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Old 01-15-2013, 07:51 AM   #1
UntoHim
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Default Who Builds: Every Believer or Church Leaders?

Who Builds: Every Believer or Church Leaders? (1 Cor. 3:10-17)

1 Cor. 3:10-17 “is one of the most significant passages in the New Testament that warns… those responsible for ‘building’ the church of Christ,” says Prof. Gordon D. Fee. It is particularly significant in LSM’s Local Church Movement, since it mentions being “saved through fire.” This concept fits LSM’s teaching about believers’ discipline during the coming 1,000-year kingdom. Regarding this W. Lee says,1 “To be saved through fire indicates clearly that you will be saved through a certain amount of discipline… a certain kind of burning purification, a certain kind of purging. This is a suffering, a discipline, and a kind of punishment. Those who build with the wrong material will be saved through punishment.” The specter of future punishment or “burning purification,” causes anxiety among Local Church believers regarding the Lord’s return. Instead of being a “blessed (happy) hope” (Tit. 2:13), the Lord’s return produces trepidation for Local Church members who fear they aren’t “overcoming.” For them the warning in 1 Cor. 3 is another “nail in their coffin” for failing to reach the standard of the “Lord’s Recovery.” Here we examine this Scripture, asking--to whom does this warning apply? Is Paul addressing all Christian believers, as Witness Lee and LSM contend? Or is the Apostle’s warning aimed principally at leaders (apostles, ministers)?

1 Cor. 3 “warns… those responsible for ‘building’ the church”-- Gordon D. Fee

Gordon D. Fee, Prof. of New Testament at Regent College, Vancouver, BC, calls 1 Cor. 3:10-17 “one of the most significant passages in the New Testament that warns… those responsible for ‘building’ the church of Christ.” But the question arises—who are those responsible for ‘building’ the church? Is this passage (with its dire warnings) addressed to all Christian believers? Or is it addressed more specifically to Christian leaders/ ministers? Let’s look at the passage in context (1 Cor. 3:4-23, RcV):

4 “For when someone says, I am of Paul, and another, I of Apollos, are you not men of flesh? 5 What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Ministers through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave to each one of them. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth. 7 So then neither is he who plants anything nor he who waters, but God who causes the growth. 8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one, but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9 For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's cultivated land, God's building.”

10 “According to the grace of God given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid a foundation, and another builds upon it. But let each man take heed how he builds upon it. 11 For another foundation no one is able to lay besides that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 But if anyone builds upon the foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, grass, stubble, 13 The work of each will become manifest; for the day will declare it, because it is revealed by fire, and the fire itself will prove each one's work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone's work which he has built upon the foundation remains, he will receive a reward; 15 If anyone's work is consumed, he will suffer loss, but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”

16 “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him; for the temple of God is holy, and such are you… 21 So then let no one boast in men, for all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all are yours, 23 But you are Christ's, and Christ is God's.”

“Each man take heed how he builds”

The sober warning occurs in 1 Cor. 3:10-17. Paul says he laid the unique foundation (Jesus Christ). He warns regarding the structure built upon his foundation. It will be tested by fire; the result will be either reward or being barely “saved through fire” (v. 15). Moreover, he cautions that anyone destroying God’s temple will be destroyed (v. 17). An obvious question is—who is the main object of these warnings?

“Each of us, every member …must take heed how we build”

At first sight the answer might appear obvious. The repeated phrases “each man,” “anyone,” “each one’s work,” etc., suggest the warnings have general application—that they apply to each and every Christian believer. However, it soon becomes clear the term, “each one,” doesn’t necessarily encompass all believers. Chapter 3:8 says, “Now he who plants [Paul] and he who waters [Apollos] are one, but each [one] will receive his own reward….” Here, the phrase “each [one]” is limited to Paul and Apollos, the two workers in view. Context determines the scope.

“The church is built …by every member”—W. Lee

Some expositors assert Paul’s warning word applies to all believers. For example, W. Lee says,2 “1 Cor. 3:10… indicates that the church is built not only by ministers of Christ such as Paul, Apollos, and Cephas, but by every member of the Body. Every one of us must be a builder…Hence, each of us, every member of the Body, must take heed how we build; that is, we must take heed with what material we build. We must build with gold, silver, and precious stones, not with wood, grass, and stubble.” Along the same lines, he says,3 “Paul's word in [1 Cor.] 3:12 …is written to every believer. …this verse is intended for all of us. It applies to you and also to me.” He also says,4 The intention of the apostle in this Epistle was to warn the believers not to build the church with the things of their natural background. They must learn to build with Christ…”

Other Bible expositors endorse this view, for e.g. the ESV Study Bible says5 “Paul’s point applies not just to church leaders but to anyone who contributes in any way to building up the church (1 Cor. 12:7, 12-31; 14:12).”

Who builds the Church—Christ, the Ministers or the Believers?

