GOD'S ETERNAL PURPOSE: THOUGHTS AND RESOURCES

CLARK E. WADE's picture

"In reading this (Ephesian letter), you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ. Ephesians 3:4

The Secret of the LORD have they who fear and worship HIm and HE will show them HIS covenant and reveal to them its deep, inner meaning." Psalms 25:14

"Our passage from Ephesians says more...The gospel includes not only the person of Jesus Christ and His unfathomable riches, but also that mystery which was hidden in past ages--which has to do with God's eternal plan. The practical outworking of God's eternal plan is the church as it is described in the same epistle.

"Our understanding of the gospel is one-sided, and too much focused on man. As strange as it may seem to some, the New Testament gospel contains things which have nothing to do with sin and lost souls. When we reduce the gospel to mere salvation of the sinner, we distort it and fundamentally alter its character and message. And we counterfeit its results. When I preach only salvation, all I get is converts. If I make forgiveness the central theme of the gospel, the only result is people whose sins are forgiven. We could proceed to list a number of things in this way, and it would occur to us how improper and unbiblical modern evangelism is compared with New Testament witness.

"And what was the result of the work and ministry of the apostles in the New Testament? Church, communities, the body of Christ! Did they preach the church? Was the community of believers the focus of their message? Never! They proclaimed Christ! They were witnesses of the incomparable Christ! They spoke of the mystery and plan of God which HE purposed before the foundation of the world and which HE carried out in Christ Jesus and churches were the result of their preaching! Outwardly, they were communities with various strengths and weaknesses, each with its own merits and disadvantages. Inwardly, however, they were churches which embodied the living God, churches in which Christ resided, which took on the form of a body. The head was Christ and members were one in Christ.

“The results of modern, large-scale evangelism cannot even be compared to the fruits of New Testament apostolic preaching. That is the best evidence that we are not preaching the same gospel they did. It is proof that we are not preaching Christ but rather things pertaining to man and his situation. The things we preach may be biblical, but that is not the deciding factor. God evaluates all things by Christ. The Bible testifies of Christ. We have to put the gospel’s original substance and power—as well as all its forgotten aspects—back into our evangelism. Then we will encounter God’s eternal purpose, because, in the final analysis, what the gospel really proclaims is that God’s purpose can now be carried out in Christ. Everything which stood in its way before has been attended to or disposed of.” (Manfred Haller, “God’s Goal: Christ as All in All”)

This heavenly epistle, this unfolding of "God's Eternal Purpose," writ as a lyrical song to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and HIS Son, is a divine subject that has been lost for 1700 years. As an experiment, I looked up the "belief statements" of several denominations and could find nothing written regarding God's Eternal Purpose. Considering that Paul made God's Eternal Purpose in Christ the central focus of his preaching and teaching, I think this is significant. What I did discover is that most of these belief statements, as Manfred Haller pointed out, seems to focus on God's gift of salvation. In other words, rather than seeing the church as God's divine vehicle, created out of the Son in order to fulfill God's Eternal Purpose, most of these belief statements are centered on man and what God has done for him. Here is a belief statement example:

We believe in the Holy Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Genesis 1:26; Matt. 28:19, II Cor. 13:14

We believe that Jesus Christ, Son of God, Born of the Virgin Mary is truly the Savior of the world. Matt. 1:21; Rom. 4:25.

We believe in the gift of the Holy Spirit to believers; and the gifts of the Spirit to the faithful. Luke 11:13; I Cor. 12:3-11.

We believe that the Church is the body of Christ, of which He is the head, and shall be preserved to the end of time. Romans 12:4; I Cor. 12:12-28; Col. 1:18; Matt. 16:18.

We believe in eternal life, which is the gift of God. Romans 6:23.

We believe that all persons are sinners standing in need of God's forgiving grace. Romans 3:10-26.

We believe that all persons must repent of their sins and through faith accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord if they would enter the kingdom of God.Matt.4:17; John 3:1-7; Matt. 3:2.

We believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for the sins of the whole world; and that everyone who will believe in the atoning sacrifice of Christ's blood on the cross may be saved. John 3:16; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14-22.

