THE FATHER’S HOUSE WITH MANY ABODES
In this light, we can realize what “My Father’s house” with many abodes is in 14:2. This house is not a heavenly mansion. Rather, the Father’s house is the mystical Body of Christ with many members, and each member is an abode. Verse 23 also speaks of an abode. This verse says, “Jesus answered and said to him, If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make an abode with him.” Every believer, every regenerated and saved person, is a member of the mystical Body of Christ and an abode in the Father’s house, the Body.
In order to understand the first part of chapter fourteen, we need to take the context of the entire book of John. We cannot cut out the first two verses and interpret the abodes as “heavenly mansions.” By the context of the whole book, we can know the correct meaning of these verses. The Lord is not building a heavenly “hall.” He is building the mystical Body as the house of God with the many members as the many abodes.
We are some of those many abodes. The Lord has brought God into us and us into God to make God one with us and us one with God, to build God into us and to build us into God. This is why the writings of the apostle John often speak of us abiding in God and God abiding in us, or of us being in God and God being in us. It is also in the writings of this writer that we have the holy city as the building of God with the Triune God as its center and life supply. If we take all the works of this writer, we can find the correct meaning of his writings, which is life for the building.
ABIDING IN THE TRIUNE GOD AND DENYING OURSELVES TO KEEP THE ONENESS OF THE BUILDING
We can never have the real building of the church without the proper, adequate experience of life. If we abide in Christ and let Christ abide in us, we will realize the building of the church. Life is for the building, and the building is of life. We must say, “Today I am in the Lord, and He is in me. Moreover, I am abiding in the Lord, and He is abiding in me.” While we say this, however, we should remember that He is the vine and we are one of the branches. Not only do we have something to do with the vine, but we also have something to do with the branches. We are built not only with the Lord, but with the Lord and all the members.
A vine has many branches, yet all the branches are one vine; they are not separated. When they are cut off the vine, they are many separated branches, but when they abide in the vine, they are all one in the vine. If we say that we are abiding in the Lord, we must check whether or not we are one with the other members. If we are not one with the other members, it is doubtful that we are abiding in the Lord. To be sure, in order to abide in the Lord, we must be one with all the other members. When the branches all abide in the Lord, all the branches are one in the vine. This is the reality of the building.
In all the New Testament, John 17 is the unique chapter that deals with the oneness of the church, the Body of Christ. In this chapter, the Lord prays several times that we may be one. According to verses 21-23, it is possible for us to be one only in the Triune God. When we are in the Triune God, we are one, but when we are out of the Triune God, we are separated. To be sure, when you are in God and I am in God, you and I are one, but when we are out of God, we are separated. We can never be one in ourselves. We can be one only in God, in the Lord, and in the Spirit. This is the way to have the building.
I can testify of these things through many experiences. Three brothers—a Cantonese brother, a Mandarin brother, and a modern American brother—cannot always be one; they are three different persons. Many times, however, they are one, not in being Cantonese, Mandarin, or American, but in God. At other times a brother may be stubborn in his peculiar mentality; then the other brothers are frightened of him. They simply cannot get through with him. We may all have had such experiences with the saints. Sometimes I have met some dear brothers who were stubborn, seemingly without sense and logic. At such times I wished for the stubborn brother to be broken so that we could be one in Christ. If someone is too much in himself, we cannot be one with him. Even if we pray together, we may fight. One brother may pray, and afterward another brother may pray something contrary to the first one. If everyone is in himself, and no one is in Christ, living and abiding in the Lord, there is no oneness. Rather, there is separation and individuality.
When we deny ourselves, we are in the Spirit, and when another brother denies himself, he is in the same Spirit. Then wonderfully and spontaneously we are one in the Lord. The Mandarin, the Cantonese, and the American all recognize that they have been put on the cross, and they all realize that they are in the resurrection of the Lord. We are in the resurrection, the resurrected Lord is in us, and we have Him as our life. We realize this fact and stand on it, denying ourselves. Then how wonderful it is! We are one in the resurrection life and in the resurrected Lord. We are built together, not by teachings or doctrine but by the death and resurrection of the Lord. In the death and resurrection of the Lord, we are built up together as one in the Lord Himself. There is no other way for us to realize the real building of the church.
This is why whenever we meet with the saints as the church, we must not insist on anything. This means that we must put ourselves aside and put ourselves away. We must forget about ourselves. If we all do this, the issue will be that we are all in the resurrection of the Lord, we are all in the Spirit, and we are all one in the Lord. Then the Lord will come out, not according to you, me, or anyone else, but according to Himself, the crucified and resurrected Lord. We have been put on the cross, and now it is the Lord who lives within us. This is the only way for the Lord to build up the church. There is no other way. It is not by discussion or by teaching. The more teachings we have, the more divisions we have, and the more discussions we have, the more opinions and the more divisions we have. The oneness of the divine building is possible only by our experience of the death and resurrection of the Lord. It is the cross and the resurrected Christ that bring us into God and bring God into us. It is by this death and resurrection that the Lord builds God and us in one another. This is the building of God.
As we shall see, the writers of the Acts and the Epistles also show us something concerning the building. Many times what they say is that the building is in spirit. It is in spirit and through the Spirit that we are built together as one in the Lord.
The divine building is the one Body, the one church, the one Bethel, the one corporate testimony of the Lord Himself. Eventually, there is the New Jerusalem as the completion. The New Jerusalem is not a physical place but a living composition of all of the living, redeemed ones in God, through the Spirit, having Christ as their life.
May the Lord reveal more and more to us concerning this building. I leave you with these two words: life and building. Life is for the building, and the building is of life. Life is the Lord Himself, and the building is the issue of the experience of the Lord as life. The more we experience the Lord as life, the more we realize the divine building among us.
Here I can give you only a brief hint concerning these matters. If you spend more time in considering these things, you will be very clear that after God’s creation, His intention is to work Himself into man and to work man into Himself to make man His abode and to make Himself man’s abode. The way for God to accomplish this is by the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ. By incarnation He came to impart Himself to man, and by His death and resurrection He went back to God to bring man into Himself. Now we can say that God is in us and we are in God, and we are abiding in God and God is abiding in us. We are one with God, and God is one with us. Now we and God, God and we, are a mutual abode for one another. As long as we realize that we have been crucified on the cross, and we realize the resurrection of the Lord, then we are in the spirit, and we are one with one another in the Lord as one corporate Body. This is the building of God.
(The Building of God, Chapter 3, by Witness Lee)