The life-study and crystallization-study trainings are a precious heritage in the Lord’s recovery. As a gift given by Christ the Head to His Body “for the perfecting of the saints unto the work of the ministry, unto the building up of the Body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-12), Brother Witness Lee labored to perfect the saints to minister the unsearchable riches of Christ as life for the building up of His organic Body (Eph. 3:8; 4:16). He carried out this perfecting and equipping work not only through general meetings and conferences but also through particular trainings. The purpose of these trainings was to minister the all-inclusive Christ as eternal life embodied in the word of God (John 6:63, 68; 17:17; Eph. 1:13) to bring the believers to the full knowledge of the truth so that they may enjoy Christ as life, grow in life unto maturity, and dispense life to others for the growth and building up of His Body (1 Tim. 2:4; Eph. 4:13, 15). The purpose of this article is to provide a brief overview of the pattern, history, and significance of the life-study and crystallization-study trainings.
In conducting trainings, Brother Lee faithfully followed the pattern established by both the Lord Jesus Himself and the apostle Paul. The four Gospels record that during His ministry on earth the Lord Jesus not only preached the gospel and taught the truth but also perfected the disciples in the truth (Mark 1:14-22). In particular, in Luke 24 the resurrected Christ trained the disciples by opening “their mind to understand the Scriptures” (v. 45). He opened the Scriptures to them by explaining to them clearly “the things concerning Himself” in all the Scriptures, comprising “the Law of Moses and the Prophets and Psalms,” revealing to them how He Himself is the center and content of the entire Old Testament (vv. 27, 32, 44). Moreover, after His resurrection the Lord Jesus spent forty days speaking to His disciples the things concerning the kingdom of God, that is, teaching them the truth concerning the kingdom (Acts 1:3). Similarly, in Acts Paul not only gave messages but also remained for a considerable period of time in at least three cities to train the saints by teaching them the truth. Barnabas and Paul gathered with the church in Antioch for a year and “taught a considerable number,” indicating that they carried out a training in Antioch by teaching the word of God (11:26). Paul also stayed in Ephesus for three years, teaching the saints both publicly and from house to house, proclaiming the truth concerning the kingdom of God, and declaring to them the whole counsel of God (20:20-27)—the eternal economy, purpose, and will of God (Eph. 1:5, 9-11; 3:9-10). In his last meeting with the elders of the church in Ephesus, he committed them to the word of God’s grace (Acts 20:17, 32). This suggests that Paul trained the saints in Ephesus by teaching the truth concerning God’s economy and ministering the word of God’s grace to them. Of Corinth Acts says that Paul “remained there for a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them” (18:11), showing the apostle’s labor to perfect the saints in the truth.
Paul trained the saints in Ephesus by teaching the truth concerning God’s economy and ministering the word of God’s grace to them.
Brother Lee carried out the life-study of the Bible by means of trainings to ensure that he would have a proper audience for the unhindered release of the deep scriptural truths.
In keeping with this practice of the Lord Jesus and the apostle Paul, Brother Lee spent several months every year from 1950 to 1961 in Taiwan to conduct trainings to perfect the saints in crucial matters, including studying the truths in the Word of God. In 1954 Brother Lee began to use the expression “life-study” to refer to a study of the Bible that stresses the matter of the divine life, a matter that has been neglected, missed, and lost among many Christians and even teachers of the Bible. In contrast to the numerous expositions of the Bible that focus on doctrinal knowledge, ethical teachings, or history, the life-study messages focus on life, taking life as their content and emphasis with the express purpose of ministering the life supply to the believers (CWWL, 1985, vol. 2, p. 96). Brother Lee carried out the life-study of the Bible by means of trainings to ensure that he would have a proper audience for the unhindered release of the deep scriptural truths. The spiritual atmosphere in these trainings was high, and the Lord blessed them, using them “to edify the saints, build up the churches, and spread the word of God quickly” (CWWL, 1969, vol. 3, p. 550).
When Brother Lee moved to the United States in 1962, his main burden was initially to visit the saints and churches in the United States to lay a foundation for the Lord’s recovery here. In 1974, after this foundation had been widely and solidly established, Brother Lee became burdened to release the riches in the Word of God as the bountiful supply of life not only to the saints in the local churches but also to the believers throughout the earth, many of whom were “suffering from a famine of healthy teaching” (CWWL, 1981, vol. 1, p. 92). Although from 1962 to 1973 Brother Lee had traveled to many places to hold meetings and conferences, by 1974 he realized that “still the Word, the Holy Scriptures, had not been opened up” and that “for the long run there was the need for the opening up of the holy Word so that people could see the life in this book” (CWWL, 1994-1997, vol. 1, “The Practical Points concerning the Blending,” p. 109). In 1974 Brother Lee “felt that [he] should settle down and spend some time to release the Lord’s word and that the best way was through a life-study of the Bible” (CWWL, 1981, vol. 2, pp. 462).
