Life-Study of Galatiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In this message we come to 1:6-12. The main item revealed in these verses is the gospel preached by the Apostle Paul.
Many Christians think that the gospel has only one aspect. According to this concept, the message of the gospel is that we were sinners and that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was incarnated and died on the cross for our sins so that we might be forgiven and saved. Although this is not wrong, it by no means includes all the aspects of the gospel found in the New Testament. In Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, we have different aspects of the gospel. In the Acts we do not see one particular aspect. Instead, there are verses that refer to the aspects of the gospel presented in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. However, in all the Epistles written by Paul, Romans through Hebrews, we see a particular aspect of the gospel. We may call these Epistles the gospel according to Paul, or the fifth gospel.
Let us now consider the various aspects of the five gospels in the New Testament. Matthew reveals that Christ, the Son of David, came as the King to establish the kingdom of the heavens on earth. Hence, in Matthew the term, “the gospel of the kingdom,” is used. Therefore, the aspect of the gospel emphasized in Matthew is that of the kingdom. The goal of this aspect of the gospel is to bring people into the kingdom.
The Gospel of John emphasizes eternal life. In this Gospel we see that from eternity Christ is the very Word of God, even God Himself. One day, the Word was incarnated (1:14). Furthermore, He died on the cross not only to redeem us from sin, but also to release the divine life so that He may impart Himself into us as eternal life. In this Gospel John brings us to a full realization of the divine life. For this reason, the Gospel of John may be called the gospel of life.
The aspect of the gospel emphasized in Luke is that of the forgiveness of sins. Here we find a record of how Christ came as a man to be our Savior, how He died on the cross to accomplish redemption and to solve the problem of sin so that we may be forgiven. According to Luke 24:47, repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in the name of Christ among all nations.
We have pointed out that Matthew is the gospel of the kingdom, that John is the gospel of life, and that Luke is the gospel of forgiveness. But what aspect of the gospel is emphasized in Mark? Mark is the gospel of service. According to this Gospel, Christ came as a slave to serve God by caring for God’s people. Christ came, not to be ministered unto, but to minister, to serve (10:45). He came not only as the King to establish the kingdom, as the eternal One to impart life, and as the Savior to forgive the sins of those who believe in Him; He also came as a slave to serve God by ministering to His redeemed people. Thus, Mark emphasizes service.
Paul’s gospel includes all the aspects of the first four Gospels. In his writings Paul speaks of the kingdom, life, forgiveness, and service. However, in his Epistles he covers much more. In Colossians 1:25 Paul says that he became a minister according to the stewardship of God to complete the word of God. Hence, Paul’s gospel is the gospel of completion. Without Paul’s gospel, the revelation of the gospel in the New Testament would not be complete.
Many important aspects of the gospel are found only in the writings of Paul. For example, in Colossians 1:27 Paul says that Christ in us is the hope of glory. Such a word cannot be found in the four Gospels, nor in the Epistles written by Peter or John. Mark may be regarded as Peter’s spiritual son (1 Pet. 5:13), and he drew upon Peter as the source for much of the material in his Gospel. However, Mark says nothing about the indwelling Christ as our hope of glory. From Paul’s gospel we learn that the Spirit of Christ is a seal and a pledge (Eph. 1:13-14). Although John speaks of the Spirit, he does not use the same terms Paul does. In Galatians 1:15 and 16 Paul tells us that it pleased God to reveal His Son in him. Such a word is not to be found in Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. Paul also speaks of Christ living in us (2:20), of Christ being formed in us (4:19), and of Christ making His home in us (Eph. 3:17). Statements like these are not found in the four Gospels. Furthermore, in Ephesians 3:19 Paul speaks of being filled unto all the fullness of God. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John have nothing to say about this.
In his Epistles Paul also tells us that we are members of the Body of Christ. He speaks of Christ as the Head and of the church as the Body. Such terms cannot be found in the writings of Peter or John. If we could tell Peter that the church is the Body of Christ, he might reply, “Where did you hear this? I was close to the Lord Jesus for three and a half years, but I never heard such a word. I heard about the cross and about feeding the Lord’s lambs. In my first Epistle I even charged the elders to shepherd the flock of God. But I have never heard about the Body of Christ.” We must admit that concerning the matter of the Head and the Body, Paul’s vision was higher than Peter’s. Although John tells us that Christ is the vine and that we are the branches, he does not say that Christ is the Head and that we are the Body. This is a further indication that without Paul’s gospel the revelation in the New Testament would not be complete.