We believe that Jesus Christ will come again and at His coming God's eternal kingdom will begin. Luke 21:27; Acts 1:11; I Cor. 1:7-8; Phil. 3:20; I John 2:28, 3:2.

We believe that it is our sacred duty to identify ourselves with a congregation of believers with whom we can worship God, observe the ordinances of Christ, exhort and support one another, labor for the salvation of others, and work together to advance the Lord’s Kingdom (Acts 16:5; Hebrews 10:24).

We believe in the Bible as God's own Holy word; written by men of God under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. II Peter 1:21.

We believe that soul winning is the “one big business” of the Church on earth, and that every hindrance to worldwide evangelism should be removed (James 5:20; Mark 16:15).

We believe that tithing and offerings are ordained of God to sustain His ministry, spread the Gospel, and release personal blessing (Malachi 3:10; 1 Corinthians 16: 1, 2).

Do you see here how so much of this belief statement does center on man's salvation? It appears that over half of what is stated here does refer to what God has done for man. But God had a purpose for the creation of man before the foundation of the world that was planned in HIS heart before the Fall. What we have done in centering our preaching and teaching on man's redemption rather than God's eternal purpose is to egregiously miss God's high calling in Christ Jesus.

As we continue to contemplate God's Eternal Purpose in this epistle, there are a couple of things that may happen if the LORD is gracious to us:

1. The scales will fall from our eyes; we will realize how far we have strayed from God's purpose. It will dawn on us how narrowly New Testament truths have been handed down and continue to be taught. We will see how carelessly and indifferently we have regarded the deep things of God.

2. The longing will awaken in us to do everything we can to see that God's principles and desires are obeyed, and His intentions realized. (Manfred Haller, "God's Goal: Christ as All in All).

What I want to do here is to add thoughts and resources that may help us in our understanding of God's Eternal Purpose. If we would ever experience revival in the church, we must see revival of the deep things of God in Christ Jesus. We need to pray that God's Eternal Purpose will be recovered in its New Testament fulness and glory and that we will no longer contend with God by substituting other spiritual things in the place of HIS purposes as revealed in Paul's writings.

If any of you know of other resources or writings that would be of benefit, please post those as well.

P: I pray here in the Name of Jesus Christ, that those who follow You, who love You, who serve You will not give rest to our eyelids until we have made a place for Your Eternal Purpose in our thinking, in our practices, in our praying, in our serving. May everything we think we know submit to all that You are in Your Eternal Purpose. Forgive us LORD for substituting spiritual things, spiritual experiences, and all spirital pursuits that do not lead us deeper into Your Eternal Purpose as co-workers and co-participants with You.

CLARK E. WADE's picture

THE BODY OF CHRIST: A REALITY 1 & 2 by Watchman Nee

Here is chapter 1 & 2 of "The Body of Christ: A Reality" by Watchman Nee. I encourage all of you to prayerfully read brother Nee's insights here. I think you will receive a profound appreciation for the Body of Christ that will delight and challenge you. I'll add subsequent chapters as we progress through Ephesians.

Now Paul makes an astounding remark in his letter to the Corinthians (I Cor. 12:14-19)regarding the body of Christ. Here's what he says:

For the body does not consist of one limb or organ but of many. If the foot should say, Because I am not the hand, I do not belong to the body, would it be therefore not [a part] of the body? If the ear should say, Because I am not the eye, I do not belong to the body, would it be therefore not [a part] of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where [would be the sense of] hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where [would be the sense of] smell? But as it is, God has placed and arranged the limbs and organs in the body, each [particular one] of them, just as He wished and saw fit and with the best adaptation. But if [the whole] were all a single organ, WHERE WOULD THE BODY BE?

My pesonal belief is that we speak of the "body of Christ" in superficial ways if we do not understand the spiritual principles in which it works, under the Headship of Christ, that constitute it truly being "His body." Where those principles are absent, Paul seems to be saying here that the body of Christ is absent as well, i.e. "Where is the body?" as another translation has it.

In my mind, this is one of the most startling things that Paul ever penned. May our God grant us mercy in understanding and truly discerning His body so that we can take our place as members "one of another" and that Christ's place will be the highest place, the central place, as Head of His church.

