Life-Study of Ephesiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In this message we come to 6:10-20, a strategic section of this book dealing with spiritual warfare. As we have seen, in Ephesians Paul covers various aspects of the church. The Greek word for church, ekklesia, denotes a gathering, an assembly, of called ones. For example, when city officials in ancient times called the people of the city together for a meeting, that meeting was known as an ekklesia. The church is such an assembly of God’s called people. In Ephesians 1 Paul reveals that the church is the Body of Christ. Just as a person’s body is his stature and expression, so the church as the Body of Christ is the stature and expression of Christ. As Christ’s Body, the church is the fullness of the One who fills all in all.
In 2:10 Paul indicates that the church is God’s poem, His masterpiece, a poetic writing that expresses the desire of the writer’s heart. In this chapter Paul goes on to point out that the church is the corporate new man created in Christ Jesus, the commonwealth of God, and the household of God. Furthermore, in this chapter the church is also the dwelling place of God (v. 22).
In 3:4 Paul speaks of the mystery of Christ. The mystery of God is Christ, and the mystery of Christ is the church. As the mystery of God, Christ is the definition of God. In the same principle, as the mystery of Christ, the church is the definition of Christ.
In 3:19 Paul uses the term the fullness of God. This term is similar to the expression “the fullness of the One Who fills all in all” (1:23). The fullness of God refers mainly to the source, and the fullness of the One who fills all in all refers mainly to the outcome. For example, the fullness of God is like a fountain, and the fullness of the One who fills all in all is like the stream that flows forth from the fountain. The church is both the fullness of God and the fullness of Christ as the One who fills all in all.
In chapter four Paul again speaks of the new man (v. 24). Chapter two covers the creation of the new man, but not the living of the new man. The new man is composed of two peoples, the believing Jews and the believing Gentiles. Concerning the living of the new man, chapter four covers both the principle and the details. The principle is related to the truth as it is in Jesus, the mold established by the living of Jesus on earth. The details are related to God’s grace. By grace the new man carries out God’s eternal purpose.
In chapters five and six we see two further aspects of the church: the Bride to satisfy the desire of Christ and the warrior to defeat God’s enemy. As the Bride, the church needs love and light. As the warrior, the church needs might and the whole armor of God.
Of the twelve aspects of the church covered in Ephesians, the main aspects are the new man, the Bride, and the warrior. The new man includes the aspect of the Body, and the Body includes the fullness and the dwelling place. Therefore, the first ten aspects of the church are all included in the new man who fulfills God’s eternal purpose and carries out His economy. This new man is used by the Triune God to accomplish what He planned in eternity past for eternity future. Nevertheless, although God’s plan is fulfilled with the new man, Christ’s desire still needs to be satisfied, and God’s enemy still must be defeated. Hence, there is the need for the church to be both the Bride and the warrior.
The passage from 1:1 to 6:9 completes the revelation on the positive side concerning the church for the fulfilling of God’s eternal purpose. Yet on the negative side, that is, for dealing with God’s enemy, something still remains to be covered. In the first five chapters the church is portrayed in many ways, on the positive side, to fulfill God’s eternal purpose. On the negative side, the church is seen in chapter six as a warrior to defeat God’s enemy, the Devil. To do this, the church must put on the whole armor of God.
In 1928 brother Nee held his first overcomer conference on spiritual warfare. In that conference Satan, the evil one, was exposed to the uttermost. Brother Nee pointed out that in the universe there are three wills: the divine will, the satanic will, and the human will. If we would know how the church can be God’s warrior to engage in spiritual warfare, we must know these three wills, these three intentions. God’s will, being self-existing, is eternal, uncreated. As created beings, the angels also have a will. One of these angels, an archangel, was appointed by God to rule the universe that existed before the creation of Adam. Because of his high position and his beauty, this archangel became proud. This pride gave rise to an evil intention, which became the satanic will. Therefore, in addition to God’s intention, God’s will, there is a second intention, a second will, for now the satanic will is set against God’s will.
