THE BUILDING AS THE ULTIMATE CONSUMMATION IN ROMANS
The building is the ultimate consummation not only in the entire Bible but also in all the Epistles, including those written by Paul, Peter, and John. In all the Epistles the ultimate point is the building. Romans, for example, is a sketch, an outline, with a good sequence of the Christian life and the church life. In the first chapters of Romans there is a picture, a record, of sinners. Following this, there is the revelation of how these awful sinners can be justified. In chapters three, four, and the first half of five, sinners have justification by faith through the blood of Christ. Then Romans shows us that regardless of how much we are justified through the blood of Christ, we were born in Adam, so we still have the old nature, but by God’s grace we have been transferred out of Adam into Christ. In Adam we have the flesh, but with Christ we have the spirit. Now there is no need for us to remain in the flesh; rather, we need to walk in the spirit. In the spirit we have full salvation in life, including the liberation from besetting sins. In the spirit we enjoy all the riches of God’s salvation in Christ. This is wonderful, but we should not stop at the spirit in Romans 8. We need to go on, passing through chapters nine, ten, and eleven until we arrive at chapter twelve. What we have in chapter twelve is the building, the Body (vv. 4-5). Without the building, that is, without the Body, we simply do not have the conclusion of this book.
Romans concludes with the Body, the building. However, many Christians today talk about the Body merely in a doctrinal way, a way that is not practical. I would like to ask, “Where is the Body for you?” Do not merely say that the Lord has a Body in the universe. Practically speaking, where is the Body? As the members of the Body we must be practical, but regrettably, very few Christians are in the Body life practically. The Body is merely doctrinal and objective. We cannot say where the Body is for them; perhaps it is in the air. According to the revelation of all the Epistles, however, the Body must be very present, instant, and practical to us. We need to be in the Body practically, instantly, and presently, not “in the air” or in the “by and by.” We must have the Body today.
BEING FITTED AND BUILT TOGETHER IN EPHESIANS
Romans is an outline, but in an outline we do not have the details. Therefore, from Romans we must go on to pass through 1 and 2 Corinthians and Galatians until we arrive at Ephesians. Many Christians today love the book of Ephesians because they realize that it is a book on the church. However, it is regrettable that many Christians take this book of the church merely in a doctrinal way, making the church only a doctrine.
Practically speaking again, “Where is the church for you?” Some may say that there are many churches. Yes, there are many so-called churches and all kinds of “churches.” In every big city today without exception there are many “churches,” but where is the church for you? If we say that the Presbyterian Church or the Methodist Church is our church, can we truly agree with what we say? Do we truly consider that the Presbyterian Church is the genuine church? If we would all be honest, we will admit that while we are saying yes, deep within us something is saying no. We can fool many people, and we can even be cheated by our own mind, but something within us is sincere; that is our regenerated human spirit. The spirit within us often causes us to have a sensation of dissatisfaction about this matter. People today talk about the church mostly in a doctrinal way, but in actuality they do not have the church. They may have a denomination, a group of Christians, a sect, or whatever they call it, but deep within they realize that this is not the genuine church.
Ephesians is not merely doctrinal; it is very practical. Verse 21 of chapter two says, “In whom all the building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord.” To speak of all the building being fitted together may sound doctrinal, but following this verse is verse 22, which says, “In whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in spirit.” When I was young, I was bothered by this verse. I thought it was not necessary because the idea of the building was completed in verse 21. After saying that in Christ all the building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, there seems to be no need to say anything further, but verse 21 goes on to say, “In whom you also.” We should underline the two words you also. Who are the you? It is we as a local church. All the building includes all the Christians, but you also refers to the local saints at Ephesus. This is very practical. Verse 21 may be doctrinal, but we can never consider verse 22 to be doctrinal. You also, the local saints in the place where you are, are being built together.
We are being built together into a dwelling place of God in spirit. According to the context, spirit should have a small s. It does not refer directly to a building in the Holy Spirit; the dwelling place of God in the church today is in our spirit. The building of the local church is in our spirit. This also is very practical.
If we go on from chapter two, we can see that chapter four is even more practical. Verses 11 to 13 say, “And He Himself gave some as apostles and some as prophets and some as evangelists and some as shepherds and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints unto the work of the ministry, unto the building up of the Body of Christ, until we all arrive at the oneness of the faith and of the full knowledge of the Son of God, at a full-grown man, at the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” The church is a collective, corporate entity, the new man. The new man is not an individual man but a corporate one, so the church must arrive at a full-grown man.
Verse 14 continues, “That we may be no longer little children tossed by waves and carried about by every wind of teaching in the sleight of men, in craftiness with a view to a system of error.” This verse speaks of every wind of teaching, not wind of heresy. We should not think that only heresy is a wind to blow us away. Many sound, fundamental, good, and genuine doctrines are also winds to blow us away from the Body and from the Head. Throughout all the centuries the enemy has subtly utilized doctrines to distract the seeking members from the Body life and from the Head.
Verses 15 and 16 say, “But holding to truth in love, we may grow up into Him in all things, who is the Head, Christ.” We grow not only in Christ but into Him. Verse 15 speaks of growing into Him, while verse 16 speaks of something out from Him. Verse 16 says, “Out from whom all the Body, being joined together and being knit together through every joint of the rich supply and through the operation in the measure of each one part, causes the growth of the Body unto the building up of itself in love.” This verse does not speak of something doctrinal; it is very practical.
(Enjoying the Riches of Christ for the Building Up of the Church as the Body of Christ, Chapter 15, by Witness Lee)