Christ versus Religion, by Witness Lee

More excerpts from this title...


When Saul of Tarsus witnessed Stephen’s martyrdom, he was wholly for it. He gave himself utterly to stamp out this Jesus. Stephen’s stoning, he thought, was a great victory, and now he could press the persecution even further. Therefore, he went to the chief priest, requesting authority to bind and imprison all those in Damascus who called on this Name. We all know the story: while he was on his way, Jesus spoke from heaven—the One who saw Stephen stoned to death, the One who was one with Stephen, now came to visit this persecutor. A little light came from the heavens and Saul was smitten to the ground. "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" The Lord Jesus spoke very nicely to Saul—have you noticed this? "I am Jesus whom thou persecutest." "It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks." The Lord’s words were very meaningful. In the ancient times there were pricks or goads on the carriages to keep the horses in check. Sometimes the horses would kick and rebel against the carriage and their driver. When they did, they were pricked by the goads and thus given a lesson. To the Lord Jesus, what Saul was doing was kicking against the pricks. The Lord said to Saul in so many words, "Saul, regardless of how much you are persecuting Me, you are still under My rule. I am riding you; you are not riding Me. You are a horse in My carriage, and you are not being a good horse. Stop your kicking. You are kicking the pricks, and you can never succeed. You see, now you have landed on the ground." Then Saul’s inner eyes began to open. He probably began to reason with himself, "Oh, it’s not so good for me to persecute this Jesus. This Jesus is not so small; this Jesus is great, both in heaven and on earth. I am under the rule of this Jesus whom I have been persecuting: I am just a little horse, and He’s doing the riding." This persecutor was marvelously subdued. The Lord Jesus gained the victory over the scribes, over the Sadducees, over the Pharisees, over the chief priests, and even over this persecutor. The Lord gained the victory over all the religious people.


Now when we come to chapter 10, we see that the Lord Jesus had a problem, not with the priests, not with the Pharisees, not with the persecutors, but with Peter. Up to Acts 10 Peter was still more or less religious. In Acts 2, 3, 4, and 5 Peter appeared marvelous, heavenly, absolutely out of religion and wholly in the spirit; but when we come to chapter 10, we see another Peter, a religious Peter. Peter went to the rooftop to pray according to a certain time schedule. That was not bad: I do not blame anyone for praying according to a time schedule—sometimes we need to do this. But have you realized that at that time Peter was still religious? Peter did not realize it. Suddenly, in a kind of trance, he saw something descend from the heavens which was diametrically opposed to his religious concept. I cannot tell, of course, what Peter was praying at the moment of this unexpected vision. It is quite probable, however, that he was praying for all the Jews to be converted, for all his countrymen to be saved. He may have been asking the Lord to send a great revival upon the Jewish nation. But while he was faithfully keeping the hour of prayer, he suddenly saw a vessel let down from heaven, wherein were "all manner of four-footed beasts and creeping things of the earth and birds of the heaven" (v. 12). Then came the Lord’s word, "Rise, Peter; kill and eat" (v. 13). This shocked Peter. What he heard was absolutely contrary to the law and to the Scripture in Leviticus chapter 11. The children of Israel were only allowed to eat the clean animals, not the unclean. But here were all kinds of living creatures, and the Lord was asking him to eat them. By reading the context of these verses carefully, we see the probability of every creature in that great sheet being unclean. In any case, it was full of unclean things. The Lord told him to "kill and eat," but Peter said, "Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common and unclean." In other words, Peter said, "This is against my practice." He did not use the word "religion," but he meant that.

You have realized by now that we must get rid of religion, but have you realized that to get rid of religion is not so easy? Could you imagine that a person like Peter still retained to this point some amount of religion? Look at Peter in the opening chapters of Acts, and then look at him here in chapter 10. There is another person in this chapter, a person who is still caring for religion, neglecting the Spirit. Peter forced the Lord to speak three times to him, and still he did not understand. Then when the Gentiles from Cornelius came seeking Peter, the Spirit within him told him to go.

(Christ versus Religion, Chapter 10, by Witness Lee)