Our God is administrating the entire universe. The central point of His administration is seen by the Old Testament picture of the incense alter in the tabernacle from the book of Exodus. Stay with us today as we look at the central point of God’s administration on this Life-Study of the Bible with Witness Lee…a program furnished by Living Stream Ministry and featuring the ministry of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee.
Our God certainly is not a passive God. But rather one that is full of purpose. It’s a common question among believers…and even many unsaved that are not sure about God…that is they want to know…”What is God doing?”…”What is it all about?” Well, I think in this Life-Study that we’ve been enjoying regarding the tabernacle, we really have a full picture of God’s purpose.
In this picture we see that God is not idle. But He is really a God of purpose. He is moving. He is administrating. He is dispensing. He does have an economy. He does have a practice. He does have a move. These are all synonymous words to indicate that God is not idle…He is very busy. And as we’ll see in this program, by the picture of the tabernacle leading us to the reality in Christ…that our God in Christ is very busy. That man would not only be reached by God but man could be brought all the way into God for the sake of God’s testimony.
We hope and pray that every one of you who are listening to this broadcast would all be drawn to this marvelous administrating center which is just the interceding Christ. And that by His intercession you would be motivated very highly to go more deeply into the one whom you love. Not just for your sake…but for His sake: He needs a testimony.
And you mentioned Chris…this is a picture of God’s purpose…this picture of the tabernacle. The tabernacle is not just a tabernacle, but it’s called the tabernacle of the testimony. This means that all that we see by all the furniture in the tabernacle and particularly by the incense alter we see something is happening. God is administrating so that man could experience Him…be brought into Him even to the extent that He and His people are the same in life and nature so that His people could actually be His testimony.
How could we be His testimony unless we get saturated with Him and brought all the way into Him. So this marvelous picture shows what God is busy doing moving into us and moving us into Him for His testimony.
What is faith? Is it just to believe? Why do some have it and some do not? Does the Bible give us any direction on how to obtain more faith? Well, the questions concerning faith are virtually endless. Of course the Bible does have much to say about faith. Yet, in many ways it remains mysterious. One of the most mysterious references to faith is found in Philippians 2 where Paul talks about “the sacrifice and service of your faith.”
We want to get into this extraordinary expression today concerning the faith of the believers on this Life-Study from the book of Philippians. In the book of Philippians, the apostle Paul uses several remarkable or extraordinary expressions, and they’re not found any place else in the New Testament…not even in his other writings…in his epistles.
We spent quite a bit of time on at least two of them in previous programs…and those are “the bountiful supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” and the second one would be “holding forth the word of life.” This whole portion of the Bible…especially here in Philippians…really gives you more and more basic reasons for enjoying Christ in so many ways.
Philippians 2:17…”But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice, and I rejoice together with you all.” If you would pay some attention, you will see…in this one short book…three extraordinary expressions were used by Paul. In chapter 1, he used…”the bountiful supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” Then in chapter 2 he used, “holding forth of the word of life.” You could never find such expressions in the Bible…even in other books by the apostle.
“The sacrifice of your faith.” Hard for us to get into this expression. The secret to experience Christ in such a book is just relying on these 3 things. The bountiful supply of the Spirit, the word of life, and the sacrifice of your faith. Now…what is faith that can constitute a sacrifice to God. As long as you are a believer, you have faith. But the question is this: could you consider your faith a sacrifice good for some other one to offer to God?
Paul was a New Testament priest. In Romans 15:16, Paul says I offered you gentile believers as a priest…all of you I offered to God. Paul was a gospel priest. He offered his converts all to God as a kind of sacrifice. Not only the persons…Romans 15 refers to the persons as sacrifice, but Philippians 2:17 refers to the believers faith as sacrifice. This is much deeper.
Three extraordinary expressions used by the apostle in this book…(1) the bountiful supply, (2) holding forth the word of life, and now (3) the sacrifice of your faith. This is not an easy passage to understand, but surely it’s worth our while to get into it to try to see the kind of faith that Paul was considering to be an offering…a sacrifice.
We have to spend some time to get the right understanding of the matter of faith. The faith here is a little different at least from the faith even in the Bible in other places. What is faith? Ephesians 1:13 gives us a very clear definition. You have heard the word of truth. Then you believed in Christ. The result was that you were sealed with the Spirit. The Word came and the Spirit was there. When you heard the Word and believed, you got the Spirit. The Word, faith and the Spirit…these three are one. The first function of the Word is to infuse you.