All warfare has its source in this conflict of wills. Before the satanic will rose up to contradict the divine will, there was no war in the universe. The controversy in the universe began with the rebellion of the archangel against God. That rebellion was the beginning of all the fighting that is now taking place among nations, in society, in the family, and in individuals. Throughout history there have been wars between nations, groups, persons, and even within individuals. For example, you may experience an inner warfare between your reason and your lust. All the different kinds of warfare have their source in the controversy between the divine will and the satanic will.
We do not know how much time elapsed between the rebellion of Satan and the creation of Adam. We simply know that at a particular time, God created man and endowed him with a human will that was free. It is because of God’s greatness that He gave man a free will. A great person will never compel anyone to follow him. By giving man a free will, God was indicating that He would not force man to obey Him. When I was young, I thought that God was not wise in creating man with a free will. If I had been God, I would have made it impossible for man to have had a choice. I would have created man in such a way that all he could do was follow God. But in His greatness God gave man freedom of choice.
In Genesis 2 we see that man was free to exercise his will to eat either of the tree of life or of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. These two trees represent the divine will and the satanic will, respectively. Hence, in the garden there was a triangular situation, with the tree of life representing the divine will, the tree of knowledge representing the satanic will, and Adam representing the human will. Actually, the tree of life denotes God Himself, and the tree of knowledge denotes Satan. Therefore, there were three persons—God, Satan, and man—each one with a will.
Although there were three wills, the controversy involved just two parties—God and Satan. The crucial issue was whether man would choose the divine will or the satanic will. If the human will stood with the divine will, then God’s will would be accomplished. But if the human will took sides with the satanic will, Satan’s will would be carried out, at least temporarily. As we all know, the human will took sides with the satanic will. This means that man chose to follow Satan and sided with the satanic will. Therefore, Satan was victorious temporarily.
However, through repentance man can turn from the satanic will to the divine will, from Satan’s side to God’s side. The first commandment in the gospel is to repent. The next two commandments are to believe and to be baptized. Any sinner who desires to be saved must obey these three commandments. He must repent to God, believe in the Lord Jesus, and be baptized in water. To repent is to have a turn from the satanic will to the divine will. Since birth our will has stood on the side of the satanic will. The reason for this is that we were in Adam when he chose Satan’s will above God’s will.
Many Christians do not know the true significance of the preaching of the gospel. The Bible says that we must repent for the kingdom (Matt. 4:17). The kingdom of God is actually the exercise of the divine will. When sinners repent for the kingdom of God, they turn from the side of Satan to the side of God, which is the kingdom of God, the will of God. After a person turns from the satanic will to the divine will, he must believe in the Lord Jesus and be baptized. Through baptism he is brought out of the authority of darkness, the satanic will, and is transferred into the kingdom of the Son of God’s love (Col. 1:13).
From the day we were saved, our Christian life has been a life of warfare. The same was true of the children of Israel after they made their exodus from Egypt. After eating the Passover, they marched like an army out of the land of Egypt. This indicates that their eating of the Passover lamb was a preparation for war. They were saved in an atmosphere of warfare. As soon as they came out of Egypt, the fighting began. Pharaoh and his chariots pursued the children of Israel, but God came in to fight for them. After the children of Israel had passed through the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s army had been overthrown, God’s people triumphantly praised Him for His victory over the enemy. The Israelites proceeded to fight their way through the wilderness, and they continued fighting in the good land. Their history thus reveals that the life of a saved one is a life of warfare.
We have seen that as the new man the church should walk according to truth and by grace and that as the Bride the church should live in love and in light. However, not only must God’s eternal purpose be fulfilled and the desire of Christ’s heart be satisfied, but God’s enemy must be defeated. For this, the church must be a warrior. Even in the Song of Songs we see that as the seeking one enjoys the Lord’s presence, the fighting is going on. Therefore, we walk according to truth and by grace, we live in love and light, and we fight to subdue the satanic will. Our walk is for the fulfillment of God’s purpose, our living is for the satisfaction of Christ, and our fighting is for the defeat of God’s enemy. Hence, for these three things the church must be the new man, the Bride, and the warrior.
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