THE CONSTITUTION OF THE BODY OF CHRIST AND TRANSFORMATION IN LIFE FOR THE BUILDING UP
A few words have been particularly selected for use in this book. The first is the word constitution. We use this word not to denote the constitution of some sort of organization; rather, we use it to denote something that is constituted with particular constituents. The church as the Body of Christ is not a formation or an organization but a constitution that has been constituted with the Christ of life as its very constituent. My burden is to help the saints see that the Body of Christ is a constitution, constituted with the Triune God embodied in Christ as the life element.
But the church has not only been constituted with Christ as its element; it is also being built up by the transformation in life. Therefore, we intend to cover two things in this book: (1) the constitution of the Body of Christ and (2) transformation for the building up of the Body of Christ. I would like you all to be impressed with these two words, constitution and transformation.
THE CONSTITUTION OF THE BODY OF CHRIST WITH THE ALL-INCLUSIVE CHRIST AS THE LIFE ELEMENT
In this chapter we want to see the constitution of the Body of Christ with the all-inclusive Christ as the life element. These words may seem quite common in English, but the expression life element is not so common. What is the life element with which the church has been constituted? We must see that the church as the Body of Christ has been constituted not with a simple Christ but with the all-inclusive Christ as the life element.
I. CHRIST, THE TRIUNE GOD EMBODIED
IN HUMANITY AS THE SOURCE OF LIFE,
SIGNIFIED BY THE TREE OF LIFE
This all-inclusive Christ is the embodiment of the Triune God (Col. 2:9). We all know God is invisible and very abstract and mysterious. It is difficult for anyone to tell us who God is, how God is, what God is, or where God is. Who can do this? I do not believe anyone can do this. But such a God, the Triune God, has been embodied in the flesh in a visible man (John 1:14). Christ is this man. Who then is Christ? Christ is the very Triune God embodied in a man of flesh.
This Christ as the embodiment of the Triune God is the source of life, and as the source of life, He is signified by the tree of life (Gen. 2:9; Rev. 2:7; 22:2). To read the Bible is not so easy. The Bible is not a simple book. It has many plain words, but it also has many figures of speech. One of these figures is the tree of life. Have you ever heard of such a tree? We have heard of peach trees, apple trees, and hundreds of other trees, but we may have never heard of a life tree. Yet in the Bible there is such a thing as the life tree, the tree of life.
Have you noticed that in the Gospel of John the Lord Jesus told us that He is a tree (John 15:1, 5)? But He is not a pine tree, shooting into the sky so high that nobody can touch Him. He is a vine tree, not shooting up but spreading out. In a sense He is great and He is vast, yet He is also very low. He is not shooting into the air but spreading out on the earth. Even a little one can touch Him. He is great and He is spreading, yet He is low. This is what He told us in John 15.
Then elsewhere in the Gospel of John, the Lord told us that He is life (11:25; 14:6). He is a tree and He is life, and if you put these two together, you have a life tree, a tree of life. Christ is the life tree.
According to Genesis 2 the trees in the garden of Eden were good for food (v. 9). The tree of life was no exception to this; it also was good for food. We eat from all sorts of trees for the purpose of nourishing ourselves. But do you realize that we need another kind of tree? We need the life tree, which is God embodied in Christ. A picture or a figure is always better than a thousand words. In this figure Christ presents Himself to us as a tree, not a pine tree but a vine tree, spreading Himself before us. This indicates that we should eat Him. The first crucial figure in the Bible is the tree of life, signifying God Himself as life. We can call Him the life tree, and we can also call Him the God tree. The tree of life is the tree of God. We must realize that this tree of life is God Himself. Without this tree we would never know that our God is the life tree, the God tree.
(The Constitution and the Building Up of the Body of Christ, Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)