Life-Study of 2 Corinthiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In chapters three and four Paul speaks concerning the qualifications of the New Testament ministers. The first qualification is that of being constituted of the Triune God. This qualification is basic. We become competent, sufficient, equipped, and qualified to be ministers of the new covenant by being thoroughly constituted of the Triune God, who is now the all-inclusive life-giving Spirit. As these ministers are constituted of such a One, the effectiveness of Christ’s all-inclusive death operates within their being, terminating the old creation and killing the flesh and the natural life.
In the constitution received by the apostles, there are a number of factors or ingredients. These ingredients are typified by the spices used to make the ointment in Exodus 30. One of these factors is the effectiveness of Christ’s death. Daily this ingredient, this factor, works within the apostles. For this reason, in their daily living there is nothing of the old creation: no self, no flesh, no natural life. This killing element can be compared to an antibiotic used to kill germs.
Along with the factor that puts to death the old creation, there is another factor, a positive one. This is the factor of resurrection. This ingredient includes not only divinity, but also Christ’s resurrected and uplifted humanity. The resurrected Christ Himself is resurrection.
The all-inclusive life-giving Spirit is the processed God. The processed God as the life-giving Spirit includes divinity, humanity, incarnation, human living, crucifixion, and resurrection. Therefore, it is a very significant matter to be constituted of the processed God. God has been processed, and we have been constituted. God has been processed through incarnation, human living, crucifixion, and resurrection. Today the resurrected Christ is also the ascended One, the exalted and enthroned One.
A person can be helped by medicine without understanding all the ingredients of the medicine. Likewise, although it is helpful to know all the elements of the all-inclusive life-giving Spirit, we can be helped by these ingredients even without understanding them. We simply need to take the “dose” of the Spirit. Then the elements of death and resurrection will work within us. As resurrection works within us, we become heavenly, empowered, and authorized. The ingredient of resurrection often works in us apart from our consciousness. This can be compared to the way an antibiotic works in us apart from our consciousness of it. Today the ingredient of resurrection is working in us.
In his living Paul had the highest humanity. Paul’s humanity was actually an expression of the human living of Jesus. He had been constituted of the life of Jesus and thereby became properly human, “Jesusly” human. When we come to the remaining chapters in this book, we shall see how outstanding is Paul’s humanity.
We have pointed out that the basic qualification of a new covenant minister is to be constituted of the processed Triune God. The constitution is the base, the foundation, of the qualifications. We today also need this foundation. In doing anything or learning anything, we need a base. If we would be ministers of the new covenant, we must have the constitution as a basic qualification.
The second qualification of the ministers of the new covenant is to conduct themselves for the shining out of the gospel. Their conduct and behavior were based on their constitution. Because they had been constituted in a certain way, they could live a life that manifests the truth and shines forth the glory of the gospel. It was not necessary for them to determine to do something to cause themselves to shine. No, apart from their consciousness and intention, simply by the way they lived, there was a shining forth from their being. Their constitution became their shining. For example, charcoal does not shine, but a gold coin shines. Between the charcoal and the gold there is a difference of constitution. Because of their constitution, the apostles shined forth the glory of the gospel. It was not necessary for them to preach, for their being was shining.
Because this shining came out of their being, their constitution, their behavior was not a performance of any kind. Today people often behave in a certain way to match the occasion. This behavior is a performance. For example, on some occasions they may conduct themselves with pride, as if they were dignitaries. But on other occasions they may conduct themselves humbly as subordinates. All this is a performance. However, those who are qualified to be ministers of the new covenant do not behave in this way. On the contrary, their behavior, based on their constitution, is genuine. This is the second qualification of a new covenant minister.
I aspire to follow Paul’s example. By the Lord’s mercy, I do not want to perform in any way, but I want to have a behavior which comes out of my constitution.
Third, the apostles lived a crucified life. Day by day they were under the grinding. As Jesus of Nazareth lived a crucified life, so the apostles also lived this kind of life. The Lord Jesus was crucified throughout His life. He lived a crucified life from the time He was born in the manger. Then through all the years He was continually being crucified. He was under the grinding, the killing, the putting to death. But this killing afforded Him the opportunity to manifest the resurrection life from within Him. Before Christ was actually nailed to the cross, He had already lived a crucified life. In like manner, before Christ was resurrected, the resurrection life had already been manifested in Him.