W. Lee asserts that the church is built, not by Christ Himself directly, or by the Apostles. He states repeatedly that the Church is built by all the believers. W. Lee’s exposition proceeds as follows:6 “In Matt. 16:18 the Lord said that He would build His church; yet here [in 1 Cor. 3] the apostle said that he was a builder, even a wise master builder. This indicates that the Lord builds the church not directly but through His ministers, even through every member of His Body, as revealed in Eph. 4:16…” Elsewhere he says,7 “We may think that Christ was the Builder, that the apostle Paul was a builder, and that today the leading brothers are builders, but that we ourselves are not builders. However, every member of the church should be a builder. Eventually, the church will be built not directly by Christ or the apostles but by every small member. According to Eph. 4:16, the building of the church as the Body of Christ is accomplished by every part of the Body.”

Note that W. Lee’s assertion—that the church is built by every member—is derived from Eph. 4:16; it is then extrapolated to 1 Cor. 3. Yes, Ephesians says Christ’s Body builds itself up through the operation of every part. However, in 1 Cor. 3, the church is not presented as Christ’s Body; it is God’s farm/field and God’s building. The metaphors are different; the farm/field does not plant and water itself, neither does the building/temple construct itself. We ought to ask—how would the original recipients, the Corinthians, have understood Paul’s epistle to them. Ephesians wasn’t written until a decade after this epistle (1 Cor.), so we can’t assume they would’ve interpreted Paul’s warning based on that later letter. Moreover, the two epistles address different situations. Corinthians deals with divisions over workers; Ephesians doesn’t address that problem. We can’t simply assume, a priori, that Paul’s building metaphors are being applied in exactly the same way in both epistles. Now, let’s consider the alternative view.

“Those currently leading the church take heed”

New Testament Prof. Gordon D. Fee presents a different interpretation-- that Paul’s warning is aimed primarily at church leaders. Other expositors concur. Dr. Fee calls this passage8 “one of the most significant passages in the New Testament that warns…those responsible for ‘building’ the church...” But, who are “those responsible for ‘building’ the church”? He responds,9 “In the final analysis, of course, this includes all believers, but it has particular relevance …to those with teaching/ leadership responsibilities.” More definitely he asserts that Paul’s10 “concern is singular, that those currently leading the church take heed because their present work will not stand the fiery test to come, having shifted from the imperishable ‘stuff’ of Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

Hollander concurs with this interpretation, saying,11 “It is doubtful if we should see in 3:10-15 'a reference to the work of all believers.' … it is more plausible that Paul is referring to those people who were appointed to be missionaries and teachers” Kent Yinger agrees, stating,12 “While the text certainly carries implications for the whole congregation…Paul is now addressing a warning more specifically to the leaders.” Plus, he asserts,13 “This text is not about the Corinthians’ works in general, but about the specific work of teaching/ leading.”

Based on Context

Dr. Fee concludes that Paul’s warning is focused on the Corinthian Church leaders, rather than the Corinthian believers in general. He deduces this from the context. Just prior to this passage, Paul’s first metaphor depicts the believers as God’s field/farm; God’s ministers, Paul and Apollos, “plant and water.” As coworkers they work jointly on God’s “cultivated land,” yet God rewards them according to their labors. It’s clear that in this metaphor, the workers (Paul & Apollos) are evaluated and rewarded, not the Corinthian believers (they are the “field”). When Paul switches metaphors we shouldn’t be surprised if this point carries over.

Paul then shifts metaphors from agriculture to architecture —“you are God's field, God's building” (v. 9) But, Dr. Fee says,14 “the particulars in both metaphors are the same (Paul plants/lays the foundation; Apollos waters/builds on the foundation; the Corinthian church is the field/building…).” Notice that the Corinthian believers are the ‘field /building’ in v. 9. Immediately after (in v. 16) they are “God’s temple,” also a building. In this analogy it is the workers/ leaders (Paul, Apollos, etc) who “plant, water and build;” the Corinthian church is the object of their labor. David Garland emphasizes this distinction; he says, regarding the field/farm and building/temple,15 “both images are passive…the Corinthians …are, in sharp contrast to their leaders, nothing other than objects of God’s work,’…The Corinthians are still a work in progress.”

So, who “builds upon the foundation”? The emphasis is not on Paul; he, as the “master builder,” (v. 10) laid the foundation. As Hollander states, Paul,16 “excludes himself. Verses 12-15 deal exclusively with the builders or, in the words of the apostle in the previous section, with those who watered, not with the one who planted.” Who builds? One immediately thinks of Apollos; but Paul doesn’t name Apollos, specifically. As Hollander states,17 “it is clear that Paul, again, does not only have Apollos in mind but all those who were involved in the building up of the Christian church in Corinth, in short all the 'heroes' [Apollos, Cephas (Peter), etc].” Garland concurs saying,18 “Paul uses indefinite terms—‘anyone, each one,’ etc— to allow them to apply what he says to any teacher or leader, since they have ‘countless guides’ (4:5).”