Beginning in 1974 Brother Lee carried out the life-study of the Bible primarily by holding two trainings every year, one in the middle of the year and the other at the end, and by studying a book or several books of the Bible in each training. In 1981 he declared that “the heaviest burden within [him was] how to fully release the word of the Lord.” He was eager to release a life-study of every book of the Bible. (CWWL, 1981, vol. 2, pp. 262). Each of the semiannual trainings required that Brother Lee spend at least three months writing the outlines for the life-study messages. During these months he also wrote footnotes, compiled cross references, and composed an outline for each book to be covered, thus producing the initial draft of the Recovery Version of each book of the Bible. Brother Lee testified that such a rigorous schedule forced him to study each book of the Bible thoroughly so that he could see both a bird’s-eye view and the crucial points. Further, he testified that he often received light in the Scriptures from the Lord while composing message outlines, preparing to give messages, and speaking in the training meetings.
The semiannual life-study trainings served as an important vehicle for the release of Brother Lee’s ministry of the word largely because the trainees provided an excellent audience to draw out his messages. Brother Lee emphasized concerning the importance of a proper audience for the ministry of the word:
The speaking may be easy, but the speaking relies on the audience. Even a message like last night’s was three-fourths due to those present…Even though the message is there, it cannot come out without a proper audience. With the same outline, same revelation, and same number of people, three-fourths of the message would be gone if I were to go to a denominational audience. I cannot speak to a “pile of stones”; there is no echo, no response. It is not easy to get such an audience as we have…With the saints providing the atmosphere and everything ready, we can do the best work. (CWWL, 1979, vol. 1, p. 87)
Because of the importance of the best possible audience and atmosphere for the ministry of the word, it was necessary for the attendees of the semiannual trainings to be held to a high standard. Whereas conferences were open to all persons without restriction, the semiannual trainings required the attendees to register and be approved by the churches. Further, trainees were required to abide by a set of regulations, including rising and going to bed at proper times, arriving early for the meetings, and preparing to be tested. The trainees’ adherence to these regulations not only helped them to be girded up in their spirit, to be saved from looseness, and to receive the greatest benefit from the trainings but also made them a suitable audience for drawing out the highest speaking from the ministry. The Lord used the life-study trainings to release the divine truths in the Word and perfect many saints to learn, experience, and present these truths, ushering them into a richer enjoyment and ministry of Christ as life.
Because of the importance of the best possible audience and atmosphere for the ministry of the word, it was necessary for the attendees of the semiannual trainings to be held to a high standard.
The trainees’ adherence to these regulations not only helped them to be girded up in their spirit, to be saved from looseness, and to receive the greatest benefit from the trainings but also made them a suitable audience for drawing out the highest speaking from the ministry.
Whereas “the life-study opens the entire Bible to us in a general way,” the crystallization-study leads us to “touch the depths, the crystals, of the Holy Scriptures” and to see “the intrinsic essence of the divine revelation.”
After completing the life-study of the Bible in July 1995, Brother Lee initiated the crystallization-study of the Bible, which took place via semiannual trainings and weekly ministry meetings given to the full-time training in Anaheim and the churches in Southern California. The crystallization-study of the Bible is deeper and higher than the life-study of the Bible. Whereas “the life-study opens the entire Bible to us in a general way,” the crystallization-study leads us to “touch the depths, the crystals, of the Holy Scriptures” and to see “the intrinsic essence of the divine revelation” (CWWL, 1994-1997, vol. 2, “The Governing and Controlling Vision in the Bible,” p. 278). Brother Lee carried out the crystallization-study of several books in the Bible (Song of Songs, the Epistle to the Romans, James, and the Gospel of John) and of some crucial truths (the humanity of Christ, and the complete salvation of God in Romans) so that the saints could enter into the intrinsic significance of the Word of God. In 1996 Brother Lee underscored the need to crystallize every book in the Bible:
To crystallize the book of Romans is to identify and put together the many crystals in this book. Every book in the Bible needs such a crystallization. We need to consider which points of the Bible are crystals. We should gather all the crystals in Romans. (CWWL, Letters and Gleanings, vol. 3, p. 371)
Brother Lee was so heavily burdened for the crystallization-study of the Bible that in 1995 he said, “My burden to live on this earth is…to put out the crystallization-study of the critical words of the New Testament” (CWWL, 1994-1997, vol. 1, “Crystallization-study of the Epistle to the Romans,” p. 436). Before going to be with the Lord in 1997, Brother Lee charged and commissioned his co-workers who had been laboring with him for many years to continue this work. The co-workers received this burden and have faithfully been carrying out crystallization-study trainings to this day.
May the Lord grant us to treasure these trainings and seize every opportunity to attend them not only to see the intrinsic essence of the divine revelation but also to serve as a proper audience for the unhindered release of the crystals in the Word of God. May we all, by the Lord’s mercy, highly value and enter into all the divine truths in the Word that He has released through His ministry by means of the life-study and crystallization-study trainings until we are constituted with these truths, enjoy the Lord as life according to these truths, and minister Him to others for the fulfillment of God’s eternal purpose to produce and build up the Body of Christ, consummating in the New Jerusalem.