Christ versus Religion, by Witness Lee

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Out of these four new things, four kinds of so-called Christians have come into existence. The first kind are called Christians, but they are not really Christians. They only take Christ as the new cloth: they do not believe in the Lord’s crucifixion or the Lord’s redemption, but only appreciate the Lord while He was on this earth. They say, "Look how Jesus lived: He was so full of love and self-sacrifice. We must imitate Him, we must follow Him." But to do this is just to cut out a piece of new cloth with which to patch an old garment. These are the so-called modernists. They do not believe that Christ is God; neither do they believe that Christ died for our sins on the cross. They say that Christ died as a kind of martyr, not for our redemption, but to give us an example. We must imitate Him in certain aspects, they say, to patch up our holes. This is their teaching and practice.

Then there is another kind of Christians, a better kind, whom you may call fundamentalists. They believe that Christ is God, that Christ is our Redeemer, that Christ died on the cross for our sins and was resurrected. They take Christ not as a piece of new cloth, but as the new garment. They are redeemed, they are real Christians, but they only believe that Christ has accomplished redemption and that now they are saved and will go some day to heaven.

Then there is another group which is further improved. Some Christians have seen that they need not only the redemption of Christ, but also the life of Christ. They have realized something concerning the inner life; so they take Christ not only as the new garment, but also as the new wine. You may call them "inner life Christians." They are indeed an improvement over the previous two groups. You may say that they are the best—they are not modernists, and they are more than fundamentalists. You may even call them spiritual people. But I am sorry to say, good as they are, they lack one thing—the wineskin, the church life.

In the last days the Lord is recovering not only the new garment—this He recovered through Martin Luther in the matter of justification by faith. Neither is the Lord only recovering the inner life—this He accomplished through Madame Guyon, Andrew Murray, Jessie Penn-Lewis, etc. We thank the Lord for all these recoveries. However, at the end of this age the Lord is recovering the last and ultimate item, the church life. You may call this group the church people. Praise the Lord!

Have you ever noticed today that in the local churches, among the so-called church people, the new garment has been recovered, the new wine has been recovered, and the new wineskin has also been recovered. I do not believe the friends who criticize us for talking so much about the church are fair. We also speak very much concerning the new garment and even more about the inner life. Look into our writings—they are full of messages concerning the inner life. But we have not stopped there; we have also covered the church life. If you read all the books and papers we have published. you will discover that we are not occupied with the new cloth—that is over. But we do have the new garment, the new wine, and the new wineskin. We have Christ as our righteousness, we have Christ as our life, and we have Christ in a corporate way as our church life. Did the Lord stop with the new garment? No. Did the Lord stop with the new wine? No. The Lord went on from the Bridegroom to the new cloth, from the new cloth to the new garment, from the new garment to the new wine, and from the new wine to the new wineskin. Is there anything more? No. After the wineskin, after the church, there is nothing more. The church is God’s ultimate goal. When we arrive at the church, we are in the ultimate consummation of God’s purpose. Thus, after the wineskin, the Lord mentioned nothing else.

Praise the Lord! We have the Bridegroom, we have the new cloth made into the new garment, we have the new garment, we have the new wine, and we have the new wineskin. So we are not only fully qualified, not only fully satisfied, but also fully positioned to enjoy our Bridegroom. If we have experienced all these things, we are short of nothing. How wonderful to have the Bridegroom upon us as the new garment and within us as the new wine. And this new wine is in the church life, the new wineskin. Thus, day by day we have the full enjoyment of Him as the Bridegroom.

Is this religion? No. Is this Christianity? No. Is this a kind of new sect? No. Then what is this? It is the church life. Hallelujah! How wonderful to have it and be in it!

(Christ versus Religion, Chapter 2, by Witness Lee)