Based on a carefully reasoned exposition of 1 Cor. 3, these scholars conclude that the “builders” being warned in 1 Cor. 3 are not the Corinthian believers in general, but rather the workers, leaders, and ministers. Hollander says,19 “All builders, all authorities in the Christian community, are servants of God, whose works cannot be approved or disapproved by the members of the church. The Christians in Corinth are not in a position to judge apostles and missionaries. It is God who, at the Final Judgment, will disclose their work and will administer justice to each of them individually.” Dr. Fee states that20 “The point of 3:10-15 is clearly expressed in verse 10, ‘But each one should build with care.’…What Paul does here is …to warn those who lead the [Corinthian] church that they must do so with great care because a day of testing is coming.” Plus, Paul’s warning word about damaging God’s temple (vv. 16-17) “focus[es] more specifically on those few who seem to be the prime movers of the present quarrelling,” says Fee.21

Warning Leaders of Corinth’s Factions

Dr. Bob Utley, Professor of Hermeneutics, reaches similar conclusions, with slight modification. After considering various interpretations, he says,22 “It seems best to me not to relate this text to all Christians, but also, neither to restrict it to leaders. This text specifically relates to those who promote factions and divisions within the [Corinthian] church.” He deduces that Paul’s warning is geared to the leaders of the various factions, who declare “I’m of Paul or Apollos, etc.” Hence, Dr. Utley states that “It is the leaders of these factious groups that Paul is comparing to himself and Apollos in 3:6-9. The immediate context relates vv. 10-15 to leaders, to how they use their spiritual gifts in serving the church. This is the thrust of the warning of v. 17.”23 So Dr. Utley concurs that Paul’s warnings “relate to those leaders in the [Corinthian] church who were promoting a factious spirit.”

Prof. Utley points out that this conclusion does not rely on an unscriptural distinction between “clergy and laity.” In Scripture,24 “there is no spiritual distinction between clergy and laity, leader and follower, but there is a task distinction (cf. Num. 16:3). Leaders are more accountable (Jam. 3:1),” Utley observes. James writes, “We who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (3:1). Plus Church leaders must “give an account” for the believers under their care (Heb. 13:17), something not required of all believers. Hence to limit the focus of Paul’s warning to church leaders does not violate Scripture. We note, in this context, that LSM identifies two “classes” of believer—the “gifts” (apostles, prophets, evangelists, etc Eph. 4:11) or “joints of supply” (Eph. 4:16), on one hand, and the believers in general, “each one part” (Eph. 4:16) referring to each member of the Body, on the other. The second view, described above, is that the “builders” being warned in 1 Cor. 3 correspond to the first category--the “gifts” (apostles, prophets, evangelists, etc), and not the second, each and every believer.

Anticipating LSM’s Rebuttal

Loyal members of LSM’s Local Church find it difficult to entertain any interpretation of Scripture which doesn’t match Witness Lee’s exposition and LSM’s Recovery Version notes. In their view, Witness Lee’s teaching is the “interpreted Word,” on par with God’s “written Word,” Scripture itself. On this topic W. Lee said, “Paul's word in [1 Cor. 3] 3:12 …is written to every believer. …this verse is intended for all of us. It applies to you and also to me.” LSM loyalists will respond, “If W. Lee says so, that’s the only acceptable interpretation!”

In view of LSM’s entrenched position, it’s worth asking—“Who does LSM blame for division in the Church?” In LSM’s Recovery Version outline the context of 1 Cor. 3 is Paul “Dealing with Divisions” (1:10 to 4:21). These divisions were manifested in the Corinthians aligning with workers, declaring, “I’m of Paul, I’m of Apollos, I’m of Cephas, and I’m of Christ” (1:12, cf. 3:4). According to W. Lee’s exposition of 1 Cor., Paul addresses this problem by warning all the Corinthian believers—“beware how you build” (1 Cor. 3:10-15). But, more generally, when LSM addresses the issue of division in the “Lord’s Recovery,” where is blame assigned, who is warned?

“Most of the divisions …brought in by the workers”—W. Lee

In Church history according to the “Lord’s Recovery,” Witness Lee assigned blame for division, not on the saints in general, but on the workers. He said,25 “Most of the divisions among Christians were brought in by the workers. The history of the church shows that the more workers were raised up by the Lord, the more divisions were created.” He also applied this principle within the “Lord’s Recovery.” He said,26 “All the workers are in a dangerous position of bringing in a sect …We have to be very careful. Otherwise, perhaps after 15 years there will be as many sects as the number of full-time co-workers we have here today. If we have 7 or 8 workers today, we could have 7 or 8 sects 15 years from now. From history we can see that nearly all the gifted persons were sect creators. There was hardly any exception.”

Witness Lee certainly blamed workers for division—Max Rappaport & Sal Benoit for the 1977/8 “turmoil.”; John Ingalls, Bill Mallon, John So, & Joseph Fung were credited with “fermenting rebellion” in the 1986/7 “turmoil.” LSM’s “blended brothers” followed W. Lee’s example—Titus Chu & Yu-Lan Dong are blamed for the 2007 “turmoil.” My point is not whether LSM’s accusations were justified (I don’t think they are). The point is that in practice, Witness Lee and LSM attribute division to workers, rather than the believers in general. Thus the history of the “Lord’s Recovery” contradicts Witness Lee’s own interpretation of Paul’s 1 Cor. 3 warning made in the context of “Dealing with Division.” Stated differently, LSM’s practice of attributing division to workers contradicts Witness Lee’s own teaching in 1 Cor. 3.