The Body of Christ: A Reality by Watchman Nee

Chapter 1

Translator's Preface

"And gave Him [Christ] to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that fills all in all" (Eph. 1:22,23). As Christ the Head is a reality, so the church as the body of Christ is a reality.

To many, however, the body of Christ is a vague, nebulous and abstract term. It is merely a beautiful concept or a noble theory. It is not a living reality as is presented in the Scriptures. The time has come, and now is, that all who seek the Lord should enter into a new understanding of the body of Christ. We need to see that the body of Christ is a life which we live in. It ought to become our daily experience.

In this little volume of collected messages selected for the unity of their subject matter and given by the author through years of faithful ministry, Watchman Nee attempts to show us the reality of the body of Christ. He proves to us that the body of Christ is founded on life and life consciousness. It is built on a living relationship among its members as well as with its head. This body is governed by its own laws, and blessed are those who discover these laws and follow them. To them the body of Christ is indeed a living reality.

May God grant to all who read this book wisdom and strength for living in the reality of the body of Christ.

1. Life and Consciousness
In Him was life; and the life was the light of men. (Jn. 1:4)

So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. (Rom. 8:12)

And whether one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. (1 Cor. 12:26)

From the human standpoint, life seems to be rather intangible and quite abstract. How can anyone present life in such manner as to cause people to recognize that it in fact is life? We cannot take life as such and explain it to others, neither can others explain it to us. Nevertheless, we may all know and recognize this life through the feeling of life's consciousness, which to us is far more substantial. Now by the same token, the life which God has given to the Christian believer can likewise be known by its consciousness. Although we cannot take hold of such divine life and show it to ourselves or to other people, we nonetheless know we have this new life because there is within us an altogether new consciousness.

Consciousness of God's Life
After a person has accepted the Lord we say he not only is saved but also has been regenerated. This means that this man is now born of God. He has received a new life from Him. Yet this is something difficult to explain. How does he know he has the life of God? How will other people know he has divine life? How will the church recognize that he has the life of God? The presence of divine life is proven through life's consciousness. If the life of God is in him, the consciousness of that life must be in him as well.

What is life's consciousness? A Christian who is occasionally overcome by sin feels most uncomfortable. And this is one facet of consciousness. He feels restless when he sins. He immediately senses a veil between him and God after he has sinned and instantly loses his inner joy. Such manifestations as these are facets of life's consciousness, for because the life of God hates sin, therefore a person who has God's life must also have a certain feeling against sin. The very fact of his possessing this life's sense proves he possesses such life.

Suppose a man says he has confessed he is a sinner and has also accepted the Lord Jesus as his Savior, but he never has any sense against sin. Is this man born again? In such a case, if he should commit any sin, someone has to go to his home and tell him that what he has done is wrong before he will ever acknowledge that he has indeed done wrong.

When a person asks him why he commits such a wrong, he will ignorantly answer, Why can't I do it? When a second time he is informed that he has committed another sin, he again will confess that he has done something wrong. Yet not long afterwards he commits another sin, and someone is once more obliged to tell him of this transgression before he once again acknowledges his sin, and someone is once more obliged to tell him of this transgression before he once again acknowledges this wrong. Here, it is not that he does not listen to his prompter's word; as a matter of fact he is quite obedient to the other person's word. The problem is, though, that he himself has no spiritual consciousness.

Can it therefore be said that such a person has God's life if he is utterly void of any spiritual awareness and that others have to feel for him? If he has the life of God, he should have its consciousness with him. It is absolutely impossible for a person to have spiritual life and yet not have the consciousness of that life. The life of God is not something nebulous, nor is it abstract; it is very concrete and substantial. And how do we know it is substantial? Because such life has its own consciousness.

Having the life of God, a person is not only, negatively speaking, aware of sins but he also, positively speaking, knows God: for what we receive is not the spirit of a bond-slave but the spirit of sonship. We just naturally feel that God is very approachable and that calling Him "Abba, Father" is most sweet (Gal. 4:6). The Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16). Knowing God as Father is therefore the inner consciousness of this life.

