Life-Study of Hebrewsby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
After the five foregoing messages, we are now qualified to understand the new covenant. In this message we need to see what the new covenant is.
God has an eternal purpose with His divine intention. God’s intention is simply to dispense Himself into us and to work Himself into us as our life and our everything until eventually He and we, we and He, are mingled together and we become His expression to the whole universe. In this process, divinity is wrought into humanity and humanity is mingled with divinity. God is God, but He became man. We are men, but we have God’s life and nature. This is a brief definition of God’s eternal purpose.
Before God accomplished this purpose, Satan caused the fall of man and of many of the angelic creatures. In one sense, this caused God a great deal of trouble, but, in another sense, it afforded Him a good opportunity to manifest His wisdom. Firstly, on the negative side, because sin had come in as a frustration to the fulfillment of God’s purpose, God had to solve all the problems related to sin and to put sin away. Secondly, on the positive side, God has put Himself into us as our life. This life must now be developed into the regulating laws imparted into every inward part of our being. God has put Himself as life into our spirit, and from our spirit He is developing this divine life into laws that are spreading into all of our inward parts. Thirdly, according to this life law, God is our God and we are His people. Fourthly, when this life comes into us and is developed into laws that are imparted into our whole being, this life with its laws gives us a spontaneous and automatic inward ability to know God in the way of life. This is not to know God by knowledge, by being taught; it is to know Him by the inward ability of life. In order for God to accomplish His eternal purpose He had to do four things: take away sin; put Himself as life into our spirit and develop this life into the laws that are imparted into all of our inward being; make Himself our God and make us His people according to the life law; and grant us the inward ability to know Him in life in an automatic way.
Before God did these four things, He firstly promised His people that He would do them by making a covenant with them. A covenant is a biblical term for what we call a contract or an agreement. The content of this contract is that God assures us that He will take away our sins, that He will put Himself as life into our spirit and develop this life into laws in our inward parts, that He will be God to us and that we will be His people according to the life law, and that we shall have the spontaneous inward ability to know Him. These four things are the content of the divine contract. This is the new covenant.
Why is it called the new covenant? Because before the new covenant was enacted and consummated, God made an old one. Why did He firstly make an old one? Because all of the things in the new covenant are too mysterious and abstract. If God had immediately made such a new covenant, the people would not have been impressed with it or able to understand it. God teaches us in the same way as a kindergarten teacher instructs the little children in her class. For example, before teaching the children the word dog, the teacher shows them a picture of a dog. First there is a picture and then the clear word. Likewise, God firstly gave us the picture and then He told us the real thing. The old covenant was a picture. In the old covenant there was the covering of sin but not the forgiveness of sin. The covering of sin in the old covenant foreshadowed the coming forgiveness of sin in the new covenant. In the old covenant there was the old law, the law of letters. The law of letters in the old covenant was a shadow of the law of life in the new covenant. Furthermore, in the old covenant God told His people that He was going to be their God according to the law of letters and that they were going to be His people also according to that law of letters. Today, in the new covenant, God is our God not according to the law of letters but according to the law of life, and we are His people also according to the law of life. Moreover, in the old covenant the people were taught to know God by the knowledge of the law, but in the new covenant we are enabled to know God by the inward ability of life. All of the four items of the new covenant were found in the old covenant in the way of shadows, not in the way of reality. Now in the new covenant we have the real thing to replace the shadows.
Suppose before I come to see you, I send you my photograph. Although that photograph closely resembles me, it is not I myself; it is merely my picture. When I, the living person, come to see you, my presence surely replaces the photograph. If when I come you do not care for me but continue to treasure my photograph, you would be a most foolish person.
