by Watchman Nee
Eph. 3:4-6; John 12:32; Luke 12:50-52
The Mystery Hidden in the Ages
In Ephesians 3:4-6 Paul speaks of his understanding of the mystery of
Christ. This mystery was not made known to the sons of men in other
generations. The men of old did not know of the mystery that God spoke
through Paul, which involves the Jews and Gentiles becoming one new man
in Christ Jesus. This is the corporate Christ, which is the church.
Verse 6 of chapter three is a precious verse. The words "fellow
members" refer to the new man in Ephesians 2:15. The new man stands
in contrast to the old man. There are many individual men in this world,
but there is only one old man. In the same way, there are many
Christians, but there is only one new man—the church.
One New Man
In order to understand what the new man is, we must first understand
what the old man is. The old man is the God-created man who fell through
sin. Every person in Adam is not only a sinner before God, but also an
old man. When such a sinner, the old man, hears the gospel and believes
in Christ and is saved, he becomes a new man. Not only has he become a
new man individually; he is joined to all other Christians to become one
corporate new man as well. Ephesians 1 speaks of the church as the Body
of Christ; chapter two speaks of the church as the new man; chapter
three speaks of the mystery of Christ; chapter four speaks of the way to
build up the Body of Christ; chapter five speaks of the responsibility
of the church; and chapter six speaks of the warfare of the church. The
peak of God's work is the church, which is the new man. God saves us so
that we will become a new man in Christ.
A great lack among Christians today is that everyone wants to be an
individual Christian. Everyone wants to be good and zealous; everyone
wants to sit and listen to good sermons. In short, everyone wants to be
a Christian in an individual way. But God does not just want us to be
good on an individual basis. He is after a corporate vessel that will
destroy Satan and accomplish His plan. God does not want to see
Christians scattered like a pan of sand. He wants Christians to be
joined together to become a corporate new man.
What Is the New Man?
Ephesians 2 speaks of Christ creating one new man out of two groups of
people, but it does not tell us what the new man is like. According to
Colossians 3:10-12, the new man is renewed unto full knowledge according
to the image of Him who created him. In the new man there is no Greek or
Jew, circumcision or uncircumcision, barbarian or Scythian, slave or
free man, but Christ is all and in all. The new man is not a matter of
having or not having distinctions; it is a matter of either being the
new man or being nothing. The new man is not in the realm of being a
Greek or a Jew. The new man is simply Christ. The nature of the
new man is Christ. In the new man, Christ is all and in all. We can even
venture to say that Christ is the church and the church is Christ,
because everything in the new man—the church—is simply Christ. The
constitution of the new man is nothing less than Christ Himself.
The Church Being Christ
Since the nature of the new man—the church—is Christ, we can say
that the church is Christ. Let us read two passages. In Luke 12:50-52
the Lord said, "I have a baptism to be baptized with, … Do you
think that I have come to give peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but
rather division." Why did the Lord say this? He said this because
He had said that He would cast fire on the earth. This fire is the fire
of God's life. This means He would release His life on the earth to all
those who would believe in Him so that they would be regenerated and
receive God's life. This matter, however, could only be accomplished
after His baptism, which refers to His crucifixion. John 12 reveals that
the church is produced out of Christ's death and resurrection. He is the
grain of wheat that fell into the earth, died, and brought forth many
grains—the church—in resurrection. From these two passages we can
see that the church is produced by the life of Christ. Through His death
and resurrection, Christ released His life and dispensed it into the
believers. These believers are then joined together to become the
The Church Being the Corporate Christ
In the New Testament there are two ways to look at Christ. On the one
hand, He is Jesus Christ the Nazarene—this is the individual Christ.
On the other hand, He is Christ plus the church—the corporate Christ.
First Corinthians 12:12 refers to the second aspect when it says,
"All the members of the body, being many, are one body, so also is
the Christ." Anything apart from Christ is not the church. There is
only one thing in a Christian that forms a part of the church—Christ.
The church is the corporate Christ. In the church there is only Christ.
During the bread-breaking meeting, the portion that we break off from
the whole still signifies the Body of Christ, the church. The church is
not what is added to Christ, but what issues out from Christ.
Today there are divisions among God's children because there are
differences in organizations, personal views, concepts, choices,
preferences, and doctrines. But in God's eyes the church is inseparable.
All these differences are merely outward differences; they are not
differences in the intrinsic reality of the church. The church is the
composition of all the believers with Christ. The church is the
corporate Christ. When all the saints are joined together in Christ,
we have the church. Since there is only one Christ, there can be only
one church. Hence, it is indivisible and inseparable.