Witness Lee

B. Childress
May 10 2011

Ephesians 2:4-22


In chapter one we saw from Ephesians 1 that the church is the issue of the dispensing of the divine Trinity.  I stress this
matter because not many of the Christians throughout the generations have entered into this realization.  We may think
that the church is just a collection, or a gathering, of all the believers as a kind of collective entity which can be
considered as an organization.  This is absolutely wrong.  The concept of the church being an organization has led the
Christians throughout the centuries into confusion, misunderstanding, and a deceived condition.  Our burden today is to
point out, according to the pure, divine revelation in the New Testament and especially in the book of Ephesians, that
the issue of the dispensing of the divine Trinity is the church as an organism, the Body of Christ.

I hope that you would study our fellowship in chapter one in light of the first chapter of Ephesians.  That fellowship can
be a great help and an opener to your understanding of that portion of the Word.  The main thing that Ephesians 1
shows us is the issue of the dispensing of the divine Trinity.  Although the word issue is not in Ephesians 1, the fact and
the reality of the issue is there.  The divine Trinity issues out through His dispensing.  In everything that the Father, the
Son, and the Spirit accomplished are the dispensing of the Father, the dispensing of the Son, and the dispensing of the
Spirit.  These dispensings issue in one thing - an organism, the church, which is the Body of Christ.

A wooden stand is organized with pieces of wood, but a living person with a body is something organic.  A robot is an
organization of lifeless material, but a living person is an organism.  The church should be an organism not an
organization.  The teaching of Ignatius in the second century gave the ground for organization to come into the church.  
Ignatius taught that an overseer, a bishop, is higher than an elder.  But in Acts 20, Luke made it clear that the
overseers and the elders are the same persons.  Paul sent for the elders to come to him, and then he told them that the
Holy Spirit had appointed them to be the overseers (verses 17, 28).  The elders are the overseers (see note 28 in Acts
20 and note 2 in I Timothy 3 - Recovery Version).  Due to the erroneous teaching of Ignatius, hierarchy came into the
church.  The episcopal system of ecclesiastical government comes from Ignatius's mistaken teaching as well as the
entire hierarchical system of the Roman Catholic Church with the bishops, archbishops, cardinals, and the pope.  The
principle of hierarchy and organization is also among the Protestant denominations and the free groups.  Today's
Christianity is under the influence of this concept of hierarchy and has been corrupted by it.  The teaching, practice,
and concept of hierarchy has led many Christians away from the church as an organism to an organization.  We are
warned when we studied the history of the church in this matter, and Brother Nee helped us to realize that we had to be
careful about the matter of organization.  The Lord enlightened us to see that such an organizational system annuls the
organic Body of Christ.  In the Body of Christ, there is no organization.  
But the fallen and deformed Christianity is
full of organization.  It is a religious, organizational system

Every aspect of the church must be organic because the church is the issue of the living Trinity.  The Bible tells us that
the embodiment of God, Christ, is life.  Christ told us in the Gospel of John that He is the life (John 14:6).  Christ is not
something organizational.  As the embodiment of the Triune God, He is the totality of the divine, eternal life.  The totality
of life, the living Triune God, issues in one thing - the Body of Christ.  Since the Triune God is the totality of life, the
Body of Christ is altogether a matter of life.  We should put anything that is not of life under our feet.  We do not like
hierarchy because it is altogether a matter of organization and has nothing to do with the organic Body of Christ.

The Body of Christ is an issue of the divine Trinity in the same way that Eve was an issue of Adam.  God created Adam
from the dust of the ground, but He built a woman with a rib out of Adam's side (Genesis 2:22).  Adam dispensed himself
in the sense that a rib, a part of his being, came out of him.  That part of his being became a woman, Eve.  What was
Eve?  Eve was an issue of Adam.  Eve was identical to Adam in life, in nature, and in appearance.  This is why Adam
and Eve could be one flesh, one couple.  In like manner, the church is the issue of the dispensing of the divine Trinity.  
We have to see the church to such an extent.  When we have such a vision, this vision will govern us, protect us,
regulate us, and keep us from being misled into a kind of teaching concerning organization.  Any thought concerning
organization should not be brought into the church life.  Any teaching concerning the church in the sense of
organization is absolutely wrong, and we must abandon it.  It is deceiving, misleading, and of the evil one.  The thought
of organization related to the church cannot be seen in the entire book of Ephesians, a book on the church.  Ephesians
reveals that the church is an organism, the Body of Christ.

