Chen Biyin was born November 9, 1910 to a Christian family in Qiudi Village, Gutian County, Fujian Province. His great-grandfather Chen Bugong was a Manchu military officer. Chen Lianghuan, his grandfather, was a Manchu literary scholar with three sons and one daughter: the eldest son Chen Mianjun was a minister of the Methodist Church; the second son Chen Chengjun, father of Chen Biyin, studied English; the third son Chen Shuangjun was a literary scholar; the daughter Chen Juxiang practised medicine. Chen Biyin’s father died at the age of only thirty when he was 3 months old, so he was reared by his grandfather. When Biyin was 12 years old, his grandfather passed away owing a large debt. In order to pay it off, the mother had to remarry and move to Malaysia. In his youth, Chen Biyin was sent to the school run by the Methodist Church at the county seat, and later went to Fuzhou Xiehe Vocational School for high school. However, due to illness he was extremely weak, dropping out of high school after only one semester. He was 19 years old at the time. At the end of the year, he went to Malaysia with his uncle, and later managed farm workers in Sitiawan for Chen Liangzhi, also from his hometown, Gutian.
In 1924, Watchman Nee came to Kampung Koh, Sitiawan, to preach and establish a church. Chen Liangzhi was converted and soon became the leader of the church. Chen Liangzhi often shared the gospel with Chen Biyin, finally convincing him to abandon the theory of evolution. On an afternoon of summer 1931, Chen Biyin repented and believed in the Lord. He was drawn to the Bible and spiritual literature and his life was changed dramatically.
In summer 1933, Chen Biyin returned to Fuzhou. That December, he went to Shanghai to meet Watchman Nee, remaining for five months. After speaking with an older Christian brother, he was deeply moved by Genesis 31:3 and Exodus 23:25-26 . He knew the Lord was calling him back to Gutian and giving him a lifelong promise of: 1. not lacking food 2. healing of illnesses 3. many children 4. a long life. These words from God were later fully fulfilled in his life.
In May 1934, Chen Biyin returned to Gutian. First, several schools asked him to preach the gospel. Later, he rented several venues. The number of people attending gospel meetings gradually increased, soon reaching hundreds. His evangelism then extended to the surrounding countryside, where gospel meetings were held in over 20 villages, and churches were established in 10. The work further expanded to more than a dozen counties beyond Gutian. Throughout his ministry, he often experienced the power of the Holy Spirit, God’s presence, and his special protection and care.
In 1938, through the introduction of Yu Zeqin, Chen Biyin and a Christian named Jiang Liangru met. On August 8 that year, they held a simple wedding at the home of Yu Zeqin in Suyang, Gutian. They had 5 sons and a daughter.
In February 1948, Chen Biyin brought over 50 people from Gutian to the Jinmen Road Church in Fuzhou. After the meeting, he and some co-workers went to Customs Lane to meet with Watchman Nee. Nee shared the vision he had seen, that is, of establishing local churches in accordance with the Jerusalem principle (first come apostles, then, the church). Everyone accepted and obeyed this vision, and were willing to “completely surrender” (completely dedicate themselves) and live within the body (in the church). Chen Biyin brought his whole family to Fuzhou in 1949 and served together there with the co-workers. That year, he and Chen Yusan, Chen Xiwen and Zheng Zhengguang became elders; coworker arrangements for Fuzhou workers were mainly handled by Chen Biyin. From 1948 to 1949, he worked mostly in Fuzhou. By 1950, the church had grown greatly, and those attending bread-breaking meetings [an extended service of the Lord’s Supper practiced in the Brethren style] numbered 3,000. That year, Chen Biyin visited churches in several places, including Fuyou, Putian, Xianyou, Quanzhou and Xiamen.
Beginning in 1951, the changing political situation heaped difficulties onto the church, gradually decreasing attendance. All venues were required to display the national flag and the portrait of Chairman Mao. In 1955, after several all-church prayer meetings, everyone decided they must separate from the Three-self Movement. One day, when Chen Biyin was praying, a word came to his heart: “You must come out from them and separate from them” (2 Cor. 6:17). Thus, on March 25, 1955, Chen Biyin and his church declared to the relevant bureau their withdrawal from the Three-Self Movement. Subsequently, his difficulties increased.
At midnight on January 11, 1956, Chen Biyin was arrested and sentenced for “counter-revolutionary crimes,” that is, for leaving the “Three-self.” The following summer, he was sent to Shoushan, Fuzhou, for reform through labor. After completing his sentence in January 1962, he remained in the labor camp and was not allowed to return home. On May 2, he suddenly got a high fever that lasted 10 days. His health deteriorated, and when the authorities saw that his condition was critical, they immediately sent him home. After examination at the provincial hospital, the doctor diagnosed a communicable disease and transferred him to an infectious disease hospital for treatment. He recovered after 40 days. At that time, the situation in the Taiwan Strait was tense. Many institutions in Fuzhou moved inland; the Shoushan Labor Reform Team also moved to Jiangxi. Because of his disease, Chen Biyin remained in Fuzhou and did not move away with the labor team. After recovering, he was still under police scrutiny from late 1962 to 1965. He was not spared during the Cultural Revolution, but endured frequent criticism along with his family.
In 1969, 4 of his 5 children were sent to the countryside for forced labor. On May 12, 1970, the couple and their sixth son were also sent for forced labor to Qiudi Village, Gutian. On March 30, 1973, Chen Biyin was arrested and imprisoned by the local government for pleading guilty (saying that he colluded with the counter-revolutionaries of Tushan, Fuzhou). He was released on November 17, 1976, and returned home.
In the summer of 1979, Chen Biyin returned to Fuzhou from the Gutian countryside. He had no fixed home, and maintained no connection with the “Three-Self Patriotic” [church]. Nevertheless, many believers from home and abroad came to visit him for fellowship. Regardless of background or denomination, any who came were accepted in the love of Christ. At the same time, he often traveled to such areas as Sanming, Nanping, Shaxian and others to visit believers. In addition, he also did some writing. His publications included 《审判台前的亮光》”The Light at the Judgment Seat”, 《牧群信息》”Message to the Flock”, 《福音谈话》”Gospel Conversations”, 《灵命喂养》”Spiritual Nourishment” and other short books. After decades of Christian life and ministry, he concluded that the Lord’s words must be practically experienced, as only thus is spiritual reality and true Christian faith demonstrated.
At midnight on November 8, 2007, in Wushanyuan, Fuzhou, Chen Biyin went to be with the Lord.
- Chen Biyin: “My life in the hands of God” (Chen Biyin’s testimony). 陈必荫：《我终身的事在神手中》（陈必荫的见证）。
- Huang Ruoxuan: “Unforgettable 1948 - The Golden Year of Watchman Nee’s Ministry” 黄若砥：《难忘的一九四八——倪柝声职事精华的阶段》。
- Notes from author’s visit with Chen Biyin 笔者拜访陈必荫的记录 。