GROWING NOT BY TEACHING BUT BY SUPPLY
According to our natural concept, we cannot understand the growth in life. Today there are not many Christians who know what the growth in life is. Someone who is accustomed to losing his temper may one day be able to control his temper. This may or may not be the growth in life. The Bible has life, and it also has some amount of teaching. Without the teachings of Christianity for the past twenty centuries, the Western world might be barbaric. The Western world, from Europe to America, has received its proper teachings from Christianity. However, Christianity today has become a religion of teaching. When I was young, I heard an American pastor say that Christianity is the same as Confucianism. According to him, Confucius taught that we should honor our parents, and the Bible says the same thing. Ethically speaking, the Bible does appear to be the same as the teachings of Confucius, and to some extent it may not even appear to be as high. The Bible teaches submission, but Confucius taught threefold submission. He taught that a girl in her father’s house should submit herself to her father; when she marries, she should submit herself to her husband; and when her husband dies, she must submit herself to her son.
The Bible does not annul the teaching of submission. Rather, it supports it very much. Without the father, husband, or son as God’s deputy authority, the human race would become as the beasts. There could be no proper marriage life, family, or nation—only anarchy. However, the growth in life is not by teaching but by supply. As we have seen, to plant is not to teach, and to water is not to instruct. Planting and watering have nothing to do with knowledge but rather are a matter of supply.
GROWING BY BEING GRAFTED
As men we were the wild olive tree (Rom. 11:17). How could we become the cultivated olive tree (v. 24)? To be cultivated does not merely mean to be educated or regulated. It mainly means to be nourished and fed. The wild olive tree can become cultivated only by being grafted. To carry out the grafting, the first thing needed is cutting. Grafting depends upon cutting both trees, the wild tree and the cultivated tree. The branch of the wild tree must be cut off, and an opening must be cut in the cultivated tree. Then the wild branch is put into the cultivated tree. They touch each other, and the wild branch receives the rich life-juice of the cultivated tree, that is, it eats, absorbs, and receives the riches of the cultivated tree. All the riches of the cultivated tree are digested and assimilated by the grafted branch. The wild branch retains the rich juice, and the rich juice eventually becomes the very grafted branch.
This is a good picture showing us how to grow. First, we must be cut off from the old, wild, uncultivated tree of Adam. This is the meaning of baptism. To be baptized is to be cut off from the Adamic race and to be put into death. This was what John the Baptist did. When some repented, he did not teach them. Rather, he cut them off and put them into death by putting them into the water.
Second, we must believe. To believe is to put the branch which has been cut off into Christ as the cultivated tree full of rich life-juice. After we are put into Him, we then remain in Him (John 15:4). As those who are no longer merely the uncultivated branches but the branches grafted into the cultivated tree, Christ, we should remain there to receive, absorb, assimilate, and retain the rich life-juice of Christ in our being. In this way we will surely grow in life. We will grow with the growth of the tree, which is Christ, the embodiment of God.
According to Colossians 2:19, we, holding the Head, grow with the growth of God. The King James Version translates the last part of this verse as “increaseth with the increase of God.” To grow is to increase. At first a tree may have only ten branches. The tree is real, yet it is not increasing. When the other branches from the wild tree are grafted into this cultivated tree, it increases from ten branches to one hundred branches. These one hundred branches are the increase of the tree. In this way all the grafted branches grow with the growth of the cultivated tree. This is the way we grow with the growth of God.
When I first saw the last phrase of Colossians 2:19 translated as “grows with the growth of God,” I asked myself whether God grows. God is eternal. How could the eternal God grow or increase? In God Himself there is no need of increase. He is complete, perfect, and eternal. However, God needs to grow in us. When God grows in us, we grow in His growth. If God does not have a way to grow in us, we can never grow.
(The Experience and Growth in Life, Chapter 2, by Witness Lee)