this mistake.
APOSTLES TRULY NEEDING TO DROP THEIR JOBS
We know that when John and James were called, they were mending nets. The Lord did tell them to drop their nets and give up their boat to come and follow Him. We also see that when Peter was called, he was fishing. The Lord told him to give up his boat and drop his catch to come and follow Him. When the Lord called Matthew as he was working in the tax office, the Lord told him to leave his job and follow Him. Therefore, let us see clearly before God that an apostle is a person who needs to leave his occupation. According to God's Word, the worker whom God requires must receive a calling before God and give up his job. He needs to put all his time into the hands of the Lord.
This is the fact. If a person has another occupation on the earth, it will be very difficult for him to be an apostle, for an apostle needs to be sent to various places. Even in a place like Jerusalem, the apostles still needed to leave Jerusalem to go to Samaria and Caesarea. Therefore, if one has a job, it would be hard for him to leave, and his work would be restricted to one place.
For this reason, there is no requirement for the elders to drop their jobs, although the apostles provide an example of dropping their jobs. Some elders also need the support from the church. Because they put most or all of their time into church affairs in a local church, they have no income. In such a case, the elders truly should receive double honor. Part of this honor is financial. But requiring the elders to drop their jobs is a different matter. In the Bible there is neither such a command nor such a pattern.
It is not the same with the apostles. The Lord clearly told one to leave this or that behind to come and follow Him, another to put this or that aside to come and follow Him, and another to drop this or that to come and follow Him. This clearly shows us that a person who would be an apostle is one who receives God's command to go to various places. This person should indeed give up his employment; otherwise, he could be an elder but could not be an apostle, since it would indeed be inconvenient to travel to various places to serve the Lord. Therefore, the twelve apostles had such a calling, such a following, such a dropping of things, and such a waiting on the Lord to supply their physical needs. This causes us spontaneously to see that this is the unique way. Here we see clearly that the Lord called the twelve to come forth completely. The Lord called Paul also to come forth completely. Luke, who was with Paul, also came forth completely.
Paul Being a Tentmaker
However, I want to particularly point out that not only was Paul a tentmaker but Aquila and Priscilla were also tentmakers. Luke was even a physician. The Bible shows us that after a person has left his occupation, he is no longer called by the same designation. Luke was a physician, and because the Bible still used that designation, he must have continued his occupation. Peter was a fisherman, but after he gave up his fishing, he was no longer called Peter the fisherman. Matthew was a tax collector, but after he gave up his job as a tax collector, he was no longer called Matthew the tax collector. Luke was a physician. You can see that if he had completely stopped practicing medicine, the Bible would have called him only Luke, not Luke the physician. Do you see this? Luke was practicing medicine and Paul was making tents. Aquila and Priscilla also made tents. Therefore, we have to look into this matter very carefully to see what it really means.
Acts shows us that Paul, Aquila, and Priscilla were all tentmakers. Because their employment was the same, they lived together. When Paul was in Miletus saying farewell to the elders of Ephesus, he told them to behold his two hands. Let me tell you, this is the most poignant portion of the Bible. For this very reason, I will share with you in a few days that you must touch the spirit in the Bible when you study the Bible. Due to making tents, his hands may have been cut in many places, wounded in many parts, and much skin may have been lost. Therefore, at that time when many overseers and brothers were together, he told them to behold his two hands. Those two hands must have had something worth seeing. Those two hands must have had something which made them different from others'. Those two hands had passed through toil and scratches. They had wounds and scars. Paul did not say at that point that his two hands had done many things and supplied many people. He first told them to behold his two hands. Later, he said that they had supplied many people. He first mentioned his two hands. His hands were different from common, lazy hands, which did no work. Therefore, he could tell them to behold his two hands; they were different from those of the average person.
Later, when he went to Corinth, he again paid attention to this matter. He worked with his own hands to supply the needs of his fellow workers.
