B. IN THE CHURCH—THE BODY OF CHRIST—
AS THE ENLARGED CORPORATE EXPRESSION IN THE FLESH
We have pointed out that the fullness of God is the expression of God. According to John 1:16, the fullness of God came with Christ, who is the embodiment of God’s fullness. With Christ, the expression of God was an individual matter. This expression needs to be enlarged from an individual to a corporate expression. The church is to be the enlarged corporate expression of God in the flesh. This means that the church should be the fullness, the expression of God, in a corporate way. In the church God is expressed not through an individual but corporately through the Body of Christ. Because the fullness of God is embodied in the church, the church is the corporate expression of the Triune God.
First Timothy 3:15 and 16 indicate that God is manifested in the church—the Body of Christ—as the enlarged corporate expression in the flesh: “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.” In Greek the antecedent of “who” is omitted but easily recognized, that is, Christ who was God manifested in the flesh as the mystery of godliness. The transition from “the mystery…” to “who” implies that Christ as the manifestation of God in the flesh is the mystery of godliness (Col. 1:27; Gal. 2:20). This mystery of godliness is the living of a proper church, and such a living is also the manifestation of God in the flesh.
These verses imply that not only Christ Himself as the Head but also the church as the Body is the manifestation of God in the flesh. When a church grows in Christ with the growth of God (Col. 2:19), it will function as the house and household of the living God for His move on the earth and as the supporting pillar and holding base of the truth, bearing the divine reality of Christ and His Body as a testimony to the world. Then the church becomes the continuation of Christ’s manifestation of God in the flesh. This is the great mystery of godliness—Christ lived out of the church as the manifestation of God in the flesh.
In 1 Timothy 3:15, the Greek word for “house” may also be translated “household.” The household, the family, of God is the house of God. The house and the household are one thing—the assembly of the believers (Eph. 2:19; Heb. 3:6). The reality of this house as the dwelling place of the living God is in our spirit (Eph. 2:22). We need to live in our spirit so that God can be manifested in this house as the living God.
The church, as the house and household of the living God, is the pillar and base of the truth. The pillar supports the building, and the base holds the pillar. The church is such a supporting pillar and holding base of the truth. The truth is the reality, referring to the real things which are revealed in the New Testament concerning Christ and the church according to God’s New Testament economy. This economy is composed of Christ as the mystery of God (Col. 2:2) and the church as the mystery of Christ (Eph. 3:4). Christ and the church, the Head and the Body, are the contents of the reality of God’s New Testament economy. The church as the house and household of the living God is both the pillar which bears the truth, the reality of God’s New Testament economy, and the base which upholds the pillar.
Such a church is the continuation, the enlargement and expansion of God manifested in the flesh. This manifestation of God is the church as the house of God and the pillar and base of the truth. The church is, then, the increase, the enlargement, of the manifestation of God in the flesh. This is God manifested in the flesh in a wider way. This is according to the New Testament principle of incarnation, which is God manifested in the flesh.
First Timothy 3:16 begins with the words, “And confessedly, great is the mystery of godliness.” The conjunction “and” here indicates that the speaking about the church in verse 15 is not finished yet, and that the church is something even more than the house of the living God and the pillar and base of the truth. The church is also the mystery of godliness. According to the context, godliness refers to the living of God in the church, that is, God as life lived out in the church to be expressed. The church life is the expression of God. Both Christ and the church, the Head and the Body, are the mystery of godliness, expressing God in the flesh.
(Conclusion of the New Testament, The (Msgs. 001-020), Chapter 13, by Witness Lee)