Monday, October 08, 2018

God's Eternal Purpose



A Personal Preface

What I am talking about is a little hard to grasp, especially the first time you hear it. So let me tell you a story that might help. I love this story; I've heard it told now three or four times, but I just can't stand it, it's so good.

A young man who loved the Lord very much and who himself has become a truly great servant of God, came to talk to Watchman Nee. He brought his notebook with him; he wanted to learn everything. He had come to ask a lot of questions. I know what that is like because I've done the same type of thing.

He would say something like this: "Brother Nee, what about Romans 7, this marriage here in the beginning of the chapter?"

And Brother Nee would say, "Hmmmmm."

No answer, just "Hmmmmm."

So the young man asked another question. "Well, what about eternal security?"

"Hmmmmm." Same answer.

Finally, after a few minutes of this, brother Nee turned and asked a question of his dear friend. "Brother, what is patience?"

That brother was afraid to answer. He knew what patience was! But he also knew there was something strange going on here. He dared not say, "You know, it's the tranquility and peace inside, and you're not disturbed ...." He thought to himself, "There is a catch here somewhere." Finally he answered, "Brother Nee, I don't know what patience is."

Brother Nee answered in a most incredible way. "Patience is Christ."

Patience is Jesus Christ. Everything else is just a shadow of patience. Real patience is just Jesus.

I know. You don't catch that. I didn't either then.

But it is true. There is no such thing as patience. Human patience is not of God and can't last. Did you ever pray for patience? I'll dare say that you didn't get it. The church of God lives only by the source of a Life—and that Life is Christ. The church has to learn to live by Christ. Christ is patience. And Christ is peace. And eternal security is Christ. The church has got to get this thing of just Christ being everything to the believers—taking Him and nothing else as they come together.

Brother, there isn't a so-called "doctrine" in the Scripture. There is simply Jesus Christ. Do you believe in immersion? Somebody else believes in sprinkling. What are you going to do? Are you going to throw out the immersionist or the sprinklingist? If you do you are going to build a man's system, based on human life. You say, "Oh, but this is important." Well, something else is more important. Can you see that Jesus Christ is baptism?

Our thinking has been so systematized into a theological, man-made concept of the Bible that we cannot see that we have been robbed blind of the preciousness of the reality of Jesus Christ. Brothers and sisters, when you come together, you don't need any "beliefs." There is something within you, deep inside. Live by that when you come together.

From "God's Eternal Purpose" by Gene Edwards, pp. 35-36

From 1999: Though we had been Christians since 1977 (for Karol it was a renewing of her childhood commitment to the Lord), for various reasons we never fully gave ourselves to the Lord or to the churches or fellowships we were part of. Much of this was due to selfishness and not understanding Jesus's call on our lives, but we also had a nagging feeling that there was something wrong with the church system, too, and not just with us.

Then in 1982 I read a booklet by Gene Edwards called God's Eternal Purpose, which also included the story of how and why he left the religious system. What he had to say about who Jesus Christ is and what the church is profoundly affected me. In fact, I remember that at the point near the climax of the booklet when he said that there are no doctrines in the Bible—there is simply Jesus Christ—the revelation or understanding of what he was saying so shook me that I had to stop reading. Words couldn't express what I was feeling, and for an hour I just kind of "screamed," burying my head in my pillow to muffle the sound (it was a "primal therapy" kind of thing, a form of release—after all, I was jettisoning a lot of religious "junk"), while I absorbed what he was saying, his message then and there obliterating everything I had built up in the way of doctrines, how to live the Christian life, etc. It was like a spear was being thrust right through me, or like the wind had been knocked out of me.

(Okay, maybe I was being a bit "dramatic"—but, hey, I was young in the Lord and young in years, too!)

I was so shaken that I called information for Gene's phone number in Santa Barbara, California, and then called him. When he got on the phone, my first words were: "Who are you, and why did your book do what it did to me?" For an hour I poured out my frustrations with Christianity and the church ....




Here on this page you can read the entire text of the booklet God's Eternal Purpose (and its introduction, How We Began) that so affected me. As you'll read, Gene Edwards originally gave this message "live" at a conference at UCLA in January, 1969. The booklet is an edited, expanded and improved version of that message.

I could comment on parts of it—e.g., areas of disagreement, instances of exaggerations or misstatements, my current views on these things, etc. (if you've read some of my critiques, you know I nitpick as well as point out major errors!)—but I won't, at least not at this time.

I scanned and proofread this, but if you find any obvious or apparent errors, please let me know.

- Eric Weiss

NOTE: The contents of this web page—i.e., this "message" or "exhortation" or "teaching"—blessed me nearly twenty (now thirty-six) years ago, and blessed a lot of other people thirty (now forty-nine) years ago when it was originally given. Whether Gene Edwards' ministry has been a blessing or a source of serious problems is a matter of debate among many. 

[I also later learned that this message was taken nearly verbatim from two of Witness Lee's books, but without giving Lee credit.]

Some critiques of Edwards' ministry and teachings can be found at the following web page and others as well:




This page last modified: 10/08/2018 13:45:57



How We Began

We are often asked, "How did you begin?"

Well, our story begins at UCLA; it began with a message given by a school teacher! That message started a revolution for us.

Here is our story. And here is that message!

We began as a group of about twenty college students at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

God did something wonderful during the year that preceded the message you are about to read: He sent a great move of His Spirit across this country. He had begun to raise questions in the hearts of young people everywhere about the religious system. Men were getting restless; they wanted the deeper things of God. They became dissatisfied with the limitations of the institution.

That work of the Spirit touched us, and a churning began within our campus group in Isla Vista.* That Spirit also touched and shook the whole religious organization to which we belonged. Some of its leaders even broke away from the international headquarters.

God used these men to fan the fire which His Spirit had kindled in our hearts. They spoke of a freer experience of the body of Christ. I remember that all we talked about in Isla Vista at that time was "body life," " all the members supplying," etc. None of us really knew what "the body of Christ" was, but we all wanted it!

It was this search for an experience of the body of Christ which pushed us to break whatever ties we had with organized Christianity. We wanted something new—something higher and more complete than anything we had ever experienced before.

To be honest we did not know what we were doing or where we were headed. Everything that happened was because the Lord Himself did His own work in the middle of a young, impure and ignorant bunch of college kids. And it seemed like so much was happening!

But our zeal and our high hopes only lasted about three months. Although we didn't know it then, we were headed straight into another dead end. The men who had ignited us with teachings about "the body" would take us very little further. They had taken us as far as they could with the light they had, but it was still all theory. What we needed was practical experience—and we knew no one who could point us to that.

It was at this time that a conference was called. It was to be held at UCLA. The date was January, 1969.

As far as I knew it was to be much the same as the other conferences we had been to that year. I didn't know that the Lord had a wonderful surprise in store!

This is what happened.

At the beginning of the conference the student in charge of introducing the speakers read off the list of names. I recognized them all ... until he read the last one. As it turned out, that last name was unknown to just about everyone present. Furthermore, the student making the introductions had not told anyone else of his decision to have this man on the program. It was purely accidental that the speaker was even present that day.

The speaker himself did not know his name would be called! Although I did not realize it then, the only preparation he made was during the time it took to walk from his chair to the platform.

It didn't matter. God had prepared that message before eternity began.

I'll never forget my first impression when this "new speaker" walked up to the platform. He certainly didn't fit the image of any Christian leader I had ever known. Nothing "mod" about him. Just an ordinary high school teacher.

But, from the time he first opened his mouth to the time that he left the platform, it was obvious to all that this was not an ordinary message. The words were strong, clear, uncompromising, wonderful, and revolutionary. Although I didn't know it then, my life was forever changed.

To those of us from Isla Vista, the next important thing was to get the tape of that message back to everybody who had missed the weekend. Everyone else in that roomful of people must have felt the same way, because "THE UCLA TAPE" began to be played all over the nation. And, wherever it went, it got a reaction—and usually it caused an uproar!

It was a few days after the conference before what I had heard began to sink in. It is only now, looking back after several years, that I realize that it was actually during the message at UCLA that a new work of God was begun on this earth.

It started us down the road to an experience of the church which is so wonderful and so glorious—that it is far beyond anything we could have ever dreamed of! I hope that reading it will start you down that same road.

Lance Thollander
1600 State Street
Santa Barbara, California

*A community made up mostly of college-age young people.




God's Eternal Purpose

MY TESTIMONY

Seven years ago last November I quit the ministry. One week ago I spoke publicly in the United States for the first time in over five years. So you had better slip off your shoes and lean back; I have an awful lot to say.

I have been asked by some of the men speaking at this conference to first give you my testimony. I hesitate to do so. But having been asked, I will tell it like it is, and may the Lord cover me. I trust that it will not be necessary to ever again give such a testimony publicly.

This is somewhat of a Pauline autobiography. You might call it "My Life as a Pharisee." May the Lord give you grace to understand my words.

I finished college when I was 18 years old. I had been converted to Christ about a year and a half earlier. The same weekend that I finished college I also entered the ministry. The following Tuesday I enrolled in the largest Christian seminary on earth. In the summer of that same year I was on my way to Europe to continue my seminary training.

While in school in Ruschlikon-Zurich, Switzerland, I had my weekends free. Some of us used that time to preach in the surrounding area. By the end of the school year, I had spoken in several countries in central Europe and, with some fellow-students, had helped the Baptists start some little things called churches. It was precious little help we gave, but it was experience. I learned a great deal.

That summer I traveled to the Middle East by boat (last class). I toured a good part of the Holy Land and spoke frequently there. Most of all, I spent a great deal of time with missionaries.

When you are as young as I was then (19), missionaries don't treat you as they would most outside guests. I saw them off guard, and it was very revealing. Actually, that one encounter should have been enough to make me recognize the serious condition Christianity was in, but I was too young then to recognize the deeper implications.