Paul's Occupation Being an Apostle,Not Tentmaking
Here I hope the brothers and sisters will be able to see what the actual relationship between an apostle's financial source and his occupation is. When you look at Peter with his company and Paul with his company, you can see a straight way. If you read the Gospels, you cannot see the straight way there, because they contain only half of the matter. What Paul did in the church was a little different or perhaps more advanced. Here you can see that an apostle must leave his job completely. Please remember that in this matter Paul and Peter were the same; Paul also was a person who left his job completely. In reading those ten or more chapters in Acts, who would imagine that Paul was a tentmaker? When I read the book of Acts, my impression is that Paul was an apostle. When I read the book of Acts, I get no impression that Paul was a tentmaker. Perhaps those who make tents consider that Paul was a tentmaker. However, I acknowledge that Paul was an apostle, not a tentmaker. Only those who make tents, whose hearts are in tentmaking, who want to make money in tentmaking, who live in tents, and who pay attention to tents, would, according to their views and judgment, consider Paul to be a tentmaker. But I think that even a very simple believer, a very common believer, would get only one impression while reading Acts, that is, that Paul was an apostle appointed by God. You would not get the impression that Paul was an artisan in making tents. You would not notice that Paul was a tent craftsman. You would see clearly that he was God's worker.
Therefore, as far as the service of an apostle is concerned, one must leave his occupation. However, this refers to a person for whom fishing is an occupation. The man who needs to leave the occupation of tax collecting is the one for whom tax collecting is an occupation. The man who needs to leave the craft of tentmaking is the one for whom tentmaking is an occupation. If tentmaking was an occupation, then this occupation had to be left behind. If it was not left behind, one could not be an apostle, because the service of the apostle would be rather difficult for him. Why does God require people to leave their occupations in order to be an apostle? It is because apostleship is an occupation, and a person cannot have two occupations. In particular, the occupation of an apostle does not allow a person to take a second job. Paul said that we are ambassadors of Christ. If we are ambassadors, we have no way to take a second job and no way to have another occupation. All of our time is for working as an apostle; we have no time to spend on other matters.
Therefore, Paul's tentmaking was not an occupation; the tentmaking of Aquila and Priscilla was not an occupation either. Even Luke's being a physician was not an occupation.
The Situation in Those Days Being Different
What do we see here? We see that Paul was sent by the Holy Spirit to go out from Antioch and travel to various places to work. There is a great difference between the situation today and the situation in those days in the matter of transportation. In those days, if the brothers in Antioch had some money and material things to give to Paul, they could not go to the post office to remit the money. Neither was there a bank, express air mail, or telegrams. In the New Testament there are quite a few cases in which gifts were sent in person. Paul himself did this when he was in Antioch. The first time he went out was not for gospel preaching but to carry money to Jerusalem. I often think that our doing such things could be uplifted—first you send money and later you go out to preach the gospel. The first time he carried money to Jerusalem as an ambassador of the church. Later, when Paul received gifts, they were carried to him by people sent from various churches. You see how difficult it was without letters, telegrams, and airplanes. All those who went out for the gospel took nothing from the Gentiles. The apostle Paul was different from the apostles in Jerusalem.
To go out from Jerusalem did not take long, and the journey was short. One could return in a short time and have no financial difficulty because he could take sufficient money for the trip to Samaria and Caesarea and return after a period of time without needing to take anything from the Gentiles. This was easy because both Caesarea and Samaria were localities with churches. Later, Paul's work started from Antioch, and God gave him another way. The way was for him to go to the Gentiles, yet take nothing from the Gentiles, and continue to go out, not returning in a short period of time like the apostles in Jerusalem. He kept going from place to place. Therefore, we can see that the matter of support was very difficult. One could not take enough money along, and neither could one take anything from the Gentiles.
