The Church and the Work

Additional Quotes about the Local Church by Witness Lee and Watchman Nee

It is the commission from God (not the gift of the Holy Spirit) that qualifies one for apostleship. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are those mentioned in (1 Cor.14:26). Also, the believers themselves are gifts to the church (1 Cor.12:28). In this aspect, the apostles are gifts to the church but not because of any particular gift of the Holy Spirit but rather by the sole commission of the Holy Spirit can they be considered as genuine apostles. Here, Watchman Nee makes this clear:

It is important to note that apostleship is an office, not a gift. An office is what one receives as the result of a commission; a gift is what one receives on the basis of grace. “I was apostle” (1 Tim. 2:7). “I was appointed…an apostle” (2 Tim. 1:11). We see here that apostles are commissioned. Being an apostle is not subject to receiving an apostolic gift, but subject to receiving an apostolic commission. An apostle has a special call and a special commission. It is in this that he differs from the other three ministers, though he may have received the prophetic gift and thus be a prophet as well as an apostle. His personal gift constitutes him a prophet, but it is commission, not gift, that constitutes him an apostle. The other ministers belong to the ministry by virtue of their gifts; an apostle belongs to the ministry by virtue of his being sent. Their qualification is the possession of gifts; his is the possession of gifts plus a special call and commission.
An apostle may be a prophet or a teacher. Should he exercise his gift of prophecy or teaching in the local church, he does so in the capacity of a prophet or a teacher, but when he exercises his gifts in different places, he does so in the capacity of an apostle. The implication of apostleship is being sent of God to exercise gifts of ministry in different places. It is immaterial to his office what personal gift an apostle has, but it is essential to his office that he be sent of God. An apostle can exercise his spiritual gifts in any place, but he cannot exercise his apostolic gifts, because an apostle is such by office, not by gift.
Nevertheless, apostles have personal gifts for their ministry. “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. 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” (Acts 13:1-2). These five men had the gifts of prophecy and teaching, a miraculous gift and a gift of grace. From that company of five two were sent by the Spirit to other parts, and three were left in Antioch. As we have already seen, the two sent out were thereafter called apostles. They received no apostolic gift, but they did receive an apostolic commission. It was their gifts that qualified them to be prophets and teachers, but it was their commission that qualified them to be apostles. The three who remained in Antioch were still prophets and teachers, not apostles, simply because they had not been sent out by the Spirit. The two became apostles, not because they had received any gift in addition to the gift of prophecy and teaching, but because they received an additional office as a result of their commission. The gifts of all five were just the same, but the two received a divine commission in addition to their gifts, and that qualified them for apostolic ministry.
….The difference between the apostles, and the prophets and teachers, is that the latter two represent both gifts given by the Spirit to individuals and at the same time gifts given by the Lord to His Church, whereas apostles are men given by the Lord to His Church, but they do not represent any special, personal gift of the Spirit.

(Watchman Nee, Collected Works, Set 2, Vol. 30, 10)
















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