I returned to Southwestern Theological Seminary and, at the age of 22, received a Master's Degree in Theology. So you can see that I am well educated: a first class Pharisee!

While still in seminary, when I was about 21, I also became pastor of a little country church in the farmlands of East Texas. Before it was over, I actually pastored two churches over a period of five years. Both of these churches received awards (won by competition, of course!) from the Texas Baptist Convention for being "outstanding rural churches in Texas." (Which only proved we were good at winning contests.)

When I was about 24 and pastoring that second church, a very interesting thing happened; it profoundly influenced my life. A pastor in Dallas had been winning an enormous number of people to Christ. One year he had baptized 702 people into that fellowship. In five years his church grew from 40 people to around 1,000. Being young, intrepid and ambitious, I decided to visit that Dallas church and see what made it tick. While there the pastor taught me how to lead men to Jesus Christ, and I returned home very grateful for that experience.

At first!

Later it got me in a heap of trouble.

A short time after I was there, that pastor and his church were excommunicated from the Dallas Baptist Association. (Seems they weren't putting enough money into the denominational kitty.) This excommunication was a major religious event in our circle at that time. The very fact that I had spent a few days at that church put me in serious question.

Me! an orthodox Baptist in trouble with his own local association. The upshot of it all was that I had my first encounter with the religious system. And, by the time the smoke cleared, I had taken my first small step toward getting out of it. Really, it was nothing more than a small taste of freedom. It was a half liberty. But for those days any such kind of freedom was rare. Today God does things more radically. Today a good number of Christians have stepped out of the religious system—as you can see by the number of people in this room.

That was my beginning. From that day on God began gradually to set me free from the systematized thought slots we were all in.

At about the age of 26 I left the pastorate and entered evangelism. When men enter the ministry of evangelism they always go into something called mass evangelism. I didn't speak to unsaved people in large meetings, give an invitation, etc. You might say I directed campaigns in personal evangelism on a large scale—sometimes city-wide. Maybe it was a little more effective in some ways—if you can call anything within that world effective.

For the next few years my ministry got larger and larger. A group of churches in a city would band together and invite me to their town. The Christians from those churches, generally the most dedicated from each church, would then meet in a central place for one week. I would then train those believers in winning people to Christ. The second week of this "campaign," these Christians would go out all over the city, door to door, winning folks to Christ in their homes. The number of believers who went out may have been as many as 1,000.

Sometimes the results of these campaigns were impressive, but I had the same disease just about everyone has who has an independent ministry in the religious world. Each man thinks he has the answer! I believed a revival in personal witnessing would save the church. It was a sort of one pill cure-all. That was the way I felt in the beginning. A little later, though, I had to face grim reality. The fact was that a few weeks after I left town those churches were all right back where they were before. Dead.

There is one nice thing that comes. out of a life like the one I was living. You travel a lot. You see a lot. As the work got bigger, I learned more. What I learned was that the Christian church of this century was in sad shape!

I was invited into the headquarters, the inner machinery of several religious organizations and denominational headquarters. My job was to help those groups work out a program in personal evangelism. As my name grew in fame (or was it infamy?) I began getting "the treatment." There were introductions such as "... one of the outstanding young Christian leaders in America and other similar hogwash.

But I was still seeing a lot. It all added up the same, no matter where I went.

I wrote a book. Then another. I think they were carried in many of the religious bookstores at that time. One book sold over 125,000 copies. (I later took it out of print.) Unfortunately, I had no control over the other book, and I would like to take this opportunity to make a public appeal: please don't read it!

The point is that during those years I traveled more, saw more and got better known. I was on my way to becoming one of those men who hold that whole system together.

I kept noticing several things. At first I thought only the Christians in my circle were dead. Eventually, by the time I had been almost everywhere, I saw that everything was dead! Gradually one thing became clear to me, and how it took so long to get clear on such a simple thing, I don't understand. It was this: there is no hope for that thing I understood to be the church—not as it exists today. No hope whatsoever.

You may not totally agree with that. But I'll tell you this: I've had more experience in it and seen more of it and been higher up in its workings than you have. I have been there, to the very places where, if the modern day church could have been changed, it would have been changed.

But nothing ever happened.

Today's conference was called by a group of men who just recently left the religious system. I think they are men who could also say, "If that system could have been changed, we would have changed it. We had the keys. We had the open doors. But we found it could not be done."

That thing the modern world calls "church" is not going to change. Not now. Not ever.

Old wineskins don't patch well. Besides, patching old wineskins IS NOT God's way. Repairing old wineskins means a total loss of the old and the new—and it is a loss to the Lord. The old skin is torn, the new patch is wasted, and all the wine is lost.

Anyway, out of all this looking, watching and traveling came a new development in my life. First, today's Christianity, the Christianity of my lifetime, the brand of Christian religion which I am stuck with for my lifetime on this earth, became a kind of abomination to me.

Secondly, I became a very distraught and a very restless person. I became a seeker. My own sinfulness, as I understood it then, was a constant conviction deep within me. I was not a spiritual man. I was in spiritual need, and I knew it. I guess it was the time when I received one of those big public introductions always given a guest speaker that I sat there cringing and realized, "If I am something in Christianity, it really is in a sorry state of affairs." And in the last two years of that ministry sadness upon sadness rolled in upon me because of my own wretched spiritual state. What was outwardly a successful ministry was, to me, a total failure. I was sick of church buildings, of professional ministers, of the whole thing. And I was a desperate soul inside.

I used to come home to Tyler, Texas and go to church on a rare free Sunday. I sat in the balcony and watched the choir, the pastor and the bored young people who also sat in the balcony. This was Christianity. This was the expression of the living Lord on earth.

I was torn to pieces. I finally arrived at a point that I could no longer bear it. I got to the point that I just couldn't go to church any more. My kids would cry when they went off to Sunday School and I stayed home. It was a grim time.

Finally we quit going to church on Sunday altogether. That was an awesome day, the day we finally stayed home from church. I told a Bible story to my children. My wife and I read some Scripture together. For me, that day was equal to Luther's nailing the 95 theses on the cathedral door in Wittenberg.

I simply could not stand the death and the sheer boredom of church any longer.

Spiritually, I was a seeker. Practically, I was deeply troubled about what the church was. And when I came home from campaigns I was not able to go to church on Sunday any longer.

That was my status quo. I did not realize then that I had entered one of the most dangerous stages of life that a Christian can enter. Many men have reached that same point: beginning to drop out. Most men who arrive at this stage eventually meet with spiritual destruction. It was the unmerited mercy of God which got me through the next two years.

A couple of interesting things happened to me about this time. One was being invited by a religious organization to fly all over America and personally interview the Christian leaders in religion and in government. I accepted the new job, sandwiching it in between personal evangelism campaigns.

I met representatives, senators, governors and even one soon-to-be president. (I even got my picture taken with him accidentally and it ended up in Time.) In fact, I actually met two future presidents (meet enough of those guys and I guess there is bound to be a future president in there somewhere).

But again, everywhere I went, the more people I met, the more so-called Christian leaders I listened to, the more terrified I became. The organization I was working for wanted to save the country by putting Christians in key political positions. But the growing impression I received was that fulfilling that aim would only accelerate the disaster. I seriously wondered if we wouldn't be just as well off leaving the whole thing alone.

It was at this point that I had another unique experience. It happened in the year that turned out to be my last year in the ministry.

Howard Pue, a very devout Presbyterian layman who was also head of one of the world's largest oil companies and one of the wealthiest men in this country, got an idea. Why not call a national convention of Christians and try to save our land? To begin he decided to share his idea with some of the key Christian leaders of our age. An invitation went out to about 20 or 30 men to come to his hometown of Philadelphia. By an accident, a complete fluke, believe me, I was invited.

Each of us seated in that great conference room at the Union League was asked to stand and share what we felt was needed to save our land. The meeting was a real Christian's "Who's Who." Billy Graham's father-in-law, who was more or less representing him, sat next to me. He was asked to speak first. That meant I spoke last. I sat there all day listening to some of the key Christian figures of our age.

It just happened to have all taken place at the right time in my life. By afternoon, when they got to me, I was out of the religious system. I knew that if what I was seeing and hearing was the best that Christians had to offer this earth, if these were the giants, and these were their answers, then there wasn't any hope for the church as we understand it in this age.

What I have expressed is my own testimony. These are my feelings. You do not in any way have to apply it to your life.

A short time before this meeting in Philadelphia, I picked up a book by Watchman Nee entitled The Normal Christian Life. At that time my seeking, searching and longing was twofold. One aspect was a spiritual longing which, in turn, drove me to long for the church—that is, the church as it ought to be. That was it. Simple enough, was it not?

At the time I got hold of the book by Watchman Nee and went to the meeting in Philadelphia and was chasing all over America, I was also trying to take time off from my ministry as much as I could. Once, for about six months, all I did was read The Normal Christian Life and the book of Acts.It was quite an experience.

About this time, too, which was in November, many of the meetings I had on my schedule for the coming year began to call and cancel. I saw the hand of God in this and therefore cancelled all the rest of the meetings I could.

It was during this November, after Philadelphia, lying in a hammock in my back yard that, before the Lord, I utterly, absolutely, totally, completely, irrevocably and forever left structured Christianity.

I am out of it, and I will be out forever by the mercy and grace of God.

Well, after the decision was made, it took a little time to put everything in my life in order, to finish out my schedule, etc. But, essentially, in a few months I had simply vanished off the face of the earth. I quit quietly. From that day until this I have not been heard of. And you know, the world was somehow able to go on without me, without even falling to pieces.

Oh, I got some letters from people who had heard rumors about what I had done. "You'll wreck your life." "What about your ministry?" "What about all the lost?" Stuff like that. But there has been no loss. The religious system suffered no loss, and for me there has been nothing but gain.

