The Bible reveals that God had an eternal plan and that this plan eventually became His economy. God’s plan is to have a group of human beings who are regenerated with the divine life become His sons and the members of Christ so that the Triune God in Christ may have a Body through which to express Himself.
God’s plan is accomplished through Christ’s incarnation, human living, and all-inclusive death to terminate everything of the old creation so that He may germinate His chosen people in resurrection. In His resurrection Christ became the life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45) so that He may propagate Himself as the processed Triune God to produce the Body. After His resurrection Christ ascended to the heavens, and there He was made the Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36). In His resurrection the Lord had already breathed Himself as the Spirit into His chosen people essentially (John 20:22). Then in His ascension He poured out Himself as the all-inclusive consummated Spirit upon them economically. Therefore, everything has been fulfilled and accomplished: incarnation, human living, the all-inclusive death, the life-giving and propagating resurrection, the breathing of the life-giving Spirit essentially, the ascension, and the pouring out of the consummated Spirit economically. Because all this has been accomplished, the church has been produced.
Before Christ came to pass through the processes for accomplishing God’s plan, the points related to it were put into the Old Testament in the way of promises, prophecies, types, figures, and shadows. Then, in the fullness of time, the Triune God in the Son became a man (Gal. 4:4). In His humanity He passed through the processes of human living, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension to accomplish everything for the fulfillment of God’s plan. Having become the all-inclusive Spirit, He now enters into God’s chosen people to apply to them all that the Triune God in the Son has accomplished. Through such an application, God’s people become living witnesses of the incarnated, crucified, resurrected, and ascended Christ (Acts 1:8).
As those who have the all-inclusive Spirit within us, what should we do? We should simply be living witnesses containing, bearing, and conveying the incarnated, crucified, resurrected, and ascended Christ so that He may be propagated throughout the earth for the fulfillment of the divine economy. This is a brief summary of the entire revelation in the New Testament.
Since Christ has come and passed through the processes of incarnation, human living, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, breathing the Spirit into God’s chosen people essentially and pouring the Spirit upon them economically, many of the promises, prophecies, types, figures, and shadows in the Old Testament related to this are now out-of-date. God’s people should not hold on to these out-of-date things. However, degraded Judaism as a religion continues to hold on to those things which have become out-of-date.
Between those in degraded Judaism and the Christian believers was the situation of mixture in Jerusalem. In Jerusalem was the first group of vessels chosen by God to contain Christ. This group included the apostles, among whom Peter was the leading one and James was the most influential one. According to Acts 21, with these apostles there were thousands of Jews who believed in Christ (v. 20). Although they had become believers in Christ, they were still strongly under the influence of their Judaic background. Because of this influence, it was impossible for them to abandon their background and to give up the atmosphere that prevailed in Jerusalem.
The Jewish believers in Jerusalem became those who insisted on having both faith in Christ and also the out-of-date things of the Old Testament. They wanted to put these two matters together. I would say that, according to my study of the New Testament, James was the leader in this trend. It seems that he took the lead to say, “There is no need for us to fight. We may keep our faith in Christ and at the same time also keep the Old Testament laws, customs, and practices. We may still practice circumcision.”
In not wanting to fight or offend others, James may have had a very good intention. He may have had a good heart in wanting to blend the Old Testament dispensation with faith in Christ. We also need to realize that James had a broadened heart. This is indicated by the fact that he did not propose that the Gentile believers be circumcised. Consider the solution he proposed to the problems concerning circumcision during the course of the fellowship recorded in Acts 15: “I judge that we do not harass those from the Gentiles who turn to God. But that we write to them to abstain from the pollutions of idols and fornication and what is strangled and blood. For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who proclaim him in the synagogues, being read every Sabbath” (vv. 19-21). James made it clear that it was not necessary for the Gentiles to be circumcised or to keep the law. He only required that they abstain from idol worship, fornication, things strangled, and blood.
James, however, continued to think that it would be better for the Jewish believers to practice the things of the Old Testament and to keep the law. James seemed to say, “The Gentiles do not need to keep the law or to be circumcised. But we Jews should practice circumcision and keep the law. We need to practice the kind of life exactly like that practiced by our forefathers in the Old Testament. Of course, we now have faith in Christ. Therefore, let us keep both the Old Testament things and our faith in Christ.” This, I believe, was James’ concept.
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