THE ECONOMY OF THE TRIUNE GOD
My burden in all the messages I am giving here is to share with you something of God’s economy. Let us read 1 Timothy chapter 1, verses 3 through 7: “That you might charge certain ones not to teach different things nor to give heed to myths and unending genealogies, which produce questionings rather than God’s economy, which is in faith. But the end of the charge is love out of a pure heart and out of a good conscience and out of unfeigned faith; from which things some, having misaimed, have turned aside to vain talking, desiring to be teachers of the law.”
These verses contain two very important expressions as indicated in Greek, the original language of the New Testament: God’s economy and misaimed. The apostle Paul was chosen by God to bear the responsibility for God’s economy, and he trained his spiritual son Timothy in this economy. It is quite interesting to note that Paul’s Epistles to Timothy were written at a time when many Christians had drifted from the original pathway. They had missed the central mark of God’s economy and were paying attention to something else.
THE DISTRACTIONS FROM GOD’S ECONOMY
According to history two prevailing elements distracted the early Christians from the right track: Judaism and Gnosticism. Both the Judaizers with their religious doctrines and forms and the Gnostics with their philosophies deterred the Christians from following the Lord in the pathway of God’s economy. Apparently, it was the good elements of Judaism and Gnosticism that sidetracked these early Christians. If these elements were not comparatively good, they could never have been prevailing enough to cause the believers to miss the mark of God’s economy. For instance, the Judaizers strongly stressed the Mosaic law of the Old Testament. There certainly was nothing wrong with the law. On the contrary, it was unquestionably right and good and was given directly by God Himself. But the law of itself was not related to the mark of God’s economy. Gnosticism, from the human point of view, also had its good principles. In fact, it was one of the best inventions of human civilization and was a kind of help to the heathen. But the Gnostics tried to bring their philosophy into the church, distracting the early Christians from the mark of God’s economy.
Today, even though there are no Judaizers or Gnostics to disturb us, there is still much to distract us. For nearly twenty centuries the subtle one has never ceased using the seemingly good things to divert believers from following the Lord in the right track. If we spend time with the Lord, we will realize that the enemy is persistent in utilizing even the good things of Christianity to distract the Lord’s children from the mark of God’s economy. While I was traveling through many districts in this country during the last few years, I realized that many religious matters and even scriptural things have been used by the subtle enemy to influence seeking Christians to depart from the pathway of God’s economy.
What is God’s economy? The Scriptures, composed of sixty-six books, contain many different teachings, but if we would make a thorough and careful study of the Scriptures with spiritual insight, we would realize that God’s economy is simply His plan to dispense Himself into humanity. God’s economy is God’s dispensation, which means nothing else than God dispensing Himself into the human race. It is regrettable that the term dispensation has been misused by Christianity. Its definition is nearly the same as the Greek word economy. It means the administrative arrangement, the governmental management, or the dispensing, distributing stewardship of God’s plan. In this divine dispensation God, who is almighty and all-inclusive, intends to dispense nothing other than Himself to us. This needs to be repeated many times in order to impress us deeply.
God is exceedingly rich. He is like a successful businessman who has an enormous amount of capital. God has a business in this universe, and His vast wealth is His capital. We do not realize how many billions, countless billions, He has. All of this capital is simply Himself, and with it He intends to “manufacture” Himself in mass production. God Himself is the Businessman, the capital, and the product. His intention is to dispense Himself to many people in mass production and free of charge. Therefore, God requires such a divine arrangement, a divine management, a divine dispensation, a divine economy, in order to bring Himself into humanity.
Let us be more specific. Now that we know that God’s purpose is to dispense Himself, we must discover what God is in order to know what He is dispensing. In other words, what is the substance of God? When a businessman plans to manufacture a product, he must first of all be clear about the substance, or its basic constituent. God’s substance is Spirit (John 4:24). The very essence of the almighty, all-inclusive, universal God is simply Spirit. God is the Manufacturer, and He intends to reproduce Himself as the product; therefore, whatever He reproduces must be Spirit, the very substance of Himself.
We have seen God’s purpose and what is dispensed by God; now we must realize how God is dispensed through His economy. In other words, Spirit is what God dispenses into man, but now we need to see the means by which He does this. It is by the Trinity. The Triune God—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—is the very economy of the Godhead. Christianity during the past centuries has had many teachings about the Trinity, but the Trinity can never be adequately understood unless it is related to the divine economy. Why are all three persons of the Godhead required for the development of His economy? We know that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are not three different Gods but one God, who is expressed in three persons. Yet what is the purpose of there being three persons of the Godhead? Why are there God the Father, God the Son, and also God the Holy Spirit? It is because only through the Trinity can the essential means be provided whereby His Spirit is dispensed into us.
