Life-Study of Ephesiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In previous messages we have covered the condition of learning Christ and the living of learning Christ. The condition is a matter of having put off the old man and of having put on the new man. The living of learning Christ is a matter of applying the principle of truth and of living according to grace. In this message we shall present a summary of learning Christ. This summary includes truth (4:21, 24, 25) and grace (v. 29) as the basic elements and the life of God (v. 18), the Spirit of God (v. 30), and the Devil (v. 27) as the basic factors.
In the foregoing message we pointed out that in the New Testament grace and truth are a pair and that love and light are another pair. These pairs are revealed mainly in the writings of John. His Gospel speaks of grace and truth, and his First Epistle speaks of love and light. The Gospel of John tells how God came to us in the Son so that we may receive Him as grace and realize Him as truth. Then 1 John reveals that after we have received God in the Son, we may come to God the Father to enjoy Him as love and light. Thus in the Gospel of John God comes to us as grace and truth, but in the First Epistle of John we go to God to enter into His love and light in fellowship. This indicates that there is traffic between God and us and between us and God. According to the book of Revelation, the issue, the result, of this divine traffic is the golden lampstands in this age and the New Jerusalem in eternity.
John 1:17 says that the law was given through Moses and that grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. This means that before the coming of Christ grace and truth had not come to God’s people. Yes, there were shadows of grace and truth in the Old Testament age, but there was not the reality of grace and truth until Jesus Christ appeared. When Christ came, grace and truth came also.
The Gospel of John reveals how God came to man through incarnation. The Word which was with God and which was God became flesh and tabernacled among us (John 1:1, 14). Verse 14 says that this incarnated One was full of grace and truth. It does not say that He was full of power and authority, majesty and sovereignty, or love and light. Many Christians quote John 1:14 without knowing the meaning of grace and truth. Grace and truth are intimately related to God Himself. Grace is something sweet, and truth is something real. Grace is actually the sweet Person of the Lord Jesus, who is the embodiment of the fullness of God and the effulgence of the divine glory (Col. 2:9; Heb. 1:3). This means that He is the expression of God.
The Gospel of John speaks a great deal about life. John 10:10 says that the Lord came that we may have life and may have it abundantly. The sweet and lovely Person of Jesus is the shining forth of God Himself, His very expression. As such a One, He is life to us. Life is the essence, whereas grace is the enjoyment that comes by tasting life. When we taste the sweetness of life, we experience grace as our enjoyment. Thus, life is the substance, and grace is the enjoyment.
This is confirmed in the writings of Paul. Paul suffered from “a thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7). This thorn may have been a physical ailment or defect. Paul prayed to the Lord three times that this thorn might depart from him (2 Cor. 12:8). The Lord answered him by saying, “My grace is sufficient for thee: my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9, Gk.). The Lord allowed the thorn to remain so that Paul could have an opportunity to enjoy His grace. In Paul’s weakness God’s power, His sufficient grace, was made perfect.
Grace is the enjoyment of the Triune God in all that He is to us. When He is life to us, that is grace. When He is power to us, that also is grace. Grace is whatever Christ is to us subjectively as our enjoyment. We need grace daily, even hourly. We need the enjoyment of Christ as our life, our power, and everything to us. Grace is the Triune God becoming our enjoyment. He has come to us so that we may gain Him, experience Him, and enjoy Him. When we experience Him as our enjoyment, He becomes grace to us.
We come now to the matter of truth. Because our mind may be preoccupied with natural concepts of truth, we may find it difficult to understand the meaning of truth according to the New Testament. Many regard truth merely as doctrine. Whenever they see the word truth in the Bible, they automatically interpret it as doctrine. However, in the New Testament, truth does not denote doctrine. If you want proof of this, try substituting doctrine for truth in various verses where truth is mentioned. John 1:14 would then say that the Word became flesh, full of grace and doctrine; John 1:17, that grace and doctrine came through Jesus Christ; and John 14:6, that the Lord is the way, the doctrine, and the life. How ridiculous! It is absurd to say that we have learned Christ as the doctrine is in Jesus. Nevertheless, in the concept of many believers, truth means nothing more than doctrine. Others regard truth as sincerity. According to this understanding, to speak in truth is to speak in sincerity.
