BEING A LIVING TESTIMONY
FOR THE INCREASE OF CHRIST
Scripture Reading: John 3:25-30; 12:20-26, 32-33; 15:1-5, 7-8, 12, 16-17; 17:21-23
We all must cooperate to carry out the burden of these messages in prayer. This is not only a burden but a battle. We have to realize that in all the priestly service there is always a battle. We are not dealing merely with a work; we are dealing with an evil force in the heavenlies, the force of darkness. How much we need the prevailing prayers! Please join in the spirit to pray for this training. Through all my recent visits to other places, I realize that there is a real, urgent, and desperate need for this kind of training. We pray that the Lord would work out these matters among us, in us, and through us.
THE GENUINE GOSPEL REVEALED IN JOHN
Many Christians do not have the thought that the Gospel of John deals with the real outreach of gospel preaching. However, the best and proper way for the outreach of the gospel is clearly revealed in this book. John was written not only with a particular sequence, or order, but with a process, from the very beginning to the ultimate consummation. In this Gospel there are twenty-one chapters, which are divided into three sections. The first section, mostly from chapter 1 to chapter 3, shows us the birth of life. For instance, 1:12 says, “As many as received Him, to them He gave the authority to become children of God, to those who believe into His name.” Then 3:6 tells us that this birth is a birth in the spirit and of the Spirit: “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
Then the second section, from chapter 4 through at least chapter 7, deals with the growth of life. After a baby is born, he needs to grow by eating and drinking. Chapter 4 makes it very clear that we have to drink of Christ as the living fountain (vv. 10, 14). To drink is different from being born. To drink is to grow after being born. Then in chapter 6 Jesus tells us that we have to eat Him: “He who eats Me, he also shall live because of Me” (v. 57b). We have to feed on Him. To feed is not only to receive Christ but to take Him as our life supply. Life is for birth, while the life supply is for the growth of life. After birth we have the growth of life.
The third section is mostly from chapter 10 or 11 to the end of the book. To say that the point of this section is maturity in life does not express it adequately. Of course, from birth we receive life, by eating and drinking we grow, and by growing we attain the fullness of life, that is, maturity. However, maturity is for building. Near the close of this book there is the prayer of the Lord in chapter 17: “That they all may be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that You have sent Me” (v. 21). This oneness is the building. The third section of this book, therefore, is the building.
Many Christians take it for granted that this Gospel is a book for beginners. However, this book includes eternity past and eternity future. Eternity past is indicated in 1:1, which says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Then in eternity future there is a building. As we have seen many times, this building is a mutual habitation of God and man, and it is the universal, great vine tree. In chapter 15 there is the vine tree with all the branches. The vine itself is the Head, and all the branches are the members of the Body. If we look only at the branches, it seems that they are separate, but if we trace them to the source, we can see that they are all built together in the vine as one. This oneness is the building. In chapter 2 the Lord said that His physical body was a temple on a small scale. He predicted that the enemy would utilize the Jewish people to destroy this body: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (v. 19). This refers to the resurrection. By resurrection and in resurrection Christ built up a universal building in oneness.
THE BRIDE OF CHRIST BEING THE INCREASE OF CHRIST
John 3:25 through 30 says, “There arose therefore a questioning on the part of John’s disciples with a Jew about purification. And they came to John and said to him, Rabbi, He who was with you across the Jordan, of whom you have testified, behold, He is baptizing and all are coming to Him. John answered and said, A man cannot receive anything unless it has been given to him from heaven. You yourselves testify of me that I said, I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before Him. He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices with joy because of the bridegroom’s voice. This joy of mine therefore is made full. He must increase, but I must decrease.”
We have to join verse 29 to verse 30. In verse 29 there is the bride, and in verse 30 there is the increase. This shows us that the bride is the increase of Christ, just as Eve, the wife of Adam, was the increase of Adam. Originally Adam was single, a bachelor, but later an increase came out of him. That increase was the increase of Adam himself, who became his counterpart, a bride. Even in type it is very clear that the bride, or the wife, is always an increase of the bridegroom, the husband. In John 3, John the Baptist says that the increase of Christ is His very bride.
(Preaching the Gospel in the Way of Life, Chapter 12, by Witness Lee)