Conclusions

The purpose of this note is not to reach a definitive conclusion. It points out alternative interpretations and presents their merits. W. Lee interprets Paul’s warnings in 1 Cor. 3 as aimed at all believers; that’s how believers in the Lord’s Recovery heard this passage expounded on many occasions. Seldom (if ever) was this warning passage applied specifically to workers (ministers, leaders) within the Recovery. Yet the history of the “Lord’s Recovery” and LSM’s own practice of attributing blame for division to workers, imply that their interpretation of this Scripture is misaimed. LSM’s history and practice contradict their own interpretation of 1 Cor. 3. Moreover, I think a compelling case can be made that Paul’s warnings in 1 Cor. 3 are aimed specifically at church leaders—both workers (apostles, ministers, etc) and local church leaders. This is consistent with the Lord’s word, “to whom much is given …much will be required” (Luke 12:48).

Nigel Tomes, Toronto, CANADA
Jan. 2013


The author is solely responsible for the views expressed here. They should not be attributed to the church, church elders or Christian workers with whom he is associated. In order to be brief, this article is focused on one specific Scripture (1 Cor. 3) and its interpretation. Wider issues (e.g. other “warning passages”) are not addressed. The question, “Who Builds?” is addressed specifically in the context of 1 Cor. 3. It does not deny that in other Scriptures (e.g. Eph. 4 or 1 Cor. 12) all believers contribute to building Christ’s Body (universally &/or locally). These other issues are not addressed here.

Notes:

1. W. Lee, Elders' Training, Book. 7: One Accord for the Lord's Move, Chapter 7, Section 1

2. W. Lee, Life-Study of 1 Cor., Chapter 23, Section 2, emphasis added

3. W. Lee, Life-Study of 1 Corinthians, Chapter 31, Section 2. The quote in context reads: “Paul's word in 3:12 is not only for elders or co-workers. On the contrary, it is written to every believer. This is included in an Epistle addressed to the church in Corinth, with all those who call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ in every place. Thus, this verse is intended for all of us. It applies to you and also to me.” [W. Lee, Life-Study of 1 Corinthians, Chapter 31, Section 2, emphasis indicates portions quoted in the main text above.] Immediately prior to the quote above, W. Lee says, “We in the Lord's recovery all are doing the work of building. Thus, we must take heed how we build. Are we building with gold, silver, and precious stones, or with wood, grass, and stubble? [W. Lee, Life-Study of 1 Corinthians, Chapter 31, Section 2, emphasis added]

4. New Testament Recovery Version (RcV) Note 1 on 1 Cor. 3:12, emphasis added

5. ESV Note on 1 Cor. 3:14-15 We note however, that this version recoils at the idea of judgment on believers damaging God’s temple (v. 17), saying, “The one who destroys God’s temple (…the church) is not part of God’s people and so faces eternal destruction on the final day...” [ESV Note on 1 Cor. 3:17]

6. RcV. Note 1 on 1 Cor. 3:10 also in W. Lee, Divine Dispensing of the Divine Trinity, Chapter 29, Section 1, emphasis added

7. W. Lee, Building of the Church, Chapter 4, Section 2

8. Gordon D. Fee, 1 Corinthians, p. 145

9. Fee, 1 Corinthians, p. 145, emphasis added

10. Fee, 1 Corinthians, p. 137, emphasis added

11. Harm W. Hollander, “The Testing by Fire of the Builders’ Works: 1 Corinthians 3:10-15” NT Studies, vol. 40, 1994, Note #15, p. 92. The quote in context reads: “It is doubtful if we should see in 3:10-15 'a reference to the work of all believers.' It is true that in 1 Corinthians there are references to the individual responsibility for the up-building of the Christian community (see e.g. 12.7; 14.3—5, 12, 26). But in view of the direct context, esp. 3.4-5 and 3.21-22, it is more plausible that Paul is referring to those people who were appointed to be missionaries and teachers” [Harm W. Hollander, “The Testing by Fire of the Builders’ Works: 1 Corinthians 3:10-15” NT Studies, vol. 40, 1994, Note #15, p. 92]

12. Kent L. Yinger, Paul, Judaism & Judgment according to Deeds, 1999, p. 215, emphasis added. The quote in context erads: “While the text certainly carries implications for the whole congregation’s view of their leaders, Paul is now addressing a warning more specifically to the leaders.” [Kent L. Yinger, Paul, Judaism & Judgment according to Deeds, 1999, p. 215]