Some people merely have doctrinal understanding; they have never met God; and they are therefore afraid of Him whom they cannot touch. They do not have any life relationship with God, and the Holy Spirit has not borne witness with their spirit that they are God's children. They cannot cry out of their spirit, Abba, Father. Such people may pray, though in their prayer they neither sense the distance of sin nor the nearness of the Lord. They do not have the feeling of the awfulness of sin nor the intimacy of God.

They have no relationship with Him because they have not yet received new life from Him. Hence they do not feel that God is near, nor do they sense that Christ has already removed the wall of partition between them and God. In short, they do not have the consciousness of being the children of God. They may confess that they are Christians, but their feeling before God is inadequate. Though with their mouth they may say, "Heavenly Father," there is no such sensation within them. Only the presence of such a consciousness proves the existence of such a life. Now if there has never been such an awareness, how can anyone say that there is such life within them?

Body Consciousness a Facet of Life's Consciousness
The same is true with regard to the body of Christ. Many brothers and sisters ask: How can I say I have seen the body of Christ? On what ground may I assert that I have lived out the life of the body of Christ? Our answer is simple: all who know the life of the body of Christ will have the consciousness of the body of Christ. If you have really seen the body, you cannot but have body consciousness - because the life in you being a reality and an experience, it cannot fail to show forth its consciousness. You perceive the body of Christ not only as a principle or as a teaching but you discover that the body of Christ is a matter of real inward consciousness.

"And whether one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it" (1 Cor. 12:26).

Suffering is a sensation, so is rejoicing a sensation. Although the members are many, the life is one, and so, too, the consciousness is one.

Let us take the example of a person who may have had installed in his body an artificial leg. Now although it may appear to be almost the same as the other real leg, it nevertheless has no life in it. It therefore has no body consciousness; for when other members suffer, this artificial leg does not feel anything - when other members rejoice, the artificial limb senses no elation. All the other members have the same awareness because they all possess the one common life. The artificial leg alone has no awareness because there is not that life in it.

Life cannot be simulated, nor does it need to be. If there is life there is no need to pretend; if there is not life there is no possibility to pretend. The most distinctive expression of life is its consciousness. Hence a Christian who sees the body life will invariably have body consciousness with other members of the body.

The Teaching of the Body vs. Its Reality

In spiritual things, knowing doctrine without having consciousness is of no avail. Someone, for instance, may say that lying is a sin which he should not commit because he has been told by other people that a Christian should not tell lies. The real issue here is not a matter of whether or not it is right to lie, rather is it s a question of whether he is inwardly aware of it or not when he tells a lie. If he has no inward consciousness that his lying is a sin, then however much he may confess with his mouth that lying is a sin, it does not help him at all. He may say on the one hand that a person should not lie but on the other hand he constantly lies. What is special with those who have God's life is that when they lie outwardly, they feel bad inwardly - not because they know doctrinally that lying is wrong, but because they feel uncomfortable inwardly if they do lie. This is what being called a Christian really signifies. What characterizes a Christian is an inward awareness of this life consciousness of which we have been speaking. He who has no life and no inner consciousness is not a Christian. Outward rules are merely standards, not life.

Let it be said that it is totally inadequate for a person to say, "I know the teaching of the body of Christ, therefore I must not move independently"; he needs also to have an inner consciousness of such a teaching. Suppose he says with his mouth that he should not be independent and yet when he acts independently he fails to be aware of such independence; he is thereby proven to have never truly seen the body of Christ. This does not mean he has not heard the teaching of the body of Christ: it simply indicates that he has not seen its reality.

Hearing the teaching and seeing the reality of the body of Christ belong to two totally different realms. Hearing the teaching of the body is merely an outward understanding of a principle, whereas seeing the body of Christ produces a consciousness within. It is similar to the situation in which merely hearing the doctrine of salvation only gives the person the knowledge of how God saves sinners, but that inwardly accepting the Lord Jesus as Savior creates within that person an awareness of God as well as a consciousness of sin. What a difference between the two! Consequently, we should not overlook this matter of life consciousness (it not simply being an outward sensation, but an inward feeling too). Such consciousness is life's expression. The presence or absence of this consciousness reveals the reality or unreality within. It gives us insight into whether or not there is the life of Christ within.

