Godliness Being Manifested
in Different Persons in Different Ways
Suppose that we all live by Christ in such a way that we are filled with the riches of Christ unto the fullness of God. We have the growth of life with the living reality of godliness. In this case, will we all be the same? Since we all have God-likeness, the living reality of godliness, it seems that we would be the same. However, godliness is God manifested in man. God Himself is the same, but with the manifestation of God in man there is a difference. The manifestation of God in man differs with different people. We can see God manifested in Peter in one way and in Paul in another way. In all the apostles we can see the manifestation of God, but the manifestation differs with different persons.
We all appreciate the way the apostle Paul was. A small brother may think that he should imitate Paul in order to have the likeness of God, but this is to have merely the form of godliness. When I was seriously ill in 1943, there was an elderly co-worker, Sister Wong. She was very much with the Lord and came from Shanghai purposely to see me. She gave a great deal of help to the brothers and especially to the sisters. As such a sister in the Lord, she no doubt had a certain kind of appearance. After she stayed among us for about two weeks, all the young sisters began to imitate her. She spoke in a certain way, so all the young sisters learned to speak in the same way. After I recovered, I gave a message to these sisters to tell them that this is not godliness. It is merely a kind of imitation, a form. I told them that they should simply be genuine. They should learn to open themselves to the Lord so that He can fill them. Then with each of them He would come out in His own way. All the manifestations would be of the Lord, but the manifestations would be different. Again I say, the growth of life is simply the increase, expanding, and spreading of Christ. It is not anything with only a form.
ZEAL IN SERVICE
There is also a difference between the growth of life and zeal in service. Acts 22:3 proves that zeal is something different from Christ as life. Paul said of himself that before he received Christ, he was “trained at the feet of Gamaliel, according to the strictness of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God, even as you all are today.” Paul was without Christ, yet he was zealous. Nearly all the Jews at that time were zealous without Christ. What then is the real zeal? It is the burning of Christ. When we open to Christ and let Him come in to fill us, He is the burning One. Not only will He flow out of us, but He will burn us and cause us to be burning to burn others. The more we contact Him and are filled with Him, the more we are burned, and the more we will be burning.
The real zeal comes not from the soul but from the spirit, as Romans 12:11 says, “Do not be slothful in zeal, but be burning in spirit, serving the Lord.” How can we be burning in spirit? This requires that we open to the Lord from the depths of our being, from our spirit, and let the Lord fill us from within. Then we will be burned in the spirit, and we will be zealous, fervent, in the spirit.
We must learn how to differentiate between a person who is merely fervent and zealous in the service to God from a person who is filled with Christ, burned by Christ, and burning in spirit. This zeal, this burning, must be Christ Himself. Again, this is the real growth of life. We may have Christ as life within but not have the growth of life. If we have the growth of life, we will be burned by Him, and we will become burning. This is the real zeal for service.
THE INCREASE OF KNOWLEDGE
We must also see the difference between the growth of life and the increase of knowledge. Knowledge is not life. Today in Christianity there is too much knowledge. Comparatively speaking, many people have too much knowledge, although they know too little of what they need to know. There is too little genuine life. Mere knowledge is teaching and doctrines, whereas life is Christ Himself. As we have clearly seen, the growth of life is the increase and expanding of Christ, not the increase of knowledge. Knowledge is something in the soul, but life is something in the spirit. If we subtract the knowledge that is merely in the soul, then whatever is left must be in the spirit.
The first Epistle to the Corinthians deals with this matter. What the Corinthians had was merely knowledge in the soul. Therefore, this book tells us that knowledge puffs up (8:1). All those Corinthian believers were soulish, having much knowledge in their soul. Therefore, the apostle Paul exhorted them to exercise not their soul but their spirit, not to learn more knowledge but to contact the Lord more and more. It is in this book that he says, “He who is joined to the Lord is one spirit” (6:17). The soul is something full of knowledge, but the spirit is full of Christ. In this book we have the contrast between Christ and knowledge. Christ is the very life in the spirit, and all else is merely knowledge in the soul. Whatever we know, regardless of what it is, even the knowledge about God, may be mere knowledge in the soul. The Corinthians considered that they knew many things, so the apostle Paul dealt with them to tell them that whatever they knew was only in the way of knowledge in the soul. Rather, what they needed was the real experience of Christ as life in the spirit.
Knowledge is something in the soul, whereas life is something in the spirit. Whatever we have in the soul is only knowledge. We may even have much knowledge in the soul about Christ, but what we need is not to open our mentality to knowledge but to open our spirit to the Lord. Today we need one thing: to open ourselves to the Lord, to contact Him, and to let Him come in to fill us, saturate us, and make His home in us that we may be filled not with the knowledge of God but unto all the fullness of God. This is the one thing we stress in these days.
(Dealing with Our Inward Parts for the Growth in Life, Chapter 6, by Witness Lee)