CHRIST AS GRACE
In this book Christ is the grace. In 13:14 Paul says, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” According to the proper sequence, the love of God should be first. Here the grace of the Lord is mentioned first because 2 Corinthians is on the grace of Christ (1:12; 4:15; 6:1; 8:1, 9; 9:8, 14; 12:9). The grace of the Lord is the central thought, the subject, of this book. In 12:9 the Lord told Paul that His grace was sufficient for him.
It may be that the term grace is quite familiar to us, but we may have a very shallow understanding of this term. Many Christians consider that grace is unmerited favor, something given to us by the Lord freely. I have no objection to this. For instance, Christ’s dying on the cross for our sins was something done for us freely. Undoubtedly, this was really grace. Forgiveness and justification are things given by God to us which are of grace. But we must see that the New Testament shows us that grace is nothing less than Christ Himself (1 Cor. 15:10; cf. Gal. 2:20-21) as the very embodiment of the processed Triune God for our enjoyment. Christ has come not merely to do something for us objectively, not merely to bring some good things from God to us freely. The purpose of the work of Christ was so that He could come into us. His dying on the cross was not the purpose but the means to fulfill the purpose of Him coming into us for our enjoyment in order that we may enjoy Him as our life, our life supply, our strength, and our everything. Grace is Christ coming into us as our full enjoyment.
In 2 Corinthians 8:1 Paul said, “Furthermore we make known to you, brothers, the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia.” We might think that the grace given means that many good things were given to them by God, but the next verse shows us what this grace was. “That in much proving of affliction the abundance of their joy and the depth of their poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality” (v. 2). The grace was not something given to them, but it was that they had the strength, the energy, to give something to others while they were so poor. In poverty and affliction they were willing and able to give something to others. This is grace. It may be that when we receive something given by God through others that we would say, “Praise the Lord, this is a great grace.” Actually, this is childish talk. If we are mature in the divine life, we will realize that the greatest grace is not that we receive something but that there is Someone within us energizing us and enabling us to give something to others. Grace is not something received outwardly but Someone within, energizing, enabling, and strengthening us to do something for the Lord.
Another good example of grace is in chapter 12. In verses 7 through 9 Paul said, “There was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, that he might buffet me, in order that I might not be exceedingly lifted up. Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He has said to me, My grace is sufficient for you.” We might think that if the thorn were taken away, that would be a real grace. If we had some illness, we might ask the Lord to heal us, to take away our illness. If our illness were gone the next day, we would be excited, praising the Lord for His grace. But this is not the grace mentioned in 2 Corinthians. The grace that Paul experienced was related to a thorn in the flesh which troubled and buffeted him all the time. The Lord was not willing to take the thorn away but told Paul that His grace was sufficient. If we were Paul, we might have argued with the Lord: “Lord, if Your grace is sufficient, it has to be sufficient to take the thorn away.” However, if the thorn is taken away, we could never experience the sufficient grace. We could never taste how sufficient this grace is. The grace mentioned here is not something done by the Lord or given by the Lord. It is simply the Lord Himself within us, supporting us, energizing us, and strengthening us to face the trouble, to meet the situation. This is a living grace, a real grace, and is nothing less than Christ as the very embodiment of the fullness of the Godhead (Col. 2:9) for our enjoyment.
I have seen a number of dear sisters who really loved the Lord, yet their husband would not go along with them. It seemed that the more they prayed for their husband, the more their husband became worldly. At first I could not understand the reason for this. Eventually, I found out that the more these dear sisters were troubled, bothered, and perplexed by their husband, the more they knew the Lord and the more they experienced the Lord as their grace. Whenever they opened their mouth to speak just a little bit, in their presence you had the sense that the Lord was there.
Our human understanding cannot realize this because the divine thought, the divine concept, is very much different from ours. We hope that certain things might be accomplished by the Lord for us by “His grace.” Eventually, however, nothing is done. Nothing is accomplished. Our environment and our situation do not change. We may say that we are fully disappointed, but it may be that we are still not disappointed enough. We may need to be disappointed more until we learn how to experience the grace of the Lord. We need to learn not to expect to receive anything outwardly or to have anything done by the Lord for us but just to enjoy the Lord Himself as the grace of God.
God assigned one co-worker another co-worker who was peculiar and troubling to him. He asked the Lord many times to be gracious and merciful to him so that he would not have to work with this brother. After many years, there was no answer to this prayer, no taking away of his fellow worker. Eventually, this brother was subdued by the Lord and realized that he had to accept this “thorn.” Then he prayed, “Lord, how I thank You for this precious, dear “thorn” upon me. Through this I can experience You more and more as my grace.” He learned the lesson of how to enjoy the living Christ as grace, the embodiment of all the fullness of the Godhead within him for his enjoyment.
Out of the enjoyment of Christ Himself as grace comes forth the Body of Christ. The Body of Christ cannot come forth, cannot be brought into our practical experience, by teachings alone. The practical life of the Body of Christ could only come forth out of the enjoyment of Christ as the grace of God. The more we enjoy Him, the more we will possess of Him. Out of this possession of Christ as our grace, the practical church life will be produced.
The temple, the building of God, for God’s rest, for God’s expression, and the virgin for Christ’s satisfaction come forth out of the enjoyment of Christ as the grace of God, which is typified by the good land of Canaan. The grace of Christ is the enjoyment of the land. When we enjoy Christ as the grace of God, we are enjoying the riches of the good land. As we enjoy the unsearchable riches of Christ (Eph. 3:8), He will be wrought into us. Then our whole being will be thoroughly saturated with all the elements of Christ as we enjoy Him day by day. Out of this inward enjoyment and possession of Christ comes forth the building of the Body, which is the virgin, the bride to Christ, for His satisfaction and the temple, the dwelling place of God, for His rest. The practical church life cannot be realized merely by teachings or visions but by the enjoyment of Christ as the grace of God.
(Autobiography of a Person in the Spirit, An, Chapter 10, by Witness Lee)