Life's consciousness is distinctive in that it enables you to know spontaneously without the need of being told. It is too late if you must be told before you know. What would happen if every Christian needed to be told what sin is and what should not be done? What if, in this event, nobody is at your side? What if you forget after being told? Oh, let us see that a Christian does not act according to what he hears from people without, but he is motivated by what he is told from within. Within him is a life - an inner light, an inner consciousness. It comes from the inner shining of God's light: it comes from the life inside and not from outside information.

When we are born again we receive a very real life. We thus have within us a very real consciousness. The reality of such consciousness proves the reality of divine life. Let us ask God to be merciful to us that we may always touch this life consciousness and live therein. Let us also ask God to give us rich consciousness so that we may have a sensitive awareness in all things: that we may be aware of God, of sin, of the body of Christ, and of all spiritual realities. May God lead our way and glorify His own name!

The Body of Christ: A Reality by Watchman Nee

Chapter 2

2. The Consciousness of the Body of Christ
For I say, through the grace that was given me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but so to think soberly, according as God has dealt to each man a measure of faith. For even as we have many members in one body, and all the members have not the same office: so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and severally members one of another. (Rom. 12:3-5)

In the previous chapter we came to understand a little how consciousness reveals life. Here we will continue further so that we may understand what the consciousness of the body of Christ exactly is.

Love the Brethren
Let us first approach it from the standpoint of love. One thing is quite marvelous when we contemplate this verse: "We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren" (1 Jn. 3:14). All who have passed out of death into life love one another. All who have become members of the same spiritual body love one another. Such love comes from life and it flows spontaneously. Could a person be considered a child of God if, after answering affirmatively in a church meeting that he is a Christian and after being reminded that as a Christian he ought to love other Christians, he then says, "I will start to love other Christians tomorrow if you say so"? Oh let us see that everyone who is truly born from above and has the life of God spontaneously loves all who are members together with him in the body of Christ.

Whether he is reminded or not, he has a consciousness of loving the brethren. He unquestionably needs many times to be reminded of loving the brethren. Yet this reminder does not add anything to him which is not already within him, it instead merely stirs up into more fervency what is already present in him. If the love of God is present in a person, the love of the brethren is there. And if God's love is absent, brotherly love is not there. It is that simple.

Nothing can be created or manufactured. When a believer meets another person who belongs to God he strangely but quite naturally loves him because he has that inner consciousness within him which must express itself in love towards that other person.

Once a son was born to a brother in Christ. He was asked, "Now that you have become a father, do you love your son?" His answer was: "A week before I was to be a father, I kept thinking how I should love my son. But as soon as my son was born - the moment I saw him - my heart quite naturally when out to him and I simply loved him." We see here how human love springs from a consciousness inside, it is not taught from outside. Likewise, all the children of God who are bought with the blood of the Lamb and receive God's life and are baptized into the body of Christ cannot help but be moved from within to love one another as members of the same body.

Oftentimes when you meet an individual who is truly of the Lord, your heart goes out to him as soon as you learn he is a Christian, regardless whether he comes from abroad or is a native citizen, whether he is highly civilized or uncultured, or regardless of what race or profession he may be. Love is an inner consciousness. If you are in the same spiritual body, you naturally have this kind of consciousness.

No Division
One who has seen the body of Christ and who thus possesses the consciousness of the body feels unbearable inside when he does anything which may cause division or separate God's children. For he loves all who belong to God and cannot divide His children. Love is natural to the body of Christ, whereas division is most unnatural. It is just as in the case with our two hands: no matter for how many reasons one hand may be raised against the other hand, there is no way to sever their relationship: division is simply impossible.

Perhaps a person is proud of himself for being one who has left a sect and thus deems himself to be a person who knows the body of Christ. As a matter of fact, however, leaving a denomination is not necessarily the same as, or an indication of, seeing the body of Christ. It is quite true that whoever discerns the body is delivered from denominationalism. But who can claim he has apprehended the body of Christ simply because he has left a denomination?

Outwardly many have left a denomination, yet they simply set up another kind for themselves elsewhere. Their leaving the denomination merely demonstrates their own latent feeling of superiority; they fail to comprehend that all the members of the body are their brothers and sisters and therefore all are loving. For this reason, let us realize that all sectarian spirit, divisive attitude, outward action, or inward thought which separate God's children are the unfailing signs of not knowing the body of Christ.

