Titus 1:9 - Holding to the faithful word, which is according to the teaching of the apostles, that he may be able both to exhort by the healthy teaching and to convict those who oppose.

Scriptural Points of Fellowship

Reviewing the Crucial Need to Abstain from Death
and Partake of the Tree of Life

Today in the Lord's recovery, more than eight years after the departure of Brother Lee, a few brothers among us have raised questions concerning the direction of the recovery and the leading in the recovery through a group of brothers whom Brother Lee said would serve as fellow slaves with him in a blended way (A Letter of Fellowship with Thanks, March 24, 1997, Witness Lee). The dissenting brothers are also challenging the current role of Living Stream Ministry and some of the scriptural revelations and practices given by Brother Lee to the recovery over the years, such as the one publication work and the matter of the one minister and ministry of the age. The one publication work and the one ministry of the age are cardinal matters which from the beginning of the Lord's recovery among us until now have preserved the recovery from different ministries creeping in to cause division. Brother Lee himself told us that if different ministries would creep into the recovery in any way, that would end the Lord's recovery (Elders' Training, Book 1: The Ministry of the New Testament, p. 16). The aforementioned crucial points of contention are the targets of the dissenting ones' assaults.

A number of dear saints and localities have been troubled by the writings and speaking of the dissenters, who have resorted to various media to propagate their dissenting views. Considering their work a noble cause and counting themselves as "policemen" and "concerned brothers" who have taken up the responsibility of protecting the Lord's interests today, the dissenters put forth their propositions in a seemingly logical manner. In reality, however, these propositions contradict in every way the teaching and leading of Brother Nee, Brother Lee, and the blending brothers. They are designed to lead the unwary and curious saints away from life to another source—the tree of knowledge.

Therefore, in order to make the reader aware of the nature of certain writings that have penetrated into parts of the recovery, I have provided in the following paragraphs a number of Old Testament and New Testament cases, references, and principles to assist the reader to remain in the matters of life. Good and evil, right and wrong, legitimate "concerns," logical opinions, eloquent arguments, and the like have no place in the Body of Christ and should be avoided at all costs. If what we read brings us into life, refreshes us, nourishes us, enlightens us, and builds us up, to be sure it is of the tree of life. On the contrary, if it darkens us, confuses us, causes doubts, and tears down the oneness in the Body, it is of the tree of knowledge and can only cause us to die spiritually.

  1. The first man faced the same choice that we face today when presented with the two options of whether to know good and evil or simply to stay with life. To Adam and Eve death appeared innocuously as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 3). The crafty serpent, the embodiment of Satan, realized that he could not trap man by a frontal assault, so he subtly engaged Eve in what appeared to be a harmless dialogue. As soon as Eve began the conversation with the serpent and opened herself to know the "real situation" behind God's words, her mind was poisoned. By the serpent's apparent "concern" that God was withholding certain things from her, Eve's emotions were turned against God, causing her to dislike, question, distrust, and doubt God's care and heart for her. The ages have since proven how devastating was man's failure to discern between knowledge and life.

  2. The account of the ancient world inundated by water affords us an additional case illustrating this same principle. As the floodwaters receded after the deluge, Noah sent forth two birds from the ark to determine whether or not the waters had indeed abated (Gen. 8:7-8). A raven was sent out first. The raven is an unclean bird (Lev. 11:15) because it feeds on carcasses, that is, on death. It signifies the fleshly believers who love the world judged by God and return to it to feed on the things of death. Later, Noah sent out a dove. The dove is a clean bird because it feeds on seeds, that is, on life. It signifies the spiritual believers who remain in the church life and care for life in the Spirit.

