Christ as the Content of the Church and the Church as the Expression of Christby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Now we want to see something concerning Christ as the life and content of the church and the church as the expression of Christ from 1 and 2 Corinthians. The end of Romans reveals the church as the Body expressing Christ, but the church in Corinth was expressing something else. We may express things which are quite spiritual, but even these things can become a distraction. The church must be the expression of Christ as revealed in the book of Romans. But the church in Corinth was distracted from Christ, not by evil things but by something apparently spiritual. They were distracted from Christ by the gifts.
Thus, the apostle Paul, the writer of 1 and 2 Corinthians, did his best to bring the distracted church back to Christ. The opening of 1 Corinthians tells us that Christ is the power and wisdom of God and has been made everything to us as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption (1:24, 30). The church is God’s cultivated land to grow in and with Christ and God’s building, the dwelling place of God to be built up as God’s temple (3:9-17). Thus, the church is a corporate vessel, a corporate container, to contain the Triune God. This church, which is the Body of Christ, is a part of Christ. First Corinthians 12:12 reveals that the church, as the Body, is Christ. This is because the church is a part of Christ, so the church must be the expression of Christ.
We also need to stress 1 Corinthians 15:45b, which reveals that Christ is the life-giving Spirit. This book does not show us that Christ is the gift-giving Spirit but that He is the life-giving Spirit. The church in Corinth overemphasized the gifts, so Paul somewhat restricted and restrained them from exercising the gifts too much. They went to an extreme, so Paul brought them back to be balanced. Some think that chapters 12 and 14 encourage us to exercise the gifts, but if we read these two chapters carefully, we can see that they actually restrict the overexercise of the gifts and bring the distracted Corinthians back to Christ. Of course, Paul did not say that the gifts are wrong or bad, but he did indicate that we need to be limited in exercising the gifts. We have to be brought back to Christ to make Christ the reality of the church life.
This Christ is the life-giving Spirit, and we have to learn how to contact Him by exercising our spirit. First Corinthians 15:45b shows us that Christ is the life-giving Spirit, and chapter 2 shows us that we need to exercise our spirit. This chapter tells us that the soulish man is unable to apprehend spiritual things (v. 14). This means that the soul is not able to contact Christ. The soulish man cannot apprehend spiritual things, and Christ as the life-giving Spirit is the reality of all spiritual things. We cannot apprehend and realize Christ by our soul. We must exercise our spirit to contact Him. A spiritual man discerns all things (v. 15). This shows us the great difference between the spirit and the soul. It is absolutely wrong to say that the spirit is the same as the soul. The soul is absolutely unable to contact Christ. We must exercise our spirit to contact Christ as the life-giving Spirit.
First Corinthians 6:17 says, “He who is joined to the Lord is one spirit.” The Lord is the life-giving Spirit, and we have a spirit within, so we must be one spirit with the Lord. When we exercise our spirit, we can contact and experience the Lord. Then Christ will be made real to us, and we will be made real in Christ. As the members of Christ, we will be built up with others to be the church as the living expression of Christ, who is the life-giving Spirit.
Second Corinthians follows the first Epistle to give us a full revelation of how Christ is wrought into us. This is why the second Epistle does not mention the gifts. Instead, it brings us into another realm, another world, another field. It brings us further into Christ by telling us how Christ is wrought into us through all kinds of sufferings, through the different aspects of the working of the cross. One of the key passages in 2 Corinthians is 12:7-10. Here Paul said that there was given to him a thorn in the flesh, which caused him to suffer all the time. He prayed three times for the Lord to take away this thorn, but the Lord said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness” (v. 9a). The Lord indicated that Paul needed this suffering so that Christ as the sufficient grace and strength might be wrought into him.
Thus, in this second Epistle to the Corinthians, the inwrought Christ is revealed. The second Epistle is a record of the Christ wrought into us. The persons with Christ wrought into them will be easily built up to be the real and living expression of Christ and nothing else. This is why this second Epistle does not speak of any gift or of any miraculous, supernatural things. Instead, it speaks of the inner work of the indwelling Christ, the Christ wrought into us by the killing, the “burning,” of the cross. This is what we need today. We need to know Christ in an inner way and have Christ wrought into us.
After this fellowship I believe we have some vision of Romans and the Epistles to the Corinthians. From these three books we can see that originally we were sinners under the condemnation of a righteous God. As such sinful persons, we were justified by this righteous God through the redemption of the Lord Jesus. After this justification, the Lord starts within us to do a transforming work, to transfer us out of the old realm of Adam into the new realm of Christ. We are transferred from our self into Christ through sanctification, transformation, conformation, and glorification. Then we will have the image of Christ to express Him from within by being built together as His living Body. We will have the inner grace and the outward gifts as the expression of Christ.
This is the normal situation, but it is easy for us to be distracted, to be abnormal. We can be distracted from Christ even by good and spiritual things. We have to be brought back from all distracting things to Christ, taking Him as our reality. He is the life-giving Spirit within us, and we have a regenerated spirit. Now we have to exercise our spirit to contact Christ as the living Spirit. Then He will be wrought into us and expressed through us.
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