CHRIST, THE NEW WINESKIN
Now we must see more concerning Christ as the new wineskin. Let us read I Corinthians 12:12, "For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of the body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ." We read in this verse not only that the members composed together are the one Body, but that this Body is Christ. We always consider Christ as the Head; we have considered little, if at all, that Christ is also the Body. How, practically speaking, is Christ the Body? Because the Body is composed of so many members who are filled with Christ. Christ is in you, Christ is in me, Christ is in him, and Christ is in every one of us—we all have Christ within. Paul, in I Corinthians chapter 1, says that Christ is not divided. The Christ in you is one with the Christ in me, and the Christ in us is one with the Christ in all other Christians. So Christ is the Body composed of so many members who are filled with Him. This is the new wineskin. The new wineskin is simply the church life to contain Christ as the new wine.
Sometimes people condemn us by saying that we speak altogether too much about the church. But I do not think that we can ever talk too much about the church. I believe we will need eternity to exhaust it. Some say that whether we have the church or not, whether we are in the church or not, we can still enjoy Christ. But I do question whether you can fully enjoy Christ without the church. Without the church you may enjoy Christ here a little and there a little, but you can never enjoy Christ in a full way, neither can you enjoy Him constantly. If you do not agree, stay away from the church for a month and see what the result will be.
Many years ago a young brother came to me saying, "Brother Lee, I simply do not like the church life. Look at all those elders—I don’t like them. Look at the leading sisters—I don’t like them. Look at all those brothers and sisters—I don’t like them." I replied, "All right brother, you don’t like the elders, neither do you like the brothers and sisters. What about yourself?" He said, "Well, I’m not so good either, but I’m a little better than they are." He continued, "Why should I come to the church meetings—it’s just a waste of my time. It would be much better for me to stay at home to pray and read the Bible." So I said, "All right brother, go and try it for a while and see what will result." Do you know what happened? For the first two weeks he did pray and read his Bible, but after that the Bible reading stopped, though he still prayed a little. After another week, the prayer ceased. Then he began attending the movies, and later went even deeper into the world.
Without the wineskin, how can you keep the wine? Do not consider that you yourself as an individual are the vessel. No, you are just a part of the vessel. How can a glass contain water if it is cut into pieces? How can the pieces contain the water? It is impossible. Do not consider that you are somebody. You are nobody. You are just a member of the Body; you are just a minute part of the Body. It is true, some amount of blood is in my little finger, but this little finger is just a part of the entire body. If you sever it from the body, the flow of blood in the finger immediately ceases. Instead of containing the blood, the finger will lose the blood. From the day you leave the church life, you begin to lose Christ, the new wine starts to run out. Check with your experience.
In so saying I do not infer that every meeting of the church life is so marvelous. Sometimes the church meetings are not so high. But even the experience of some low meetings is good for you. Whether a glass is held as high as the ceiling or as low as the floor, it is still a vessel. Whether it is up or down, it remains a container. The Lord Jesus always goes with this glass: when the glass goes higher, the Lord Jesus goes higher. When the church meetings go down, sorry to say, the Lord Jesus goes down with them. He must go with us, because He is in us. Nothing but the church life can contain the very Christ you enjoy. Do not think the church is a small thing.
Some who are reading this book are in places where there is as yet no church life. I believe that your experience, though it be on the negative side, will support my word. I fully sympathize with you. No doubt many of you are greatly concerned that there is no container, no wineskin, in your locality. You see, we need the new wine, and we also need the new wineskin.
We must also realize that the wineskin is not only the container of the wine, but also the means for us to drink the wine. Many of us can testify that whenever we came into the church meeting, we discovered that that was really the place where we could drink Christ. It was there that we began to drink the Lord as never before. The church life is not just a container, but a vessel from which we may drink. Praise the Lord, we have the church life.
The church life is not us; the church life is the corporate Christ. If I come here and leave my Christ at home, and if you come here just by yourself, that is not the church life, that is a kind of social club. Anything without Christ in it is not the church. However, if you come with Christ and I come with Christ, immediately this very Christ is the corporate container to contain Himself and dispense Himself for our enjoyment. The church life is not a religion or a set of teachings, forms and rituals, but Christ lived out from you and me.
(Christ versus Religion, Chapter 2, by Witness Lee)