The Word infuses you with faith. Faith is the issue of the word and the function of the Spirit. Why? Because when the Word comes to you…when you touch it…the Spirit is there. Rather, I would say…the Word comes and you touch it…this Word becomes the Spirit. I must tell you…from my youth, I loved to have faith. So I tried my best. By that time I loved two things…faith and regeneration. I spent dollars to buy books…I couldn’t get any book to tell me what is faith. As it should be. Some books tell you what is faith…but not actually as faith should be.
Until in the recent years…mostly by my experiences…I realized what is faith. Faith is just the Word infusing the very element of the Word into you. And this very element is just the function of the Spirit. So faith is the issue of the Word and the function of the Spirit. So when you have faith, spontaneously you have the Word and the Spirit. And actually…dear saints…eventually when you have faith you have the three things. When you have faith, you have the Word. When you have faith, you have the Spirit.
You can pick up any portion of the Word and dwell on it for a while. Then something burning…something boiling…something rising up with power. What is that? This is the mingling of the Word and the Spirit with your faith. And this always issues in the full enjoyment of Christ.
The matter of God blessing His people is so often spoken of in christian circles these days. Popular books detail the right prayer to pray or the latest method of bring ourselves into to a place where God can bless us. Well, surely God does desire to bless His people. Perhaps you’ve prayed such a prayer of faith and God has answered by blessing you with some material possession. But if the Lord would mercifully open our eyes, we would see that even in an Old Testament book like Deuteronomy the highest blessing for God’s people is just Christ Himself…and that we would hold Him fast and live in the sweetness of His presence.
Today…as we look at chapter 11 in Deuteronomy…we see that there is the promise of a marvelous five fold blessing if we keep Christ as the Word of God in some very specific ways. Of course the blessings that are outlined in Deuteronomy were outward…even physical (some of them) or material. And they were conditioned upon keeping the commandment.
But today, the real blessings are spiritual (or we could use the word intrinsic) and we’re going to get into these, but let’s open up by discussing this matter…and that is in order to receive the real blessing God is not looking for us to keep an outward commandment of the law. But to keep Christ as the Word of God.
It’s possible just to have the outward letter of God’s word. For example, in the Old Testament you had all the laws, ordinances and commandments. But actually, they are a picture and a type pointing us to Christ Himself as the reality of the Word of God. In John 5, some of the religious leaders came to the Lord and they were trying to give Him a hard time, but you know what He said? “You search the scriptures because in them you think you have eternal life. But it is these scriptures that testify concerning Me, and you’re not willing to come to Me that you might have life.”
So the real Word of God is the living Word which is just Christ Himself embodied in the written word. So you may have black and white letters, but you may miss the Person. The real blessing in God’s economy is just Christ Himself. God wants to bless us with Himself in Christ. So many we never let anything replace Christ. He is God’s unique blessing.
Moses says “posses the land”, but Paul said “Let’s gain Christ.” So as we take heed to and care for and love Christ as the Word of God, we really enjoy God’s blessing. And this is a real precious blessing. Because we keep Christ then God blesses us and strengthens us to hold fast to Christ. Like Paul said, “…one thing I do…I pursue toward the goal for the prize to which God in Christ Jesus has called me upward.”
So, we’re blessed with the strength and encouragement to go on and possess Christ more. What touches the heart of God more than Christ Himself as the Word of God? The more we keep Christ as the Word of God, the more we have God’s affection…we have God’s dear presence…signified by His eyes.
When Moses was leading the children of Israel through the wilderness, what they would have to eat became a major concern. To sustain and nourish them, God provided a mysterious food called manna. These small round wafers appeared on the ground every morning. And this was their sole diet for 40 years.
1600 years later God brings manna back to His people in the book of Revelation. But this rather than being out in the open as it was in Exodus is hidden in a golden pot within the ark in the holy of holies. What is this hidden manna?
Please don’t miss this classic presentation from the book of Exodus on our Life-study of the Bible with Witness Lee.
