Wang Mingdao was born in 1900 in Beijing within the Foreign Legation where his parents had taken refuge during the Boxer Uprising. He was given the name Tiezi (Iron Son), a name that foreshadowed his courageous life. In 1920 he chose the name Mingdao (Understanding the Word) to signify his calling to be a preacher. Retreating to Beijing’s Western Hills, he read the Bible 6 times in 40 days. In 1928, he married Liu Jingwen (刘景文女士), a pastor’s daughter.
Although Wang Mingdao’s primary ministry was to his local church, the Christian Tabernacle, he also published a quarterly magazine, Spiritual Food, and frequently spoke at conferences across China. His preaching was solidly grounded in God’s Word, and he put great emphasis on repentance, conversion, holiness, purity and truth. The church he planted in Beijing grew steadily, and in 1937 began meeting in a new facility which seated several hundred. His view of separation led him to refuse to join associations of churches sponsored first by the Japanese and later by the Communist Party.
In 1955, following accusation meetings organized by liberals in the Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), he and his wife were arrested at gunpoint. They were both tortured repeatedly during their years in prison and labor camps. She was released in 1973, blind in one eye, and he in 1979, nearly blind and deaf. They moved to Shanghai to be with their son, and regularly held meetings with Christians in their small apartment until Mr. Wang went to be with the Lord on July 28, 1991. Mrs. Wang joined him on April 18, 1992. Their ashes are buried in the Dongshan Cemetary beside Lake Tai, about 30 miles southeast of Suzhou, Jiangsu Province.
After Wang Mingdao’s release from prison, he told Stephen Wang (王长新), a former elder at the Christian Tabernacle who also served over two decades in prison, that he had fallen into the sin of lying in 1955 when fear of prison overtook him and he falsely confessed that he was a criminal for not joining the TSPM. While meditating on Micah 7:7-9, his fellowship with the Lord was restored. In his biography of Wang Mingdao, Stephen Wang (no relation) describes this restoration as follows: “After eight years of failure, Wang Mingdao was able to stand up again. He was restored, and his spiritual life was completely revived. From then on, he set himself a high standard of absolute honesty and truthfulness, not tolerating even a trace of falsehood….He resolved that it was better to die in prison than to lie.” Wang Mingdao’s falling away had been hidden by prison walls. The outside world knew nothing of it, and it would have been very easy for him to let the church remember him only as the heroic “man of iron”. His commitment to truth would not allow this.
Before his imprisonment, he gave a sermon on God’s painstaking work in preparing the five smooth stones that David chose before battling Goliath. Mr. Wang closed the sermon by asking, “What I am even more anxious to know is whether I myself am qualified to be a ‘smooth stone’ in the hand of God.” There can be no doubt that God prepared Wang Mingdao for His glory, and that the existence of millions of Christians in China today bears witness that he was indeed a courageous and fitting “smooth stone”.
As long as we live in this world, there is a war. We must therefore be alert all the time…I did not stay alert and keep praying. As a result, I experienced a terrible defeat…So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall. 1 Corinthians 10:12.
The Long Road to Freedom: The Story of Wang Mingdao. Stephen Wang, p. 253.