Life-Study of Ephesiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
The book of Ephesians reveals that God’s economy is to work Christ into His chosen people to produce the church. This book also exposes certain negative things that damage the church life. According to our natural concept, we may expect Ephesians to emphasize such negative things as sin and worldliness. Although these are dealt with, they are not the main factors revealed in Ephesians as causes of damage to the church life.
We all easily recognize that sin is damaging. Without even reading the Bible, we have the knowledge that sin is a cause of corruption. Therefore, when we read about sin in the Scriptures, we readily understand, for the concept of sin is already in our natural mentality. However, it is contrary to our natural concept to say that ordinances are more damaging to the church life than sin is. The verses which speak of ordinances may make little impression on us because they do not correspond to anything already in our natural concept.
What are the basic factors that damage the church life according to the revelation in the book of Ephesians? We have indicated that sin and worldliness, although certainly causes of damage, are not the basic negative factors in this book. In Ephesians there are four categories of negative things that damage the church life. The first of these is the ordinances. In 2:14 and 15 Paul says that Christ “has broken down the middle wall of partition, the enmity, having abolished in His flesh the law of the commandments in ordinances.” The law of commandments contained in ordinances is a cause of enmity. With the ordinances there are regulations, and these regulations are the law of commandments. This gives rise to enmity. Today there is enmity even among good, spiritual Christians, enmity caused by ordinances regarding certain practices. For instance, there may be enmity between those who practice baptism by immersion and those who practice baptism by sprinkling. Related to these practices there are ordinances with their law of commandments. These ordinances are the first basic category of negative things that damage the church life.
The second category is doctrine. In 4:14 Paul says that we should “be no longer babes tossed by waves and carried about by every wind of teaching.” The word teaching here refers to doctrine. Although Christians may regard doctrine as a positive thing, this verse clearly indicates that it can be used to carry us away from Christ. Any doctrine, even a scriptural one, that distracts the believers from Christ is a wind of teaching that carries them away from God’s economy. Doctrine, therefore, can be used to destroy the Body life. If we intend to have the proper church life, we must recognize the damage doctrine has caused to the Body of Christ.
In chapter four Paul goes on to speak of the old man (v. 22), the third category of negative things that damage the church. The old man is of Adam, created by God, but fallen through sin. Because the old man causes so much damage to the church life, we must put off the old man in order to have the proper practice of the Body life.
In 5:27 we see the fourth negative category: the spots and wrinkles. Spots are related to the natural life, and the wrinkles are related to oldness. Both spots and wrinkles are capable of causing serious damage to the church life in a very subjective way. The glorious church that Christ will present to Himself will not have spot or wrinkle or any such things, but will be holy and without blemish.
Perhaps you have read the book of Ephesians a number of times without realizing that these four categories of things can cause great damage to the church life. You may have read this book without paying attention to the matters of ordinances, doctrines, the old man, and spots and wrinkles. I myself read Ephesians for years before I began to see the seriousness of these four things with respect to the church life. In this message we shall deal in particular with the ordinances.
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