The Kingdom, by Witness Lee

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In chapters five through seven of Matthew, we see that the kingdom is a matter of righteousness. Righteousness means to be right, and to be right means to be under God’s ruling. Even to suffer for the sake of righteousness is a matter of the kingdom. "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens" (Matt. 5:10).

When the Lord Jesus returns, many Christians will say to Him in that day, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name do many works of power?" The Lord Jesus will not deny this; He will admit that they did these things. Nevertheless, He will say, "Depart from Me, workers of lawlessness" (Matt. 7:22-23).

The proper translation in verse 23 is lawlessness, not iniquity. Iniquity is something dark, sinful, and abominable in the eyes of God, but lawlessness is somewhat different. A good illustration is that the law requires us to drive an automobile within the white lines of the highway. To drive outside the white lines is lawlessness, but it is not iniquity or immorality. Such driving is not right; it is careless and lawless.

When the Lord Jesus tells the lawless ones to depart from Him, He will tell them that He never allowed them to do the things they did in His name. The phrase, "I never knew you" (Matt. 7:23), may be translated, "I never allowed you." The same word is translated in Romans 7:15: "For that which I do, I allow not" (KJV). Paul knew what he was doing, but he did not allow himself to do it; he did not approve of it. Therefore, in effect, the Lord said that they prophesied in His name, cast out demons in His name, and performed miracles in His name, but He never allowed them to do it. They did all those things lawlessly. Whatever they did was lawlessness. They should have done the will of the Father. To be right does not mean to be good or bad, right or wrong, humanly. To be right in the eyes of God is to do according to His will.

If we are driving on the freeway according to our own concept, a patrolman would not regard our good intention. If we are lawless, we will receive a traffic ticket. Being right according to our best intention does not mean that we are right according to the will of God.

Righteousness is to be right according to God’s will, and there is a blessedness in suffering for the sake of righteousness (Matt. 5:10). Today we are suffering for the sake of the Lord’s recovery. We are suffering criticism and condemnation, with the spreading of rumors and evil reports. These sufferings come because we are driving our car within the heavenly lines, and we cannot get out of these lines. Some Christians insist on having divisions. But the line is drawn very clearly in the Bible that there should be no divisions. To others this may seem narrow or exclusive, but we must stay within the heavenly lines. Many of the missionaries who labored in China would not give a good report about us simply because we stood for the oneness of the Body. They had come to build up their denomination, and when we could not be persuaded to cooperate with them, they felt we were against foreigners. Actually, we were only against divisions.

Righteousness means to be right according to God’s will. To be right in the eyes of God is to be poor in spirit, pure in heart, and right in all we do. We should be right in all our behavior and activities, not according to human concepts, or according to our intentions, tastes, and desires, but according to God’s will. This is the reality of the kingdom, and this is Christ. The Lord Jesus has come into me, and He is now expressing Himself through me. He has come in, and now He is coming out of me to express Himself. This is Christ spreading to be the kingdom.

The righteousness of the kingdom of the heavens is an exceeding righteousness, one that exceeds the righteousness of all others and that exceeds the righteousness of the law (Matt. 5:20). If you want to divorce your wife, to fulfill the requirement of the law of righteousness according to the law of Moses, you simply write a bill of divorcement and send her away (Matt. 19:7). But the Lord Jesus said, "From the beginning it has not been so" (Matt. 19:8). According to God, it was not so. According to God, it was one husband with one wife and one wife for one husband. The disciples considered that this was hard, even that it might be better not to be married (Matt. 19:10). The Lord Jesus agreed that it was difficult because they had to be right according to God Himself, not right only according to the law of Moses. By taking them back to the beginning, He took them back to God Himself.

To be right according to God means that you are willing to turn the other cheek; if someone smites you on one cheek, you should be willing for him to smite you on the other cheek also. If someone forces you to walk one mile with him, you should volunteer to go two miles. In our natural life none of us can measure up to this standard of righteousness, of being right according to God.

(The Kingdom, Chapter 6, by Witness Lee)