13. Kent L. Yinger, Paul, Judaism & Judgment according to Deeds, 1999, p. 221, emphasis added. The quote in context reads: “This text is not about the Corinthians’ works in general, but about the specific work of teaching/ leading.” [Kent L. Yinger, Paul, Judaism & Judgment according to Deeds, 1999, p. 221] Yinger also writes “Having admonished the Corinthians against judging one leader at the expense of another in vv. 5-9, Paul switches metaphors and tone in vv. 10-15 and warns the leaders themselves…” [Kent L. Yinger, Paul, Judaism & Judgment according to Deeds, 1999, p. 222]

14. Gordon D. Fee & Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for all its Worth, p. 66, emphasis added

15. David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, Baker Exegetical Commentary (2003) p. 113. The quote in context reads: God’s field & God’s building “Both images are passive (Ker, 2000, p. 87) ‘Whereas the Corinthians might imagine that they are in a position to discriminate between the leaders of their [church] community, Paul implies, for the purposes of this discussion, that they are, in sharp contrast to their leaders, nothing other than objects of God’s work,’… The Corinthians are still a work in progress.” [David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, Baker Exegetical Commentary (2003) p. 113]

16. Harm W. Hollander, “The Testing by Fire of the Builders’ Works: 1 Corinthians 3:10-15” NT Studies, vol. 40, 1994, p. 92

17. Harm W. Hollander, “The Testing by Fire of the Builders’ Works: 1 Corinthians 3:10-15” NT Studies, vol. 40, 1994, p. 92

18. David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, Baker Exegetical Commentary (2003) p. 113

19. Harm W. Hollander, “The Testing by Fire of the Builders’ Works: 1 Corinthians 3:10-15” NT Studies, vol. 40, 1994, p. 96, emphasis added

20. Gordon D. Fee, 1 Corinthians, p. 137

21. Gordon D. Fee, 1 Corinthians, p. 148

22. Dr. Bob Utley, Paul's Letters to a Troubled Church; 1 & 2 Cor. (1 Cor. 3) emphasis added

23. Dr. Bob Utley, Paul's Letters to a Troubled Church; 1 & 2 Cor. (1 Cor. 3) emphasis added

24. Dr. Bob Utley, Paul's Letters to a Troubled Church; 1 & 2 Cor. (1 Cor. 3) emphasis added

25. W. Lee, Life & Way for the Practice of the Church Life, Chapter 13, Section 1, emphasis added

26. W. Lee, Life & Way for the Practice of the Church Life, Chapter 13, Section 1, emphasis added
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Old 01-15-2013, 02:11 PM   #2
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Default Re: Who Builds: Every Believer or Church Leaders?

It's about time! I started making this argument in either 2007 or 2008.

And virtually everyone started pushing-back with "but we all build."

And while I dread the fact that there is still a lot of Lee/LRC theology buried in me, I feel a little vindicated for constantly questioning our knee-jerk reactions because too often, even those of us who have been out of the LRC for years can't see beyond what we learned there.

But in this one passage, what I see is a fear-inducing theology — at least if it is taught as applying to everyone and not just the "builders." Those who take on the task of teaching need to weigh the cost. It is not just glory and influence, or even power and control. It is a burden to always be vigilant in keeping the main thing the main thing.

Pushing it onto the building rather than the builders places an unwarranted fear on people who's life is not required to be entirely wrapped-up in worrying about "what kind of material I'm building with." For the "average Joe," they are the object of building, not the builder. That is what Paul said.

Wow. I just wrote that and realized something. With Paul's true meaning in view, if we are all the builders, then we are busy building something that isn't there. If "we" are the builders and "you" are the building, then we have gutted the "you" out of the equation and made everyone into the "we."

I realize that this is exactly the kind of thing that Lee was constantly trying to teach — a system in which everyone is everything. But 1 Corinthians 1 through 4, then 12 and 14 clearly delineate responsibilities in the church. Everyone is not everything. And other than being a member, there is nothing that everyone shares (despite Paul's declaration the he wished "you all could prophesy". It was a wish, not a declaration of fact or truth. Then he promptly suggested 2 chapters later that only so many should actually prophesy in a meeting.)

Thank you, Nigel.
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Old 01-16-2013, 05:32 AM   #3
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Default Re: Who Builds: Every Believer or Church Leaders?

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Originally Posted by Nigel Tomes View Post
Who builds the Church—Christ, the Ministers or the Believers?

W. Lee asserts that the church is built, not by Christ Himself directly, or by the Apostles. He states repeatedly that the Church is built by all the believers. W. Lee’s exposition proceeds as follows:6 “In Matt. 16:18 the Lord said that He would build His church; yet here [in 1 Cor. 3] the apostle said that he was a builder, even a wise master builder. This indicates that the Lord builds the church not directly but through His ministers, even through every member of His Body, as revealed in Eph. 4:16…” Elsewhere he says,7 “We may think that Christ was the Builder, that the apostle Paul was a builder, and that today the leading brothers are builders, but that we ourselves are not builders. However, every member of the church should be a builder. Eventually, the church will be built not directly by Christ or the apostles but by every small member. According to Eph. 4:16, the building of the church as the Body of Christ is accomplished by every part of the Body.”
How quickly we move away from Matthew chapter 16! It is only given a passing reference, is then equated to Paul's word in Ephesians, and then it is promptly forgotten. The words spoken by Jesus are almost instantly forgotten in the rush to examine in minute detail the words written by Paul.

