Christ versus Religion, by Witness Lee

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Outside of religion

Matthew always gives a hard time to the religious people. Everything that Matthew tells us concerning Christ is outside of religion. In the first portion of Matthew 16 we read, "Jesus came into the parts of Caesarea Philippi..." (v. 13). If you look at the map, you will see that Caesarea Philippi was far to the north, even north of Galilee. It was at the farthest extreme of the region of Palestine. Isaiah 9:1 tells us that the land of Galilee was of the Gentiles. But this place was even further than Galilee; so it was more gentile. It was almost outside the Holy Land; at best we could say that it was on the border. In those days there was the holy place, the holy temple, the holy city, and the holy land—a four-fold holy sphere. Jesus kept Himself away from every one of them. The holy things in those days were the religious things. By the term "four-fold holy" is meant four times religious. The land was religious, the city was religious, the temple and all the things within it were religious. Jesus came into the parts of Caesarea Philippi and got away from all of them.

Jesus did not bring His disciples into the city of Caesarea Philippi; He was there just in the parts, the area, the district of that place. In that totally gentile setting He asked His disciples, "Who do men say that the Son of man is?" In other words, "Who do those people in the religious circle say that I am?"

If we would see or learn something of the Lord Jesus, we must be removed from religion. If you still remain in religion, in any of the denominations or so-called Christian churches, it is difficult for you to receive any revelation. You must leave all the religious things. In the temple the priests were praying, offering their sacrifice, burning the incense, lighting the lamp, etc.—whatever they did was altogether religious; whatever could be seen was nothing but religion. The Lord Jesus took His disciples out of the priesthood, out of the temple, out of the city, and out of the Holy Land. He asked, "Who do men say that the Son of man is?" And they answered, "Some say John the Baptist; some, Elijah; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets" (16:14). They answered with the names of all the religious "big shots." This is the way the religious people spoke of Jesus. Their realization concerning the Lord Jesus was wholly religious. The Lord never appreciates this kind of realization.

Revelation of Christ

Then the Lord Jesus turned to His disciples and told them in effect to forget all that religious realization. He asked, "Who say ye that I am?" And Simon Peter answered, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" (v. 16). According to the record of the four Gospels, Peter was nearly always mistaken. There was only one time he was right—this was the time. Peter was one who always took the lead. A person who is so quick to take the lead will surely make many mistakes. Peter was this kind of person, always putting his foot in his mouth. This time, however, he was one hundred percent right. He called Jesus "the Christ, the Son of the living God." This is revelation.

(Christ versus Religion, Chapter 4, by Witness Lee)