Rev 2:17…”He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give of the hidden manna, and to him I will give a white stone, and upon the stone a new name written, which no one knows except him who receives it.” So the promise in Rev 2:17 to the overcoming believers is that they would enjoy Christ as the hidden manna. In the Old Testament, what the children of Israel were charged to do was to take a portion of that manna…put it in a golden pot…and put that golden pot within the ark in the holy of holies…which is the very center of the entire tabernacle. So that is the hidden manna.
What is the significance of this hidden manna? We’ve seen on previous programs in John 6 that Christ Himself is the very bread who came down out of heaven for us to feed on. In other words, Christ is our spiritual food that we need to enjoy day by day. But when we talk about the hidden manna, we’re talking about enjoying Christ as our spiritual food to bring us into the closest, most intimate, hidden, secret contact with Him. This is our enjoyment of Christ as the hidden manna.
So we need to take the way…day by day…to go into the holy of holies through prayer to enter into our spirit where Christ as the Spirit lives and to enjoy Him as our spiritual food and assimilate Him into our whole being. So that we can enjoy Him in the closest, most intimate, deepest, hidden and even secret way as the hidden manna for His purpose.
This is a great miracle! What a miracle that centuries and centuries ago the children of Israel enjoyed manna sent by God from heaven…in a physical sense. But today, we can enjoy Christ as our manna…as our spiritual food…even as our hidden manna. What a great miracle this is…and what a mystery this is. When that bread came down from heaven, the children of Israel said “What is this? What is it?” And actually that’s the meaning of the Hebrew word “manna.” Manna means “what is it?” Well that’s what Christ is. Who is Christ? Christ is “What is this?”
Christ is a mystery. He’s inexplicable to the people who don’t know Him…the nations. And when we enjoy Him, we become “What is this?” People look at us and they say…”I can’t figure that person out. He’s got the same pressures as me…the same kind of problems. Even I know he’s passing through some suffering right now. But there’s a joy with him; there’s a peace about him. There’s something about him that makes him different. What is this?”
Why do we become like that? We become a testimony…a mysterious testimony of Christ to the people around us by enjoying Christ as manna. By enjoying Christ as…”What is this?” And we become a testimony of the marvelous, wonderful, beautiful, mysterious Christ in this universe.
In John 6:35, the Lord told us “I am the bread of life. I am that bread that came down out of heaven.” We need to realize Christ is the reality of that manna, and in verse 57 He said “He who eats me shall live because of me.” That means we need to eat Christ day by day. And He was not talking about something in the physical realm. Because in 6:63 He said “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words which I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.”
So the way to eat Christ as our spiritual food is to enjoy Him in His words. His words that He speaks to us…they are spirit and they are life. It comes back to this. We christians need to be in the word every day. We need to eat Christ as our spiritual food by eating His word every day. We need to begin the day by having a spiritual breakfast. Some men of God in the past…they had a saying, “No Bible, no breakfast.” This means we need to have our spiritual breakfast before we have our physical breakfast. I would encourage all of you…consecrate yourself to give that first time in the morning to the Lord where you read the word with prayer, in prayer and in a spirit of prayer so that you can enjoy Him as your spiritual food. And as…during the day…you keep your heart turned to the Lord, you will become a mysterious wonderful testimony of Christ to all the people around you, and you will become a factor in their salvation.
We want to see again from the gospel of John how Christ as life meets the need of every man’s case. No matter what your case is, Christ as life can meet your need. There are 9 cases in John chapters 3-11 which unveil this in a full way. In John chapters 3-7, what we’ve seen is that Christ want to be man’s life and life supply. In John 3, Christ as life regenerates man. In John 4, Christ as life satisfies man and heals man from all the sickness of sin. In John 5, Christ as life enlivens man. In John 6, Christ as life feeds man with Himself as man’s spiritual food to be man’s spiritual sustenance. And in John 7, Christ as life quenches the thirst of man to be man’s satisfaction.
Now we come to another section…John chapters 8-11. What we see in this particular section is that Christ as life delivers us from three negative things. When Christ as life comes into us, He delivers us from sin, blindness and death. In this particular chapter (John 8) what we want to see is that Christ as life sets us free from the bondage of sin.
Let us see how the Lord as life to us has dealt with our first negative thing…that is sin. To see this, the first point we have to take care of is religion as represented by the temple of law. Of law keeping. Of good work doing. Such a religion is versus the Great I AM. This chapter mainly takes away the veil to show us right there on this earth among the human kind are two things. One is a religion. The other is a living Person.
