I. CHRIST’S CRUCIFIXION TO REDEEM PEOPLE FOR THE CHURCH
In forming the church, we first need the material, the people of God. Where were the people and what was the condition of the people before Christ’s crucifixion? Before Christ’s crucifixion, no one was qualified to be members of the church. The church is glorious. The church is holy. The church is of life, of the Triune God. All the people were under the condemnation of God because of offenses (Rom. 5:18a). They were constituted sinners because of disobedience (Rom. 5:19a). They were alienated from the life of God (Eph. 4:18) and therefore could not express God. They were born in sin, they struggled in sin their entire life, and they will die in sin. They were neither glorious nor holy. Neither were they one with the Triune God, rather, they were enemies of God. They became the old man of the old creation. Ultimately, they were dead in their offenses and sins. How can anyone form the church with people in such a condition? It is impossible!
Who then could redeem these people back to God? Could you or I? No! No one in heaven or on earth throughout the history of mankind could save God’s people out of this dilemma except Jesus Christ our Lord. He is the perfect and unique Savior, because He is the complete God and the perfect and genuine man. As the genuine man, He has blood to shed. As the perfect man, His death is not for His own sins, but for ours. As the complete God, He can release the life of God into us. There has been only one such person throughout the history of humanity qualified to be the Savior. Hallelujah! Since He alone is the Savior, He alone is qualified to form the church.
By His vicarious death (1 Pet. 3:18), we were saved from the judgment of God (Rom. 5:18b). He is more than our substitution. As a result of His crucifixion, not only were all the negative things terminated on the cross, but the divine life was released. The divine life was released from the one grain of wheat to produce many grains (John 12:24), the many sons of God. Now we are no longer sinners and no longer the old man. We no longer belong to the old creation, but we are now sons of God and members of Christ. Ultimately, we are the church, the Body of Christ.
II. CHRIST’S RESURRECTION TO REGENERATE PEOPLE TO BE LIVING MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH
We need the redemption of Christ to save us back to God. We need another life—the life of God to regenerate our spirit so that we may be sons of God and living members of the church. Otherwise, we are not qualified to be members of His Body and Christ can not form the church.
In order for Christ to form the church, it was necessary for Him to pass through death and enter into resurrection that He might impart the divine life into our being. He brought the Triune God into our being to cause us to be born of God (1 Pet. 1:3). [In resurrection He was transfigured from the flesh to the Spirit. First Corinthians 15:45b tells us that in His resurrection and through His resurrection Christ as the last Adam became a life-giving Spirit.
On the day of His resurrection, the Lord Jesus appeared to His disciples in a wonderful way. “When therefore it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst and said to them, Peace be to you’’ (John 20:19). The disciples were “startled and became frightened and thought they beheld a spirit’’ (Luke 24:37), that is, a phantom, a ghost, a specter. The Lord said to them, “See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you behold Me having’’ (Luke 24:39). The Lord had a physical body that could be seen and touched. After showing the disciples “both His hands and His side’’ (John 20:20), the Lord “breathed into them and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit’’ (v. 22). This is the Spirit expected in John 7:39 and promised in 16:16-17, 26; 15:26; 16:7-8, 13. Hence, the Lord’s breathing of the Holy Spirit into the disciples was the fulfillment of His promise of the Holy Spirit as the Comforter. Here the Spirit as the breath was breathed as life into the disciples for their life. By breathing the Spirit into the disciples, the Lord imparted Himself as life and everything into them.
The Lord Jesus came to His disciples on the day of His resurrection as the pneumatic Christ. The Greek word for “Spirit’’ in John 20:22 is pneuma, a word that also means breath or air. In John 1 Christ is the Lamb, but in John 20, after His death and in His resurrection, He is the pneumatic Christ. To say that Christ is the pneumatic Christ means that He is full of the divine breath. Whereas in John 1 Christ came as the Lamb, in John 20 He came as the pneuma. The fact that He breathed into the disciples and told them to receive the Holy Spirit indicates that He had come to them as the breath, the pneuma. The Lord became the pneumatic Christ through resurrection, and today, in resurrection, He still comes to us as the Spirit, the pneuma.
After the Lord Jesus came in John 20:19, there is no word or hint in John’s record indicating that the Lord left the disciples. The reason for this is that He stayed with them, although they were not conscious of His presence. Instead of leaving them, He disappeared, becoming invisible. But to the surprise of the disciples, at various times and in different places He would appear, manifesting Himself to them. Acts 1:3 tells us that to the apostles “He presented Himself alive after His suffering by many convincing proofs, through a period of forty days, appearing to them.’’ His appearing does not mean that He ever left them; it simply means that He made His presence visible to them.]
(Lesson Book, Level 5: The Church—The Vision and Building Up of the Church, Chapter 8, by Witness Lee)