Let me ask a question: does Jesus build with wood, hay, and stubble? Is Jesus in danger of the fire of God's disapproval? No? Then why do we spend so much time and effort on the words of Paul, and pass so quickly by Jesus' statement that "I will build My church"?

Please understand I do not counsel that we should ignore Paul. Surely God used him and built through him. But I fear that we pay nominal attention to Jesus, and fixate on the non-essentials. We have the proper emphasis reversed, which is why we spend so much effort and have so little to show for it. If we could see Jesus building His church we would have a better platform in which to address the points of Ephesians and 1 Corinthians. Not vice versa.
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Old 01-16-2013, 05:39 AM   #4
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Default Re: Who Builds: Every Believer or Church Leaders?

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Originally Posted by Nigel Tomes View Post

In Church history according to the “Lord’s Recovery,” Witness Lee assigned blame for division, not on the saints in general, but on the workers. He said,25 “Most of the divisions among Christians were brought in by the workers. The history of the church shows that the more workers were raised up by the Lord, the more divisions were created.” He also applied this principle within the “Lord’s Recovery.” He said,26 “All the workers are in a dangerous position of bringing in a sect …We have to be very careful. Otherwise, perhaps after 15 years there will be as many sects as the number of full-time co-workers we have here today. If we have 7 or 8 workers today, we could have 7 or 8 sects 15 years from now. From history we can see that nearly all the gifted persons were sect creators. There was hardly any exception.”
I find it ironic that the persons most applicable to this word, especially the bolded part, were Watchman Nee and Witness Lee. They were arguably "gifted persons" who were "sect creators". Why did Lee wishfully assume that he & Nee are the exceptions to the rule? This is yet another case of "Do as I say, not as I do", or conversely "I can judge everybody else, but somehow I manage to escape the same judgment". This is subjectivism run amok: when wishful thinking is somehow supposed to be tantamount to reality itself, and for no other reason than that I wish that it were so.
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Old 01-16-2013, 07:58 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by OBW View Post
I realize that this is exactly the kind of thing that Lee was constantly trying to teach — a system in which everyone is everything.
IMHO Witness Lee did this when it served his purpose to do so and created direct followers of him and his agenda instead of their own church and it's administration at the local level. Another way he would undermine the elders is by criticizing them publicly in front of people at his trainings. In this way he created loyalties to his ministry above that of the churches locally.

However when it suited his purpose he would suddenly change and claim special status and authority for himself e.g. the one oracle since 1945, etc. and this view would be advanced by his cheerleaders at LSM.

It sounds something like: "Yesterday I taught that we were all apostles but since you challenged me and my agenda I'm claiming special status above you with authority over you."

An example of this was when he taught we are all policemen and if he ever didn't follow the truth he should be openly challenged and called to account. This was after Max Rapoport was given the boot and he was blaming everyone for not calling Max out. Then in the late 1980's when John Ingalls, etc. called Witness Lee and his son Philip out suddenly everyone being a policeman wasn't in vogue anymore. Now it was all about: this is my work, it's none of your business, you're just a bunch of school boys, I am the oracle, etc.

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Old 01-16-2013, 08:43 AM   #6
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Default Re: Who Builds: Every Believer or Church Leaders?

I have long figured that if we focus on building up the believers, the building up of the Church will take care of itself.

The LRC thought it had hit on a great revelation seeing that God wanted to build the Church and figuring that's what we should focus on, too. But the Bible doesn't make that emphasis. The Bible, and the Lord Jesus, always focus on people as people--not on people as members of a group.

The problem with focusing on "building the church" is that it so easily morphs into focusing on things other than people. The LRC, for all their talk of practicality, focus on the Church as an abstract ideal above and beyond the people who comprise it. "The Church" thus becomes an abstraction which is idealized and served while ignoring its members.

But in God's eyes the Church is just the people, and the people are the Church. It's always about people. This is not to say that the needs of any one person can dictate to the rest, but just that God is not into abstractions. "The Church" is not a thing above and beyond the people, any more than a person's "family" is something above and beyond the family members.

Jesus never told us to focus on building "the Church." He and the apostles told us to care for "each other." There is a big difference and if you miss it you are in danger. The LRC thinks of focusing on "The Church" as a breakthrough virtue, but actually it's a pretext to treating people as disposable items.
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Old 01-16-2013, 02:46 PM   #7
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I have long figured that if we focus on building up the believers, the building up of the Church will take care of itself...The problem with focusing on "building the church" is that it so easily morphs into focusing on things other than people..."The Church" thus becomes an abstraction which is idealized and served while ignoring its members...The LRC thinks of focusing on "The Church" as a breakthrough virtue, but actually it's a pretext to treating people as disposable items.
Amen! Very well said.

