CHRIST AS THE CONTENT
OF THE CHURCH FOR HIS EXPRESSION
Scripture Reading: Eph. 1:22-23; 3:10, 14-19
THE FIRST MAIN POINT OF THE CHURCH LIFE
Christ is the first main point of the church life. This means that Christ is the life of the church, the content of the church, and everything in the church. Also, the church is the expression of Christ. We need a full understanding of this matter. The church is not a religion but a living expression of Christ. We are not here to teach people how to be moral, to be good, or to behave in a better way. We are for ministering and imparting Christ into people and for bringing people into the Body of Christ to be built up as a living expression. This is absolutely different from our human concept. Of course, if we have Christ as our life to be His living expression, we will behave in the best way, having the highest standard of morality. But as the Body of Christ, we are not for the mere expression of morality. We are not for good behavior. We are for expressing Christ.
The four Gospels show us that while Christ was on earth, He undoubtedly was a good man, even the best man. But this good man was different from all the other good men on this earth. Confucius was a good man, but you do not have the sense of the presence of God or of the expression of God in his life. But when you read the life of Christ in the Gospels, you have the sense of God’s presence and of God’s expression. His life was not a mere expression of morality but an expression of God and of God’s heart. He was a good man, not as an expression of morality but as an expression of God. Today the church must be good. The members of the church must have the highest standard of morality and of ethics, but our business is not to express morality or ethics. Our business and responsibility are to express Christ.
Our goodness must be Christ and the expression of Christ. Surely we should not be proud. We need to be humble, but our humility must be Christ. We have to honor and respect our parents, but this must not be a mere expression of honor or of our ethics. Our honor to our parents must be the expression of Christ. It should not be something out of us naturally but something out of Christ spiritually.
We need to deny ourselves so that we do not live by ourselves but take Christ as our life and live by Christ (Matt. 16:24; Gal. 2:20; Phil. 1:20-21). We live by Christ to our parents, and this Christ is our honor to them. Thus, the honoring of our parents is an expression of Christ as our life lived out through us. This revelation is missing today among the Lord’s children. Most Christian teachers cannot differentiate between goodness as the expression of Christ and goodness in itself. Since we desire to take the way of the Lord’s recovery, we must be very clear that Christ as our content is the first main item of the church life. Christ is the life, the content, and everything in the church life, and the church is the expression of Christ.
CHRIST AS THE INWARD REALITY
AND CONTENT OF THE CHURCH
Ephesians 3:10 says that through the church the multifarious wisdom of God is made known to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenlies. This is something as an outward expression to show forth God’s multifarious wisdom, but this does not reveal to us the inward reality and content of the church. In order to see this inward aspect, we need to go on from the first part of Ephesians 3 to the last part. The last part shows us the inward reality and content of the church (vv. 14-19). In addition to the outward manifestation, we need the inward reality. The second part of Ephesians 3 is the heart, the central point, of the entire book of Ephesians.
Verse 16 says that our inner man, our regenerated spirit, needs to be strengthened. This is a condition, a term, for Christ’s working within us. When our inner man is strengthened, Christ can make His home in our hearts (v. 17). Christ came into our spirit, and our spirit has been regenerated, made alive. But to be alive is one thing, and to be strong is another thing. Whether or not our regenerated spirit has been strengthened is a problem. Many Christians do not have a strong spirit. Their spirit has not been strengthened. This is why the apostle Paul prayed for the strengthening of our inner man, our regenerated spirit. This is the condition that must be fulfilled for Christ to make His home in our hearts.
Our heart is composed of all the parts of our soul—the mind, emotion, and will—plus the conscience, a part of our spirit (Heb. 4:12; John 16:6, 22; Acts 11:23; Heb. 10:22). Christ came first into our spirit (2 Tim. 4:22). Now He is looking for the opportunity to spread out of our spirit to saturate our mind, emotion, and will so that He can settle down in our heart. Christ desires not only to indwell our spirit but also to settle down in all the parts of our soul to occupy our whole human heart. When our spirit is strengthened, Christ has the open and free way to spread out of our spirit into every part of our heart. Thus, all the parts of our inward being are filled with Christ.