If we would know the meaning of truth in the New Testament, we need to lay aside these definitions. Truth is God revealed. How much different this is from saying that truth is doctrine or sincerity! In principle, because grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ, they must be something of God Himself. Jesus is God coming to us. When God comes to us, He does not come as doctrine or sincerity. When He comes, everything related to His being also comes. God comes to us for our enjoyment. This is grace. God also comes to reveal Himself to us. This is truth. In other words, when God is enjoyed by us, He is grace. But when God is revealed to us, He is truth. Truth, therefore, is God revealed to us.
These definitions of grace and truth can be applied to almost every case recorded in the four Gospels, especially to those cases found in the Gospel of John. Let us consider two such cases, one in John 4 and the other in John 8. In both chapters truth is mentioned (4:23-24; 8:32). As the Lord Jesus was going from Judea into Galilee, “He had to pass through Samaria” (John 4:4) in order to meet a certain immoral Samaritan woman, who came to the well to draw water. Wearied from His journey, the Lord sat down by the well and waited for this Samaritan woman to appear. When the Lord Jesus asked her for a drink, she was surprised that a Jew would ask a drink from a Samaritan woman. The Lord replied, “If you knew the gift of God, and Who it is that says to you, Give Me a drink, you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water” (v 10). After she questioned Him further, the Lord answered, “Everyone who drinks of this water shall thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall by no means thirst forever; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a spring of water welling up into eternal life” (vv. 13-14). What grace He showed toward her! After the Samaritan woman tasted the grace of God, she came to realize something of who the Lord Jesus was. Thus God was not only enjoyed by her, but also revealed to her. When the Lord Jesus contacted the Samaritan woman, He was the embodiment of grace and truth.
In John 8 the Lord contacted another sinful woman, a woman caught in adultery. Through His contact with her, God became her enjoyment and was also revealed to her. The Lord helped her to receive Him as grace and to know Him as God revealed.
According to the Gospels, all who contacted the Lord Jesus in a positive way received grace and saw truth. The grace they received was God Himself, and the truth they beheld was also God. Therefore, John tells us that of His fullness we have all received grace upon grace (1:16). We have received from Him the riches of what God is. This is God received, experienced, and enjoyed. This is grace. Following this, God is seen and realized by us. This is truth.
When I was young, I was bothered by the fact that John puts grace before truth. I thought that the revelation of God should precede the enjoyment of God. One day I saw that the Lord Jesus firstly comes to us as grace and then as truth. As I looked back on my experience, I realized that I enjoyed Christ as grace long before I knew Him as truth. Many of us enjoyed Christ as grace before we knew Him as truth. This means that we enjoyed Him without realizing what He is. This indicates that enjoyment comes before realization, that grace comes before truth.
We have pointed out that in the Gospel of John God comes to us, but that in the First Epistle of John we go to God. As we go to God, we enter into the inner chamber to contact the Father through the Son under the cleansing of the blood of Jesus. Here in this inner chamber we experience not grace and truth, but love and light. For this reason, in 1 John we have love instead of grace and light instead of truth. When God comes to us, we receive Him as grace and truth. But when we go to God, we meet Him as love and light. This is deeper and more inward than the experience of grace and truth.
When we have fellowship with the Father in the inner chamber and enjoy Him as love and light, we then have grace and truth for our practical daily living in the world. In our fellowship with the Father we have love and light, but at home or in our place of employment we have grace and truth. Through grace and truth we have the kind of daily living Paul exhorts us to have in Ephesians 4. Although we may be under pressure at work or at home, we can still live according to truth and by the supply of grace. If others are not pleasant toward us, we have the grace to bear it. Then others will see that God is with us. In this way our daily living will be of grace and truth.
The church life is the issue of God coming to us as grace and truth and of our going to God to meet Him as love and light. Out of this traffic come the seven lampstands in the book of Revelation. Ultimately, the issue of this heavenly traffic will be the New Jerusalem as God’s eternal testimony. Both the lampstands and the New Jerusalem come out from the traffic between God and us and between us and God. In this traffic God comes to us to be our grace and truth, and we go to God to experience Him as our love and light.
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