Second Corinthians 13:14 shows the steps of God’s economy by the Trinity. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” Here we have the grace of the Son, the love of the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. What are these? Are these three different Gods? Are love, grace, and fellowship three different items? No. Love, grace, and fellowship are one element in three stages: love is the source, grace is the expression of love, and fellowship is the transmission of this love in grace. Likewise, God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit are one God expressed in three persons: God is the source, Christ is the expression of God, and the Holy Spirit is the transmission bringing God in Christ into man. Thus, the three persons of the Trinity become the three successive steps in the process of God’s economy. Without these three steps, God’s essence could never be dispensed into man. The economy of God is developed from the Father, in the Son, and through the Spirit.
God the Father is the universal source of all things. He is invisible and unapproachable. How can God the Father, who dwells in unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6:16), be within us? How can we see the invisible Father? If God is only a Father, He would be inaccessible and could not be dispensed into man. But through the divine arrangement of His economy, He put Himself into His Son, the second person of the Trinity, in order to make Himself available to man. All the fullness of the Father dwells in the Son (Colossians 1:19; 2:9) and is expressed through the Son (John 1:18). The Father, as the inexhaustible source of everything, is embodied in the Son. The incomprehensible God is now expressed in Christ, the Word of God (1:1); the invisible God is revealed in Christ, the image of God (Colossians 1:15). So, the Son and the Father are one (John 10:30), and the Son is even called the Father (Isaiah 9:6).
Formerly, it was impossible for man to contact the Father. He was exclusively God, and His nature was exclusively divine. There was nothing in the Father to bridge the gap between God and man. But now He has not only embodied Himself within the Son, He has also become incarnate in human nature. The Father was pleased to combine His own divinity with humanity in the Son. Through the incarnation of the Son, the unapproachable Father is now approachable to man. By this, man can see the Father, touch the Father, and fellowship with the Father through the Son.
We can demonstrate this relationship by dipping a white handkerchief into blue dye. The Father’s divinity could originally be likened to the white handkerchief. This handkerchief, dipped into blue dye, represents the Father in the Son becoming incarnate in humanity. The white article has now become blue. Just as blue was added to the handkerchief, so the human nature was added to the divine nature, and the once-separated natures have become one. The first stage of God dispensing Himself into man, therefore, is through the embodiment and incarnation of Himself in the Son as a man—thus, reproducing Himself in man.
The second step of bringing God into man is through the second person of the Trinity, the Son of God. In order to understand the second stage of the economy of God, we need to know what Christ is. What are the elements that make up Christ? What are the ingredients combined together that constitute Christ?
There are seven basic elements that make up this wonderful person, six of which were added through His history. First, Christ is the divine embodiment of God. This first element in Christ is God’s divine essence and nature.
The second element, His incarnation, is the mingling of His divine nature with the human nature. Through His incarnation He brought God into man and mingled the divine essence of God with humanity. In Christ there is not only God but also man.
The third element which was added to His divine and human natures was His human living. This glorious God-man lived on earth for thirty-three and a half years and experienced all the common and ordinary things that make up the daily human life. The Gospel of John, which emphasizes that He is the Son of God, also tells us that He was tired, hungry, thirsty, and that He wept. His human sufferings were also part of His daily life, which included many earthly troubles, problems, trials, and persecutions.
His experience of death is the fourth element. He went down into death. But He not only stepped into death; He passed through death. This produced a very effective death. The death of Adam is terrible and chaotic, but the death of Christ is wonderful and effective. The death of Adam enslaved us to death, whereas the death of Christ released us from death. Although the fall of Adam brought many evil elements into us, the effective death of Christ is the killing power within us to slay all the elements of Adam’s nature.
Therefore, in Christ there is the divine nature, the human nature, the daily human life with its sufferings, and also the effectiveness of His death. But there are three additional elements in Christ. The fifth element is His resurrection. After His resurrection Christ did not put off His manhood to become solely God again. Christ is still a man. And as man He has the additional element of resurrection life mingled with His humanity.
The sixth element in Christ is His ascension. By His ascension to the heavens He transcended over all enemies, principalities, powers, dominions, and authorities. All are under His feet. Mingled with Him, therefore, is the transcendent power of His ascension.
Finally, the seventh element in Christ is His enthronement. Christ, the man with the divine nature, is enthroned in the third heaven as the exalted Head of the whole universe. He is in the heavenlies as the Lord of lords and the King of kings.
