THE WAY TO HAVE THE INCREASE OF CHRIST
In chapter 3, however, we cannot see the way to have the increase of Christ. The way is revealed in chapter 12. John 12:20 to 23 says, “There were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the feast. These then came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, Sir, we wish to see Jesus. Philip came and told Andrew; Andrew came, and Philip too, and they told Jesus. And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” If we stop here, we may think that to be glorified is to be put on the throne. We have to realize the situation. All the people at this time welcomed Jesus. They rendered the biggest, warmest welcome to Him. Even the Gentiles, the Greeks, came to greet Him and the disciples, such as Philip, Andrew, and the others. I believe that they must have been excited. If you and I had been there, we would have been excited. This was something that never had happened in those three and a half years. However, while the disciples were excited and came to tell it to the Lord, He said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”
Verse 24 says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, Unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it abides alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Fruit here refers to the many grains. To be glorified is to undergo the process of death and resurrection. Verses 25 and 26 continue, “He who loves his soul-life loses it; and he who hates his soul-life in this world shall keep it unto eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there also My servant will be. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.” Then verses 32 and 33 say, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself. But He said this signifying by what kind of death He was about to die.” Do not think that to be lifted up is to be enthroned. Rather, this lifting up was His being put to death. John 12 reveals the way of increase. The increase of Christ is brought forth and produced by the process of death and resurrection.
THE PREACHING OF THE GOSPEL
BEING FOR THE INCREASE OF CHRIST
In these portions of the Word there is the real preaching and outreach of the gospel. First, we must point out that the real meaning of the outreach of the gospel is the increase of Christ. The preaching, the furtherance, of the gospel is the increase of Christ. The real preaching causes Christ to be increased. This is not merely my thought or concept. This is the thought even of John the Baptist. The disciples of John were with John and for John. They wanted to see people following John, but they saw something different, that is, that people came to Jesus instead of John. Therefore they became jealous, and one day they came to John and said, “Rabbi,...He is baptizing and all are coming to Him” (3:26). Their tone was one of jealousy. Then John seemed to answer, “I told you clearly from the first day that I am not the Christ. I am just a voice for Christ. He is the Christ, and He is the One who will have the bride.”
Whether or not those poor disciples understood John’s word, we have to understand it. All the people who came to Christ and received something of Him eventually became the bride of Christ. The bride is the composition of all the people who receive Christ. Therefore, John could say, “Do not be jealous. I am the baptizer, not the bridegroom. He is the Bridegroom. It is right for all the people to go to Him, because He is the One who will have the bride.” Then John said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” When we read these two words together, bride and increase, we spontaneously can understand that the bride is the increase, and the increase is the bride.
To preach the gospel is to bring people to Christ. Regrettably, however, many Christians today do not realize that to bring people to Christ is to have Christ increased. In our gospel preaching have we ever had the thought that we are bringing people to be part of the bride of Christ, that we are bringing people for the increase of Christ? For more than twenty years I did not have the thought that gospel preaching is a matter of Christ being increased and of more people being added to the bride of Christ. In John 3 the gospel is for the increase of Christ. This is not the gospel of going to heaven. Many in Christianity have the thought that because people are pitiful and will go to hell after they die, they must realize that God loves them and sent His Son to save them and bring them to heaven. However, we should listen to the first evangelist, John the Baptist. In the Bible there is the principle of the first mention; the first time anything is mentioned, that sets the principle for that thing. The first evangelist told us that to bring people to Christ is to increase Christ and constitute the bride of Christ.
The more I remained with the Lord considering these messages, the more I felt from the Lord that the dear brothers and sisters must be helped to realize that the real gospel preaching is the increase of Christ, and the real outreach of the gospel that brings people to Christ is to compose the bride of Christ. From now on, when we are going out to preach the gospel, we have to change our attitude. We have to have our concept transformed. The gospel is not merely to save the fallen sinners; it is to have Christ increased. It is to bring in more of the parts of the bride of Christ. This is very basic, because if we do not realize what the true meaning of gospel preaching is, we will take the wrong way in our preaching.
(Preaching the Gospel in the Way of Life, Chapter 12, by Witness Lee)