The preface to this book is short, but it makes a few things very clear:
- Watchman Nee does not consider this a representation of his ministry.
- This book is not theory for everyone. It is for those in the Lord’s service and is based on experience.
- Watchman Nee fears this book would be used both as an attack or as a service manual.
In the introduction, Watchman Nee speaks about the relationship between what is inward (vitality and reality) and outward (correctness and pattern). Without the inward, the external is dead, regardless of correctness. Without the outward, the inward is theory. But this inward reality, when vital, must result in a practical expression—this is God’s principle. To this end, He gives us Corinthians to pair with Ephesians, and He gives us numerous examples to learn from in both the Old Testament and Acts. Ultimately, it is the pattern of Acts we should pay careful attention to, as it regards the “genesis” of the church.
Chapter One: The Apostles
In this chapter, Watchman Nee looks at three groups of apostles in the New Testament:
- The Lord Jesus, the unique Apostle;
- The Twelve, uniquely appointed by Jesus to testify to His resurrection;
- Many others, commissioned by God to build up the body of Christ.
Watchman Nee spends much time concerning what qualifies an apostle, concluding that nowhere do we find an “apostling gift.” Their office is based not on gift, but on commission, distinguishing them from fellow offices in Ephesians 4:11: prophets, teachers, and, in scope, evangelists. Never-the-less, there are signs of this commission, namely—(1) fruit, (2) endurance, (3) miraculous power to change situations in the physical world.
Chapter Two: The Separation and Movements of the Apostles
In this chapter, Watchman Nee carefully considers the first sending out of apostles (who are not the Twelve) (from the church in Antioch, see Acts 13) and principles of their first journey. This is done with the conviction that the first recorded instance of something in the Bible contains the principles of God’s desire.
First, the apostles were called from among the prophets and teachers already laboring locally. Second, the apostles heard this calling personally (“…to which I have called them”). Third, it was confirmed by the prophets and teachers with them. Because this calling was related to work, and not life, a representative group of the ministry of the body of Christ was sufficient to separate and send away Paul and Barnabas (rather than a representative group of the life of the body of Christ, like the whole congregation). None-the-less, the ministry of the Body is “one” just as the “life” is one. Therefore, the apostles were sent out under the authority of the Head, Christ, and on the ground of the Body—both from and unto the building up of the Body.
In consideration of the first trip of the apostles, Watchman Nee notices one key principle—they were always moving. They never settled down. Whether going out to preach or returning to establish, they never took a permanent abode. This should challenge both the pattern we see today (as many missionaries stay in one place to pastor believers) and our ability to trust the Spirit in raising up converts who face trying experiences ahead of them.