Life-Study of Colossiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
According to typology, the children of Israel enjoyed Christ in three stages: in Egypt, in the wilderness, and in the good land. The Passover enjoyed in Egypt was not only for their redemption; it also strengthened them to make their exodus from Egypt. In the wilderness God’s people were sustained by manna, which enabled them to build God’s tabernacle and to carry it as a testimony. After the children of Israel entered into the good land, they began to enjoy the rich produce of the land. This produce made it possible for them to build the temple for a more solid testimony, Speaking according to the type, the temple in the good land is the focus of God’s purpose on earth. God desires to have a dwelling place among His chosen people for His expression. God’s purpose is fulfilled neither by the enjoyment of Christ as the Passover lamb in Egypt nor by the enjoyment of Christ as manna in the wilderness. His purpose is fulfilled only when His people enjoy Christ as their good land.
In 1 Corinthians we see that Paul dealt with the Corinthians according to the first two stages of the enjoyment of Christ, but not according to the third stage. In 1 Corinthians 5:7 he says, “For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.” In the following verse he charges us to “keep the feast.” These verses point to the enjoyment of Christ as the Passover in Egypt. In 1 Corinthians 10:3 and 4 Paul refers to spiritual food and spiritual drink. This refers to the enjoyment of Christ in the wilderness. In 1 Corinthians there is no mention of the third stage of the enjoyment of Christ. But in Colossians Paul regarded the believers as being in this stage of the enjoyment of Christ.
Because the Corinthians were not in the third stage of the enjoyment of Christ, the church life in that locality was a tabernacle church life, a church life that was portable and that lacked a solid foundation. By contrast, the church life in Ephesians, Colossians, and Philippians is that of the temple. It is a settled church life with a solid foundation. Stone was not used in the building of the tabernacle, but a great deal of stone was used in constructing the temple. For this reason, the temple, the enlargement of the tabernacle, was solid and settled.
The church life in Colossians and Ephesians is more solid than that in 1 Corinthians because in these Epistles the enjoyment of Christ is not elementary. It is not merely the enjoyment of Christ as the Passover or as the manna, but the enjoyment of Christ as the good land, as the portion of the saints. Today some churches may be in the first or second stage of the enjoyment of Christ, whereas others may be in the third stage.
If we would enter into the good land, we must conquer and subdue all the enemies typified by the seven tribes. These enemies are the evil rulers, authorities, principalities, and powers in the air. After these enemies have been defeated, we shall have peace, and in this peace the temple can be built.
Although the Colossians were in Christ as the good land, they had been deluded, deceived. This was the reason that Paul said in 2:4, “This I say that no one may delude you with persuasive speech.”
In order for believers to be deluded, something close to the truth must be used to deceive them. For example, counterfeit money or forged checks are deceptive because their appearance is close to that of the real things. People would never be deceived by money or by checks that are obviously false. In like manner, the Colossians were deceived by observances and practices that were close to the experience of Christ. Furthermore, certain aspects of Gnosticism were similar to the teachings of the Bible. For this reason, the Colossians could be deceived.
It is very easy to be deceived by something that is close to the real thing, by a counterfeit that is almost identical to something genuine. Without the proper discernment, it is difficult to see the difference between the teachings in the New Testament and ethical teachings like those of Confucius. When I was young, I heard a missionary say that the ethical teachings of Confucius were the same as some teachings in the Bible. The Bible teaches that wives should submit to their husbands. Confucius, however, teaches a threefold submission. Firstly, a woman is to submit to her father; then to her husband; and then, should her husband die, to her son. Concerning submission, the teachings of Confucius and the teachings of the Bible appear to be the same in principle. If we do not have discernment, we could be led astray from Christ by ethical teachings that appear to be the same as those of the Bible.
Many aspects of the Jewish religion are very good. Take, for example, the dietary regulations in Leviticus 11 and the commandment to keep the Sabbath. It seems right that, just as God rested on the seventh day after laboring for six days, man should have a day of rest after six days of labor. However, there is a problem here. According to the Bible, should we labor first and then rest, or should we rest first and then labor? We may think that because God rested after working for six days, we should do the same. But if we have light from God, we shall see that in the Scriptures God first labors and then rests, but man first rests and then works. Man was created on the sixth day, toward the end of the six days of God’s labor. After the creation of man, God rested, and man rested with God. This indicates that as soon as man came into being, he had a time of rest. Therefore, according to the principle in the Bible, we are to rest before we work. In the New Testament we see that first we receive grace, and then we work. To work before receiving grace is to live according to the law. But to receive grace before we work is according to God’s salvation by grace. If we are not clear about this, we may be deceived by the teaching of the Seventh-Day Adventists regarding the keeping of the Sabbath. We need to tell the Seventh-Day Adventists that with God work came before rest, but with us rest comes before work. According to the New Testament, receiving grace precedes working. If we do not receive grace as the capital, we shall have nothing with which to work. We cannot work unless we first receive grace. This is a basic principle.
These examples show that certain observances and teachings are similar to some aspects of God’s salvation. This was the reason that the believers in Colosse could be deceived by Jewish observances and pagan teachings and could allow those things to pervade the church life. I am concerned that the young ones may be deluded by those who advocate certain teachings or practices. We need to have a thorough understanding of the basic principles in the New Testament. Then we shall have the wisdom and the knowledge to convince and subdue those who attempt to delude us.
Paul opens 2:4 with the words, “This I say.” These words refer to what Paul has covered in verses 2 and 3 concerning the riches of the full assurance of understanding, the full knowledge of Christ as the mystery of God, and the fact that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ. Paul emphasized these things so that the saints at Colosse would not be deluded. If we have seen the revelation of Christ in Colossians 1, we shall not be deceived by teachings concerning such things as water baptism and the observance of the Sabbath. We shall know that the all-inclusive Christ is the focus of God’s economy and everything to us. If we have a clear vision of Christ, no one will be able to delude us or deceive us.
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