THE CHURCH BEING THE BODY, AND THE BODY BEING THE FULLNESS
What is the Body? The Body is the fullness of Christ. In doctrine the church is the Body, but as to reality there is still a question of how much element of the Body is there. Brothers and sisters, we should not condemn others; we must see our own condition. At this time we all must confess in the light of the Lord that even we ourselves up to this day may live only thirty percent by the Spirit, leaving seventy percent that we live by ourselves. Have you seen this? This is the Lord’s need today. The Lord does not merely need a church in each locality; He needs a Body. As soon as we do not live by Christ, as soon as we are not living by the Spirit, we are not the Body. In name we are still the church, but in reality we are not the Body. Why? Because the Body is the fullness of Christ.
Do not forget the word is in Ephesians 1:23: “[The church] is His Body, the fullness of the One who fills all in all.” This means that the church is the Body, and the Body is the fullness. These two levels of “is” are in succession rather than in parallel. It is not that on the one hand the church is the Body, while on the other hand the church is the fullness. Rather, it is that the church is the Body, and the Body is the fullness. According to doctrine, the fullness equals the Body, and the Body equals the church. But according to reality, a man can be in the church and still not live in the Body. All the brothers and sisters who meet in Hong Kong are in the church, but who is living in the Body? This becomes a big question mark. Strictly speaking, that which can fulfill God’s eternal purpose is not the church in name but the Body. The Body is the fullness of Christ. I repeat that if you look from this angle and measure with this yardstick, you will see that today on earth in the churches there is not much of the element of the Body.
THE NEED FOR THE MEASURE OF THE STATURE OF THE FULLNESS OF CHRIST
Ephesians 4:13 goes one step further; there is not only the fullness of Christ but also the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. The phrase the measure of the stature includes two concepts: one is the stature and the other is the measure of that stature. For example, if you look at Brother Chang, you can see that his stature is tall and big. This stature certainly has a measure. The combination of these two things is called “the measure of the stature.” The fullness of Christ has a stature, and this stature has a measure. Simply speaking, it is called “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” If Brother Chang stands before us, we can see his body. We all have learned to say that this body is the fullness of Brother Chang. Moreover, his fullness has a stature, and this stature has a measure. Let us say, for example, that he is six feet two inches tall and over two feet wide; this measure is the measure of his stature. This is called “the measure of the stature of the fullness.”
However, let us suppose that Brother Chang has not yet arrived at the measure of the stature of his fullness and that he is only four feet five inches tall and fourteen inches across the shoulders. In this case you would see that there is a lack in him. When you read Ephesians 4:13, you can see that the church as the Body of Christ does not become full instantly; instead, it grows continually. Do not forget that 4:13 first says, “Until we all arrive…at a full-grown man.” A full-grown man is a man with the measure of the stature of his fullness. Now Brother Chang is a full-grown man, a man with the measure of the stature of his fullness; he is six feet two inches tall and over two feet wide. However, has the church in Taipei today arrived at a full-grown man? It has not. Has the church in Taipei arrived at the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ? It has not. Suppose the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ is eighteen feet tall, but the church in Taipei is only nine feet tall. Then it still lacks one half the height.
Please remember that the shorter the measure of the stature of Christ is, the more opinions everyone has. The lack in the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ indicates that the believers are more in their natural man. Once the believers stay in their natural man, they are full of opinions. Now the church in Taipei is “nine feet tall,” but if in the next six months it grows to ten feet tall, that would mean that the natural aspect has been reduced by one foot. When the natural aspect reduces by one foot, then the spiritual aspect increases by one foot. If in another year the church is twelve feet tall and after another year it is thirteen feet tall, that would mean that the spiritual aspect has kept increasing while the natural aspect has kept decreasing.
In any case, the measure of the stature of the fullness is not attained in an instant; it needs to grow. We must grow! First this verse says that “we all arrive…at a full-grown man,” then verse 14 says that “we may be no longer little children,” and verse 15 says, “But holding to truth in love, we may grow up into Him in all things, who is the Head, Christ.” This measure of the stature requires growth.
We all know that the measure of the stature of a child needs growth. I have a small grandson who was born in January of this year. When Sister Lee and I went to visit him, he was pitifully small. But when we went again in October, in those few months he had grown from a small baby to a naughty little child who could greet us and make faces at us. This little child grew much in just a few months. We may illustrate our problem in this way: Some churches were a certain height when I visited them ten years ago. Then on a visit eight years ago they had shrunk a little, and on another visit three years ago they had grown about one-half of an inch, but on my visit last year they had again shrunk two and one-half inches. How can they become shorter and shorter? Does this not make us disappointed? If I were to go next year and find that my small grandson is shorter than he is this year, I would be disappointed and angry. I would not dare to throw him out, but I would surely not be happy. However, if I go next year and see that he has grown at least five inches, as his grandfather I would be very happy and want to come again and again.
Therefore, do not think that we have only Ephesians 1:23: “[The church] is His Body, the fullness of the One who fills all in all.” You still must go on until you come to 4:13: “Until we all arrive…at a full-grown man, at the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” We must grow. How do we grow? We grow by putting off the old man and putting on the new man. That is to say, we grow by putting aside our natural man. Instead of living by our natural man, we live by Christ and in the spirit. This is the way we grow. Every day we put off our natural being and live in the spirit. There is no natural person here; only Christ is here. We are all one in Christ. What the Lord wants today is not only the churches on the ground of locality—one locality, one church—but also the Body as His fullness. What the Lord wants today is the Body, the fullness.
(One Body, One Spirit, and One New Man, Chapter 3, by Witness Lee)