GOD MANIFESTED IN THE FLESH
This mystery of godliness is God manifested in the flesh. We are here, not as angels, but as men in the flesh, yet God is manifested in the flesh. Some traditional theologians say that God manifested in the flesh refers to the Lord Jesus, who was manifested in the flesh through His incarnation, and that it does not refer to the church. When we gave this testimony in America, because we spoke so boldly, some traditional theologians said that we believe in man’s evolution into God. They say that we who are in the churches believe we all are evolving into God, that our speaking is a high theory of evolution, and that we are making ourselves gods. Some say, “In the so-called local churches there is a great heresy because they worship themselves as gods in their meetings. They claim that whenever they meet, God is manifested among them, that they are gods, and that they are one with God. Therefore, this teaching makes them the object of worship.” This is a slanderous word. The opposers say this because they are blind and do not understand what we are teaching.
BOTH CHRIST AND THE CHURCH BEING THE MANIFESTATION OF GOD IN THE FLESH
Yes, we have indeed said that when the condition of our meetings is normal, we can say, “Confessedly, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was manifested in the flesh” (1 Tim 3:16). The critics, however, say that this word does not refer to the church but to Christ. Therefore, at this time I would ask you to please turn to 1 Timothy 3:16 in your Bible. I hope that among us there are no “blind ones.” All the Bible scholars confess that the most difficult matter in expounding the Bible is finding the meaning of the original language. I believe that some of you have a Greek-English interlinear New Testament. If you look at the Greek-English interlinear New Testament, you will see that in 1 Timothy chapter three between verses 15 and 16 there is the conjunction kai, which equals and in English. The Chinese version, however, dropped this word in its translation. According to the original language, verse 15 says, “The house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and base of the truth.” Verse 16 continues by saying, “And…”; this conjunction clearly shows that the church is not only the three items mentioned in verse 15—the house of God, the pillar of the truth, and the base of the truth. And indicates that the church is something more. This conjunction here is a very important word; it is not an empty word. The church is the house of the living God, the pillar and base of the truth, and the great mystery of godliness, God manifested in the flesh. Therefore, according to the original Greek, He who was manifested in the flesh certainly refers to the church. We can say that “He who was manifested in the flesh” modifies “the church” in verse 15. What is the church? It is the house of God. “The house of God” modifies “the church,” and “the pillar and base of the truth” also modifies “the church.” The house of God and the pillar and base of the truth describe what the church is. Verse 16 continues by saying, “And…great is the mystery of godliness: He who was manifested in the flesh.” Just as “the house of God” and “the pillar and base of the truth” describe the church, so “He who was manifested in the flesh” also describes the church. Thus, if the text is read according to the original Greek, no one can deny that God manifested in the flesh here refers to the church.
Furthermore, there is still a solid proof which cannot be overturned, and that is the five items which follow “He who was manifested in the flesh”: justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory (v. 16). I would ask you, “Was the Lord Jesus taken up in glory before or after He was believed on in the world?” We all know that the Lord Jesus ascended to the heavens after His resurrection, so He was taken up in glory before He was preached among the nations and believed on in the world. This would tell us here that “He who was manifested in the flesh…taken up in glory” does not refer to Christ, because Christ was taken up in glory before being preached among the nations. The Lord Jesus was first taken up in glory, then the day of Pentecost came, and then He was preached among the nations.
But here I would ask you to pay attention to the fact that there is a universal man in the universe whose Head is Christ and whose Body is the church. The Head of this universal man is in glory today, but the Body is not yet in glory. The Head is already in the heavens, while the Body is still on earth. Therefore, according to 1 Timothy 3:16 the sequence of being taken up in glory after being preached among the nations proves that this manifestation of God in the flesh does not refer only to Christ but to the two aspects of Christ: the Head and the Body. The Head has already been taken up in glory, but the Body has yet to be taken up in glory. Whether the Head or the Body, both are the great mystery of godliness, God manifested in the flesh.
I am not here arguing, but I am showing you that traditional theology has deeply damaged people. Those who hold on to traditional theology, on the one hand, confess that the church is the Body of Christ, while on the other hand, they confess that Christ is God manifested in the flesh. Yet they remain stuck in their narrow concepts and are not willing to confess that the Body is also the manifestation of God in the flesh. This is the same as saying that a brother’s head comes from Taiwan, while his body does not. This is a joke. According to ordinary logic, we all know that if the head is Taiwanese, then the body also must be Taiwanese. If the head is American, then the body also must be American. Therefore, since the Head is God manifested in the flesh, spontaneously the Body also is God manifested in the flesh.
The Lord Jesus always considered His members on the earth to be Himself. Remember the record in Acts 9. One day Saul of Tarsus was going to persecute Christians; the Lord appeared to him on the road to Damascus and said to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (v. 4). Saul was astounded and thought to himself, “You are speaking to me from heaven, but I have not gone to heaven to persecute anyone. I am only persecuting people on earth, so why is a voice from heaven speaking to me today, saying, ‘Why are you persecuting Me?’” Therefore, he asked, “Who are You, Lord?” The Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you persecute” (v. 5). The Lord meant, “When you persecuted Stephen, you were persecuting Me; when you persecute My disciples, you are persecuting Me.” Here we clearly see that the Body and the Head are one. Hallelujah!
(The Subjective Truths in the Holy Scriptures, Chapter 8, by Witness Lee)