When Christianity went to China hundreds of years ago, all that was made available to the Chinese was a rather poor translation of the four Gospels. The unfortunate Chinese could hear only those aspects of the gospel found in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Although they may have gained some understanding of the forgiveness of sins, I doubt that they had a proper understanding of the kingdom of heaven in Matthew or of eternal life in John. Certainly they had no opportunity to hear the gospel which declares that the believers have Christ in them as their hope of glory and that they are members of the Body of Christ. They could not know that Christ is the Head of the Body of which we are members. What a loss it would be not to have the gospel of Paul!
It is crucial for us to see that Paul’s ministry was a completing ministry, a ministry of completing the divine revelation. Paul’s gospel is the gospel of completion. Therefore, if we did not have Paul’s writings, we would lack a vital part of God’s revelation. Paul’s Epistles not only complete the divine revelation; they form the very heart of God’s revelation in the New Testament. Thus, Paul’s gospel is not only the gospel of completion; it is also the center of the New Testament revelation. For this reason, Paul’s gospel is the basic gospel.
We in the Lord’s recovery need to have a clear view of the gospel according to Paul. The focal point of Paul’s gospel is that the Son of God, God’s anointed One, has entered into our being to be our life today and our glory in the future so that we may be the members of His Body. This Body, the fullness of the One who fills all in all, is the new man, the household of God, the household of faith, and the true Israel of God. In Paul’s gospel there are many mysterious matters that are not covered by Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. In the four Gospels we are not told that Christ is the mystery of God (Col. 2:2) or that all the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Him bodily (Col. 2:9). In fact, the four Gospels do not even give us a clear word concerning justification by faith. It is in Romans and Galatians that justification by faith is covered in a clear way.
There is no doubt that Matthew speaks clearly and emphatically about the kingdom, which is a matter of administration. However, according to the revelation given to Paul, the gospel is not centered on God’s administration. It is focused on the Triune God being our life in order to be one with us and to make us one with Him, that we may be the Body of Christ to express God in a corporate way. The focal point of the gospel is not God’s administration; it is God Himself in His Trinity becoming the processed all-inclusive Spirit to be life and everything to us for our enjoyment, so that He and we may be one to express Him for eternity. Such a profound thought cannot be found in the four Gospels. I doubt that Mark was clear about such a revelation of God’s economy when he was writing his Gospel.
Many Christians today are not clear about this matter either. They may be familiar with the councils, the creeds, and the teachings of the historic church, but they do not know Paul’s revelation of the Triune God processed to become the all-inclusive Spirit. This indicates that few Christians adequately know the gospel according to Paul.
Important aspects of Paul’s gospel are found in Galatians. We have seen that in 1:15 and 16 Paul says that it pleased God to reveal His Son in him. What a wonderful word! However, millions of Christians have no realization that Christ is in them. In 2:20 Paul goes on to speak of Christ living in us, and in 4:19, of Christ being formed in us. In chapter six he covers fourteen important items: the human spirit (vv. 1, 18), the law of Christ (the law of life, v. 2), the Spirit (v. 8), eternal life (v. 8), the household (v. 10), the faith (v. 10), the cross of Christ (v. 14), the religious world, which has been crucified to Paul and to which Paul has been crucified (v. 14), the new creation (v. 15), peace (v. 16), mercy (v. 16), the Israel of God (v. 16), the brands of Jesus (v. 17), and the grace of Christ (v. 18). A number of these items can be found only in the writings of Paul, not in any of the four Gospels.
However, we by no means depreciate the four Gospels. We have devoted much time to the study of Matthew and John in particular. My purpose here is to emphasize our need to know the fifth gospel, the gospel of Paul. Some Christians boast that they accept all ministries, but actually they do not wholly accept the ministry of Paul. This indicates that they receive the four Gospels, but do not fully receive the fifth.
The traditional understanding of the gospel in Christianity is very narrow. It does not include the whole gospel revealed in the New Testament. When I was young, my view of the gospel was limited. I only saw that Jesus loved us and died for us so that our sins could be forgiven. I knew nothing of the marvelous aspects of the gospel unfolded in the Epistles of Paul. Even some of today’s pastors do not adequately know Paul’s gospel revealed in the one hundred chapters of his Epistles.
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