We studied the history of the Brethren, who practiced the church life under the leadership of John Nelson Darby in the
early part of the nineteenth century.  Soon after they were raised up by the Lord, they fell into the snare of organization
and were divided.  Some of them, the so-called Open Brethren, taught that each of the churches was autonomous.  The
so-called Closed Brethren were accused of trying to form all the churches into a federation.  Both autonomy and
federation are outside of the biblical revelation according to the teaching of the apostles.

Because the United States is an organized government, we can see the matters of autonomy and federation to a certain
extent.  The fifty states are autonomous to a certain degree but the federal government forms them into a federation.  
Thus, we can see autonomy to a certain degree in the states and federation in the country as a whole.  The individual
states, though, are not absolutely independent from one another or from the federal government.  Each state does not
have its own currency.  There is only one currency in the United States.  We citizens of the United States pay more tax
to the federal government than to the state government.  If a case in a court of law cannot be decided by the state
court, it eventually goes to the Supreme Court, a federal court.  The defense of our nation, for the most part, is a
federal matter.  Diplomatic relations with other countries are also a federal matter.  There are highways that span the
continental United States from state to state.  What if Oregon had the attitude that only its residents could travel on its
highways?  The above examples show us that even the states of the United States are not absolutely independent from
one another or from the federal government.

In God's economy and in the Body of Christ,
independence is a devilish word.  We Christians should never be
independent.  We should not be independent of God or of one another.  We cannot go on in the Christian life if we
isolate ourselves from one another.  Furthermore, no local church can be absolutely independent from the other local
churches.  The local churches should be dependent on one another.  The church in Seattle should be dependent on
the church in Spokane, and the churches in the United States should be dependent on the churches in England.  We
must be careful concerning the creeping in of different teachings related to matters such as autonomy and federation.

Could any member of a person's physical body be autonomous in relation to the other members?  If one member is in
pain, the entire body suffers.  Likewise, each member of the Body of Christ is dependent on the other members.  
Concerning the Body of Christ, Paul tells us, "If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if a member is
glorified, all the members rejoice with it.  Now you are the body of Christ, and members in particular" (I Corinthians
12:26-27).  The church is the Body of Christ, and as the Body of Christ, no part of the church can be autonomous.  My
burden for us to see and enter into the reality of the church as the Body of Christ is very heavy because concepts and
teachings related to organization, such as the teaching of autonomy, have corrupted, misled, and deceived the
Christians and have created many divisions.  We are not in any kind of organization.  We are in the issue of the Triune
God, which is the unique, universal organism, the Body of Christ.  We all must declare: "We are in an organism, not in
an organization!"  Ephesians 1 shows us that the church is the issue of the Triune God.


What We Were and Where We Were before Our Salvation

Ephesians 2 goes on to show us that the church is a masterpiece as the new man.  This chapter begins with the word
"and."  This indicates that Paul's thought in chapter one has not been completed.  He has something further to say.  In
chapter one Paul shows us that we became the Body of Christ by God's dispensing into us.  In chapter two Paul tells us
what we were and where we were before our salvation.  Verse 1 of chapter two tells us that we were dead persons; we
were dead in our offenses and sins.  Because we are descendants of Adam, we were born into a kind of life that walks
"according to the age of this world, according to the ruler of the authority of the air, of the spirit who now is operating in
the sons of disobedience" (Ephesians 2:2).  "The age of this world," according to which we walked, refers to the modern
appearance, the present course of the world, the satanic system.  "The ruler" in verse 2 refers to Satan, the prince of
the aerial authority.  "The spirit" in verse 2 is in apposition with "the authority of the air" and refers to the aggregate
power, a personal aggregate of all the evil angelic authorities, over which Satan is the ruler.  In the past we walked
according to Satan, the ruler of the evil spiritual power, and this evil spiritual power operated in us.  Actually, this evil
power is the evil one himself, Satan, the enemy of God.  According to verse 3, we also behaved ourselves "in the lusts
of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the thoughts."  Thus, as dead persons, we were in three things in our
past: we were walking according to the age of this world, we were walking according to the ruler of the authority of the
air, and we were behaving in the lusts of our flesh.