I left a lot of dear people back in that system, some of the dearest Christians on earth. Nonetheless, without malice or rancor, rather with joy, I had to leave.

I have said some things here today that could be counted as boasts, some things that could be misunderstood, too. But I don't think you took them that way, did you? Let me be clear about my past life. I'll use the words of brother Paul. "All of it was a pile of dung." You cannot do much with that. It is no good. It is all waste.

All those years I spent chasing around the country would have been far better spent working as a carpenter. The world would have been better off and so would the modern day thing which men call the church.

I have pretty well finished the testimony I was asked to give. I have spoken of past things and about a system and how I left it, but all that is over. It was quite a long time ago. Today the issues that then tore me apart don't bother me. I never think about them or the religious system.

From all I've heard at this conference, it is made up of a lot of people who have recently broken with that system. You are talking about it a great deal. You do that kind of thing when you come out of the system. You can't help it, I guess; you have some pretty strong feelings and some pretty harsh words. But I passed through that stage quite some time ago, and today I am no longer mad at the system. Not the least bit. Today I am quite neutral about the whole affair, like a piece of melted vanilla ice cream. I'm just sitting here—not hot, not cold, just sort of at room temperature.

Since those days when I pulled out of the organized religious world, God has been very merciful to me. You see, When men come out of the system, like I did, like you are doing, most of them eventually end up just going into another system—maybe one that's a little freer, but still a part of the greater system. Other men become spiritually wrecked. I was one of the few fortunate ones.

Let me explain. I feel it is the Lord's higher will for us to get out of that thing, but when you really try to break from it and then you decide to stay completely out, it seems that every test on earth comes your way. You can expect such testing if you really mean to be out, totally out, yet still completely given to the Lord.

The time right after I quit was very lonely. No one knew what I had done. They didn't understand or know why I did it. Nor did they know what I longed for. It seemed to me at that time that I was the only man on earth who had ever even seen what I had seen and, as far as I knew, I was the only man on earth who had broken with the religious system.

I was alone. An island.

I certainly had no hope whatsoever that God would ever do what I see here before me, His stirring in your lives. As it turned out, I was a "first fruit," the first of what has become a mass exodus.

Back in that hour I really wanted to have the church. I wanted it here, now, on this earth, as I knew it should have been. But when I left the system there was nothing, absolutely nothing of the church available. Furthermore, there was nothing I could do to change the situation. (You cannot manufacture the church just because you want it and feel ready for it.) All I could do was sit. And God made me sit. And wait ... until doomsday if need be.

Likewise, here, today, you are beginning to understand the church a little, as I did some years ago. But I want to warn you, as one who has already been through the things you are yet to face: just because all of you, any of you here today, see the church ... as it "ought to be ...."

Wait a second. I am pretty sure you really haven't seen a full revelation of the church of Jesus Christ, but you have read the Scripture with a new view; you have had some new light. You are in the "Acts" stage. You have a glimpse of what the church was during the first century. What you have seen really isn't all that deep, though no one today could convince you of that. What you have seen is so glorious and wonderful you know it's the greatest revelation in centuries.

Anyway, here is the warning. Just because you have seen the church does not mean you are prepared to go out and rebuild it. You are not an Ezra or a Nehemiah. You are not prepared just because you have seen the church. You are not ready to go out and be an Apostle to this generation and rebuild the church.

Raising up the church, as it ought to be, is not that easy.

So, after my decision to leave the system I didn't do anything for about a year (except maybe read that Watchman Nee book and Acts). I just sat and sat. And the system that I had been in and all its influence on me just began to slowly drain away. I figure it takes about three to six years just to drain out, depending on the dosage you took. The bigger the dosage, the longer the waiting should be.

I just sat and read and waited.

After that, it was about six years ago, by the mercies of God, I began to have the privilege of meeting with people who had come farther down this road of restoration than anyone else has in the last 1600 years.

Later it was also my privilege to take a trip to the Orient and visit some of the churches which had come, indirectly, out of the ministry of Watchman Nee. (Many of you, I understand, have read another book by him, The Normal Christian Church Life.)

But I will not talk of that, of the work God did in the Far East through that man. I'll not commend it to you today because of this: I sincerely believe that, as of now, rig now, here today in this room God is going to do a greater thing than He has ever done before.

And some of your are marked to be in it ....

And ain't it wonderful?!

Well, I wish we had six weeks, I really do. I'm a little rusty. Where I've been the last six years there's not any place for big wheels or for speaking.

Well, let's turn to Genesis. Chapter one. We might as well start where everything got started.




PART 1

God's Eternal Purpose for Man

Genesis 1:1. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Genesis 1:26. And God said, Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness; and let THEM have dominion ....

Verse 26 says, "let them." It does not say "let Adam," or "let him," it says "let them" The "them" is very significant. From the very beginning God had in mind not an individual man but a corporate man. So we see first "them." We see "them," a corporate man.

The Scripture goes on to say, "Let them have dominion."

A corporate man to have dominion.

Dominion over the fish, the fowl, the cattle and "Let them have dominion over the earth."

A man, a corporate man,

Having dominion

Over this whole planet!

And this man is to have dominion over something else, too: creeping things. Do you know what creeping things symbolize? I believe you do. They are the enemy.

Finally, this passage says, "God created man in His image He created them in His image.

A man,

A corporate man,

Having dominion

Over the earth,

Over the snake,

And this man has God's image!

Now let's turn to Ephesians 3:11 where the same basic subject is under discussion.

According to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus.

Here we add another significant word, "eternal purpose."

God has a purpose. But it is not a purpose with a beginning or an end. It is an eternal purpose.

You know, of course, that God purposed that man be saved. But that is a purpose in time. You can locate that purpose in Genesis 3, after the fall. That is where that purpose got started. You can find its end, too, in Revelation 20 when the last vestiges of the fall have disappeared.

Salvation is not God's eternal purpose! It was not there, in God, before time. As far as that goes, God's main purpose could never have been to save us. Why? Because man didn't need saving at first. Man wasn't created lost! Salvation just got man back on track, back up to zero, back to getting on with the eternal purpose God had before creation.

So there is a purpose that reaches back before the fall (Gen. 3) and beyond the destruction of Satan (Rev. 19).

Now let's read Ephesians 2:15.

By abolishing, in His flesh, the enmity which is the law of commandments contained in ordinances so that in Himself He might make the two into one NEW MAN.

So here is yet another word. This time God speaks, not of man but of a New Man.

Now turn to Ephesians 1:21-22.

Far above the principalities and powers and dominions and every name that is named, not only in this world (there is the earth again), but also that which is to come.

And He has put all things under His feet (there is dominion again) and made Christ to be head over all things ... to the church.

The last part of this verse is very interesting: whatever Jesus Christ gets, whatever He has dominion over, He gives it to the church. Jesus wins dominion; the church ends up being the one with dominion. Whatever Jesus has dominion over, He gives to the church. Remember that.

Ephesians 4:24. Here is the mind blower.

Put on the New Man.

You are supposed to get inside the New Man and become part of the NEW MAN.

Then these are the words I'd like to begin with:

Man

A corporate man

Dominion

Image

Eternal purpose

Church

New Man

I'll start with the term, eternal purpose. We have all been hung up on the fact that man sinned and Jesus Christ came to earth to die for his sins. This has been the main focus of our attention for centuries.

How many times have you heard it said, "God's purpose for man was to save him."? Well, brother and sister, did God have a plan for man before man sinned? Was man going someplace before the time he sinned? Did God have a higher thought than salvation?

If man had never fallen, God still would have had a great purpose for him. God did have something for man to do when He placed him on this earth. It had absolutely nothing to do with the fall or salvation. The fall was a detour and salvation is what got man off the detour and back on the main road.

But even after God introduced man to salvation and got him back on the road, He still didn't have what He originally wanted. If man had gone along with God and had cooperated with Him, God would have done something on this earth that has nothing whatsoever to do with sin, salvation or redemption.

This is so clear if you will simply remember that man did not start out on earth as a sinner; he didn't start out lost or in need of salvation. Man was sinless and God had something He wanted to do. Something eternal. Something that would reach beyond time.

What was it that God wanted?

A purpose? Greater than salvation? Greater than the cross of redemption?

Yes. The Eternal Purpose.

God's eternal purpose is for you and it is for me. And I'm going to be in it; what about you?

To see the eternal purpose, let's go back to the time before the fall. Then we will be able to understand.

God made heaven. Then He made earth. Then He created a lot of other things like fish, cattle, etc. Then, on the evening of this six day work week, God made man. He fashioned a pile of red earth. Then He struck it and breathed into it. And behold, the earth moved. It stirred and stood up. It was man! Man, a piece of red dust, had become a living soul.

Then God said to man, "Red dust, stand up, I've got a job for you! First, I want you to have complete dominion over this planet called Earth. Dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, over the cattle, over the snakes, dominion over everything on this earth, and dominion over the very earth itself."

Secondly, God said, "I have made you in such a way that you can bear My image. Go across this earth. Bear my image. Bear it everywhere. Let all things see what I am like. Bear the visible image of Me, the invisible God. Earth shall see what I actually look like."

Fall or no fall, man is to do two things: (1) subdue the earth—including having dominion over the creeping things, over Satan—and (2) bear the image of God.

What is God's image?

According to the book of Colossians, Christ is the image of God. So there's supposed to be a Man right here on earth, in this age, walking around, who actually looks like Jesus Christ looked!

That's the image of God.

Now let's talk about dominion. To do that, we have to talk about earth.

In Genesis 1:1 it says that God created the heavens. So we can see that God owns the heavens. He got them by right of creation. He has the title deed to them. After heaven, God created earth. Earth was His, by right of creation.

But a lot of things happened after creation. Tell me, did God still have undisputed ownership of earth by the time He created man? No, He did not.