As we consider the matters of the old and new covenant, we must know the difference between a promise, an oath, a covenant, and a testament. A promise is an ordinary word spoken by God promising you that He will do something for you. An oath is a confirmation of an ordinary word. God confirmed His ordinary word of promise by means of His oath (6:13, 17). When the promise has been confirmed by an oath, it immediately becomes a covenant. What we have received from God is not just an ordinary word as a promise but a covenant, a contract, confirmed by God’s oath and sealed with His divine being. A covenant always binds people more than a promise does. In this binding covenant there are four things which are no longer promises but accomplished facts. All of these facts are clearly itemized in the covenant. The One who made the covenant died so that the covenant might become a bequeathed will, that is, a testament. Now the covenant is no longer merely a covenant but a testament bequeathed by the One who enacted the covenant. In this bequeathed testament, the four accomplished items have all become bequests. Thus, we do not need to wait for the accomplishment of these things or to pray that God will be faithful to remember His promise and keep His word. We do not need to pray because everything has been accomplished. Each of the four items is an accomplished fact that has been bequeathed to us. These four items are not only promises and facts but also bequests that we may inherit, participate in, and enjoy. What we have today is not a promise or even merely a covenant, but a testament, a will, which is an advanced covenant. An advanced covenant is one that is bequeathed with the accomplished facts, which are the fulfilled promises. When the promise has been fulfilled, it becomes the covenant, and when the covenant has been bequeathed, it becomes the testament. In the promise we have the promised matters, in the covenant we have the accomplished facts, and in the testament we have the accomplished facts bequeathed as bequests. Do not pray that God will fulfill His promises or that He will give you the facts. All of the promises have become accomplished facts, and all of the accomplished facts have been bequeathed to us. We should simply take them and enjoy them.
Let us consider once again the four promises that have become accomplished facts and bequests. The first item is that sin has been put away. But suppose sin comes back. What will you do? Will you kneel down and pray, “O Lord, keep Your promise. Lord, You promised me to deal with sin, and now sin has come to bother me. Lord, keep Your word, Your promise to deal with sin.” The Lord will never answer this kind of prayer. This is why the more you ask the Lord to deal with your temper, the more temper you have. Whenever you pray in this way, the Lord will not answer you. What then should we do if sin comes to bother us? Simply say to sin, “Sin, where have you come from? Don’t you know that you have been put away?” The putting away of sin is a bequest in the testament. Just be simple enough to declare it to be so. Very few Christians have this kind of faith. Even after I received this vision, a number of times I still prayed, “O Lord, take care of my temper. It’s so hard, Lord, for me to overcome it. Lord, didn’t You promise to help me?” Although this may seem to be a good prayer, actually it is a foolish prayer.
The second bequest in the new covenant is that God has put His life into us and that this life is developing into many laws in our inward parts. This is not a promise but a fact that was accomplished and bequeathed to us before we were even born. Before our parents imparted their physical life into us, God had already imparted His life into us. Do you believe this? This accomplished fact has been bequeathed to us by Christ as our inheritance. We all need to see this. If you have never seen the city of Anaheim, you may have difficulty believing what you hear about the city, but once you have come to Anaheim and have seen the city for yourself, it will be impossible for you not to believe what you have seen. Likewise, we all need to see our bequests. Hallelujah, sin has been put away, and before we were born the divine life was put into us! Not only has the divine life been put into us, but it has been developed into laws in every part of our being.
The third bequest is that God is to be God to us and that we are to be a people to Him. Both of these things are according to the law of life. In the old covenant God was God to His people according to the outward law of letters, and His people were a people to Him also according to that law of letters. But in the new covenant God being God to us and we being a people to Him are according to the inward law of life. It is a matter of the inner life, not a matter of the outer knowledge. In the new covenant God deals with us not according to the outward regulations but according to the inward laws of life, and we are living with Him not according to the knowledge of letters but according to the sense of life.
The fourth bequest is the inner ability to know God. Do you believe that we have the inner ability to know God? How could you prove to me that we have such an inner ability? It cannot be proved by doctrine, but it can be proved by our experience. Suppose a sister goes shopping and sees many items on sale. As she is about to purchase a particular item, something within her says, “Don’t touch it. God doesn’t like that.” When she goes on to choose another item, something within says, “God doesn’t like this either.” I believe that nearly every sister has had this kind of experience, showing that the sisters have the inner ability to know God. You cannot deny that you have this ability.
The brothers also know by their experience that they have this ability to know God. We brothers have the peculiar character of vindicating ourselves. Regardless of your age, as long as you are a man, you like to vindicate yourself. A good wife is one who has learned the secret that her husband will always vindicate himself and will never lose the case, even if he does not have a case to lose. If you are a wise wife, you will not fight with your husband, because no husband will lose the case. But whenever we brothers try to vindicate ourselves, the divine presence immediately disappears, and we know that such vindication is not of God. We do not need any teaching according to the law of letters in order to know this; we have an inward ability in life to know God.
Although all of these four items were accomplished and bequeathed to us before we were born, we had no experience of them before we believed in the Lord Jesus. From the day that we believed in the Lord Jesus, all of these four things were wrought into us. One day we said, “O Lord Jesus, You are my Savior. I believe in You. Thank You for Your blood and for Your washing.” Immediately after praying this, all four items of the new covenant become real to us.
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