Made Alive, Raised Up, and Seated Together in the Heavenlies in Christ

Because we were in such a pitiful condition, we needed God's salvation.  The salvation in Ephesians 2 does not stress
the forgiveness of sins.  Because we were dead persons, the stress in this chapter is on making us alive.  A dead
person needs life.  We needed to be quickened, enlivened.  The salvation brought to us made us dead persons living.  
We were made alive, raised up, and seated together in the heavenlies in Christ (verses 4-10).

To be enlivened is one thing.  To be raised up from among the dead is another step.  When Lazarus was buried in the
tomb, the Lord Jesus said, "Lazarus, come forth!" (John 11:43).  Lazarus was made alive.  This was the first step.  
Secondly, Lazarus was raised from among the dead.  After we were raised up, we were seated together in the
heavenlies in Christ.  Now we are no longer dead persons, but we are living persons seated in the heavenlies.  We are
living and heavenly.  This is the result of the divine dispensing .  It was in Christ that
God seated us together, once for all, in the heavenlies.  The phrase "in Christ" indicates that the Triune God, through
the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, has been dispensed into our being.  Without Christ we were dead.  But
the Triune God in Christ came into us and put us into Him.  This was the dispensing of the divine Trinity into fallen man.  
The dispensing of the divine Trinity saved us, quickened us, raised us up, and seated us in the heavenlies, making us
all living persons in the heavenlies.  This took place in Christ's resurrection and ascension (I Peter 1:3; Ephesians 4:8).

Such a dispensing work made us the masterpiece of God.  Ephesians 2:10 tells us that we are His "workmanship."  The
Greek word for "workmanship" is
poiema, which can also be translated into "poem" or "masterpiece."  A poem shows the
wisdom and design of the composer.  We, the church, the masterpiece of God's work, are also a poem, expressing
God's infinite wisdom and divine design.  We may not think that we are so wonderful, but we have to see the divine fact
that Christ is in us and that we are in Christ.  In Christ we have been made alive, raised up from among the dead, and
seated in the heavenlies.  Now we are God's masterpiece because God has dispensed His very Being into our being.  
There is Someone within us more precious and wonderful than anything in the universe.  We have God in us.  This
makes us wonderful, and this makes us God's masterpiece.

Created in Christ into One New Man through His Death to Be God's Household and Kingdom, Growing and
Built into a Temple as God's Dwelling Place

In the second part of Ephesians 2, Paul covers another aspect of the church.  He tells us that in the past we were "apart
from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no
hope and without God in the world" (verse 12).  As those who were apart and away from all these positive things, we
were in a miserable condition.  In verse 13 Paul continues with two big words - "but now":  "but now in Christ Jesus you
who once were far off have become near in the blood of Christ."  We were pitiful persons, "but now!"  Now through
God's redemption in Christ, we have been brought near to Christ, to Israel, and to God's promise.  This equals being
near to God and all His blessings.  We have been put into Christ, we have become citizens of a divine commonwealth,
we have a part in the covenants of the promise, and we all have hope.  What a wonderful hope we have been called
into!  We have God in Christ as our hope.  

In the past we were in a terrible realm, but now we are in a divine realm.  How did we experience such a great transfer
into the divine realm?  We were transferred by being re-created.  To be regenerated is to be re-created.  We were born
into an old realm of sin and death, but the Triune God came to do something for us.  He came in His incarnation to die
in the flesh.  In that death He terminated us, and through that death He released His divine life.  Then in resurrection He
imparted that divine life into us as the very essence with which He created a new man.  When God created the heavens
and the earth with thousands of items including man, He never used His essence, His very Being, as the material to
create any item.  But in this new man, God used Himself as the creating essence.  