Do you remember the story of Jesus, the one about going up on a high mountain and being tempted by Satan? The Lord and Satan stood on that mountain and looked around the whole planet Earth, and they saw all its kingdoms. Then Satan, an angel, made an audacious, incredible statement to Jesus Christ, a man. Satan said, "This is my domain. I rule it. I own it. It is mine."

But what is even more incredible is that Jesus Christ did not dispute the statement! It was understood by both of them that Satan had some kind of claim to earth.

Then Satan, an angel, went on to say to Jesus Christ, a man, "I'll give you these kingdoms on earth if you will bow down and worship me!"

Some of you may be thinking, "Why do you keep calling Satan an angel and Jesus a man? Jesus Christ is the Son of God." Yes, that is true. But look at Jesus' attitude at the time He was talking to Satan. He was taking His position as a man. Notice that the Lord admitted that Satan had some kind of a claim on the earth. He admits Satan has the right to give those kingdoms to a man, if that man will worship him. Do you recall what Jesus had just said when Satan had challenged Him, the Son of God, to turn stones to bread? Jesus had said, "Man shall not live by bread alone." Man. MAN!

Jesus was talking to Satan, not as God, but as a man. And the subject under discussion was earth and who would rule it.

Here is what was going on between them at that moment. Satan had once caught a man, the first man, and caused him to fall. Now Satan was faced with a second man, a New Man, and he wanted to get this man to bow down and worship him just as he once ensnarled that first man. So Satan began talking to the Lord Jesus, trying to ruin Him. He addressed Him as the Son of God. But Satan was after the Lord as a man because a man is supposed to rule the earth ... and subdue the enemy. Satan's plan did not work because Jesus did not answer him as the Son of God. Jesus stuck fast to His position as man. The Lord resisted the enemy. In that moment Satan was defeated by a man!

So Satan turned. Now he appealed to Jesus as a man. And he appealed to Him on the basis of man's very purpose on this earth—to have dominion over it. "Okay," Satan said to the Lord Jesus, "You can have dominion over earth just as God planned for you, a man, to do. You'll have the kingdoms, the fish, the cattle, everything. All you have to do is bow to me."

Why didn't Jesus take him up on the offer? After all, dominion is what God wants man to have. It was a good offer. The Lord could have made quick work of it all and fulfilled God's plan. Why did he refuse the offer?

Probably the Lord could have given this answer: "No thanks, Satan. Your contract leaves out one small thing down there in the fine print. Man is after dominion of the earth and of all things on the earth ... including snakes!" Jesus was after total dominion. He turned down the offer.

From this conversation between Jesus Christ and Satan we find out that Satan had a claim, a foothold on this 'Piece of real estate. Even when God created Adam, the ownership of Earth was under dispute, and God planned for man to settle the dispute by taking dominion!

Have you ever noticed in studying history that a king never goes to war against one of his generals who has rebelled? When a general starts an uprising the king sends another general out to put down the rebellion. The king never lowers himself to battle; he does not directly deal with a general who is trying to take over his kingdom.

So it is with God.

Somebody staked out a claim to a piece of real estate within the vast domain of God. The usurper's name was Lucifer, sun of the morning. The place, Earth. God sent another general to subdue His enemy and to take back His piece of real estate. The general was to restore that real estate to the Lord's Kingdom and then the victorious general would rule over it by royal decree.

This was God's purpose for man. Now God's eternal purpose begins to come more clearly into view. God wants man to have dominion over the earth. God wants man to bear the image of Jesus Christ. It is an eternal desire on God's part. He has no other purpose. Everything else is less than this.

There is no direct conflict between God and Satan in this dispute. This great spiritual war you see being lived out every day on this earth is really between a man and Satan. And the conflict is over a clod of dirt called Earth.

Man, Satan, Earth, God's eternal purpose.

God told man to subdue this earth just as soon as He finished creating him. He couldn't subdue what was not already in rebellion, so the rebellion was in full swing when God created sinless man. Man is to rule and reflect the image of his Lord.

Sounds great.

God had His man.

But something happened.

Man blew it.

Sorry.

God's whole plan was thwarted. Satan got the upper hand. Man lost his lofty position and became a subject to God's enemy.

It went like this.

God had just created man and was about to get His purpose under way. He called to Adam and had him stand in front of the Tree of Life.

The Tree of Life.

This was step one in the battle to retake the earth.

Why is the Tree of Life significant in God's eternal purpose?

For man to be what God wanted, man had to eat of that Tree. Why? According to the Scripture, the three highest life forms in the universe are divine Life, angel life, and human life. God's Life is the highest life form, angel life is the second highest, and man comes in third. Yet God's enemy is an angel. If man is to subdue God's enemy then man must have a life higher than angel life. Now you get an idea of just how important the Tree of Life is. That Tree is the very Life of God; it is the highest Life in the universe; and that Life was being offered to man.

Man was never intended to walk around with human life. Man was to have an above-human Life for an above-human task. God intended for man to have a Life that could subdue the enemy, a life higher than angel life.

Just before man ate of this higher Life—which, by the way, is Jesus Christ—Satan came along. Satan had come up with a strategy to keep the real estate.

And Satan won. He kept the earth.

How? First, he prevented man from getting a higher Life. Second, Satan caused man to fall. For man to have sinned was bad, but for him never to have the Life of God was far worse.

To make a bleak story even bleaker, man did something else. He ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Man got another name after that terrible act. From that point on he was no longer man, from then on he had to be called "the old man." That is what he is. He is very old. The life of the old man is far, far lower than angel life; it is even lower than human life as it was created before the fall.

It is this weak, old man, this fallen man who begins to multiply on the earth. Without the Life of that Tree, man was already in third place. Now his third place human life is fallen even lower. It is utterly impossible for this weak, old man to fulfill God's original plan.

God had suffered a terrible defeat. After all, He had planned for a man to subdue the earth and bear His image. After the fall there was just no hope for that any longer.

God's general failed.

God lost his piece of real estate.

And man was stuck chugging along with a third-rate life—no, worse, a fallen, third-rate life.




PART 2

God of Heaven and Earth
The New Man

Besides man's fall, which in itself was a great loss, there was a second loss. God lost His piece of real estate.

Is earth really that important? Well, let's review the story of earth as it appears in Scripture and see. The first mention of earth is when God created it. Somehow it seems to have gotten in a bad way with "darkness and void" on it. That may have been the first evidence of conflict over earth.

Soon after creation God put living creatures on earth. The center of earth and of God's living creation was the garden. That garden was the center, the seat of God's rule on earth. When man fell, God chased him out of the garden. God had lost His clear claim to earth.

In the years that followed God saw earth become so terrible that He decided to destroy it. Earth was so much less than He had ever intended it to be. He was not Lord of earth. Only Lord of heaven.

But God got His real estate back. He got it back through Noah. The flood destroyed all the works of man, and Noah got the real estate back again. But it was only for a little while. You know about Ham. He reintroduced the ways of the old man on earth. In a few generations everything was going wrong all over again. Satan, through Ham and his descendants, had established his system on the earth once more. Man was totally drawn into that system, that government, that systemization of man.

So God said, "I am going to start again. I am going to pick out a small piece of land on the earth and claim it. A man will be given that land, a man who believes in Me. Satan will not be able to say this plot of land is his."

It was a dark era. God had no followers. All men were given over to the world system which Satan had set up on earth. So God had to call a man out of that system. He called Abraham out of Ur—out of Babylon. He said, "Abraham, here is, Canaan. It's yours. It's your descendants'. Take it. Hold it. Keep it."

Abraham went into the land, claimed it and lived on it. So did his son Isaac. Jacob, Isaac's son, had the land. But later Jacob and his descendants lost the land again.

Jacob's descendants ended up in Egypt—slaves, no less.

God had once more lost the land.

Then the Lord raised up Moses. The descendants of Abraham came marching out of Egypt and back toward the land. Then, through Joshua, they got their land back again.

Can you begin to see the tug of war between man and God's enemy? All history is just one big battle over a piece of land.

Read the Scripture very carefully from beginning to end, and you will discover a very interesting thing: whenever God's man is in possession of that piece of real estate, the Lord is called "God of heaven and earth." When man does not have possession of that real estate, He is only referred to as "the God of heaven."

For instance, when the priests, under Joshua, carried the ark into the Jordan, forged the river and crossed into the land, the moment their feet touched Canaan, and not until then, God was declared the God of heaven and earth.

Man had the land again.

Well, was that the end?

No.

The nation of Babylon—or better, the Babylonian system took the land back again under Nebuchadnezzar. His army took the land away from man. Israel was enslaved, deported and made part of that great Babylonian system.

They lost the real estate once more!

Now go read the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. There God's man leaves Babylon just as Moses left Egypt. They returned to the land! It was so exciting. They came back to a ruined, burned out city they had never seen before. Restoration. That's really exciting. Restoring God's house on God's land.

And as soon as they went back into that broken, torn down, uninhabited city, as soon as that piece of ground was claimed again and taken again, the Scripture calls the Lord "the God of heaven and earth."

A group of people, not one man, but a corporate group, moved back and took Zion. Man, corporate man, "them" had the land. Satan couldn't claim dominion.

So you see, earth is important.

Even today its ownership is in dispute. The center of this conflict is not God; it is not Satan. The center of this dispute is man. In the sight of God this creature called man is the most important thing in the universe. He is the center of God's plan; he is God's hope, His dream, His purpose.

Earth is important. Man is also important.

Next, let's look at the Lord Jesus when He came to earth On our part, we always like to honor Him as the only begotten Son of God. That He is. But the Lord Jesus, once He got to earth, liked to refer to Himself as the Son of Man.

That is quite amazing. Nonetheless, look at the record. It is true. Furthermore, it seemed to make His enemy more angry for Him to claim He was man, than to claim He was God!