This is also different from the gospel preaching in the Gospels. In the Gospels one went to the cities and lived in the house of a generous man. One did not need to bring his staff or his purse. However, when the Lord was about to depart from the earth, He told His disciples that he who did not have a staff needed to bring a staff, he who had no purse should prepare a purse, and he who had no clothes needed to prepare clothing. The situation had become different. The gospel was not to be preached to Jews but to Gentiles. John made it very clear that we should take nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore, we can see how heavy the burden on Paul was at that time, not only for himself, but also for the brothers who were together with him.
When they started out from Antioch, there was only Barnabas and Paul. Later, when they went out, there were others who went with them, one of whom was Titus. On the way Timothy was added, Luke was added, and later Silas was also added. As they went, the company became larger, and the further they went, the more the number of people increased. Later, Priscilla and Aquila also came along. They preached the gospel along the way in locality after locality. Then Paul said that he worked with his own hands to supply his own needs and the needs of his co-workers. Let me tell you, this was not a matter of occupation; his occupation was apostle. But when there was the need along the way, he personally worked with his own hands to provide the support for himself and for those who were with him.
This was a very good thing. Alford tells us that in those days, in order to make a tent, you needed to use a certain dye to color the tent material. The dye was very strong, and the color did not easily fade. When a hand was corroded by the dye, the skin would be damaged. Therefore, Paul could tell the Ephesians to behold his two hands. This was a very great matter. Therefore, I hope the brothers could see the financial problem of the apostles: If various churches can send support, thank God; but if various churches cannot send support, it does not mean that we should take other occupations or change our occupation as apostles. This is the problem today. Our occupation is as apostles. But I may make tents today in order to have this occupation. Today, in order that I and the brothers with me can be apostles, I may make tents. Making tents was not Paul's occupation. Paul's occupation never changed. From the time he was called in Damascus, his occupation never changed. In order that the young men who were with him could have a supply, he made tents. Because he knew how, Paul made tents with his own hands when Timothy, Titus, Silas, and Luke were with him, to supply their needs. Behold, these two hands!
Making Tents so that He Could Be an Apostle
Therefore, we see here that apostles truly need to leave their own occupations. Apostles also need to have only one occupation, which is the occupation of being an apostle. But I want to mention Paul to clarify this one matter. This does not mean that he could not go and make some money. Paul was an apostle, and he always worked as an apostle. When we read the book of Acts, we would never dream that Paul changed his line of work. Paul went to Ephesus and made tents, yet he was still an apostle, and in Ephesus especially he made many more tents so that he could experience the church life. Whether one made tents or practiced medicine, all were for the purpose of being an apostle, not that he might not be an apostle. Perhaps he could not be an apostle if he did not make tents. I hope we can see this point clearly before God. Many times, God allowed Paul to do some work to enable Paul to be an apostle all the more.
Do we see this? This is a matter entirely different from occupation. This is entirely different from what we ordinarily call occupation. Today, if Matthew would go back to be a tax collector, we would say that Matthew was looking for a job. But, today if Paul would go to make tents, we would not say that Paul was looking for a job. Matthew could not say that he must be a tax collector in order to be an apostle. However, Paul could say, "Behold, these two hands! Without them, it seems that I cannot be an apostle.'' His tentmaking enabled him to be an apostle all the more. His purpose was to be an apostle, his living was as an apostle, his work was as an apostle, and his life was as an apostle; all that he was, was as an apostle. His two hands helped him to be an apostle. His two hands did not distract him so that he could not be an apostle. Brothers, is this clear? This way is very clear.
The Question of a Second Job
A certain brother asked me a month or two ago whether we should give up our occupation completely or take a second job in the future, if we go out to preach the gospel for the Lord and do the work of an apostle. I tell you, this is my answer today. Everyone who wants to be an apostle must throw away his occupation, throw away what man calls occupation. However, please note that while you travel to various places for the gospel, it would be better to take a second job to enable you to be an apostle rather than complain that the church lacks love, as some do because of their own lack of faith. Rather than being weak in faith and maintaining hope toward God in appearance, but in reality having hope toward man and the brothers, it would be better to be like Paul and say, "These hands!'' It would be better at that time to work a little with your own hands so that you could support yourself and also support others. I think and believe that the most dishonorable thing to God is to look to the love of the church more than having faith before God. I think and I believe that the most dishonorable thing to God is to complain against men, yet not be able to trust in the Lord. I think it is more dishonorable to God for a man to hope in God in appearance, yet in reality to turn his eyes not heavenward but toward his surroundings and environment. This is even more dishonorable to God.