Ephesians 2:15 says that through His death on the cross, Christ created us into a new man.  In the old man, we were
divided.  There was a middle wall of partition between the Jews and the Gentiles (verse 14).  But Christ abolished the
law of the commandments in ordinances, breaking down the middle wall of partition, and created these two peoples into
one new man with a new essence, a new element.  This new element is the very divine Trinity dispensed into us.   As
the Body of Christ, the church needs Christ as its life; as the new man, the church needs Christ not only as its life but
also its person.  The Body is for the expression of the Head, and the new man is for the accomplishment of God's
eternal purpose.  Both the Body and the new man are organic.  They have nothing to do with organization.

We individual believers have been created into one new man.  We must be impressed with such a vision so that we
could never be independent.  We cannot be independent because we all are part of this great, universal new man.  God
does not want millions of individual Christians.  What God wants is a corporate man.  All the local churches on this earth
are not only the Body of Christ for His expression but also the one new man on this earth to carry out God's will.  The
local churches cannot be independent from one another.  If they were independent from one another, the one new man
would be cut into pieces and death would be the result.  We must see the awful result of the wrong teaching that the
local churches are autonomous.

In all the local churches, there are some local affairs.  But many times the churches need to fellowship with one another
to help each other in their affairs.  The church in one locality may be wealthy, whereas the church in another locality
may be poor.  The poor local church may not be able to afford to pay for certain things.  The wealthy local church may
have the attitude that all the local churches are autonomous in their business affairs and that the poorer local church
should endeavor to do something without depending on them.  This understanding and attitude are not right.  A certain
financial matter may be a local administration affair, but even to such a matter, the churches should depend on one
another.  Sometimes a certain church should communicate, fellowship, with another church even in the matter of
material needs.  Sometimes the churches in Taiwan should have fellowship with the churches in France in the financial
help.  Even in material things, we cannot say that the churches are independently autonomous.

The churches should not be absolutely independent of one another.  All the believers should depend on one another,
and all the local churches should depend on one another.  Especially in spiritual things, we should depend on one
another.  The church in a certain city may need help from the other churches in life and in its building up.  The local
churches should be in a situation of mutual dependence.  The concept of autonomy is awful because it makes the
churches separate from one another.  We should not forget that all the believers in this entire universe are one man.  
This one man includes the believers at Paul's time, the believers at our time, and the believers who will be born in the
future.  This one new man includes all the local churches.  The one new man is doing God's will, carrying out God's
eternal purpose.

We have been created in Christ into one new man through His death to be God's household and kingdom, growing and
being built into a temple as God's dwelling place (verses 11-22).  This masterpiece as the new man is a collective entity,
a household, a family.  It is also a kingdom, a commonwealth.  We are no longer strangers and sojourners but God's
household, participating in the divine life and enjoying the divine riches.  We are also God's kingdom, sharing the
kingdom right and bearing the kingdom responsibility (verse 19).  Furthermore, this new man as the household of God
and the kingdom of God is growing into a temple as God's dwelling place (verses 20-22).  To grow into a temple is to be
built together into the dwelling place of God.

If the local churches are independently autonomous, our enjoyment of the one new man as God's household, God's
kingdom, and God's dwelling place would be annulled.  We have to grow and be built up together into a temple as God's
dwelling place for His purpose.  All the saints and all the local churches need to grow together and be built up with one
another.  Then we can be one temple, one dwelling place, in the one kingdom and for the one family.  Thus, the Father
will accomplish His heart's desire.  We need the proper apprehension of what the church is.  The church is the Body of
Christ and the new man to accomplish God's eternal purpose by being God's family, God's kingdom, and God's dwelling


THE BODY OF CHRIST, by Witness Lee, Copyright 1988, Living Stream Ministry.