Eventually, according to verse 19, we will be “filled unto all the fullness of God.” First, there is the strengthening of the inner man. Second, Christ makes His home in our hearts, occupying our whole being. Third, our whole being is filled unto all the fullness of God. When all the members of the church are such people, we will be full of strength to apprehend the breadth, length, height, and depth (v. 18). This means that we will realize the unlimited, immeasurable dimensions of Christ.
If we desire to know Christ as the content of the church, we must know the second part of Ephesians 3. When we want to minister something concerning Christ as the content of the church, we have to minister from this portion of the Word. Chapter 1 shows that Christ has been made Head over all things to the church, His Body (vv. 22-23). Then the first part of chapter 3 says that through the church, Christ as the multifarious wisdom of God will be manifested to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenlies. But how can Christ be made known through the church? How can He be the real Head to the church? In order to answer these questions, we have to come to the second part of Ephesians 3. This is the central point, the heart, of the entire book of Ephesians.
Since we have been regenerated in our spirit, our spirit has to be strengthened by the Holy Spirit with power so that Christ may have the free way to saturate our whole being. He wants to spread from our spirit into every part of our soul, thus occupying and making His home in our whole being. Then our whole being will be filled with the reality of Christ unto all the fullness of God to make us the living expression of Christ. The fullness of God implies that the riches of all that God is have become His expression. When the riches of God are in God Himself, they are His riches. But when the riches of God are expressed, they become His fullness (John 1:16).
THE CHURCH BEING THE PURE EXPRESSION OF CHRIST
We need to stress that since Christ is the life, content, and everything to the church, the church must be purely the expression of Christ, not of anything else. The church should not be the expression of any teaching or gift but just the expression of Christ. This is why there is not much teaching in the book of Ephesians. If we were asked to write something about the church, we might write a long book with many chapters of doctrine. But Ephesians, a book on the church, has only six chapters. This is because the church is the expression of Christ—not of Christ in doctrine but of Christ Himself. This is why the miraculous gifts are not mentioned in the book of Ephesians. Instead, what is seen are the living person of Christ and His living Body with His living members. Even the gift of teaching is not mentioned in the book of Ephesians. We have the Teacher, not the teaching. We have to realize that the Teacher is different from the teaching.
In the Body of Christ, His living members express Christ and nothing else. The Body is the fullness of Christ as the One who fills all in all (1:23). Christ must be the very fullness within us, settling down within us to make His home in us as our everything by occupying, saturating, and permeating our whole being. Thus, the church becomes a pure expression of Christ and nothing else. We have to see this vision clearly.
Many so-called churches today give people the impression of healing, teaching, or speaking in tongues. These gifts become a replacement of the Body of Christ. When you come among some Christians, you may have the impression that they are very dogmatic. They are always determining the difference between wrong doctrine and right doctrine, giving others the impression that they are for a certain kind of teaching. This is all wrong. We must give people the impression that we are for nothing but Christ. When people come to our meetings, they must have the impression that we are standing for Christ Himself, not only in terminology but in reality. This should be our atmosphere and the impression which we give others. We need to reconsider the book of Ephesians. This book does not give us the impression of doctrines or gifts, but only of Christ.
We have to make it clear that Christ is the life of the church, the content of the church, and everything to the church. Thus, the church must be the unique and pure expression of Christ and nothing else. Then we need to know how we can have Christ as our life and content. We need to see the detailed items in the New Testament of Christ being our content. The book of Acts shows us that Christ was the content of the early church, and the church was the expression of Christ. The Old Testament types also show us Christ as the content and the church as His expression. He is the reality of all the offerings and of the rich produce of the good land for our enjoyment. He is also the real Ark as the very content of the tabernacle. The tabernacle is the expression, and the Ark is the content. In the abnormal situation the Ark as the reality and content was not within the tabernacle. Whenever we minister the word, we have to stress Christ as the content of the church and the church as the expression of Christ. We have much to experience and much to learn in ministering along this line. We have to learn how to minister Christ as the content of the church and the church as the expression of Christ.
(Christ as the Content of the Church and the Church as the Expression of Christ, Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)