The Principle of "These Hands!''
However, here is a matter which I would do my best to emphasize—the principle of "These hands!'', that is, that these two hands will enable me to be an apostle all the more. The two hands of many people do not need to fish. Do we see this? We must emphatically maintain before God what we are really doing, what we are here for on this earth, and what kind of persons we are before God. Please remember that before God you are an apostle called by God. Because you are an apostle, you must leave your occupation entirely. From now on, even if you work with your hands again, it is not for an occupation. If you work with your hands again, it is to supply you and the needs of your fellow workers. There are needs because you are an apostle. You have become an apostle; therefore, there are needs, and you must work with your hands. My brothers here have needs; therefore, I need to work with my hands so that they can be apostles. I work with my hands in the hope that I may support myself and my co-workers, not because of a lack in my own finances, or because I am hindered, or because I have taken a wrong way.
Therefore, I hope the brothers and sisters can see that this way is different. It is not a change of occupation, but the support of our apostleship with a job. It is not changing from apostleship to the occupation of tentmaking, but supporting our apostleship by the work of tentmaking.
Fishing and Tentmaking BeingTwo Different Matters
If a brother thinks that he cannot do the work well or that he has financial difficulties, he may go to teach or to fish. I tell you that when the Lord died, many did go fishing. But, when the Lord died, could you say that our Lord was living forever in the heavens? Only the disappointed ones went fishing! But here was a person who went to make tents not out of disappointment; there was no disappointment at all. These are two different matters.
Peter's fishing and Paul's tentmaking were two entirely different matters. Peter's fishing was his arriving at a dead end with no way to go on. Peter's fishing meant that he considered the Lord to have died, to be finished, to be terminated, and that everything was hopeless. He considered himself as a failure, and the Lord had died; therefore, he went fishing. Brothers, you must take note that Paul's tentmaking was not an occupation. Paul had clearly determined that the Lord was living, and he could not help but be an apostle. If it was comfortable, he would be an apostle, and if it was a suffering, he would still be an apostle. If he received money, he would be an apostle, and if he did not receive any money, he would still be an apostle. When there was the support from the brothers, he would be an apostle, and when there was no support, he would still be an apostle. This is an entirely different matter from Peter's fishing. To live was to be an apostle, and to die was also to be an apostle. If he needed to endeavor, he would still endeavor to be an apostle. He put his two hands to it; besides all the work and all the labor, he was willing to do one more work so that the work of the apostles would not collapse. This was Paul. He was this way not only toward himself, but also toward those who were with him. By the work of his two hands he supported himself and also those who were with him. This was the way in which Paul walked.
Not Changing Occupationsbut Endeavoring All the More
Today, brothers and sisters, we need to see this basic principle: All who go out to preach the gospel, who have been called by the Lord to serve Him fully in the gospel, who are apostles, whether brothers or sisters, need to throw away their occupation entirely. This is the proper way. We should drop everything to be an apostle. However, when there is the need and if we can bear the extra burden to work for a short period of time, then we may work, but not as the tax collectors who work day and night in the tax office. If there is no such need, then we do not have to work. When the church has no way to support or when the church does not support, as in the days when the Israelites did not give the offerings and the Levites were hungry, we may work a little on the side to help ourselves and our co-workers and still be an apostle. Please remember, the principle of tentmaking not only does not distract us, but it makes us single-hearted all the more. Not only is it not a hindrance, but rather it is a help. Not only is it not the changing of our occupation, but rather it is the bettering of our occupation. Brothers and sisters, this means we need to endeavor all the more. We have to bear the work which the Lord has assigned to us and the responsibility which the Lord has given to us. Because we want to bear it, we will use all our means to bear it. It is right to go out to work in this way. This I say in reference to the apostles specifically.
