Life-Study of Matthewby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
As we have pointed out many times, the Gospel of Matthew is not a book of history, but a book of doctrine. Matthew puts together certain historical facts for the purpose of revealing a doctrine. If you compare the four Gospels, you will see that Matthew presents the facts of history in an order different from that found in Mark or John. Mark and John were written according to the sequence of history. The arrangement of the facts in Matthew’s record, however, is not according to history, but according to doctrine, because Matthew presents to us the doctrine concerning the kingdom. Thus, Matthew does not care for historical sequence; he cares for doctrinal sequence.
In chapter fifteen, immediately after the dispute regarding the washing of hands, there is a record of feeding on Jesus (15:21-28). Perhaps in your reading of chapter fifteen you have not found the way to connect verses 1 through 20 with verses 21 through 28. But these two sections go together. In the original text of the Bible, there were no paragraphs or verses. Thus, the second section was the immediate continuation of the first section. Matthew had a definite reason for putting these two sections together. His purpose was to show that what the Lord wants is not the washing of hands, but the eating of Him, the taking in of Him as food. He does not want us to wash outwardly; He wants us to eat, to take Him in. No matter how many times we may wash our hands, we shall still be hungry. In 15:21-28 we do not have washing; we see a dirty dog eating. The Lord does not care about the washing of hands. Whether you are outwardly dirty or not does not mean anything to Him. What truly matters to the Lord is that your hunger is satisfied. The Lord Jesus did not say to the Canaanite woman, “Yes, you have the right to eat of Me, but you are dirty. Wash yourself first and then come back to eat.” No, the outward washing is in the foregoing section, not in this section. Here we see the matter of eating. In this chapter we see that what matters to the Lord is not outward practices, but the inward condition. We should not outwardly wash away the dirt; rather, we need to be cleansed from within.
The question is how we can be inwardly cleansed. In order to be cleansed from within, something must get into us, and the only way this can take place is by eating. As the nourishing food, the Lord Jesus is the best cleansing element. When He comes into us as food, He not only nourishes us, but also inwardly cleanses us. He does not wash our hands; He washes our system, our very being. This matter of inward cleansing through the eating of Jesus is the link that joins the first two sections of chapter fifteen.
In today’s religion what is taught is mostly like the washing of hands. On Sunday after Sunday, sermons are given mainly on the outward washing. However, what people need is not the outward washing, but the inward cleansing, the cleansing in life and nature. They need a cleansing element that can get into their system, even into their vessels. They do not need the outward washing of hands, but the inward washing that comes from the proper eating. Jesus is not only the nourishing food; He is also the cleansing element. I can testify that day by day the Lord Jesus is getting into me to cleanse me from within. He is washing my inner being. In the church life we are not being washed outwardly; on the contrary, we are being cleansed and purified inwardly.
Many of the saints are willing to be purified from within. Often they pray, “Lord Jesus, come into me. I want to be purified more and more. Lord, I hate not only sin and the world, but also myself, my natural life, and my natural disposition. O Lord, I am so contaminated by my disposition. How I long to be cleansed from this defilement!” As we pray in this way, we spontaneously eat the Lord Jesus, and He comes into us both as the nourishing food and as the cleansing element. Deep within our conscience we can testify that, as we enjoy the Lord in the church life, we are purified, even when we do not have the intention of being purified. As long as we are enjoying the Lord, we are being purified from within. Therefore, what we have is not the washing of hands, but the cleansing of our being. In these days we have been falsely accused of brainwashing. However, we do not practice brainwashing, but we do experience the washing of our disposition. Not only our mind, but our entire being, needs to be cleansed. The Lord can testify for me that very often I pray, “Lord, I am still dirty. Lord, I sense that I am still so natural and so much in my disposition. Lord, I love You and I want to live by You. But even today, Lord, I have been in my natural disposition. O Lord, because I am dispositionally dirty, I need Your cleansing.” This is the kind of cleansing we need. This is not a matter of outward washing of hands to make a display of how clean we are. It is a matter of the inward cleansing that comes from eating Jesus. We all need such an inward cleansing from the Lord.
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