  3. The book of Leviticus also furnishes us with a number of illustrations of avoiding death and clinging to life. Leviticus 5:2 says that touching unclean carcasses caused an Israelite to be guilty. In the Scriptures the word carcass signifies death. Verse 4 continues by identifying the carcasses of unclean beasts, unclean cattle, and unclean creeping things. The different kinds of animals represent different kinds of people, and the carcasses of these animals signify the different kinds of spiritual death that may spread among God's people in the church life. The beasts, the cattle, and the creeping things signify three kinds of death: wild death, mild death, and subtle death. Death may spread among us in a subtle, cunning way to spread its poison secretly. This poison of death damages and destroys the saints. For us as God's people to live a holy life as required by the holy God, we must be careful about the kind of people we contact. In order to live a holy life, we need to abstain from spiritual death. More seriously, a person who touched the carcass of a man was unclean for seven days, indicating that in the eyes of God, fallen human beings are the most defiling element (cf. Matt. 15:17-20).

  4. Numbers 6 speaks of a Nazarite vow taken voluntarily by those who wished to separate themselves unto God. Part of the vow required that the Nazarite not come near a dead person so that he might not be defiled (vv. 6-7). If he was defiled by some unexpected or sudden death, even that of a close relative such as a brother or a sister, he was required to reseparate himself to the Lord to be holy to God (vv. 9-12). This indicates that the defilement of death can void our Nazarite vow. May the Lord thoroughly sanctify us from contacting anyone or anything of spiritual death.

  5. Second Kings 4:38-41 tells us that the disciples of Elisha ate a stew made with poisonous gourds. Elisha nullified the poison with flour. In principle, the Lord Jesus did the same, healing His disciples of the leaven of the Pharisees with Himself as the fine flour (Matt. 16:6-12). The "poisonous gourds" of the various writings of the dissenting ones today spread death to the saints and the churches. We should absolutely abstain from this contaminated "stew" and, on the contrary, feed on the rich ministry and healthy teaching of our brothers Watchman Nee and Witness Lee.

  6. In the New Testament, in Matthew 16, the Lord Jesus spoke of the gates of Hades, which not only bring the church into death but also shut up and hold the church in death. In the past the gates of Hades utilized the Jewish religion, the Roman Empire, and Greek culture to poison and damage the church. In addition to these large gates, Hades has small gates as well. If we allow our flesh, our old man, our opinions, our self, and our natural man to be expressed through any means, the gates of Hades will be opened and will prevail. The "concern" of the dissenters over the current direction, emphasis, and practices in the Lord's recovery has opened up these gates, bringing in Satan's power of death. Let us all rise up to slam shut the gates of Hades and live a crucified life.

  7. In Acts 20:30 Paul admonished the elders of the church in Ephesus, who had been called by him to meet in Miletus, that "from among you yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverted things to draw away the disciples after them." Paul predicted that perverted ones among even the believers in the church would be used by the devil to draw the sheep away to form another flock. The perverted things mentioned here are not necessarily heresies or unscriptural teachings. According to the Greek word diastrepho, they are distorted, twisted, or corrupted things, which turn the faithful believers aside from the truth and corrupt them.

    A certain few within the Lord's recovery today are speaking perverted things to their own advantage by distorting and twisting the strategic matters of one publication work, the one minister of the age, and the blended coworkers with a view to convincing others to follow them. Thus, today there is the need to cut straight the word of the truth (2 Tim. 2:15). The truth rightly unfolded through the ministry in the Lord's recovery will enlighten the darkened ones, inoculate against poison, swallow up the death from the dissenting ones, and bring the distracted back to the proper track.

  8. In Romans 8:6 Paul tells us that "the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the spirit is life and peace." Whenever we are confronted with confusing, dark, and troubling words, the sense of death should serve as a warning to us, urging us to immediately set our mind on our mingled spirit to regain the sense of life. To keep ourselves and the church from death, we need to "mark those who make divisions and causes of stumbling contrary to the teaching that [we] have learned, and turn away from them" (16:17). These ones, through their smooth words and flattering speech, deceive the hearts of the simple (v. 18).

  9. According to Paul's word in 2 Corinthians 11:2-3, the church in Corinth as a pure virgin betrothed to Christ was being deceived by ministers of Satan (v. 15), who were undermining God's word ministered by the genuine ministry in God's New Testament economy. Because of this undermining preaching, the apostle was fearful that the Corinthians would be distracted by the teachings and questions posed by Satan's ministers and would be separated from the genuine appreciation, love, and enjoyment of the precious person of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself as their life and everything. Likewise, the many "questionings" (1 Tim. 1:3-4) produced by the writings of the dissenting ones in the Lord's recovery today can easily deceive the saints, carrying them away from God's economy to the tree of knowledge and distracting them from the simplicity of eating the tree of life.