In their ministry the apostles were, on the one hand, captives in the Lord’s triumphal procession. On the other hand, they were crucified ones, those who daily lived a crucified life. They were put to death, crucified, not only by the opposers, but even by the believers. By reading the book of 1 Corinthians we can see that the Corinthian believers put the apostles on the cross. This was the reason Paul said, “Daily I die” (1 Cor. 15:31). Daily he was being put to death. This is the living of a crucified life for the manifestation of resurrection life and for the truth of everything ministered by the apostles to others.
Under the grinding, the outer man of the apostles was consumed. But simultaneously they were renewed in the inner man. They were constituted of the Triune God, they behaved themselves according to this constitution to shine out the glory of the gospel, and they lived a crucified life for the consuming of the outward man and the renewing of the new man. These were the qualifications for them to be ministers of the new covenant.
I hope that not only the leading ones in the churches but all the saints, including the young ones, will be impressed with these matters. Do not think that you are too young to have some experience of these things. Yes, I did point out that it takes many years to be constituted by the Lord. Nevertheless, it is also true that the Lord can use even those who are young. I can testify that not long after I was saved, the Lord began to use me, for there was some amount of the divine constitution within me. This constitution is the base, the foundation, for us to be used by the Lord as a new covenant minister. This constitution affects our behavior. When I was saved, there was a change in my inner constitution. Spontaneously I began to behave according to this constitution. Although I was never taught to live a crucified life, I automatically began to live this kind of life. As a result, early in my Christian life, I became a little minister of the new covenant.
Being a minister of the new covenant is a matter of degree. We all can be new covenant ministers, as long as we have the constitution and conduct ourselves according to it and live a crucified life with the elements of resurrection and ascension. Then we all, brothers and sisters alike, can be used by the Lord as little ministers of the new covenant.
By the end of chapter four, Paul has recorded fully the qualifications of the New Testament ministers. In 5:1 he expresses his aspiration, his desire and longing, to be raptured. Paul was mature and ready to be raptured. He was like ripened wheat in a field that is ready for harvest. This wheat is golden, no longer green. Hence, it is ready to be reaped.
This understanding of the rapture is very different from the sugar-coated doctrines common today. D. M. Panton once pointed out that today’s preachers often give people “admission tickets” that will not be accepted by those guarding the “gate.” Yes, you may have a certain “ticket,” but eventually it will be exposed as invalid and unacceptable. Christians today are being given a “ticket” which they think entitles them to be raptured. Eventually they may realize that they have been cheated. Rapture is a matter of maturity. What farmer would harvest grain that is still tender, young, and green? No farmer would do this. Instead, he would allow such unripe grain to remain in the field and grow until it is ready for harvest. Paul was one mature in Christ, mature in life. Therefore, he was truly ready to be raptured. However, at Paul’s time, not many believers were mature. For this reason, the harvest could not take place. Even after nineteen hundred years, the Lord Jesus still has not come. The reason for the delay is that not very many have matured in life.
Many believers do not have the genuine desire or longing to be raptured. The reason they lack such a desire is that they are not mature. Little children, for example, desire only to play and have a good time. But as they grow older and mature, they desire to graduate from school, have a good job, and get married and raise a family. Desire is always related to maturity. An infant has only very simple desires because with an infant there is no growth and certainly no maturity. But the more we grow and mature, the deeper and higher our desires become. If you claim that you have the desire to be raptured, to be clothed upon with a heavenly building, then you must pass through 2 Corinthians 4. Only after experiencing this chapter can we have this desire. Otherwise, we shall be like children in kindergarten who claim they have the desire to graduate from college.
In 5:1 Paul speaks of “our earthly tabernacle-house,” a rather particular expression. In the Bible tabernacle is a special term indicating God’s dwelling place. Paul’s use of this word in 5:1 indicates that our dwelling place is also the dwelling place of God. Furthermore, this tabernacle is not only a dwelling place for both God and us; it is also a place for us to worship God. Our physical body today is a tabernacle, a temple. Our physical body, in which our person dwells, is not only for our living, but also for worshipping God. This is the reason Paul refers to our body as a “tabernacle-house.”
Paul’s thought here is profound. His thought is fully saturated with God. He surely was mature and ripe. Therefore, his longing was to be raptured. He did not desire to be unclothed, but he longed to be clothed upon with a transfigured body. When you have such a longing, such an aspiration, you are a mature believer, one who is ready to be reaped, ready for the harvest.
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