The body of Christ will deliver us from sect and sectarianism; it will also save us from self and individualism. How sad that the life principle of many is not the body but the individual self. We may discover this principle of individualism in many areas. For example, in a prayer meeting someone can only pray by himself, since he cannot pray with other people. His physical body may kneel together with others, yet his consciousness is circumscribed by his own self. When he prays, he wishes other people to listen to him; but when others pray, he will not listen to them. He has no inner response to another's prayer, and he is unable to offer up an amen. His consciousness is disconnect4ed from the consciousness of other people. Hence he prays his prayers and lets the others pray their prayers. There appears to be no relationship between his prayers and those of the others. When he comes to the meeting he seems to do so only for the sake of uttering whatever words are pent up within him, and thereafter feels that his job is done. He does not care what prayer burden or consciousness others present may have. This is the rule of individualism, not the principle of the body. In point of fact he has not seen the body, and thus he cannot cooperate with other people before God.

Sometimes three or five, even ten or twenty brethren at a meeting will all speak only whatever concerns themselves, without showing any interest in the affairs of the others or listening to the others' thoughts. Or, as the case might be, as you or others sit with such a person as has been described, he may talk with animation for an hour or two about his own business; but when you or the others talk, he does not pay the slightest attention - for if you ask him afterwards, he evidences the fact that he hardly seems to have heard anything. In small things such as these, you can tell if a person has truly discerned the body of Christ.
The plague of individualism can grow from simply expressing one person's individualism to that of several people. You may notice in the church that three or five, perhaps even eight or nine persons will sometimes form a small circle.

Only these few are of one mind and love one another. They do not fit in with the other brothers and sisters. This indicates that they too have not perceived the body of Christ. The church is one, it cannot be severed. If a person has really know the body, he cannot endorse any kind of individualism. He cannot form a party or any small circle.
If you have genuinely experienced the body of Christ you will be conscious of something wrong whenever you begin to show your individualism, and obviously you dare not take any action. Or else, when you or several others should make a wrong move, this body consciousness will cause you to be aware of being disconnected from the other children of God, thus preventing you from proceeding further. There is something in you which restrains, speaks, reproves, warns, or hinders. This consciousness of life can deliver all of us from any taint of division.

Deliver From Independent Work
If we have body consciousness we will comprehend immediately that the body is one. Thus, in spiritual work, it cannot be individualistic in its scope. In order to participate rightly in the Lord's work, it is imperative that we deal with this matter of independent labor. In the thinking of some people, a person must lay his own hand on things or else that person will consider those things to be good for nothing. Whatever is done by him is deemed as having spiritual value; what is not done by him has no value at all. When he preaches and nobody is saved, he feels depressed. When he preaches and people are saved, he shows pleasant surprise. This is because he looks at the work as his own personal labor. But the moment God's children perceive the oneness of the body, they immediately comprehend the oneness of the work. They instant they see that the body is one, they are delivered from their individual endeavor since they now see the work of the body. This does not imply that a person can no longer labor as an individual. It simply means that he can no longer consider work as belonging solely to himself. Whether the work is done by him or not is no problem anymore, so long as it is done by someone.

As Christians, we should admire and seek for spiritual things, but we ought not have any emulative pretensions nor any trace of jealousy. Our attitude individually towards spiritual work should be: What I can do I hope others can also do; and what I cannot do I wish someone else can do; I would like to do more as well as I would expect other people to do more. How I need to realize that I can only be a single vessel in the work; I cannot monopolize it. I dare not consider the work and its result as altogether mine. If I insist that everything must be done by me, I have not apprehended the body. The moment I apprehend the body, immediately I realize that both my labor and that of others mean gain to the head as well as to the body. And let all glory be to the Lord and all blessing be to the church.

The Lord distributes His work to all, and everyone has his share. We must not think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think. We should be faithful to the portion which the Lord has given each of us; but we should also respect the portion He gives to others. Many young people possess a kind of competitive attitude in which they are always comparing what they have with that which others do not have and what they do not have with that which others have.