  10. Ephesians 4:29-31 admonishes us, "Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but only that which is good for building up, according to the need, that it may give grace to those who hear... Let all bitterness and anger and wrath and clamor and evil speaking be removed from you, with all malice." The corrupt words circulating today in letters, emails, etc., are noxious, offensive, and worthless. These words contaminate others and spread death. Paul continues this thought in 5:6-11 saying, "Let no one deceive you with vain words... Therefore do not be partakers with them. For you were once darkness but are now light in the Lord; walk as children of light... And do not participate in the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather even reprove them."

  11. In Paul's Epistle to the Colossians he says, "This I say that no one may delude you with persuasive speech" (2:4). In order for believers to be deluded and carried off, something close to the truth must be used to deceive them. We should beware of persuasive speech and of eloquence. If we take Christ as life, hold Him as the Head of the Body, know Him as the mystery of God, experience Him as the hope of glory, and walk in Him as the all-inclusive Spirit, we will not be deceived by anything or anyone.

  12. Both of Paul's Epistles to Timothy contain further inoculation against negative words and speech. In 1 Timothy 6:3-5a and 11 he says, " If anyone teaches different things and does not consent to healthy words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the teaching which is according to godliness, he is blinded with pride, understanding nothing, but is diseased with questionings and contentions of words, out of which come envy, strife, slanders, evil suspicions, perpetual wranglings of men corrupted in mind." Paul's ministry was centered on the economy of God, whereas the different teachings of the dissenting ones were used by God's enemy to distract His people from this economy. The different teachings of the dissenting ones sow the seeds of death and poison into others. To question and contend about words is a disease.

    Second Timothy 2:14, 16-17, and 23 tell us "not to have contentions of words, which is useful for nothing, to the ruin of those who hear... But avoid profane, vain babblings, for they will advance to more ungodliness, and their word will spread like gangrene... But foolish questionings and those arising from an untrained mind refuse, knowing that they beget contentions." We should absolutely avoid engaging in conversations and written dialogue with those who introduce foolish questionings that arise from an uneducated, undisciplined, and unlearned mind, a mind that is not subject to God but follows one's own thoughts and will.

  13. In Paul's Epistle to Titus he writes," But avoid foolish questionings and genealogies and strifes and contentions about the law, for they are unprofitable and vain" (3:9). We should avoid all foolish questionings, strifes, and contentions, including the factious, opinionated men behind them. These are matters of deadening knowledge, which belong to the tree of knowledge and kill their victims. Instead of these things, we should stress the things of life, which belong to the tree of life.

  14. Peter also tells us in his First Epistle to "put away all malice and all guile and hypocrisies and envyings and all evil speakings" (2:1). In 3:10 he reminds us, "For he who desires to love life and see good days, let him cause his tongue to cease from evil and his lips to speak no guile."

  15. Finally, the apostle John presents us with a wonderful word in 1 John 1:5, which says, "This is the message which we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all."

Today in the Lord's recovery some brothers among us have succumbed to the enemy's work of darkness, hiding behind the cloak of being "concerned brothers." Instead of guilelessly and genuinely seeking out fellowship in mutuality and in the light, they use the media to spew out their "concerns," which confuse, cast doubts on, and undermine strategic elements of the Lord's present recovery. Any form of death, whether wild, mild, or subtle, can be used by the evil one to damage the Lord's recovery. We should not open ourselves to the subtle accusations of the "concerned brothers," but should slam the door on them. We must not let curiosity overcome us; rather, we must continue enjoying the tree of life. Our regenerated spirit deep within acts as an umpire to keep us in a condition of life and peace. May we constantly heed this sense of life.

Whatever we touch that ministers life and builds up the Body, we receive. Whatever is not of life, we reject.

In the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 30:19, "I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life that you and your seed may live."

Your brother in His recovery,

Bill Lawson

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