Life-Study of Ephesiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
God created mankind for the fulfillment of His eternal purpose. However, through the fall, mankind was divided and scattered. When Christ died on the cross to accomplish redemption, He slew all the ordinances in order to bring His chosen people back into oneness and to create in Himself one new man. However, the enemy, Satan, has used ordinances to divide the new man Christ has created. The divisions, denominations, and sects in Christianity have their source in these ordinances.
Today the Lord is seeking to recover His church by bringing His people out of the divisions. To be brought out of division is to be brought out of ordinances as the source of division. Therefore, in order to recover the church, the Lord must cause His people to set aside the ordinances that have been the cause of division. If we are not clear about this matter of ordinances, we may bring ordinances into the church life and cause a repetition of the divisiveness that has occurred in the history of Christianity. We do not want the history of Christianity to be repeated among us in the Lord’s recovery.
Certain dear ones who love the Lord’s recovery may not be clear about ordinances. If they insist on practices that correspond to their ordinances, they will cause problems in the churches. Although we may see the ground of the church, we cannot be in the church life in a secure way until we have a thorough understanding of ordinances. It is not sufficient simply to forsake divisions. We also need to recognize that ordinances are the source of division.
As the Lord’s recovery spreads throughout the world, people with different backgrounds will be brought in. Since there is no organization nor human control in the recovery, it is possible in certain places for saints to insist on various practices. If this should happen, the church life would be seriously damaged through division. Therefore, I encourage you all to bring this matter of ordinances to the Lord. Ask Him to make you crystal clear about the seriousness of having ordinances in the church life. No ground whatever can be given to the insistence upon any practice. For the building up of the church we must be willing to drop all ordinances.
We have pointed out that in Ephesians, a book concerned not with personal salvation but with the church in a corporate way, there are at least four categories of things that damage the church life: ordinances, doctrine, the old man, and the spots and wrinkles. After a number of messages concerning ordinances, we come now to the subject of doctrine. Most doctrines are based on ordinances, and ordinances are produced from doctrines. It is difficult to say which comes first, doctrines or ordinances. On the one hand, doctrines produce ordinances, but, on the other hand, ordinances provide the basis for doctrine. Nevertheless, we can be clear that these two matters are intimately related and cannot be separated.
Chapter one of Ephesians speaks of the Body, the fullness of the One who fills all in all. Chapter two speaks of the one new man and concludes with a word about God’s building. For the sake of the new man, God is dispensing Himself into His chosen people, as revealed in chapter three. All Three of the Godhead are involved in this dispensation. We are strengthened by the Spirit into the inner man, so that Christ may make His home in our hearts, with the result that we are filled unto all the fullness of God. In 3:8 Paul speaks of the riches of Christ. If the new man is to be built up as the habitation of God in spirit, surely the riches of Christ need to be dispensed into every part of this new man. In order for such a dispensation to take place, the inner man of all those who make up the one new man must be strengthened by the Spirit. Then Christ with all His riches will be able to make His home in our hearts. Eventually, the new man will be filled unto all the fullness of God. This indicates that the new man will be a God-filled man, a corporate entity mingled with the Triune God.
Chapter three of Ephesians ends with the new man filled unto all the fullness of God. This, however, is not the end of the book. There is still the need for human cooperation. Although Christ has abolished all the ordinances in order to create the new man, the church as the new man still needs to be built up. Christ does not build the church directly. Rather, He uses the apostles, prophets, evangelists, and shepherds and teachers to perfect the saints to carry out the direct building up of the church. As the Head, Christ presents certain gifts to His Body for the perfecting of the saints. Having been perfected through the ministry of these gifts, the saints build the church directly. Hence, the church is not directly built by Christ or by the apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers; it is built directly by the perfected saints. This indicates that the building of the church requires the cooperation of God’s people.
Some readers of Ephesians may think that Paul should have stopped at the end of chapter three. According to their opinion, the end of this chapter is the high point and completion of the book. They see only the fact that Christ has accomplished everything. Yes, Christ has been incarnated, has passed through human life, and has died on the cross to accomplish redemption and to deal with all negative things, including ordinances. After His all-inclusive death, He rested in the tomb. This rest was a true Sabbath. Then on the first day of the week He was resurrected from among the dead, and a new age with a new humanity came into being. On God’s side, everything has been accomplished. But in His economy God requires human cooperation. His economy is based on the principle of incarnation, that is, of God and man mingled and working together to accomplish God’s goal. In John 15 the Lord Jesus said, “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (v. 5). However, it is also true that apart from us Christ can do nothing. We can tell the Lord, “Lord Jesus, just as I need You, You also need me. We can do nothing without You, and You can do nothing without us.” If we would speak to the Lord in this way, He would agree. The very fact that Christ was incarnated indicates that God’s economy has both the divine aspect and the human aspect.
This principle applies to the book of Ephesians. The first three chapters emphasize the divine aspect. These chapters reveal that Christ has accomplished everything and that the new man has been filled with the riches of Christ unto all the fullness of God. Then in chapters four through six we see the human aspect, the aspect of our cooperation with the Lord. Hallelujah, we need God, and God needs us! If we fail to cooperate with Him, we cause a serious problem. Therefore, it is crucial that we fulfill our responsibility to cooperate with God in the carrying out of His economy.
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