CHRIST VERSUS PHILOSOPHY
Now let us go on to the book of Colossians. The problem with the Colossians was pagan philosophy, the worldly philosophy, Gnosticism. Even today there is the danger that some philosophy, some thoughts of pagan teachings, worldly teachings, and worldly doctrines will be brought into the church. Christ is the real knowledge, wisdom, philosophy, and teaching. Christ is everything. The apostle Paul told us that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ (Col. 2:3) and that Christ is all and in all (3:11).
If you look into the book to the Colossians, you will realize that in the mind of God and in the thought of the apostle there was nothing but Christ, neither gifts, healings, teachings, doctrines, philosophies, nor worldly elements. Christ is life (3:4), and He is in us as the hope of glory (1:27). He is everything to us. Furthermore, this Christ is the very element, the very factor, for the building up of the Body. If we are going to have the real church life, we must realize Christ in such a living way.
CHRIST VERSUS GIFTS AND KNOWLEDGE
We should also consider the first Epistle to the Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians the apostle told the Corinthian believers that they did not lack in any gift (1:7). They were exceedingly rich in gifts. Moreover, they were enriched in Christ in all knowledge (v. 5). However, what the apostle preached was neither gifts nor knowledge but Christ. In 1:22-23 Paul said, “For indeed Jews require signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified.” The Jews sought signs, the miraculous things, and the Greeks sought wisdom, knowledge, and philosophy. Today in Christianity, people are still seeking these two categories of things. They are seeking gifts, signs, and miracles, and they also are seeking knowledge and teaching. However, Paul said he preached Christ, who is the power of God and the wisdom of God (v. 24).
I say again, you may have all the gifts, yet you may not have Christ. You may be very rich in gifts yet very poor in Christ. The Corinthian believers did not lack in any gift. Indeed, they were rich and strong in gifts. However, the apostle told them that they were “fleshy” and were “infants in Christ” (3:1). Some have thought that in the first Epistle to the Corinthians the apostle had a positive attitude concerning the gifts and encouraged the believers to seek the gifts. What we see, however, is exactly the opposite. In 1 Corinthians, the apostle’s attitude toward the gifts is very negative. Concerning speaking in tongues, the apostle said that “in the church I would rather speak five words with my mind, that I might instruct others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue” (14:19). To be sure, this word is not encouraging but discouraging toward the gifts. At the end of chapter twelve, after speaking a great deal concerning the gifts, he said, “And moreover I show to you a most excellent way” (v. 31). What is the most excellent way? The most excellent way to exercise the gifts is love (ch. 13). If you can speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, you are like a sounding brass or a clanging cymbal, in which there is no life and no reality (v. 1). This is surely not an encouraging word concerning the gifts. You may exercise different kinds of gifts and even “play” with the gifts as little children play with their toys, yet you may not have love. I do not believe that the attitude of the apostle here is encouraging. Rather, it is discouraging. The apostle was telling the Corinthians that they needed to know Christ, to grow up, and to exercise their gifts in love. All the gifts have to be controlled by love.
Therefore, the law is not Christ, religion is not Christ, philosophy is not Christ, and even the gifts are not Christ. Christ is something other than these things. These four books—Galatians, Hebrews, Colossians, and 1 Corinthians—were written to deal with all the different things that are not Christ. Galatians deals with the law, Hebrews deals with religion, Colossians deals with philosophy, and 1 Corinthians deals with the gifts and knowledge. Today our burden is for the building up of a living expression of the Body of Christ. We must realize that, if we are going to have the real church life, we must forget about all the different kinds of good things that are other than Christ Himself. No matter what kind of good things we pay attention to, as long as they are not Christ, they will be a damage. All things must be related to Christ and must be for Christ. Otherwise, we need to forget about them. The unique way for us to realize the real church life is to experience Christ in a living way. Only Christ will not make us proud. All the other good things, even the so-called spiritual experiences, will make us proud, and that will be a damage to the building up of the church. Only Christ Himself will make us humble, general, and simple, so that it will be easy to build up the church. When we are living in Christ, we are simply in the church life.
(The Central Thought of God, Chapter 8, by Witness Lee)