THE GOAL OF CHRIST’S DEATH
In Ephesians 5:25 Paul says that Christ "loved the church and gave Himself up for her." This indicates that when Christ died on the cross, He gave himself up for the church. The goal of His death was the producing of the church. When we were saved, we realized that Christ loved us and died for us. There is, of course, nothing wrong with this realization. However, we also need to see that Christ loved us and died for us so that we could be part of the church. Ultimately, He loved the church and died in order to produce the church. Christ’s love manifested in His death on the cross had a definite goal. This goal is not to have millions of individual believers; it is to have the church. Christ loves us for the sake of the church. He loved us and died for us so that we may be members of His Body, the church.
THE PURPOSE OF THE GIFTS
Ephesians 4:11 and 12 say that Christ "gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some shepherds and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints unto the work of ministry, unto the building up of the Body of Christ." Christ has not presented such gifts to the church for the purpose of accomplishing a work of evangelism, Bible teaching, or edification. All these gifts have been given for the purpose of perfecting the saints for the building up of the Body. The apostles, prophets, evangelists, and shepherds and teachers have been given with a view to one goal: to perfect the saints for the building up of the church. However, in much of today’s Christian work and activity the church is neglected. Therefore, we need to be impressed with the importance of the church. According to Ephesians, God’s purpose is related to the church, and He has given all the gifts for the building up of the church.
BECOMING SONS FOR THE BODY
Matthew 16 also indicates the importance of the church. In 16:15 the Lord said to His disciples, "But you, who do you say that I am?" Peter took the lead to answer, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (v. 16). Peter received the revelation that Jesus was the Christ, the One appointed by God to accomplish God’s commission. No doubt, this commission is related to the building up of the church. Peter saw that the Lord Jesus was both the Christ and the Son of the living God. As the Son of the living God, the Lord produces the many sons of God who are the members of the Body. The Body of Christ cannot be built with the natural man. On the contrary, His Body can be built only with those who have been regenerated to become sons of God.
When we believed in the Lord Jesus, we received Him as the Son of the living God, not only as the Savior and the Redeemer. Most Christians realize that at the time they were saved they received Christ as the Savior and Redeemer, but not many realize that they also received Him as the Son of the living God. When I was converted to Christ, I did not have this realization. Our Savior, Jesus Christ, is the Son of the living God. The significance of this title of Christ is that He is the One who makes us sons of God. Through receiving Christ as the Son of God, we also have become sons of God.
According to the book of Romans, all those who have been justified through faith in Christ are members of the Body of Christ. However, in order to be members of the Body, we must firstly become sons of God; that is, we must firstly be "son-ized." For this reason, sonship is mentioned in chapter eight of Romans, whereas the Body is mentioned in chapter twelve. Only through becoming sons of God can we become members of the Body of Christ.
(The Genuine Ground of Oneness, Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)