Along the same line Witness Lee taught that if you take care of "the church" the Lord will take care of your families. He especially emphasized this with coworkers and elders. Obviously with his own family this kind of philosophy didn't work out. The premise of this idea is that your family members are not part of the church who require and deserve your utmost attention and priority.

A subsequent tangible "benefit" the LC systems received with this kind of teaching and practice was free labor by elders instead of having to pay them a salary. They worked two full time jobs and had no time left for their families. (Witness Lee seemed to like the idea of using free labor to build his work!)
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Old 01-17-2013, 06:28 AM   #8
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Along the same line Witness Lee taught that if you take care of "the church" the Lord will take care of your families. He especially emphasized this with coworkers and elders. Obviously with his own family this kind of philosophy didn't work out. The premise of this idea is that your family members are not part of the church who require and deserve your utmost attention and priority.
Just ask James Barber's sons how that worked out. Or, as Dr. Phill would say, "how's that workin' for ya?"
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Old 01-17-2013, 09:11 AM   #9
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Just ask James Barber's sons how that worked out. Or, as Dr. Phill would say, "how's that workin' for ya?"
Ouch. That's one of the things I grapple with - that with "good intentions" and even according to my conscience, many times I believed I was putting the Lord first by putting service first - before my family, before my health, before everything. Was I? It's one of those things where I feel the most peace by telling the Lord like Peter when asked the third time - Lord you know all things, you know that I love you.

I can also say that many, many times I was on the receiving end, there were numerous instances of others caring for my children because of my particular circumstantial need at that time. It wasn't just me serving others, others also served me and cared for my children too (I was a single mom)

One of the things I remember that shaped me was the sense that what I did mattered - that I was a member of the body and I could either add something to it (build with gold, etc) or take away from it (wood, hay, stubble) by how I lived privately, and how I "functioned" in the meeting, how I served. My individual experience of Christ made a difference. It made a difference whether I spent time in the Word, it made a difference whether I obeyed, it made a difference what I looked at, etc. I think I still believe that but I don't hear that kind of message so much.

In the place where I now fellowship, there isn't the same kind of emphasis on serving one another nor the importance of your own individual "contribution." There is an emphasis on reaching out to the community, to the unsaved, to the world, but not so much to the people in your life, to the Christians next to you. There isn't much of a sense of being built up together or arriving together at the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (and I'm sure I couldn't begin to say what that would look like!)

I'm wondering what others experience now?
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Old 01-18-2013, 06:35 AM   #10
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One of the things I remember that shaped me was the sense that what I did mattered - that I was a member of the body and I could either add something to it (build with gold, etc) or take away from it (wood, hay, stubble) by how I lived privately, and how I "functioned" in the meeting, how I served. My individual experience of Christ made a difference. It made a difference whether I spent time in the Word, it made a difference whether I obeyed, it made a difference what I looked at, etc. I think I still believe that but I don't hear that kind of message so much.
This kind of view is not without some basis, but I find it incredibly limiting and self-centered. Am I going to make it? Am I going to be approved? Am I going to be over five cities, or two, or endure "many stripes"? Etc, etc.

Now, fear of the Lord is indeed the beginning of wisdom, and it is wise to measure ourselves against the Lord's standard. But this view is largely void of Christ. We pay the minimal lip-service to Jesus, to remind ourselves that we are redeemed, then we tackle the big bad old world the same way we used to. Agitation, effort, and eventual collapse.

If you go into many church meetings, Lord's Recovery and otherwise, they collectivize this experience, and reinforce it. They have the obligatory mention of Jesus Christ, the Lord of all and Savior of the World. They thank the Father. They bless the Holy Ghost. Then they get down to the real business of the meeting, which is "the ministry", "the campus (or some other) work", "the training", "the teaching", "the new way/move of the Lord", "the building of the Body", etc.

Very, very little revelation of Jesus Christ. It's all me, me, me, writ large.

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In the place where I now fellowship, there isn't the same kind of emphasis on serving one another nor the importance of your own individual "contribution." There is an emphasis on reaching out to the community, to the unsaved, to the world, but not so much to the people in your life, to the Christians next to you. There isn't much of a sense of being built up together or arriving together at the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (and I'm sure I couldn't begin to say what that would look like!)

I'm wondering what others experience now?
I used to tell unbelievers about Jesus Christ, and believers about the "Recovered" church. Now I tell unbelievers about Jesus Christ, and I tell believers about Jesus Christ. I think we have barely begun to comprehend this Man Jesus, whom God in His love and mercy sent for our salvation. We barely know Him. Why do we change the subject so quickly? I think to change focus is a great loss.

Let me put it to you this way. Can you exhaust the Christ? Can you plumb His depths? Can you see to the fullest His relationship with His Father? No? Then why consider any other subject? He was, is, and remains, the way home to our Father. There is no other way. Jesus is the way. All that other stuff will resolve itself, and manifest itself, if we step more fully into the life of the Master who ever stands before us.