Folks today like to dispute whether or not Jesus Christ is God. But not Satan. Satan knows He is God! He does not care if He is God. But he is scared silly that He is man! Satan knows he is not to be crushed by God; he knows he is to be crushed by a man. If Jesus Christ is a man, and if He is on this earth, Satan is in real trouble.

Just look. When the demons spoke to the Lord, they called Him "Son of God." If they could keep Him being God, they had no problem. Man is their appointed enemy. But when they called Jesus "Son of God," He answered, "Shut up." And then called Himself "Son of Man." Then, as a man, He cast them out. Hallelujah! At last God had a man on earth who could subdue creeping things.

He did the same thing with Satan as He did with the demons. As we have seen, on the Mount of Temptation, Satan pointed to His Godship. Jesus pointed to His manship. "Man shall not live by bread alone." He won over Satan on the Mount of Temptation as a man!

Look! What a sight.

There, on the Mount of Temptation, a man, for the first time, has dominion over Satan!

Look also at I John. In this epistle a way to test a spirit is given. Do you know what that test is? Will that spirit confess that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has come in human flesh?

A demon will not confess that Jesus Christ is Son of Man. Son of God, yes. At that the demon is safe. But if a demon confesses there is a man on earth who has power over him, Satan is defeated and God has won!

When Stephen was dying, what did he say? He looked into heaven. What did he see? The Son of God on the throne? No! Listen, devils, principalities, dominions, and kingdoms, you've had it; Stephen saw a man in heaven. Ruling. There is a man in heaven.

... and seated Him at His right hand, in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority, and power and dominion and every name that is named. Ephesians 1:20,21.

God put Christ over all these things. And He is in heaven, as the Son of Man, with power over Satan. A human being is above the principalities of this earth, and they are all under His power ... as a man!

What man did this?

Adam?

No.

Adam's race?

No.

The corporate Adam is the race of the Old Man. Weak, defeated.

Jesus Christ is not of that race. He is head of a new race. He is the first man of a new mankind. To put it as the Scripture does, He is head of THE NEW MAN.

Even after Adam's fall, God still meant to get His purpose. And He meant to do it the way He originally planned with a man! Therefore God sent a New Man to earth. He literally started a new race, a new species!

What did the Lord look like while He was on this earth? What did He do? He had compassion on the multitudes. He healed the sick. He taught as no man ever had. Then! He came into collision with the kingdom of darkness. Every time Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, came into conflict with that dominion, He won. He had absolute power over it.

Things are turning out differently with this New Man. It isn't like the defeat Adam knew.

Watch the Lord Jesus.

God is working out that Eternal Purpose which He had in the garden.

While Christ was on the earth, He was in flesh. That means He was quite limited. The Gospels are the story of Jesus Christ, the head of a New Man. Yet He is limited. But there is no mention of the rest of His race. He is one lone, single new man. He is not a "them." There is no new mankind, no great body. Where is that corporate man? Where is the "them?" Where is the corporate New Man?

Did you ever notice how Jesus was always anxious to get away? He wanted to leave the earth. He kept saying,

"I've got to leave." He also said, "I've got to leave so that someone else may come."

One day He knew. His time had come.

"I'll soon leave!" He started getting ready for the cross, death and resurrection.

Now watch. He is crucified. He dies. He rises again. And then He leaves earth. He ascends.

And we are left here on earth all alone ... without Him.

Don't feel left out, though. He had a fantastic purpose in leaving. He is leaving so that there really, truly might be a NEW MAN on earth. A truly new "THEM." A corporate man to fulfill God's purpose.

Man.

Earth.

Image.

Dominion.

New Man.

While Jesus Christ was on earth, He was the beginning of a new creation. While on earth this very confined, lone, single man had dominion over the earth, and He was the image of God. God could be seen when you saw Jesus.

Image and dominion. God visible! That was Jesus. In every way the Lord Jesus fulfilled God's plan, except in one thing: He was not a "them." He was not corporate.

Do you know what God did?

Now we are really getting close to seeing the meaning of God's Eternal Purpose.

The Lord sent His Spirit—which is His very own self—He brought His Spirit back to earth. That Spirit contained the same thing which the Tree of Life contained! The Spirit came, bearing the Life of God. Bearing the Highest Life Form. HE was the highest Life.

And He put His Life in us!

Until now:

God had God's Life.

Angels had angel life.

Man had man's life.

But now the Spirit descends and man has God's Life!

At last, a man with a life higher than angel life. There was no longer the lone Son of God come in flesh. No longer one Man with the Life of God in Him. Not just one single New Man.

He put His Life in all of us!

He put His Life in you!

A new race has begun. There is finally a "them." The corporate New Man has begun to live on this earth.

Now let's move to the book of Acts. What do we see there? The corporate New Man. It has another name which may surprise you. This corporate New Man is called the church.

What? The church?

Remember that passage we read in Ephesians; it told us clearly what the New Man is. The New Man is Christ the head, plus the Jew, plus the gentile. Then the wall is torn down between Jew and gentile; suddenly there is no Jew, no gentile. They are one. No more Jew. No more gentile. Gone. What was in their place?

Christ, the head, and us, the body!

Christ and the church: the New Man!

You are not the new man. Nor am I. We are in the New Man. The new man is made up of all the believers, combined in Christ.

What do you see in Acts? You see what God was after in Genesis I and 2. You see a corporate man. In fact, there is virtually no difference between Acts and the Gospels. In the Gospels you have one man doing certain things. In Acts you have a corporate man doing the same things.

They have the same Life.

In the Gospels it is Christ. In Acts it is Christ in His body. In you, in me, in others. Together we are one corporate man, the church.

Look at your Lord. He is no longer limited. No longer confined to one lone, fleshly body. He is not limited so that only a few can be with Him and touch Him. He has moved inside of you and others like you. He is now available to all His followers.

But don't get the idea that makes you so important. Don't think you can go out and have dominion over the earth or that you can bear the visible image of the invisible God.

No.

God said, "Let them have dominion." You can be sure that God will never trust His power to an individual so that that individual has power over His enemy. His power, His dominion over Satan and His image seen on this earth have been given only one place: to the church!

Let me illustrate that. In the Gospels we see that Jesus taught; He healed the multitudes; He raised the dead; He healed the sick; He cast out demons. He had rule over the creation. God made Christ head over all the principalities and powers of this world. Christ is over them.

Now the Lord turns around and gives away His power, His Life, His authority, His image, His dominion. To whom does He give it? Ephesians tells us: to the New Man.

Now look at Acts. The corporate New Man is teaching. He is healing the sick. He casts out demons. He has dominion over the snake. And he bears the image of the Lord upon the earth. When you see the church on this earth you see what God looks like! The corporate New Man looks just like the Man of the Gospels.

This New Man, this body, is the church. There is now the head and the body. The church is being corporate, is having dominion over all the earth and bearing the image of Jesus.

Well, don't just sit there. Say "HALLELUJAH!"




PART 3

The Building of Man
The Building of God

Let's return to the garden of Eden for a moment. We saw a little while ago that God created someone to bear His image and have His authority. Who was that? MAN. In order for man to do that for which God created him, he needed to eat of the Tree of Life. But there is no record that man ever ate of that Tree. Even worse, man also fell, and sin came into him. So he didn't have the Life of God, that is, he did not have the Life that can subdue the enemy; he did not have the Life that can bear the image of Christ. Ever since the day of the fall, man has been called by another name. He is called "the old man." The fallen man is the old man.

My friends, some of you frighten me. You see a little bit of the church. But be careful; be very careful, for in your desire to see the church restored as it should be, you must be sure you do not build what the old man builds. While you're trying to build "the New Man" you just may end up constructing another typical building, designed and built by the old man. Yes, the old man builds. Most of the so-called "Christian" things on the earth today were built by the old man.

Let's follow that story.

When the old man first left the garden he still looked pretty much as he had before the fall. He was a sort of tattered image of his Creator. And he wanted to do good. Do you know why? Because he had eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good. But, though he knew and wanted good, what he did was evil because the tree he ate of was also evil.

He had that element in him desiring to do good, but doing evil instead. There was a deeply religious element in him, but it always missed the mark. The type of "good" that was in that man was just as much from Satan as the evil was. That type of "good" has nothing to do with God. LIFE, from the Tree of Life, is from God. God deals in Life; Satan deals in good.

Brother, we don't live by being good; we live by Life, the Tree of Life. And that's all we must live by.

Let's follow the old man some more. Born in the image of God, but now a broken image, Adam leaves the garden. He has a son whose name is Cain. Cain leaves God's presence. He then builds a city called Enoch. It is the old man's very first building project. Notice the ways of the old man: he is going to try to be something for God. But he himself is doing all the building. God has nothing to do with it. The old man is always motivated to do something for God, and he also makes all the decisions about what will be done for God!

Soon more and more of the building of the old man began to crop up throughout the earth. This building program began to have a form, a system about it. We can even see where the systemization of man first began. It all started with a fellow named Lamech (Genesis 4). He had a son named Jabal who invented the idea of spending all your energy on having a home. Jabal also invented the systemization of the food industry. Another of Lamech's sons was named Jubal. He invented the idea of entertainment. The third son was Tubal-cain, and he invented national defense. And there you have it: some of man's building. It has certain characteristics, and God hates those characteristics. This old man is nothing more than your human capacity, your human life, your fallen Adam life at work.

I gave you my testimony a while ago. It sounded like a testimony of Christian service! But what you heard was only the idea, the modern concept of what Christian service is. In fact, what you heard was pretty much the story of Adam life. There are plenty of stories like it. It's the testimony of 18 hours a day, of letters, of sermons, of finances, of grit and gum and printing presses ... and sweat. All of these things are only human life trying to do good, trying to build something for God. But it is still man. It's time the world started seeing a testimony by a corporate man who is living by divine Life.

