THE RESURRECTION OF THE OLD TESTAMENT SAINTS
Question: Since you went back, I have been reading two chapters of the Bible a day. Matthew 27:52 says, "And the tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised." This is the resurrection of the dead saints. But there is a record in another place of the Bible which says that Christ is the firstborn from the dead. How could some get resurrected before the Lord Jesus died? Please explain. (Chien, Changchou)
Answer: The Bible only considers Christ as the firstfruit of resurrection (1 Cor. 15:20), but He was not the first person who resurrected. In the Old Testament, Elisha raised the dead. When the Lord Jesus was on earth, He raised at least three persons from the dead. The resurrection of these saints should not be considered as something strange. The meaning of Christ being the firstfruit is that He is the only One who had His kind of resurrection.
THE HUSBAND IN ROMANS 7
Question: What does "the husband" in Romans 7:2-3 refer to? I have heard some say that it refers to the "old self"—the flesh, whereas others say that it refers to the "law." (Lee, Chefoo)
Answer: It refers to the passions for sins in the flesh. We are the "woman," and the "passions for sins" (v. 5) is the "husband." When the husband is living, the woman is bound by the law (v. 2). When the passions for sins are living, we are bound by the law (vv. 5-6). The passions for sins become dead through the body of Christ. In this way, the law also becomes dead (v. 4), and we are free.
SEVENTY-FIVE OR SEVENTY
Question: How do you explain the "seventy-five souls" in Acts 7:14 and the seventy souls in Genesis 46:27? (Lee, Chefoo)
Answer: The seventy souls is the number of the house of Jacob (Gen. 46:27), which are "his sons, and his sons’ sons with him, his daughters, and his sons’ daughters, and all his seed" (v. 7). The "seventy-five souls" includes all of Jacob’s relatives. Acts 7:14 is the number for "all his family," which in the original language means "relatives." Thus, there were five more relatives. It was reasonable to include them. Therefore, the two passages do not contradict one another.
ABRAHAM AND JACOB
Question: Genesis 33:18-19 and Joshua 24:32 both speak about Jacob buying a parcel of a field from Hamor. Why in Acts 7:16 does it say that Abraham did it? Please explain. (Lee, Chefoo)
Answer: Acts 7:16 is in harmony with Genesis 50:13. According to Genesis 49:29-32 and 50:13, Jacob was buried in the parcel of land that Abraham bought. Acts 7:16 was right on this point. However, in between Abraham’s purchasing of the land (Gen. 23) and Jacob’s purchasing of the land, there were about eighty years. During those eighty years, the landlord came again to take over the land; Jacob did not fight with him, but repurchased the same land that his grandfather had bought. The land which Jacob purchased was the same lot Abraham bought; Shechem’s father and Ephron were both Hamor’s descendants. These two points are explained clearly in Acts 7:16. Therefore, there is no contradiction here.
FOUR HUNDRED THIRTY YEARS
Question: How do you explain the "four hundred years" in Genesis 15:13 and Acts 7:6, and the "four hundred thirty years" in Exodus 12:40? (Lee, Chefoo)
Answer: The Israelites "dwelt" in Egypt for four hundred thirty years (Exo. 12:40). However, during the first thirty years, they lived in peace. During those four hundred thirty years, they were only afflicted four hundred years. These two portions are in perfect harmony.
THE PROPHECY OF JACOB
Question: How do you explain Genesis 49:3-27? (Lee, Chefoo)
Answer: Genesis 49 is Jacob’s blessing for the twelve tribes of Israel. Moses’ blessing in Deuteronomy 33 stresses God’s purpose more, whereas the emphasis here is on their experience. This chapter is divided into four sections, with every three tribes comprising a section. In Reuben, Simeon, and Levi, we see man’s natural condition. In Zebulun, Issachar, and Dan we see that, although God has the blessings, there are still forces that pull one away from Him. In Gad, Asher, and Naphtali, we see the result of salvation. In Judah, Joseph, and Benjamin, we see Christ. Verses 5 through 7 speak of Simeon and Levi’s cruelty; chapter thirty-four is one example of it. Verse 7 was eventually fully fulfilled. Nothing more needs to be said of Levi. For Simeon, see Joshua 19:1-9. Verses 8 through 12 speak of Judah’s kingship. David came from this tribe. Shiloh is Christ. Verses 11 and 12 show the state of the millennial kingdom, where Christ will reign. Verse 13 speaks of Zebulun’s commerce. Verses 14 to 15 speak of Issachar’s love for a quiet life and hard labor. Verse 16 is Dan’s latter state. Verse 17 is related to his apostasy. Verse 18 is Jacob’s prayer. Verse 19 is Gad’s initial defeat and final victory. Verse 20 tells of Asher’s production. Verse 21 speaks of Naphtali’s goodly words. Verses 22 to 26 mention the blessings received by Joseph, who typifies Christ. Verse 27 is Benjamin’s future. His condition, as such, partly typifies the power of Christ. We cannot relate them all in detail. If the Lord tarries, please read Meditations on Genesis. However, you can look up the history of the tribes sequentially in the holy Scriptures, and you can find the fulfillment to all these prophecies.
P.S. Concerning the Companion Bible you mentioned, its price is approximately thirty dollars. Aside from explaining some original texts, there is nothing else in it. Although at the back of the book there are more than a hundred short articles, most of them are too subjective, and many of them are not even scriptural. There are many commentaries of the Bible in English, but none of them is perfect. Either they come short in the spiritual interpretation, or they come short in critical analysis. There are many more commentaries that are banned by some denominations. Probably there is not one perfect commentary in the world. To find such a one, you have to go to heaven. As far as my observation is concerned, Darby’s Synopsis of the Bible is the best commentary. A set of five books costs ten dollars and can be bought from The Christian Book Room located at 4 Kunsan Garden, Shanghai. Darby does fall into the denominational type of arguments. His study of the Bible is quite deep, and those who read these books have to read them three or four times before they can fully understand their meaning. However, this set still has its shortcomings. It is left to the readers to select them carefully. As far as Chinese commentaries are concerned, either translated or written, most of them are too shallow. This is indeed a pity!
Question: When it is necessary for several persons to work together, is it improper to have some kind of organization? Why can it not be considered as a small flock in one accord? (Lee, Kiangsu)
Answer: Saints can work together without any organization. Barnabas and Paul’s preaching of the gospel together is one example of it. We should not consider several persons laboring together to be an organization automatically. We can regard it as a small flock in one accord. However, in working together, it is possible to have organizations or be organizational. This is something that we have to be careful about.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 07: The Christian (5), Chapter 17, by Watchman Nee)