Actually, such comparison is absurd. How can we add a chair to a table? Are they one or two? A table plus a chair equals a table and a chair. If we are asked which is better, the hand or the eye, we can only answer that the hand and the eye are both good. He who has seen the body recognizes the functions of all the members. He looks at himself as only one among many members. He will not project himself to a distinctive position in order to compare himself favorably with others or even to occupy another's place.

As soon as a Christian inwardly discerns the body of Christ he has no way or justification to be either proud or jealous. Since the body is one, it makes no difference whether the work is done by him or by others. Whether by him or by other people, all glory goes to the Lord and all blessings flow to the church. If anyone sees the body of Christ, there will naturally be within him this consciousness: that the body is one, and therefore the work is one.

See the Need for Fellowship
He who sees the body of Christ most spontaneously sees not only the stupidity of independent action but the need for fellowship as well. Fellowship is not an external exercise in social intercourse; it is the spontaneous demand of body life. What is erroneously but commonly assumed to be fellowship by God's children is a visiting of homes of some brothers and sisters at times of leisure and chit-chatting with them a while. In actuality, fellowship means realizing the total inadequacy of my own self. I am desirous of doing all things with the other members of the body. Although for doing many things I am not able to gather all the brothers and sisters in the church, I still can do them with two or three brothers and/or sisters according to the principle of the body.

Oftentimes we need to learn fellowship in prayer, to learn fellowship in difficulties, to learn fellowship in seeking God's will, to learn fellowship concerning our future, and to learn fellowship regarding God's word. What fellowship means is that, knowing that I am inadequate in the matter of prayer, I seek out two or three others to pray with me.

I by myself am incompetent in solving difficulties, hence I ask two or three brethren to deal with the situations together with me. Alone I am unable to know God's will, therefore I solicit the help of two or three others. I in myself am rather confused as to my future, consequently I request two or three brothers and sisters to fellowship and decide with me what my future should be. I cannot understand God's word alone, so now I study the word of God with two or three brothers and sisters who have spiritual discernment to help me (and not just ask those to help me who are affectionate towards me). I am inadequate, and hence I need the help of other brethren.

The body of Christ is a life, and there is therefore also a consciousness involved. You yourself will become conscious or aware of the fact that without fellowship you cannot live.

Learn to Be a Member
If a person has body consciousness he at once recognizes his place in the body; that is to day, he sees himself as being one of its members. Each member has his distinctive usefulness. A member of a physical body is different from a body cell. Lacking a cell does not matter much, but the lack of a member in a body is unthinkable. Of course, a cell has its use, but please note that the Bible in its use of the analogy of the human body says that we are members of the body of Christ, not cells. How pitiful that the conditions of many Christians are like those of cells in the human body instead of members. Such a person seems to have no specific use in the body of Christ, neither does he fulfill his part. In any given church meeting his presence does not appear to add anything to the body of Christ, and his absence does not give the appearance to the body that it is lacking in anything. He has not discharged his function in the body because he has never seen the body.

When he is with brothers and sisters he never knows his ministry, neither does he even realize what he should do. Were he to perceive the body he could not help but see himself as a member. Were he to perceive the body, he would know that it will suffer loss if he does not supply life to it.

No one can be passive in a meeting. Each person is a member of the body, and consequently no one can come to a meeting as a passive spectator. As we gather together we pray because we realize we are mutual members of the body of Christ. Whether uttered or unuttered, we nonetheless pray, for we want to supply life to the body.

Some Christians are life-supplying members. When they attend a meeting, even if they do not open their mouths, their very presence lifts the meeting; for they are there supplying life, they are there swallowing up death. Once anyone discerns the body of Christ, he cannot fail to recognize himself as a member of the body.

Because we are members of the body of Christ and members each in its part, we must seek how to help the body in gaining life and strength. In any gathering, even if we do not open our mouths, we may pray silently. Even though we may not speak, we can still look to God. This is body consciousness. If we have seen the body, we cannot say we are a person of no consequence. We will rather say: I am a member of the body, and hence I have a duty to perform. I have a wo0rd which I should speak, I have a prayer which I should utter. When I come to the meeting I must do whatever God wants me to do. I cannot afford to be a spectator. Such things as these are what we will say or do if we truly apprehend the body. And as we all function, the life of the entire gathering will swallow up all death. Many meetings fail to exhibit such power to overcome death for there are too many spectators.