To return to our history, what are the things the sons of Lamech built? War, recreation, the food industry and fancy homes. That's the beginning of the world system. The world system is nothing except ordinary, good things (food, clothing, shelter, rest) systematized until they consume your life and enslave you. Unfortunately, that is pretty much where all men, even Christians, are today.

The world system is good things that have become perverted—for example, marriage. The process of getting married is so all-consuming that it's a plain disaster. But I know a brother and sister who came to a meeting of the church last year and, at the end of the meeting, announced that they wanted to get married. They pulled out a license and signed it. Both of them, along with those present, said, "Praise the Lord. Hallelujah. Amen!" Someone prayed a little bitty prayer and the meeting ended. They were legally married. There was no system to what they did. No agony, no sweat. It was just beautiful, utterly simple.

But look at the world system's approach to marriage. It's weeks of sweat and labor; it's invitations sent out; it's poor papa spending hundreds of dollars on gowns, candles and flower stands. All of it is a beautiful system that ensnares you. And it is pure agony. But most of all it is utter distraction from Christ.

The same is true of recreation. Look at us today. We work so hard to rest. We're utterly captured by recreation.

And the home! The home has become an absolute bondage to man. Mowing the lawn, keeping out the dust, repairs, everything nice and pretty and placed just right, and "don't sit down there!" I have owned a home. I don't any more, but I'm sure that our expenses ran about as much as the monthly note. Plus there were hours and hours of work keeping it pretty. Oh, the bondage of the tent, the house. This is the world system, the building of man.

Today there is even another system, one added since Tubal-cain. It's the world of transportation. Oh, the enormity of the responsibility of just owning a car. The sheer expense and agony of keeping that thing running.

There is a system on this earth that captures man and draws him from his simplicity.

Let's see that in a religious context.

When you have a church with a pastor and a board of directors (deacons? elders?) and a bunch of people sitting in an audience, what you see is an organizational structure like General Motors. There is a president, a board of directors and those who do the work.

That is the system. It has no Scriptural basis whatsoever. This structure is just not in the Bible. The system was put together by Adam life. Organization is, in fact, the image of human life. Yes, you can see the image of man all over the earth. (May God hasten the day when you can see the image of God.) It's easy to recognize this image. It always has some kind of a president, or head, at the top. Then some sort of board. Then a chain of command. This is the way of the old man throughout all history. Notice that peasants are always at the bottom! In the religious system he is called "the layman."

But God wants His image on earth. Don't forget that. And He wishes it to be expressed in a corporate fashion by one called "the New Man."

Let's go on and follow the line of the old man, for it reaches all across the pages of Scripture. You see, there is one great world system started by Cain's descendants, but that system has many systems in it, and there are systems inside those systems. For example, inside the world system there are the educational system, the political system, the medical system, the religious system, and so on. Let's take the religious system. Inside that system there are many denominations, many organizations and movements. Each is a system. Inside each denomination, for instance, are churches, and each of them is a whole world in itself. Systems within systems within systems. Yet they are all uncannily alike.

How? In many ways, but for one thing, they all have exactly the same organizational structure. This is the image of man. And certainly that image can be seen just as clearly in the religious world as in the others.

All these complex human activities have a basic element of goodness in them. Put it this way: the system is but a usurping of good normal things to make them so complex and so important looking and so essential looking that we get in bondage to them.

As I said, there's nothing wrong with marriage: it's the bondage of the ceremony that makes it so hideous. There's nothing wrong with a home, a roof over our heads, but the bondage of all the things that have been made to go into that home is incredible. Then there are clothing and transportation—all of it has been put into the world system—used to keep the old man in bondage.

Let's follow the story a little farther.

Next we come to Babylon, the very essence of the building of man. Believe it or not it was one of Noah's great-grandsons who built Babel. Noah was a vessel of God. Still Babel came from one of his descendants. That's how this thing works: somebody starts off just great, and four generations later you have a system. Noah's great-grandson, Nimrod, built the first big city and the first human effort to reach God. Now that's commendable. It is also the very essence of the religious system.

Nimrod was characterized by his greatness. He was a great hunter. He also knew something of God (there was sort of a religious vein in the family), and he wanted to do something for God. He saw something of God's building; he instinctively knew that God wants a building, so he began to build a city, a city that would reach to heaven. Be careful or you will end up doing the same thing.

What materials did Nimrod build with? He used brick. You know what brick is? It is something man-made. You take some dirt and water and you make mud. Then you heat the mud up a little bit, and you've got a brick. If you ever look at a brick you'll see that it's not truly even. Bricks are full of little pores, little holes. There's nothing you can do about it; that's the way mud and water are.

So Nimrod and the others began to build a city made of brick. This is human—human!

When God builds, He builds with stone. God is the only one who can make stone.

Nimrod and his companions began to build up the walls, and they noticed that the stacked up bricks tottered a little, and they tipped over, and they wouldn't stay together. If the bricks were given a little push, they would all fall over. The bricks didn't fit tightly together. They fell apart too easily.

You go start something. Try to do something for God. After a few years it will start falling apart. Then you'll do what Nimrod did and you will sure enough have the building of man.

Nimrod and his crew realized that they had to do something to get those bricks to stay together. What they did was make something called "bitimus" in Hebrew [correction: "bitumen," translating the Hebrew חֵמָר], and the translation here is great. It says that they made some "slime" to hold the bricks together. This is the characteristic of man's building: men cannot stay together of themselves; they fall apart; there must be something, some "slime" to hold them together.

If you start trying to have "body life" together, or church life, you know what's going to happen? You are going to split in a thousand different directions. You know why? Because you're going to be doing it by human life—and human life always splits. Whatever you build is going to fall over. Of course, you can take slime and make the building stay up, but you are so far off from God's building then, from the New Man's building, there is just no comparison.

Well, Nimrod and his group began to build, and the slime hardened and the brick held. What is this slime, anyway? I'll tell you what it is. It is "acceptance of the brethren." It is "fitting in" or not feeling accepted. It is rules, brother. It is regulations, sister. It's "you gotta do this and you can't do that." It is the building of man, and in it you must conform.

Slime holds the building of man together. Eventually it is a head director and then a board and then something else and then the peasants at the bottom. It doesn't matter whether you call them "pastors," "deacons," and "congregations," or "presidents and regional directors and staff." It doesn't matter what they are called, it is, in fact, an artificial binding. Remove that organization and remove those rules and the whole structure will fall over. You must toe the line or man's building will not stand!

One day God looked down from heaven and saw Babel being built up, and it was coming His direction. Everything was going smoothly. The Lord took note of this. You know what happened. Suddenly there was a problem: division among the workmen! Now who brought on the division at the tower of Babel? God brought it on! He descended to Babel and gave every one of those workmen a different tongue. They couldn't talk to one another. They couldn't finish their building. It stopped and they left.

God brings division. That's a startling thought!

I thank God in His mercy He brings division. If there were no division in the human system, in the religious system, in the building of man, it would consume the whole earth. Then every man alive would be in bondage to it.

In the Middle Ages there was a system, a religious system. It grew so great that it was about to consume the earth. So God brought division.

You've heard recently of some religious organizations that are having some problems. Some division has entered. This is the division brought on by God because a system gets too powerful and too great. God must divide it or it would consume the earth.

I thank God for division when the building is one engineered by a group of Adam lives. If you want to know how to recognize man's method of building, look and see if there's a chain of command. If you find one, it's the human system, the human imprint.

The tower of Babel was certainly not the end of this system. The ways of the old man show up next in Egypt. Do you remember Egypt? The Lord's people had moved to Egypt, and there they had been taken into slavery. They were forced to build Pharaoh's cities! A lot of the Lord's people, most, in fact, are enslaved, building man's building.

The book of Exodus says that the cities were built of brick. And how were they built? Brother, in order for the human building to be built, there must be slavery. Pharaoh would not let the people of God go because he would lose his builders if he did. He had organized them into a system so that he could use the Lord's people to build his building. That still goes on today. There is a king at the top enslaving man, not to build God's city, but to build for him, in the image of man.

Why don't you throw off your chains, my friend, and sneak away while no one is looking?

Well, the Lord's people wanted out of Egypt and out of Pharaoh's system. What did they want to do? To return to their own land and to rebuild God's building.

Pharaoh's reaction? He wanted to make a deal with them. Listen to it, because it is the same argument you will probably hear if you start to leave this great big building project of man's. Pharaoh said, "Go to the very outskirts of Egypt and build the city of God there. You don't need to leave Egypt completely; go ahead and erect your Tabernacle here."

And they said, "No. We've got to get all the way out of Egypt."

You do the same. Get all the way out! Do not get most of the way out and try to have God's building or, before you know it, you will be back in the system, back working for Pharaoh building for man again.

Pharaoh would not let them go. So God rained 10 plagues down on him and his people—and still he would not let the Israelites go. Today God is raining 10 plagues down on the religious system. He is. And still there is no relief from that system; it puts up every excuse in the world why the Lord's people should stay.

But go they will! By the unction of the Spirit of God within them, by the leadership of another Life, they will go. Not all. Not all. Some of your friends will stay. You must go.

The Israelites finally got out of Egypt. They left the building of man, marched out into the wilderness and began to experience something wonderful: the building work of God. For the first time man was engaged in building God's building.

Well, they were out in the wilderness now. Wonderful! Then they had some little problems—you'll have to face these problems too. Some of them said, "Aw, fiddlesticks, let's go back. There are fleshpots in Egypt." What are "fleshpots"? Security, that's what! "You may be enslaved back there, but boy, you've got an income. You have bread to eat and a roof over your head."

(By the way, people who send "prayer letters" don't need to be prayed for. And they don't want your prayers, either. Shake that letter real hard and a self-addressed, business reply envelope will fall out. You don't send prayers in those envelopes. You know what that return envelope is for! This is part of the system too: security. And security is the big factor keeping us in Egypt when we know we should leave. When the Israelites got out into the wilderness they began to look back on the security they had had. That slavery looked great. They wanted it back again.)

