The Bible reveals that throughout the ages, God has had only two ministries: the Old Testament ministry and the New Testament ministry. In the Old Testament, the Israelites were governed by laws and ordinances, the chiefest of which were the Ten Commandments, ministeredto them by Jehovah through His representative, Moses. In his epistles, the apostle Paul refers to this ministry as the ministry of letters, which has the function of killing (2 Cor. 3:6). Many portions in the Old Testament, Judges being a notable example, show how the Israelites failed to keep the law and were condemned and even suffered death because of their failure. Thus the Old Testament ministry was a ministry of the letter, of death, and of condemnation (2 Cor. 3:6-9).
In contrast, the ministry of the New Testament is a ministry of grace, a ministry of the Spirit, and a ministry that gives life (1 Pet. 4:10, 2 Cor. 3:6). Our experience of salvation is just one example of this ministry: when someone preached the gospel to us, they ministered life to us, and through our receiving of this life, we were brought out of our death situation and into the divine life of Christ. As we go on enjoying the Lord and growing in life, we are actually entering into the riches of the New Testament ministry (Eph. 4:12).
If God ministered the Old Testament ministry through Moses, then who is the minister of this New Testament ministry of grace and life? Paul answers this question in 2 Cor. 4:1: when we receive the Lord, we ourselves become the ministers. This was indeed Paul’s experience, of which he testified in Eph. 3:7-8: “Of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God which was given to me according to the operation of His power. To me, less than the least of all saints, was this grace given to announce to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ as the gospel….”In like manner, we have been graced to minister to others the unsearchable riches of Christ! The experience and enjoyment we have of Christ are not merely for ourselves; they form a rich store of supply from which we can minister to others. The riches of Christ include His death, resurrection, and humanity, as just a few examples. The more we enjoy Christ, the more we can truly say that His riches are unsearchable!
Lastly, what is the purpose of our ministry? The goal of our ministry is the building up of the church, which is the Body of Christ (Eph. 4:12, 1:22-23). The element and the source of the Body of Christ are the unsearchable riches of Christ (Eph. 4:15-16). Therefore, as we minister the unsearchable riches of Christ to one another and enjoy the riches of Christ ministered to us by other believers, the Body of Christ is produced (Eph. 4:16). This is God’s desire, and this is the goal and purpose of the ministry of the New Testament (Eph. 3:7-11).
Witness Lee, Truth Messages, Chapter 4 (Print).
Witness Lee, The Scriptural Way to Meet and to Serve for the Building Up of the Body of Christ, Chapter 10 (Print).
(Most references in the Further Reading can also be viewed on www.ministrybooks.org.)