I. GOD’S PLAN
God’s plan from eternity is to get a group of people to share His life, bear His image, and be united with Him as one. In the purpose of this plan there are two points which we should observe in knowing the Body.
A.God wants to work Himself into man and make man like Himself.
This matter is absolutely related to His Son. The Bible reveals to us that God is in His Son: all that God is and all that God has, all the fullness of the Godhead, dwells in the Son (Col. 2:9). We can say that if there were no Son of God, there would be no God.
The usual concept of a son places the emphasis on the son being born of the father, and the son and the father existing as separate beings. But in the Bible the emphasis in relation to the Son of God is that He is the expression of God and cannot be separated from God. In John 1:18 we read: “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” This verse reveals that the Son of God is the expression of God or the expressed God. No man hath seen God at any time, but now the Son of God hath declared Him. When man sees the Son of God, he sees God. The Son of God is the expression of God and the manifestation of God. Outside of His Son, God has no expression nor manifestation. Therefore, God and His Son are inseparable.
Since God and His Son cannot be separated, neither can the object of God’s plan be separated from His Son. God wants to work Himself into man, which means that God wants to work His Son into man. God desires to make men like Himself, which means that God desires to have men like His Son. God wants men to be one with His Son. Genesis 1:26 shows us in figure that in creation God wanted men to have His image and share His likeness. In the New Testament it is pointed out clearly and practically that God wants men to have His image, which means that He wants them to “be conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29). When men are conformed to the image of His Son, they bear God’s image, because the Son is the image of God (Col. 1:15).
B. In God’s sight this group of people, which He purposed to be united with His Son and bear the image of His Son, is not a number of individuals, but a united, corporate body.
We can trace this thought from the three different ways the Bible speaks concerning our relationship with His Son:
1) We are the brethren of God’s Son (Heb. 2:11; Rom. 8:29). This aspect may seem to indicate that we as individuals are brethren of God’s Son, but the Bible emphasizes the fact that we and Christ together express God. Before Christ came in the flesh, God had only one Son and one expression in the universe. After Christ came to this earth and became flesh, He imparted His life into us that we may become sons of God and His brethren. Henceforth, God has many sons in the universe. As this one Son is God’s expression, so all the sons are similarly God’s expression. Therefore, in saying that we are Christ’s brethren, the emphasis is that we and Christ together are God’s sons and together are God’s expression. Even so, the Bible does not infer that as brethren we are a number of separate individuals. For though we become brethren of Christ one by one, yet the Bible further states that we are the “house of God” (1 Tim. 3:15). Though we are many sons of God, the individual son is not the unit. The unit is the corporate unity of all the sons, who have come together as one house, one family.
2)We are the Bride of Christ (Eph. 5:31-32; 2 Cor. 11:2). Some may think that because there are thousands saved, Christ has thousands of brides, as in a polygamous system; but the Bible shows that Christ has only one Bride—the Church, which is composed of all the thousands of saved ones. When the Bible says that we are the Bride of Christ, the point of emphasis is that we have come out from Christ and are a part of Christ, just as Eve came out from Adam and was a part of Adam. In the beginning Adam did not have many ribs removed, but only one, that is, the rib which became Eve. Similarly, Christ did not have many segments removed (such as one segment for one brother to be saved, and another segment for a sister to be saved, etc.), but only one segment was taken from Him, and that was for the saving of the Church. The Church is the only part that came out from Christ. When we say that we are the Bride of Christ, the idea of corporateness is expressed more specifically than when we refer to ourselves as the brethren of Christ.
(The Experience of Life, Chapter 15, by Witness Lee)