What was their real problem? Why go back? Sand? Hot weather? No. It was a cloud in the sky during the day and a pillar of fire at night. That cloud was driving them crazy. They could move toward God's land, toward the real estate (to retake the earth) only when that cloud was moving. But when it just hung there in the sky, they had to sit. When the cloud didn't move, they couldn't move. Then, sometimes, it would just completely disappear—and that was frustrating.

At times like these came the desire to once more have a system. A system is so secure. You know where you are and you have a nice, stable leader. God isn't that way. Ninety-five percent of the time you don't know who you are, what you are doing or where you are going. There is a lot of uncertainty in following the Lord outside the system.

It was so hard to get used to being led by a cloud and a pillar of fire! That is nothing in the world but a picture of the Holy Spirit within His children. But, you know, you're never really led by Him except out there.

The big problem you run into when you come out and try to get into the land is the same one the Israelites had. You have never before had any experience in following the Lord Jesus Christ. You've had no practice. You've been in the system so long, getting and taking orders from man, that there has been no exercise or growth of your human spirit. The process of learning to live by the Lord Jesus hurts! It's painful. It's a slow lesson to learn. Brother, you're going to have to go through a time of learning to look for and follow a cloud and a pillar of fire. You have to learn to follow the Spirit of God within you. Many prefer Egypt.

Let me stop here and just mention the other way, God's way. Look in the New Testament. Look closely at the Lord and His way. Peter, his way. Paul, his way. Look at the Lord. He had twelve men in His hand. Then He left them! To whom? The cloud and pillar of fire! Peter had 20,000 people. Because of the circumstances that God arranged, they up and left Peter. Who directed them when they no longer had Peter and the twelve? It took a long while before it happened, it took a lot of practice, but they were left to a cloud and a pillar of fire. Paul raised up about one dozen churches. He left them all ... to follow the cloud and the fire.

Out there, unlike in this system where no one ever grows up, the hour comes when it's over; you are no longer going to follow man; you are left to the cloud of God.

In the New Testament the concept of Apostleship was like that. The principle of Apostleship is vastly different from anything the system ever conceived. The men God sends out have only one purpose: to instruct and to show men how to live by Christ. Their job is a temporary one. The men in the New Testament fulfilled God's purpose this way: they built the church, then they left it! They got out! Why? So that the people of God might learn to live by the Spirit within them and to live by nothing else. Why? So that Christ might be the head of His church. To put it another way, given enough time Jesus Christ is alive enough in you to "pastor" His own church.

If you leave the system you will have to learn to live by Him: to follow the cloud, to follow the pillar of fire. This is hard to do, but never go back.

Let's leave Egypt and the wilderness. You know that eventually some of God's people got into the land, mostly young people. They lived in the land. But soon another picture of the building of man arose. This time it was called Babylon!

Remember that a while ago we saw that Nimrod built Babel. Then you don't hear from that city any more for a long time. It seems to have disappeared. No, it was just growing bigger. Watch it when it reappears. Nimrod built it, man built it, for religious reasons—to reach God. But leave any religious institution alone for a few hundred years and when it reappears it will be Babylon! Not just Babel, but Babylon. It started off as a city to reach the true and living God. And what is it by the time we see it again, hundreds of years later? It started off as something good; it started off as something to reach God but, hundreds of years later, that city was worshiping the moon! Furthermore, that city had become the enemy of God!

If man builds, even though he builds for God and for Christ, when that thing he has built gets old and its founder has died, it will have become the very enemy of God. It will no longer bear even a semblance of the image of Christ. Give it a few hundred years—no, it seems in our age the degeneration is more rapid, it can be done in 40 or 50 years and unbelievably that thing that started out to be something for God has become the enemy of God's work!

What happened with Babel? This city, built to reach God, built "for God," if you please, took the Lord's people captive. More slavery! The Babylonians went to Israel with their army, to Jerusalem, destroyed God's building and took the people of God back to Babylon and enslaved them.

Once again, you see, there is a fight over that piece of real estate.

For 70 years the people of God lost the earth. God was only the God of heaven. But, praise Him, one day a little group of Jews in Babylon determined to go back home. Some of their brothers and sisters were quick to point out, "Aw, there's a temple here in Babylon." But the little group said, "Yes, but there must be a temple in Jerusalem. It has to be in a certain spot, on that particular land. It has to be in the right place. We're going back."

The others said, "Don't leave. Stay here and help us and maybe we'll change the system. Stay here, maybe you can help others get their eyes open." You'll always hear this. And a lot of people stay because of it. If you stay in, either you will be thrown out or you will conform. You can be sure the system won't be converted—too many folks would lose their jobs. Including you! And that is the reason most people stay in it.

There is one last thing those who wish you to stay will say: "Stay, the vessels of God are in the temple of Babylon!" The vessels of God were in the temple in Babylon! I guess that's what bugs us. It is a good argument, and it really gets to us. There is salvation there. There is something of God there. Most of us were saved in Babylon and grew up there. But when you open the windows and look toward the land, a place you have never even seen, you're not even sure it exists, but you know that God's eternal purpose is that man possess that land and live in that city, then you've got to get out of Babylon. You've got to go where you really belong.

Some of your dearest friends will say, "Don't go back!" At that time just remember it's not the great majority of the Jews that went back—no, the great majority of them stayed in Babylon. It was only a few who returned to rebuild the city of God. You will have to bid good-bye to your friends and family and go. And go like Nehemiah did. Don't take any of the gold and silver of the governor of Babylon. Grab the vessels of God, the vessels that belong in God's temple, and run. And when you get there, build again, with stone, the city of God!

We need to look at one last scene in the history of Babylon. Praise God, Babylon has a final scene. Babylon not going to be on earth forever. The world system has an end!! In Revelation Babylon is seen once more. There is the old man, his building, which was started way back in Genesis, built by human life. It is still there. By this time Babylon has begun to express the image of what she really is: a woman who is a harlot. She still has around her neck the gold, silver and precious stones which are a symbol of God's people. She displays them for everyone to see. But underneath them she is covered with the blood of the prophets and the saints of God. If you don't believe that, then just go back and see who has killed all the prophets and saints of God: it's the religious system.

Babylon is exposed for what she really is. She is called "the mother of harlots." Her one great disposition is to have intercourse with the world. By the time you get to Revelation, she has become a great buyer of the world's products.

This is interesting. Did you know that one of the largest single economic factors on earth is the erecting of so-called "church buildings" and religious institutions? There is a city in the Midwest where the largest single source of income in that city is a religious organization located there. Without that organization the secular printing companies and advertising agencies and related businesses could not exist. There is a tremendous income in that one city from that one religious institution.

The harlot has taken over Madison Avenue techniques. She has taken on the image of the world. She has had much intercourse with the world. "She" is the great religious system—and she has given birth to many, many children who are also harlots.

"Well, boy, those are tough words."

I have never spoken on this subject publicly before, and, as far as I'm concerned, I will never speak on it again, but if I do it only once, then let me be clear! Some of the very last words God ever speaks from heaven before His city descends to earth are words concerning Babylon (Rev. 18). God says, "My people, come out from her. Come out from her." For all the ages God has been calling us out of human life and out of that human life system. He is calling you out of the things that man builds for God. He calls you out' of those things that bear the image of man and have the ways of the world. He is calling you and He is calling me. Throughout this whole earth His Spirit calls: "Come out from her!" His people are enslaved in Babylon and He is saying, right now, to you, "Come out!"

He doesn't say, "Stay in there and convince someone else to come." He doesn't say, "As you leave, take a Babylonian garment with you." No. He says, "Come out!" And leave her ways. Come out to what? Come out to God's eternal purpose! And what is God's eternal purpose? To have the New Man who bears the image of God and has dominion over the enemy.

Now let's move to the positive. We have talked a lot about the old man and his building. Let's look at Christ, at the New Man, and let's look at the Lord's building.

The New Man!

Jesus Christ came to earth. He was very much like Adam, but He is the beginning of a new race. He bears the image of God. He exercises the authority of God. He has the Life of God in Him. No other man ever had God's Life in him. So this is a new kind of man. A New Man.

But He was an endangered species. He was the only one of His kind on the whole earth, If He died His species vanished. He had the image of God, the authority of God, and He had dominion over the snake. Did He ever! But He was the only one of His kind. No "them" here. Just one man. No corporate New Man.

Worst of all, He died. But He demonstrated some unusual characteristics in His death which no other man ever had. This new species of man was a little different. When He was buried in the ground He became a seed. A seed fell into the ground and died. But the grain came up out of the ground ... and when it did, it was a whole lot of seed. If you know the story of First Fruits and Pentecost, you know that three days after Jesus was killed grain was offered to God as First Fruits of the harvest. But on the day of Pentecost the grain was gathered in, full and ripe, and all the many seed were crushed together. (It took a lot of crushing for the Lord to have His New Man.) These seeds were the seed of a new race, the seed of a new species—now crushed into flour and made into a loaf of bread, one whole loaf. That was Pentecost.

Can you see anything?

Out of the grave of Jesus Christ came the seed of a new race, a race of people who (1) bear the image of God, (2) exercise the authority of God, and (3) live by another Life; they live, not by human life, but by divine Life.

Fifty days after the death of Jesus, on the day of Pentecost, this seed was all placed together and crushed into one loaf. What was this? The corporate New Man ... called the church!

The Life in the loaf is the same Life that went into the earth. The Life of the seed is the Life of the loaf. Hallelujah! God has His New Man! The church is the "them."