Submit to Authority
If you really see the body of Christ you are conscious of the loveliness of God's children, of the error of division, of the need for fellowship, and of the responsibility in you as a member of the body of Christ. All these facets of awareness are because of body consciousness. Moreover, as you are aware that you are in the body, you must become equally aware that you are under the authority of the Head.
For whoever knows the life of the body of Christ and is conscious of being a body member will invariable sense the authority of the Head, who is Christ Jesus the Lord.

We must not only submit to the direct authority of the Head, we need also to submit to the indirect authority of the Head. My physical hand is under the direct authority of the head of my body, but when my arm moves, my hand moves together with my arm - for my hand submits to the head through the arm. Consequently, whoever sees the body of Christ sees also the authority which God has set in the body of Christ for him to submit to.

Sometimes when you are told by someone in the church to do a certain thing, you do not sense it is the Lord's will for you after you have prayed about it. And so you do not do it, and you feel happy. You know it is right for you to listen to the Lord's word rather than to man's word. On the other hand, is there an instance when you become aware that if you do not listen to your brother or sister you come into conflict with the Lord? Is there one time, or even a number of times, wherein you have the sense that one or more of the brethren who know the Lord have been placed by Him in the position of representing His authority and that if you enter into controversy with them you are in controversy with the Lord? If you truly perceive the authority of the Head, you will also perceive that one or more members of the body are ahead of you, and that to them you must learn to submit. Hence you recognize not only the Head but also those whom God has set in the body to represent the Head. If you are at odds with them, you will also be at odds with God.

If our eyes have been opened by the Lord to recognize the body, we will also recognize authority. When we behold the human body, why is it that all parts work so harmoniously as to reveal the fact that the entire body is one? This is because there is authority in the body. If there is no authority the entire body will be thrown into confusion. Suppose, for example, that the stomach is hungry for food, but that the mouth refuses to eat; what will happen to that man? The entire body will suffer if but one of its parts refuses to obey its authority. Or again, take the example of cancer, which we know is a most serious disease. How does cancer arise in the body? It is due to a few cells which develop themselves independently and not according to the law of the body. The body does not require them to develop in such a way, yet they insist on growing abnormally. They absorb many useful nutrients by which to supply their own growth. They only mind their own development: they do not care if the body does not need such growth: they do not obey the authority of the body but act independently on their own. Now the larger they grow, the more damage the body incurs. With the result that a few insubordinate cells may cause death to the entire body.

It is clear from the above observations that authority is the law of the human body, and insubordination to it is symptomatic of disease in the body. Equally true will this be in the spiritual body of Christ. If a person does not know what authority is, how can he say he knows the body of Christ? Let us see that the one who knows the body can discern - even when only three or five people are assembled together - who among those assembled is his authority; because there is manifested in their midst the authority of the Head to which he needs to submit. How natural and how beautiful it is in the human body for the fingers to submit to the wrist, the wrist to the arm, the arm to the shoulder, and so on. And this same beauty can be displayed in the body of Christ.

Certain Christians are so careless in action as well as in speech that they will not listen to anyone. They seem to regard themselves as being the greatest to such an extent that they fail to recognize anyone to whom they could submit. This proves that such believers have never known the restraint of the body nor have ever submitted to the authority of the Head. May God have mercy on such members. If we have genuinely been dealt with by the Lord and if our flesh has received such dealings as to have had the backbone of the natural life broken, we will immediately acknowledge how neither our hands nor our mouth have unlimited freedom - since all are under the control of the body - and how we cannot fail to submit ourselves to the authority which God has set in the body of Christ.

May we not remain merely in the realm of teaching on this matter, but be truly led of God to know and to experience the body of Christ. May this body consciousness in its many facets always follow us so that we have no way to do anything according to our own will, or to live carelessly through our days. Thus shall we receive rich supply through this body, and we will be able to manifest the testimony of the Lord.

CHRIST IS ALL IN ALL,
Clark

CHRIST IS ALL IN ALL,
Clark




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