Life-Study of 2 Corinthiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
We have seen that, as the continuation of 2 Corinthians 3, chapter four presents a picture of a life that enables the ministers of the new covenant to be one with their ministry. How could the apostles prove that they were ministers of the new covenant? They could prove it by living the kind of life described in chapter four. It is by this life that they are one with their ministry.
In 2 Corinthians 4 Paul does not speak of his work. He does not refer to what he has done or accomplished. Instead, he speaks of a life, the kind of life lived by him and his co-workers. According to this chapter, Paul and his co-workers lived in such a way that their life became their ministry.
In presenting the life he lived as a minister of the new covenant, Paul uses the name Jesus in a very particular way. In no other place in his writings does Paul use the name Jesus the way he does in 2 Corinthians 4. In verse 10 Paul says, “Always bearing about in the body the putting to death of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be manifested in our body.” Here Paul refers to the death of Jesus and to the life of Jesus. In verse 11 he goes on to say, “For we who live are always being delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be manifested in our mortal flesh.” Paul also uses the name Jesus in verse 14: “Knowing that He Who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will present us with you.” In these verses Paul again and again uses the name Jesus.
It is important to find out why in this chapter Paul uses the name of Jesus in such a particular way. It is not easy to explain the reason. Actually, there may be more than one reason. In this message we shall begin to consider why Paul uses the name Jesus the way he does in 2 Corinthians 4.
We have pointed out that in chapter four Paul portrays the life lived by himself and his co-workers. This is the life which made them one with their ministry. This life is in contrast to the works emphasized among Christians today.
Christianity has become a religion. Every religion is dependent on certain works, for without works a religion cannot survive. A religion cannot exist unless its adherents carry on certain works. As a result, in religion we have works of many kinds. But although it is easy to point out the works in religion, it is very difficult to find anything of life. Thus, a basic principle of religion is that it is full of works but lacking in life. This is true not only of the Christian religion; it is true of any religion. Every religion is full of work, activity, and doings. But in religion there is no life.
Having this understanding of religion, let us once again look at the history of Jesus. When we consider the record of the Lord’s life on earth, we see that the emphasis is not on works. The four Gospels do not stress what the Lord did, what works He accomplished. The record concerning the Lord Jesus in the Gospels is mainly a record of life. In the Gospels the emphasis is on life, not on works or activities. The Gospels are biographies presenting a person living in a particular way. Therefore, the Gospels are not primarily an account of the Lord’s marvelous works; they are a description of the life the Lord Jesus lived on earth. This is one reason Paul in 2 Corinthians 4 uses the name Jesus so often. The use of this name in chapter four brings us back to the Lord as a man whose life was one with His ministry. The Lord lived in such a way that His person was one with His ministry. Strictly speaking, the Lord did not accomplish a work. Instead, He simply lived a certain kind of life.
When some hear that the Gospels emphasize the Lord’s life and not His works, they may want to argue, “Brother Lee, don’t the Gospels also give us an account of the works of the Lord Jesus?” Yes, they certainly do. I do not deny that the Gospels describe the Lord’s work. However, if you read the Gospels carefully, you will see that the picture in them was not painted as an account of the Lord’s works. On the contrary, the portrait in the Gospels was painted in such a way as to show forth the Lord’s life. At least, in this portrait the life of the Lord Jesus is presented in a more emphatic way than His works. The Gospels show us more of the Lord’s life than of His work. Yes, the Gospels do describe the Lord’s works, but much more they present the life Jesus lived and show us by what way He lived.
There are a number of indications in the Gospels that the Lord Jesus did not care for the accomplishing of a great work. We know that during His ministry the Lord performed many miracles. One of these miracles was that of feeding a crowd of more than five thousand with five loaves and two fishes. Was it not a wonderful miracle for the Lord Jesus to feed such a multitude with five loaves and two fishes? It certainly was a great miracle. John 6:14 describes the response of the people to this miracle: “The people therefore, seeing the sign which He did, said, This is truly the prophet who is to come into the world.” The next verse describes the response of the Lord Jesus: “Then Jesus, knowing that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain, Himself alone.” This indicates that the Lord Jesus did not care to have a large following. Instead of caring for the crowd, He went away. But if we had been there with the Lord, we probably would have been excited to see the multitude following Him. We might have praised God for His blessing on this work, thanking Him for this great following. The Lord Jesus, however, was not excited. He would not allow the people to make Him their king. The Lord left the crowd and went to the mountain to pray.
Another example of the Lord’s caring for life and not for a work is found in John 12. In Jerusalem a great crowd gave a warm welcome to the Lord Jesus. They took palm branches and went out to meet Him, crying, “Hosanna, blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (John 12:13). Even the Pharisees admitted that the world had gone after Him (v. 19). Furthermore, when Andrew and Philip told the Lord that the Greeks were seeking Him, He answered, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it abides alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (vv. 23-24). This indicates clearly that what the Lord Jesus cared for was life, not work. In the four Gospels there are many illustrations of this. Whenever people, according to their concept, thought that the opportunity was right for the Lord to accomplish a great work, He never took advantage of that opportunity. Instead, He departed. He had not come to do a great work. His concern was life.
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