Life-Study of 2 Corinthiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In the book of 2 Corinthians, a very deep book, Paul presents himself as a pattern of living Christ for the church. In this Epistle Paul presents us his living, the way he lives. Paul’s life is a pattern for all Christians.
When I was a young Christian, I heard again and again that Christ is our example and that we should imitate Him. I was also taught that the Apostle Paul is an example for us. In 1 Timothy 1:15 and 16 Paul says that he was the greatest sinner, the chief of sinners, but he received mercy in order to become an example, a pattern, for the believers. However, I never heard that in 2 Corinthians Paul presents himself as a pattern of living Christ for the church.
Paul is a pattern not only of living Christ, but of living Christ for the church. As God’s new creation, we are destined to live Christ. Furthermore, we are to live Christ not merely for salvation, spirituality, power, or evangelical work, but for the church. To live Christ for the church is the destiny God has appointed to His new creation.
The matter of living Christ for the church is something that has been lost and that needs to be recovered. At the time of the Reformation, Martin Luther recovered justification by faith. By God’s grace, Luther was willing to risk his life for the recovery of justification by faith. Justification by faith in an objective way can be compared to the skin of a chicken; it is not the meat. According to Romans and Galatians, justification by faith must have a result. These books reveal that justification by faith is unto life. This means that justification is with a view to life. It should not stand by itself; rather, it must result in life.
Caspar Schwenckfeld saw that justification must result in life. He may be regarded as one who touched not only the “skin” of the revelation in the Bible, but also began to see the “meat” under the skin. One day I was very surprised to learn that Schwenckfeld used some of the expressions we use today to speak of life. He even spoke of the life-giving Spirit. My point in referring to Luther and Schwenckfeld is to say that the Lord wants to recover not only the skin, that is, certain fundamental doctrines; He also wants to recover the meat under the skin of the Word.
In message seventeen of this Life-study I pointed out that the truths of the Bible can be compared to the feathers, skin, and meat of a chicken. In reading 1 Corinthians 1, for example, we may pay attention to the feathers and neglect the skin. In 1 Corinthians 1:12 Paul says, “Now I mean this, that each of you says, I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas, and I of Christ.” In this verse we have feathers, not meat. Readers of 1 Corinthians 1 often pay attention to the feathers in this verse; however, they neglect the meat in verse 9. There Paul says, “God is faithful, through Whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Many read 1 Corinthians 1 without paying adequate attention to this verse and to the meat contained in it. Others may study this verse, but without an adequate understanding of the word fellowship. They may think that to have fellowship with the Son is merely to contact the Son of God in a prayerful way. Not many believers realize that the fellowship of the Son refers to the enjoyment of the Son of God. The Son of God here is rich meat to be our portion.
The thought of enjoying the Lord as rich, nourishing meat is found in Luke 15. In the parable of the prodigal son, the prodigal repented and came back home. The father received him and had the best robe put upon him. Some Bible teachers use this parable to teach that salvation is by grace, not by works. The son planned to tell the father to make him like one of the hired servants. The father, however, interrupted him and told the servants to put the best robe upon him. This robe signifies Christ as our righteousness. We received this robe not by our working, but by grace, the free gift, of God the Father.
I myself preached gospel messages from Luke 15 emphasizing this point. But there is more in this parable than the robe. There is the fatted calf. The robe can be likened to the skin, and the fatted calf to the meat. For years, I preached a “robe gospel,” that is, the message that salvation is by grace. But eventually I came to see that Luke 15 also speaks of the fatted calf. The robe is outward; it is something that covers us. The fatted calf is related to something inward; it is food for nourishment. After I saw this, I began to preach the gospel in a somewhat different way, emphasizing the fatted calf as well as the robe. However, certain ones who saw only the robe and not the fatted calf, only the skin and not the meat, were not happy with this kind of gospel preaching. They did not agree with the teaching concerning the eating of the fatted calf.
Sometimes in my preaching from Luke 15 I said that the prodigal son repented and returned not because his clothes were dirty but because of hunger. The son came back home because he was hungry, so hungry that he was even willing to feed on the husks that were given to swine. Luke 15:17 says of the prodigal, “And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!” Therefore, he resolved: “I will arise and go to my father” (v. 18). He did not say to himself that in his father’s house were many robes. No, he remembered that there was “bread enough and to spare.” Instead of remaining where he was and starving to death, he decided to return home.
Suppose the father had said, “Poor son, you look like a beggar. I’ll tell the servants to get the robe I have prepared for you and put it on you so that you may have a proper appearance.” If the father had provided only a robe to cover him, the son might have said, “Father, I’m hungry. You are satisfied with the robe, but I need something to eat. Please give me some food.” The father, however, did not care only for the robe. After telling the servants to bring forth the best robe, the father said, “And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry” (v. 23).
Furthermore, the elder son was jealous not because of the robe, but because of the feast. He complained to his father: “Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment; and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends” (v. 29). The elder son did not say that the prodigal son had the best robe. He was jealous because the fatted calf had been prepared for his younger brother.
In certain points the teaching in the Lord’s recovery is different from that common among today’s Christians. Some who care only for the robe and not for the fatted calf go so far as to say that our teaching is heretical. In the recovery we have both the robe and the fatted calf. Luther recovered the robe, but now we are also enjoying the recovery of the fatted calf. By the Lord’s mercy we are in His recovery enjoying Christ, the fatted calf, as our rich, nourishing portion.
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