THE SCOPE OF THE DEFINITION OF A CO-WORKER BEING WIDER THAN THAT OF AN APOSTLE
What about the co-workers? The scope of the definition of a co-worker is actually wider than that of an apostle. Aquila and Priscilla were both co-workers. Phoebe was a co-worker. The responsible elders and deacons in every church were also co-workers.
Requiring the Occupation of Every Personto Be Secondary
We would ask all the brothers and sisters to change their occupation into a secondary occupation. It is good, even very good, if in your locality you have the means to support yourself and you completely give up your occupation simply to serve God in your locality. It is also good if in this locality you serve God, bear the local responsibility with the ministry of the word, or take part in the office or in the service, while doing something to support yourself and others. I do not know whether or not you have seen this. Among us no brother or sister lives for himself. No brother or sister fishes for himself. Among us all the brothers and sisters fish for their office or their service. If this is the case, the problem of occupation can be resolved very easily. If you are clear concerning your office, then you will be clear about your occupation. If you are not clear about your office or service, let me say that your occupation will be absolutely useless before God.
The Purpose Being for Service
A certain brother asked me if it is good to have a second job. At that time I answered that it is good and that it is all right to take up a second job. But this is not the question. The question is what is your primary work. Before God a person must have an intention and a purpose. Paul said that his intention, his desire, or we may say, ambition, and goal were to please the Lord. What was his purpose and ambition? He said, "To gain the honor of being well pleasing to Him'' (2 Cor. 5:9). The first question you need to answer today is, "Why are you doing business?'' Is it to earn money or to be rich? Some people want to become rich and not just earn money. Even many physicians in Shanghai are not simply for earning money but for becoming rich. Our purpose before God is not to become rich, but to earn money, to have a little income, and to support the Lord's work. This foundation must be established first. You must make a decision within yourself as to what you really want before the Lord. Paul said he wanted to please the Lord. What do you want? Today before the Lord I have only one purpose: I want to serve Him, and I want His work to be done well.
Occupation Being a Minor Issue
Today all the brothers and sisters must deal with this issue—we must give all to serve the Lord. I tell you, if we do so, the matter of occupation is a small thing. What you do is a small thing. If you are not strong before the Lord and your service to God is not strong, your situation is like a work of silk weaving which cannot be touched without rending it. Once you touch it, there will be a tear. If before the Lord your service to Him is strong, even if you go back to work, the way is still open. Perhaps certain brothers may return to be physicians, to embroider, or to make hair nets. But if this is something you do on the side in order to support your service, there is no problem. This will not cause a problem for your ministry, because you are not in that occupation.
For example, soon our brothers will go back to take care of a linen or embroidery business. They are prepared to sell the product in order to use all that they have to support their office before God. Their function before God is so pressing and critical that everything else they do is to help their function. Again, there may be a person who has a hair net or embroidery business. He has set his heart and mind to become rich, yet he says, "I am the same as the other brothers. Because I want to be rich, I assume that the other brothers also desire to be rich and that there is no difference between us.'' I tell you, before God his way is wrong, and the carrying out of his office will be restricted. His purpose is to become rich, but our purpose is not to become rich. All occupations can be carried out in the same manner, but our way is for serving God.
Serving God in Whatever We Do
If I want to serve God, I must serve God in whatever I do. You have to give all to this. Not only not making tents is for being an apostle, but even making tents is for being an apostle. Not only not fishing is for being an apostle, but even fishing is for being an apostle. Therefore, I hope none of the brothers who are apostles would change their priority before God. I also hope that none of the brothers who are serving God in the localities would change their priorities either. Serving God is our career, our basic career. Whatever I do is for serving God. Not making money is to serve God, and making money is also to serve God. Designating a certain portion of my time is also for serving God. If I walk in this way without an obstacle, I am serving God. If I walk in this way, find an obstacle, and change my means of walking, I am also serving God. I would even give my life. Thus, the issue is settled.