The emphasis on "building the Church" is a complete waste of time. It only builds Babylon. As I said earlier, Jesus will build His church, and I can guarantee He won't use wood, hay or stubble. If you try to bring it to Him He will say to you, "Get away from Me, all you evil-doers." ~Psalm 119:15
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Old 01-18-2013, 06:52 AM   #11
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Am I going to make it? Am I going to be approved? Am I going to be over five cities, or two, or endure "many stripes"? ...We pay the minimal lip-service to Jesus, to remind ourselves that we are redeemed, then we tackle the big bad old world the same way we used to. Agitation, effort, and eventual collapse.
I think that the greatest frustration to me as a Christian has been the issue of will. I believe, and tremble, and try to follow, but inevitably I am just like Peter: "Not so, Lord; this will never happen to You." I have my ideas, my concepts, my likes and dislikes, my timetables, my vows, and my goals. As a believer I bring all of this stuff into my journey, and leaven it, and become frustrated.

Contrast that to the journey of Jesus. No will but for the Father's to be done. Complete submission, and untrammelled revelation and fellowship "I and the Father are one." So when I come alongside Jesus with my good intentions, and my efforts, and my ideas of "how things ought to be", I am offering my wood, hay and stubble. And Jesus, inevitably, says, "Get away from Me, you evil-doers. I never knew you". (Psalm 119:15, Matthew 7:23). He cannot, and will not, use my efforts for His kingdom.

So I end up cast aside, frustrated. The antidote for all of this, of course, is simply to repent, come back, and see Jesus. When the Word (Psa. 3) says, "I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about", I realize that I am one of the ten thousands of people who have set themselves against God's Christ. As long as I have will, my ideas, my intentions, my goals, my ways, my dreams, my hopes and fears, I am just another one of the many setting myself against Jesus.

I just need to surrender. Let Jesus do the building. Let Him do the conquering, and saving the world. He is more than capable. I am utterly incapable. He has been clearly revealed to us in God's word, as God's incarnated Word, doing all of that, and much more. Yet I get so distracted by self, and thoughts, and attention to what "others" are doing, that I miss the point of the exercise, and I miss the promised blessing.

So it's good to remind myself. It's so easy to become distracted, and fall off the path.
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Old 01-18-2013, 08:40 AM   #12
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Default Re: Who Builds: Every Believer or Church Leaders?

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If you try to bring it to Him He will say to you, "Get away from Me, all you evil-doers." ~Psalm 119:15
That reference doesn't look right.
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Old 01-18-2013, 09:54 AM   #13
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That reference doesn't look right.
Sorry; it was Psalm 119, verse 115. Not verse 15.

"Away from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commands of my God!" (NIV)

It was shocking for me as a Christian to contemplate that I was an evildoer, standing in the way of God's Christ. But my ignorant good intentions, combined with my yet-as-untranformed corrupted soul, were distorting my purpose and my actions. So I was full of purpose and activity, nearly all of it contrary to God's will. It is easy to chuckle at Peter rebuking Jesus for accepting His death. It is not so easy to chuckle at ourselves.

Even worse, I think, is when we buy into mass schemes like "The Lord's Recovery" in which our standing vis-a-vis "the Ministry" is tantamount to our position before God. Then we get constant cultural and social reinforcements that we are doing the right thing, drowning out that still small voice within. And it's harder for the voice of Jesus to break through.

It cannot be overstressed, or oversimplified, that Jesus was, and remains, the Chosen One. Not Paul, not Watchman Nee, not Witness Lee, not Titus Chu or Dong Yu Lan. Can I stop now, or should I go on? Not, Ohio, not me, not OBW. Enough? Jesus is the way. There is one mediator between God and man, and that is the Man Jesus Christ. And the only mediator between you and him is your conscience. Don't paper it over with your human reason, or become distracted.

Jesus is the builder. We are His workmanship, his handiwork. Whether or not He has used me, or not, I cannot say; but I will say that the passage of time increasingly impresses me with the fragility of my own efforts, and the similar house-of-cards nature of human works in general. The enduring and surpassing power of Jesus lay in His complete surrender to the Father. I feel as if I have lived my life thus far to conclusively demonstrate the folly of any other course.
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Old 01-20-2013, 04:41 PM   #14
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Default Re: Who Builds: Every Believer or Church Leaders?

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Amen! Very well said.

Along the same line Witness Lee taught that if you take care of "the church" the Lord will take care of your families. He especially emphasized this with coworkers and elders. Obviously with his own family this kind of philosophy didn't work out. The premise of this idea is that your family members are not part of the church who require and deserve your utmost attention and priority.
I am sure many on the forum know saints who went along with this type of faulty teaching "the church" the Lord will take care of your families" that resulted in divorces.
Some may believe the teaching "if you take care of "the church" the Lord will take care of your families" was not the problem, but one of the spouses was not as absolute for the ministry as their husband/wife was. The problem was absolving one's self of responsibility for the household.
As NFNL pointed out in another thread nearly every night there's some type of meeting going on, brothers don't know their spouses as they ought and brothers don't know their children as they ought.
Getting back on topic I tend to believe all the members build up the church, but need the perfecting of gifted members to help with the building.
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