The religion was one that was so good…so high…so super. Not a kind of hidden religion. Not a kind of religion of superstition. No, but a typical genuine super religion on the top helping people to worship God…helping people to know God in the outward way of letters and helping people to try the best to keep the law of God to please God and also helping people to behave themselves to make themselves perfect.
This is the top invention in human culture. But God’s elect…God’s chosen people…they got the wrong concept. They didn’t pay the full attention to the focus. That is God Himself in the person of the Son. And also as the person of the Spirit. To get into man as man’s life and as man’s everything. They missed this mark. They try their best to collect all the regulations and laws…good points…and put them together to make a religion. So by that time in chapter 8, two things were on the earth. Religion existing there…a living person standing there.
This is the portrait. The religion of law…not of superstition…not of nonsense talk…like buddhism. But such a wonderful, typical, genuine, top religion of the law. In every aspect it is good. But only in one aspect is very very poor. That is it is versus the Great I AM. Religion is good but it cannot give you life. Religion is on the top, but it cannot help you a bit because you are a dead person.
A dead person needs not something good…but something as life. Only life can help a dead person. Now the Lord Jesus is here. Who is He? He is the I AM. He is the very Jehovah. God…Elohim…is the title for His creation in chapter 1 of Genesis. After the creation…right in chapter 2…when God was trying to get into relationship with man, God’s other name…Jehovah…was brought in. Jehovah was the name of God in relation with mankind. And this very Jehovah that day was there…standing there in the form of a little man.
The religionist in that day, they missed the mark just because they despised this little Jesus. So they missed the mark yet He was the great I AM. This great I AM who is God Himself in relation with man became the Son of Man. This is quite meaningful. Yes, to become the Son of Man is to humble Himself…to bring Him down to a lower standard. But this is more than needed. Because all the negative problems are now just in man. Sin is in man. The serpent is in man.
Now man is the vey focus of all the problems. So if He is going to solve all the basic problems of man…surely He has to become a man. Satan was not afraid that the Lord Jesus was the Son of God. Satan was not afraid of that. Satan was afraid of the Lord Jesus being a man…being the Son of Man.
Man is the focus of every problem in the universe. When man fell, Satan as sin entered into man to corrupt man…to pollute man. So in Romans 7 what we see is that sin dwells in man in a personified way. Sin lords it over man. Sin forces man to do things that he doesn’t want to do. Because the element of Satan as sin is in man, what the devil fears the most is God becoming a man.
God became a man to destroy the devil. In 1 John 4, what we see is that the evil spirits they will not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, because they know that when God becomes a man, they are defeated. God became a man and He went to the cross and He took away the sin of the world which was in man and He destroyed the devil on the cross…who had come into man as the element of sin to spoil and corrupt man.
On the positive side, what we need to see is why God became a man. Why did He become a man? It was so that He could accomplish His eternal intention and His heart’s desire. The Bible unveils to us that God’s hearts desire is that He wants to be united with man, mingled with man and incorporated with man so that He can live in man and that man can live in Him…so that man can be His eternal expression in this universe.
The coming of the Lord Jesus Christ brought in a complete change in the way God dealt with man. His desire today is to bring a rich and bountiful supply of His Spirit to all His children. But how do we receive this supply? Gal. 3:5 says “He therefore who bountifully supplies to you the Spirit and does works of power among you, does He do it out of the works of law or out of the hearing of faith?”
Are we still struggling under the law, or are we receiving the Spirit through faith?
The gospel of John chapter 1 is worthy of a lifetime of study and consideration. It is perhaps one of the most marvelous portions in all of Scripture. Marvelous because it unveils Christ to us in so many aspects. Verse 1 shows Him as the Word…the very Son of God in eternity past. And at the end of the chapter (verse 51) we see Him revealed not just as the Son of God…but as the Son of Man for God’s building…for God’s habitation in eternity future.
And in between these two book ends, we see Him in glory as the only-begotten Son full of grace and reality…even as the very fullness of God declaring Him and making Him known in a wonderful and experiential way.
John 1 first of all tells us that Christ as the Word (which was God Himself) came as life to us and as light shining within us for the purpose to bring forth many children of God that God may have the enlargement…that God may have a corporate expression. This is revealed in the first thirteen verses of chapter one. Now we have the second section of chapter one that is composed with verses 14 to 18.