All Those Who Are for the LordBeing Co-Workers
All those who are for the Lord are our co-workers. Brothers, do you see this? This is because our primary office is the same. Before God, all the brothers are for serving the Lord. We can say before the Lord that these are our co-workers, as Paul said in Romans 16:3, "my fellow workers.'' All who serve the Lord have become our co-workers. Please remember therefore that the matter of co-workers is not as we previously thought. Someone may give twenty-four hours a day and still not be our co-worker. Then again, a person may work only two hours every night, yet we can say that this brother is our co-worker. Whether or not one is a co-worker does not depend on having a job or on finances. Whether or not one is a co-worker depends on how much the work occupies him. A person may wash laundry or clean floors and still be our co-worker. A person can weave cloth or repair clothes and still be our co-worker. It does not matter what work he does. A person may work on a locomotive or on a ship—water and fire are not the same, and land and sea are not the same—but he is still a co-worker. One brother may go back to his linen business, and another brother may go back to practice medicine. If our purpose of serving God so that He may have a way in China is the same, if you give your all and I also give my all, if you give all your time and I also give my time, if you give all your money and I give all my money, I tell you, we are co-workers. We are not only co-workers with one another; we are co-workers with Peter and Paul as well. We are co-workers with those who have served God for these many years.
The Work Not Being the Samebut the Purpose Being the Same
Today many people have a mistaken view, paying attention to being the same in work, rather than in purpose. Many do not pay attention to how strong or how critical the purpose is, but rather to whether or not things are the same. Please remember that for things to be the same does not make you co-workers. Perhaps when a brother goes to Tsingtao, he can find five or ten doctors there. They may be working with him in the same clinic, but you cannot say that they are our co-workers. The jobs are the same, but they are not our co-workers. There is only one thing—I live here to help in the gospel, and all my income is for the gospel. I tell you, this settles all the issues.
For example, a doctor, who has a noble occupation, and a sister who washes laundry may still be co-workers. One of them has studied for many years and received years of fine training, whereas the other has little education, but because their purpose is the same, they are co-workers. Another Christian may have received the same education, yet not be a co-worker.
If you endeavor with all that you have, you have a way. Brothers, this is the main, basic, and chief thing. Therefore, brothers and sisters, I often feel that if someone is absolutely for the Lord, gives everything he has, does not care for the world, lives on the earth wholly for the Lord, and uses all his means whatever they may be to serve God, regardless of what job he has and regardless of his position, you will feel that he is a person full of light.
Needing to Serve By All Means
I tell you, there are not many co-workers, and there have never been many. We ask God that He would indeed do the work of recovery in these last days and that many would have such a heart to serve the Lord by all means. For this reason, I appreciate those two hands of Paul. According to the proper way, many things need not have been done. As a rule, the church should be responsible for the entire support of the work and all the needs of the apostles. However, the church did not bear the responsibility. When the church failed to bear the responsibility and only cared for its own needs, when it forgot the support for Paul, and not only did not support him, but even criticized him, he said, "These hands!'' Therefore, I hope you can see that all these things did not diminish his apostleship, but they even established, supported, and strengthened his apostleship. His apostleship depended on his two hands. In other words, these two exceptional hands, these hands which should not have worked for support, were not needed when the church was on the proper way. However, Paul was willing. Therefore, I say very frankly, that this is to serve by all means. As long as we can serve, it is good. We must always serve.
Therefore, today I think that we first must settle the issue of who a co-worker is. We naturally have a mistaken thought, thinking that co-workers are those who have given up their occupation and have income other than that which comes from an occupation. This is not so. Co-workers are those who have one heart, one purpose, and one ambition before God and who are serving God to please Him. As long as their purpose is the same, these are all co-workers in the Lord, no matter what jobs their hands are engaged in.