GOD MANIFEST IN THE FLESH
Now we need to read 1 Timothy 3:15-16. These two verses in the Scriptures are wonderful and far beyond our understanding. “But if I delay, that you may know how one ought to conduct himself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and base of the truth. And confessedly, great is the mystery of godliness, Who was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.” The church is the church of the living God. The church is not just the church of God in heaven or the church in doctrine. It is the church of the living God. The church must have God living in it, and this church of the living God is the pillar and base of the reality.
The architecture used during the time 1 Timothy was written was mainly that of Greece. Greek architecture utilized columns or pillars, which supported the entire building. The church of the living God is just like such pillars with a base to hold Christ as the reality. The word “truth” in verse 15 can also be translated as “reality.” For the church to be such a pillar to hold Christ as the reality, the proper humanity of Jesus is required. This is shown in the following verse, where we are told that God was manifested in the flesh. As we have seen, the flesh is simply humanity. This proves that for the church to be the proper pillar to support Christ as the reality, the humanity of Jesus is required.
But 1 Timothy 3:16 does not refer only to Christ. If we read the whole verse carefully, we will see this. It says that God was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached to the nations, believed on in the world, and taken up in glory. It seems that the Apostle Paul made a mistake. Was Christ taken up in glory before the preaching to the Gentiles or after? We all know that He was taken up before He was preached. Yet this verse plainly states that Christ is first preached, then believed on, and then taken up in glory. I believe that by now we are all clear. This Christ includes not only the Head, but also the Body. As the Head, He was taken up in glory before being preached to the Gentiles. But His Body will be taken up in glory after the preaching. By this we see that the manifestation of God in Christ is not only a matter of Christ the Head, but also a matter of His Body, the church. God was manifested in the flesh with Christ, and God is being manifested in the flesh with the church. This is not just the individual person of Christ; this is the person of Christ plus the corporate Christ. Regarding the person of Christ, He was taken up before the preaching. But regarding the corporate Christ, He will be taken up in glory after the preaching. Therefore, by putting these two verses together, we can see what the church is. The church is just the manifestation of God in Christ. This depends very much on the humanity of Jesus.
According to our religious concept, the word “flesh” has a bad connotation. Whenever we speak about the flesh, we mean something degraded. Of course, our flesh is not good, but the flesh of Jesus is much better than ours. We do not appreciate our flesh because it is so poor and sinful, but we have another flesh. The flesh of Jesus is wonderful! This is His perfect humanity. Hence, for the church to manifest God, we need the humanity of Jesus. We need to take His humanity. I am so happy for this verse that says God was manifest, not in the Spirit, but in the flesh.
God manifest in the flesh is seen by angels and preached to the Gentiles. We are preaching not only Christ, but Christ with the church. How could we preach the Head without the Body? Have you ever seen a person without a body? If you were to come into the meeting without your body, you would be a monster. But this is exactly what many poor Christians are preaching today. They preach only about Christ the Head. We are preaching Christ with His Body. Christ and the church are the great mystery of God (Eph. 5:32). This is what must be preached unto the Gentiles. Eventually this corporate Christ will be taken up in glory. This is the church life. Yet for this church life we need the proper humanity. Neither American flesh, Chinese flesh, Japanese flesh, nor any other flesh is good for the church life. Only Jesus’ flesh will do. For the church we need the humanity of Jesus.
Confessedly, great is the mystery of godliness, that is, God manifest in the flesh. Can we imagine this: God is manifest in the flesh? God has no intention to manifest Himself in angels. God does not love them so much; they are simply His servants. God loves the church, so He became manifest in the flesh. This is Christ and the church, the great mystery of God.
(Christ as the Reality, Chapter 9, by Witness Lee)