In this section it unfolds to us that the very Christ…now He was incarnated in the flesh for us to enjoy Him. How Christ could be enjoyed by us? By being incarnated. Christ was the Word yet even He Himself as the word was mysterious. But He became flesh. He became incarnated. Now in the flesh, He became so real to us. He was intangible. He was invisible. He was not touchable. He was not seen. But by becoming flesh, He became so solid. So real…seen, visible, touchable, tangible. But just being tangible still is not good for us to enjoy Him.
But here is says when He became flesh He was full of (not doctrines, not gifts) grace and reality. Every disciple saw Him and everyone touched Him….not only touched Him…enjoyed Him. If you check with Peter…if you check with Mary…why they love Jesus that much…why they liked to be in His presence. They would say, “we cannot tell you why, but we can tell you as long as we stay with Him, there is a kind of enjoyment. No word can utter it, but we all can testify just to sit in His presence for half an hour…my oh the sweetness…oh the enjoyment…oh the reality. We don’t know how to explain. We don’t know how to define. But we do know we have enjoyed something.” What was that? That was full of grace and reality.
In Ephesians 1:3 and 2:6 the apostle Paul says that we have been blessed and have been seated with Christ in the heavenlies. Well, it might say that in the Bible, but what does it say in your experience? Day by day, are you in the heavenlies or do you find yourself spending your time in anxiety? Most of us would have to truthfully answer that we spend much more of our time wrestling with anxiety than enjoying a life with Christ at peace in the heavenlies.
The truth is, that after man fell, human life became a composition of anxiety and worry. So how is it then that the apostle Paul also said in Phil. 4, “Let your forbearance be known to all men. The Lord is near. In nothing be anxious…”?
This book (Phil) is a book about living Christ and magnifying Christ. And practically, what does it look like to live Christ and magnify Christ? It looks like living a life full of forbearance and without any anxiety. So Paul brings us to the very practical side of our actual living and our expression. Forbearance is the sum total of the entire Christian life. If you were to add up the christian life, what does it look like….it looks like forbearance. If you add up the human life apart from Christ, what does it look like…one huge sum of anxiety.
So these two go together. So practically for us to magnify Christ and to live Christ…what does it look like? It looks like living a life full of forbearance without any anxiety. Very practical.
Paul..he knew what the human life was…nothing but anxiety. And what was the christian life…nothing but forbearance. To live Christ is to have forbearance without anxiety. This is to live Christ. For me to live is Christ. And this is what…no anxiety but full of forbearance. We cannot understand such a chapter as Phil 4 by merely studying the Bible. We need our experience to tell us what Paul really meant. Forbearance is the totality of the proper christian life. And what is the totality of the human life? That is anxiety.
So Paul picked up these two things to charge us on the positive side…to let our forbearance be known to all men. For years and years I heard and got to read a number of books on Gal. 2:20. Actually, I didn’t see exactly who was living this way. The answer is in Philippians. Because Paul in Philippians has stepped further not only to tell us that Christ lives in us…but even the more to tell us that to him is to live Christ.
You have to realize to have Christ living is us is not so much as to live Christ. This is much further. And to live Christ is to be full of forbearance and no anxiety. If you just have “this much” anxiety, you are void of Christ “this much.” How much Christ is here in your daily life…this will be measured by forbearance and anxiety. If you have forbearance, you have Christ. If you have anxiety, you are void of Christ. If you have forbearance, surely you don’t have anxiety. If you have anxiety, surely you don’t have forbearance. You cannot have both at the same time.
The first prerequisite to have no anxiety is to realize that every circumstance is an assignment from our Father…especially the bad circumstances. Just learn to know whatever comes to us is of our Father. Especially the unprofitable things are His better assignment.
Does God only want to save us from perdition? Or does He also want to save us moment by moment and day by day? Salvation from eternal perdition is wonderful, but after we’re saved eternally, we need a daily practical salvation.
We’re going to have some practical fellowship today to help us in our christian walk every day. We’re going to focus on the pattern Christ setup for us and it’s described in Philippians by the apostle Paul (Phil 2:5-11).
This book of Philippians is a book on the experience of Christ. And in this book there is such a portion that shows us the very Christ as our pattern. If we are going to live Christ. If we are going to experience Christ, surely we must firstly see a pattern. A pattern is setup in this book right in front of us, and we all have to be impressed with this pattern.
