THE DEEPER EXPERIENCE OF CHRIST
Now that we have seen the verses related to Christ in 2 Corinthians, we can realize that every aspect in this Epistle is absolutely a matter of experience. In 1 Corinthians we saw that there are four lines: the line of Christ, the line of the gifts, the line of the spirit, and the line of the church. In 2 Corinthians the line of Christ is greatly enriched and developed in experience. We can also see the line of the spirit and the line of the church in 2 Corinthians. But the line of the gifts is not here. Healings, miracles, speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues, and knowledge are not mentioned in 2 Corinthians.
The Lord did use Paul to perform some miracles, but the Lord would not perform a miracle to remove the thorn in his flesh. The Lord kept the thorn with Paul so that he might learn to experience the Lord’s sufficient grace. A husband might ask the Lord to change his wife, but the Lord would keep his wife the same so that he might learn to experience Christ as grace. If the Lord changed this brother’s wife, there would be no opportunity for him to experience the Lord as the sufficient grace. Do you want to have a better wife or the sufficient grace? The Lord allows our spouse, our children, and our entire environment to trouble us so that we will have the chance to experience Christ as the sufficient grace.
There are no miraculous things in 2 Corinthians because this is a book on the deeper experience of Christ. When we are in the elementary stage, we may desire the gifts, but when we are advanced in Christ, we care for the deeper experiences of Christ. Second Corinthians does not speak of miracles and gifts increasing with us. Instead, it speaks of Christ increasing within us all the time through many sufferings.
Everything in 2 Corinthians has been developed in a deeper way, and all of the outward teachings and gifts are over. I am not saying that the gifts are unnecessary or that the teachings are useless. They are good for the beginning. But once something has been started through the teachings and gifts, you have to be turned from them. Doctrinal teachings and gifts will divide.
If our gifts are steadily increasing, after a short time we will be divided by these increasing gifts. Gifts are good for the start. But once you have the start through the gifts, you have to be turned to the indwelling Christ. In 2 Corinthians there are no more gifts. There is just the indwelling Christ to be wrought into us through hardships, trials, troubles, and sufferings. If we mean business with the Lord and go along with the Lord, we will experience Him through sufferings, hardships, and trials.
We can never be divided by the experience of Christ in the spirit, but it is easy to be divided by teachings and gifts. If we pay our attention to increasing the gifts, there is the danger that these increased gifts will become dividers to divide us. Then the local church can never be built up. This is why in 2 Corinthians the gifts are not increasing but they are terminated. Instead, Christ is developing and increasing all the time. This is the way that we can have the real growth in life for the local church to be built up.
The increase of teachings and gifts is not the growth in life. The growth in life is absolutely something of Christ being developed within you and experienced by you. The Body of Christ is built up with the increase and development of Christ, not with the increase of doctrine or with the development of the gifts. May the Lord have mercy upon us that we would be willing to turn away from the elementary gifts. The gifts are elementary things good for the beginning. Once something has been started, we need to turn away from the start to the real experience of Christ Himself.
(The Experience of Christ as Life for the Building Up of the Church, Chapter 7, by Witness Lee)