What is the Life of this New Man like? The life of the old man is the life of Adam. In it is the image of division. In the old man is the image of a mind all out of shape: the image of thinking and rationalization and schemes. But the image of the New Man is the image of the Spirit of the Life of Christ. It is Christ Himself. He Himself is impregnated into you.

Once you have this new Life, God wants you to learn how to live by that Life, by Him. But more! He wants you and your brothers and sisters to corporately learn to live by Him. The result of learning to live corporately by God's Life will be that a body grows up, a fitly formed together body.Not a body with one giant ear for listening and one giant tongue for talking and nothing else, but all parts of the body: arms, legs, feet, everything ... fitly formed together. The New Man! The body of Christ upon this earth.

Friend, the Lord got that! He actually got it! After His death, at the celebration of Pentecost, He had some people who had been crushed and built together into unity. A corporate man, at last!

Let me just stop here. I have to share this with you, for some of you are thinking in terms of experiencing the body, the New Man. And, bless God, if you don't have the absolute, irrevocable urge to do this—DON'T DO IT! If you cannot go this way, stop. But some of you have no choice.

When the day comes that you come together with your brothers and sisters in Christ, you're going to be tested on this matter of unity. Human life is going to crop up in all of you and it is going to want to do some building.

I can see it now. It is as old as church history. Someone among you is going to get up, clear his throat, thumb through his Bible and start talking about predestination. Aha! And there's going to be someone else present who, sure enough, doesn't believe it. So it begins, a 3,000 year old story.

Somebody else is going to stand up and talk about foot washing. Somebody else present is not going to believe in that. Somebody else will want wine for the Lord's Supper; another person will think it should be grape juice. There will be somebody who declares he believes in falling from grace and the insecurity of the believer. Another brother will huff and puff and bring a corrective message on the necessity of believing in eternal security. By then it will be the last days of Pompeii!

Look, I'm going to shake you like you've never been shaken before! I beg you, don't go to sleep now. And listen with your spirit, not with your brain.

That whole scene is of the old man. I know you've never heard "sound doctrine" challenged before, but that which I just described is not sound doctrine. Every one of those ideas is, in fact, a man-made scheme. Men in the first century didn't sit around talking about eternal security. Theologians and philosophers invented that stuff and they were using a lower life form when they did it.

I don't believe Paul had the vaguest idea what eternal security was! You say, "Look at Romans 8." I'm looking at Romans 8. And, first of all, it's part of a beautiful, living, personal letter from an Apostle to a very specific church. It's about the Spirit of Life in Christ. It's about the fact that you're going to have to suffer a little bit to be built up in the body, but that God gives grace and He gives peace and He's not going to let anything get hold of you. Isn't that great and glorious? Hallelujah! Praise God! And that's not all, but it's alive and beautiful.

Let's say you are a new Christian. Somebody comes along with his dusty old eternal security. He is even teaching it. Eternal security? Yes, that means you can't lose your salvation. You say, "Wow!" But you know how the law works. You don't even know you need eternal security until someone reads it to you and tells you that you have to believe it!

When man hears the law he thinks it's great. He is told to obey it. He wants to. But he can't. He was happy until he heard the law. Now, unable to obey it, he is miserable. That's the law. And the principle works with eternal security.

You tell a man "You've got salvation and you can't lose it." Immediately he begins to doubt his salvation!

Eternal security is a rule. Can you get along without eternal security? Yes. How? I'll tell you.

Christ is Life! Now you tell a new convert that Jesus Christ lives in him and that His Life is eternal and indestructible and that he, the new convert, is impregnated with Christ. You tell him that he does not have to live by human life, but he can live by the Life of God that will never end and that he can take Christ as his everything. And that's all you have to say! Tell him: live by Jesus. "Eternal security," "you can't lose your salvation," will never enter his mind. His mind will be blown by Christ.

If you say "eternal security," you've put a Christian under bondage. Christ IS eternal security. Preach Christ. Live

Christ. Eat Christ. Live by Him.

You believe in foot washing? That is a doctrine.

Listen, Jesus came and bowed down before a disciple to wash his feet. That disciple said, "Lord, I'll never let you do this." Jesus said, "Unless I wash you, you'll never be whole." Peter said, "Lord, wash all of me." and He said, "I'll just wash your feet, that's all that needs washing." What is foot washing? I'll tell you what foot washing is: it's Jesus Christ.

Who washed the feet? Jesus. What is foot washing except the humility of Jesus Christ? It is Christ Himself. And, friend, if you'd just take Christ corporately, in the church, live by His Life, experience His Life, and forget all your systems and forget all your man-made doctrines, then there would come out of that corporate experience so much real foot washing that you wouldn't be able to contain it.

What I am talking about is a little hard to grasp, especially the first time you hear it. So let me tell you a story that might help. I love this story; I've heard it told now three or four times, but I just can't stand it, it's so good.

A young man who loved the Lord very much and who himself has become a truly great servant of God, came to talk to Watchman Nee. He brought his notebook with him; he wanted to learn everything. He had come to ask a lot of questions. I know what that is like because I've done the same type of thing.

He would say something like this: "Brother Nee, what about Romans 7, this marriage here in the beginning of the chapter?"

And Brother Nee would say, "Hmmmmm."

No answer, just "Hmmmmm."

So the young man asked another question. "Well, what about eternal security?"

"Hmmmmm." Same answer.

Finally, after a few minutes of this, brother Nee turned and asked a question of his dear friend. "Brother, what is patience?"

That brother was afraid to answer. He knew what patience was! But he also knew there was something strange going on here. He dared not say, "You know, it's the tranquility and peace inside, and you're not disturbed ...." He thought to himself, "There is a catch here somewhere." Finally he answered, "Brother Nee, I don't know what patience is."

Brother Nee answered in a most incredible way. "Patience is Christ."

Patience is Jesus Christ. Everything else is just a shadow of patience. Real patience is just Jesus.

I know. You don't catch that. I didn't either then.

But it is true. There is no such thing as patience. Human patience is not of God and can't last. Did you ever pray for patience? I'll dare say that you didn't get it. The church of God lives only by the source of a Life—and that Life is Christ. The church has to learn to live by Christ. Christ is patience. And Christ is peace. And eternal security is Christ. The church has got to get this thing of just Christ being everything to the believers—taking Him and nothing else as they come together.

Brother, there isn't a so-called "doctrine" in the Scripture. There is simply Jesus Christ. Do you believe in immersion? Somebody else believes in sprinkling. What are you going to do? Are you going to throw out the immersionist or the sprinklingist? If you do you are going to build a man's system, based on human life. You say, "Oh, but this is important." Well, something else is more important. Can you see that Jesus Christ is baptism?

Our thinking has been so systematized into a theological, man-made concept of the Bible that we cannot see that we have been robbed blind of the preciousness of the reality of Jesus Christ. Brothers and sisters, when you come together, you don't need any "beliefs." There is something within you, deep inside. Live by that when you come together.

Now let's go back. Jesus Christ was the New Man. He died. The church came up and God had a group of people who lived by Christ and had His Life. This group of people did what Jesus did! They subdued the enemy and they reflected His image. Read Acts! It's there. That corporate body, that New Man, did exactly the same thing in Acts that Jesus did in the Gospels.

When people came into the church as it met, they saw no human head. Jesus Christ was the only head. The unbeliever said, "God is among them." Those people didn't look anything like the world system. There was no division among them, no division over doctrine or gifts or man or anything else. They were just brothers and sisters who were simple and lived by another Life. No organizational structure. No old man. This was the church. God had a man who bore His image and exercised His authority. God was God of heaven and earth.

But the battle went on! The system of man which bears the image of man, which has division in its nature, came in. And God lost the land again. The early church disappeared by the third century.

In this city is a chopped up, decimated body of Christ. It's mostly Christians who are inside the religious system. And not all of them are going to leave that system. But God will call some—perhaps you—to go back and take the land, the earth.

There will be some who will drop everything they have known and set out for the adventure of restoration. They will drop the forms, the rules and the doctrines and will know nothing but the headship of Christ. They will come together and live by Him. They will not be the body of Christ, they will only be part of the body, but they will simply represent the body of Christ as it should be. They will represent all the believers in their city. They will say, "We will come and take the land. We will be built together in Life. And we won't split!" They will say, "I don't care whether I agree with you or not, you're my brother. You've got the Life of Jesus Christ in you. In the most practical way, we will be one."

Do you recall the situation in the church in Corinth? They were fussing. Paul spoke to them about the root of their problem. "Do you know why you are in this mess? It is because of your soulishness, because of your human, Adam life. You look on Apollos and Peter and Paul and Jesus as four different groups among you."

"Adam life."

No, we will be a people who do not eat of that tree. We will take Christ, the Tree of Life, as our food. We will take Him as our Life. We will take the fruit of the Tree of Life and eat it. We will have nothing but Him, in primitive simplicity. By God's grace upon us, without rules or forms, we will meet together in unity as brothers and sisters. And we will have just Him.

Yes, there will be times when we get mad. All right, we'll get mad. We'll cry; we'll weep; and then we'll go back at it again and live with one another again. Gradually, God's Life will grow in us. Then, slowly, there will grow up among us "the love of the brethren" which is proof to the world that we are His.

Furthermore, Christ will be the head. There will be the pillar of fire and the cloud among us, leading us forward to new, unclaimed experiences. And men will come in and look around and will report that there is no human leader among us. Instead, they will see one and then another member of the body being led of the Spirit of God to speak, to share, to do whatever it is that the Spirit of God Himself has decided to do.

Brothers and sisters, there will come upon this earth a time when our God shall be declared the God of heaven and of earth!

Yes, there will be a hand and a foot and a mouth. There will be an eye and a tongue and, most important of all, a head. A complete body, a whole man. He will be the NEW MAN, united in the image of Christ! He will subdue the enemy and have the earth!

That is what God is doing now! HALLELUJAH!

- G.E. (Gene Edwards)




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