Well, have you realized that in all the 66 books (of the Bible) there is not such a page that gives us such a wonderful picture of Christ. In a short way. Who is He? He is God. He is nothing less than God. God is He and He is God. He’s just God. But, listen…He emptied Himself. What does this mean? This simply means He didn’t consider His equality with God as something that He has to grasp.
He didn’t grasp His equality with God. Rather, He put that aside. But this doesn’t mean He became no more God. It doesn’t mean that. It means He put His equality with God aside. In other words, He put His outward expression of God…the form of God…He put that aside. You see. He put the form of God aside to become a man.
When He put away the excellent form of God, at that time He didn’t have the human nature. It was after that He got incarnated and He put on the human nature and He brought the human nature to the cross. To shed His blood for our redemption. And He accomplished that and He was buried and He was raised up and He was uplifted to the third heavens. To be brought back to the form of God in glory.
Now this is our savior, and this is the pattern of our christian life. What kind of pattern? This pattern of our christian life is a god-man savior. Self-empty, self-humbled and God exalted and God glorified. This is our Savior. And this is the pattern of our Christian life.
At the beginning of verse 13 (Phil 2) you have the word “for”. “For it is God…” And this little word “for” connects the two verses together. And it gives the reason why and how we can work out our salvation. Why? Because God is operating in you. Salvation is just the pattern; now God is the operator of the salvation. And I have to say this…salvation is the pattern and God is the operating salvation.
This salvation is just God Himself operating in you. The operating God in you is your real salvation. Nearly this is the only place in the New Testament that tells us God is working within us. But in all the other portions, always it says either Christ or the Spirit. It is only here that says it is God who operates in you.
For years, I was not clear why Paul used this type of God…not the Spirit. Now I understand. Paul rendered this way with a purpose to show us that the very Christ who is the pattern of our salvation is the very God who is operating in us. When Christ setup something there as our pattern…He is our pattern. When He comes into us…operating within…He is the operating God.
Here He is God. On the cross He is Christ. On the cross He was Christ. Within us He is God. He was Christ on the cross setting up an example…a pattern…for us. And He is God within us to carry out that pattern. How does God operate in you…how doe God work in you? God works in you by His word. God operates in you by being the Word of life. What is the Word of life? That is the operating God. And where is God? God is embodied in the Word of life. The Word of life is just the embodiment of the operating God. You can never separate God from His word. God is embodied in His word.
And the Bible is just the embodiment of God. Where is God? It’s hard for us to apprehend. God is too mysterious. But thank God He has embodied Himself in the Bible. The Bible is the embodiment the condensation of the invisible mysterious God. I can testify from my experience that whenever I open myself and come to this Word…to the Bible…I touch God. When I come to the Bible, God works within me. What is this? This is the practical salvation.
The Lord Jesus declared in John chapter 8, “I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall by no means walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” What is it to walk in darkness? We all likely have our own set of mental images that are initiated by such a question. But the darkness that may be blinding us today may not be so obviously evil or sinister as you might think.
Colossians reveals that anything…even any GOOD thing…that occupies us that is not Christ Himself is likely an instrument of the authority of darkness. I think what’s interesting about the authority of darkness mentioned in Colossians are the kind of things that Paul specifically referred to as being components of this darkness. Because they are things that are not that obvious in terms of being related to darkness.
We need a renewed understanding of this expression, “the authority of darkness”…as employed by Paul in Colossians. Of course the authority of darkness is the realm where Satan rules, and all manner of evil things are involved in the satanic realm. So there is no question that the authority of darkness has to do with the rule of Satan and is related to the kingdom of Satan.
Our problem is that we may assume that in Colossians the expression “the authority of darkness” refers only to obviously evil things…demonic, satanic, devilish things that would subjugate and imprison us. But this is too narrow an understanding. And actually, if we bring in this narrow understanding to Colossians, we will miss the point. And I mean really miss the whole point that is being made here.
Colossians is a book that reveals in the highest way the all-inclusiveness of Christ. The centrality and universality of Christ in God’s economy. This is the foundational thought. More particularly, Colossians reveals that in God’s economy, Christ is the reality of every positive thing. Christ is all things. The authority of darkness then…in its particular application in this epistle…refers to anything that is not Christ and that controls our being…instead of God’s direct rule in Christ.