We need to remember, then, the seven wonderful elements that are in Him: the divine nature, the human nature, the daily human life with its earthly sufferings, the effectiveness of His death, the resurrection power, the transcendent power of His ascension, and the enthronement. All these elements are mingled in this one marvelous Christ.
God, however, cannot come into us through the Son. According to the first stages of His economy, the Father placed Himself in the Son, and the Son has the seven elements mingled within Himself. But we still need another stage, a third and final step, for God to dispense Himself into man. The first step was that the Father embodied Himself in the Son; the second step was that the Son became incarnate in humanity to have all the seven wonderful elements mingled within Him; the third step is that both the Father and the Son are now in the Spirit. All that is in the Father is in the Son, and both the Father and the Son, containing all the elements in Christ, are brought into the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit, after the Lord’s ascension, is no longer the same as the Spirit of God in the Old Testament times. The Spirit of God in the Old Testament had only one element—the divine nature of God. As the divine Spirit, He did not have the elements of the human nature, the daily human life, the effectiveness of death, the resurrection, the ascension, and the enthronement. Today, however, under the New Testament economy all the seven elements of Christ have been placed in the Spirit, and, as such, this all-inclusive Spirit has come into us and upon us. In other words, He is in us and we are in Him. This is the real mingling of God with man, which we may experience at any time. We are mingled inwardly and outwardly with the Holy Spirit.
What is the Holy Spirit? He is the Spirit of truth (John 15:26). But what is truth? The meaning of the Greek word truth is “reality.” Therefore, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of reality, the full reality of Christ. Just as God is embodied in Christ, so Christ is realized in the wonderful person of the Holy Spirit. Christ is not separate from God, and the Spirit is not separate from Christ. Christ is God expressed, and the Spirit is Christ realized in reality.
“The Lord is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:17). This verse proves that the Holy Spirit is not separate from Christ. The Lord is Christ Himself and is referred to as the Spirit. “The last Adam became a life-giving Spirit” (1 Corinthians 15:45). Again, the Scriptures point out that Christ, the last Adam, is the Spirit. We must admit that this life-giving Spirit is the Holy Spirit.
Furthermore, God the Father is also the Spirit (John 4:24). Hence, all three persons of the Godhead are the Spirit. If God the Father is not the Spirit, how could He be in us, and how could we contact Him? Moreover, if God the Son is not the Spirit, how could He be in us, and how could we experience Him? Because the Father and the Son are both the Spirit, we may easily contact God and experience Christ.
Notice the following verses: “One God and Father of all, who is...in all” (Ephesians 4:6). “Jesus Christ is in you” (2 Corinthians 13:5). “His Spirit who indwells you” (Romans 8:11). These three verses reveal that God the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are in us. How many persons, then, are in us? Three or one? We should not say that three separate persons are in us, nor should we say that only one person is in us; rather, we should say that the Three-in-one is in us. The three persons of the Godhead are not three Spirits but one Spirit. The Father is in the Son, and the Son with all His seven wonderful elements is in the Spirit. When this wonderful Holy Spirit comes into us, the Godhead is then dispensed into us. Because the three persons are in one Spirit, we have the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit within us. Later, we will see that the Triune God is in our human spirit to be our spiritual, inner life. This is the very mark of God’s economy, and this is the method whereby the Godhead is dispensed into us. The goal of the divine economy is to dispense the Triune God in one Spirit into our human spirit. Hence, we must now focus our whole attention upon living by the Triune God, who dwells within our human spirit. If we are distracted from this, however good and scriptural other things are, we will surely miss the mark of God’s economy. The Lord today is recovering His children by causing them to center on this mark of His divine economy.
O Lord, Thou art in me as life,
And everything to me!
Subjective and available,
Thus I experience Thee.
O Lord, Thou art the Spirit!
How dear and near to me!
How I admire Thy marvelous
To all my needs both great and small
Thou art the rich supply;
So ready and sufficient too
For me now to apply.
Thy sweet anointing with Thy might
In weakness doth sustain;
By Thy supply of energy
My strength Thou dost maintain.
Thy law of life in heart and mind
My conduct regulates;
The wealth of Thy reality
My being saturates.
O Thou art ever one with me,
One spirit with me all the time
For all eternity!
Verses and footnotes are taken from The Recovery Version of the Holy Bible and Words of Ministry from Brother Witness Lee, The Economy of God, The Economy of the Triune God, Chapter 1, and [with personal enlightenment and inspiration]. Both are published by Living Stream Ministry, Anaheim, CA. All Rights Reserved.
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