Authority has to do with control, and to be under the authority or darkness is to be controlled by darkness. According to the context of the book of Colossians, what are some of the aspects of this authority of darkness? Philosophy is one. Asceticism is another one. A certain kind of self-imposed humility is yet another. There’s a form of religious mysticism that was advocated here.
Then speaking more broadly…any element of culture that infiltrates the church and replaces Christ is an aspect of the authority of darkness. If we go even deeper, we may say according to the revelation in the Word that any control that has its source in the self is the authority of darkness controlling us. The self replaces Christ. That’s why the Lord said if we would follow Him we have to deny the self.
Yes the authority of darkness refers to the satanic realm of darkness. In Colossians, the authority of darkness refers particularly to those things of religion, culture, and philosophy that have invaded our christian life and church life that replace Christ and that exercise control over our being instead of Christ.
Therefore, to be delivered by God in His full salvation out of the authority of darkness is to be delivered not only from sin and evil and hateful things…immoral things. It is to be delivered also from anything…no matter how good it may appear that replaces Christ and rules over us instead of Christ. This is a real light. Strangely, to see what darkness is here involves a real light. And we desire very much on the Lord’s behalf that all of God’s children would be delivered as we look to the Lord to be delivered from anything and everything of philosophy, religion and culture that replaces Christ and that rules us and controls us instead of Christ.
According to the revelation in Colossians, we should be ruled, controlled, governed, and directed by the one whom Paul calls “the Son of God’s love.” In a realm of light. And in this realm we enjoy not only the grace of God but also the all inclusiveness of Christ. A Christ who is everything and a Christ who is our life. And it is with this in view that we need to consider as our dear brother has helped us to see that the authority of darkness includes philosophy, religion, culture, and at the deepest level anything that has its source in the self.
In short…anything that replaces Christ. Any part of our being that is occupied by something other than Christ is under the authority of darkness. So we need the Christ who is everything in Himself and in God’s economy to become everything not only to us…but in us. And only when that has happened will we have been fully delivered experientially from the authority of darkness.
But we believe such a time is coming, and we look to the Lord that He will bless this faithful word concerning the authority of darkness verses the all-inclusive Christ. And that God’s people…especially the seeking ones among God’s people will really be enlightened and delivered and begin to explore the Christ who is the centrality and universality of God’s economy…that is the Christ of Colossians.
Some may read Colossians and have little interest in some of the marvelous utterances that Paul uses to unveil Christ, but when they get to the chapters about wives submitting to their husbands and husbands loving their wives…slaves obeying their masters…parents taking care of their children…they appreciate this. That appreciation is an appreciation in darkness. That kind of thought is already in the minds of the readers.And so that’s what they respond to in the text.
The Bible is light, but we may not be in light when we read the Bible. We ourselves may be in darkness. We may be veiled. We may be blind. In fact that is the general condition. And so the more we read, the more blind we become. Because we read in darkness and we read and try to understand in our pitiful blindness instead of repenting before the Lord…turning our heart to the Lord…emptying out our spirit…being poor in spirit…and contacting the Spirit of the Word and seeing Christ in the Word.
We want to speak faithfully, honestly and even frankly about this matter. But we don’t care to argue…to dispute. What’s the benefit? If one is in darkness and someone else is in light what is the point of dispute. What is needed is for the light to shine upon the one in darkness.
When Saul of Tarsus was persecuting the believers…destroying the churches…who could reason with him? Who could argue with him? What would be the point? God did not take that approach. The Lord shined on him and shattered his reasoning and showed him he really was blind and he became physically blind for a period of time. But then he really saw Christ.
This is where we are today. And if we receive mercy from the Lord, if we would not go around saying “how clear we are”…”how much we see.” Rather, if we would be like blind Bartimaeus saying “Lord, that I may receive my sight.” Then we’ll begin to appreciate not ethical expressions (or what we would take as ethical expressions in Colossians)…rather we would appreciate Christ.
To what extent do christians today really care for Christ? What do christians care about? What do they talk about? What do they argue about? What do they promote? All manner of things. Where is the Christ unveiled in Colossians? Where is this Christ proclaimed? Where is He experienced? Where is He expressed?
So this Christ is in Colossians, but the authority of darkness must be smashed in our being. Then the Christ in Colossians will become the Christ in our experience. There is no word to describe how precious…even how life changing this is.