IDENTIFYING THE CENTRAL
AND PERIPHERAL MATTERS IN THE BIBLE
Many brothers and sisters may still not be clear concerning studying the Bible in the way of life. In this chapter we will consider again the matter of enjoying God through reading the Word. First, I will mention a few crucial points and then give some examples to illustrate these points.
THE BIBLE HAVING CENTRAL
AS WELL AS PERIPHERAL MATTERS
In the Bible there are central matters and there are peripheral matters. In other words, some things in the Bible can be compared to the roots of a tree and others to the leaves. A tree has roots and a trunk, but it also has branches and leaves. There is a basic difference between the roots and the trunk, and the branches and the leaves. We can also use the example of a cooked chicken, which has meat as well as skin. If the feathers are not thoroughly plucked before cooking, there may even be feathers. The central matter of a cooked chicken is the meat, and the peripheral matters are the skin and feathers. Similarly, there are central matters in the Bible as well as peripheral matters. May we all bear this distinction in mind.
THE CENTRAL MATTER IN THE BIBLE—
GOD IN THE SON COMING TO BE LIFE TO MAN
What is the central matter, the root and trunk, of the Bible, and what are the peripheral matters, the branches and the leaves? In the previous chapter we pointed out that the central matter, the root and foundation, of the Bible is God in the Son coming to be life to man. This simple word speaks of the very essence of the Bible. The subject of the Bible is God becoming life to man in the person of His Son. God is embodied in His Son, and He has given His Son to man. As soon as man receives God’s Son, the Holy Spirit enters into man to become life to man. God becomes life to man by becoming man’s food. When man receives Him as food and digests Him, He becomes every element within man. By living according to this life and by this life, man lives before God. This is the root, the foundation and central matter, of the Bible.
At the beginning of the Bible, in Genesis 1, man was placed before the tree of life. At the end of the Bible, in Revelation, the tree of life is still before man. All properly trained students of the Bible would agree that the tree of life symbolizes God revealing and presenting Himself to man as life in the form of food so that man would eat Him, thus enabling Him to become life to man. The accomplishment of this goal is recorded between Genesis 3 and Revelation 20. God has now entered into man and become life to man. God entered into man in His Son and through the Holy Spirit. He is now being digested by man to become man’s satisfaction and life so that man can live by Him. Although the Bible says many things, the center of its revelation is this subject. This, however, is only a brief sketch. Many items are attached to this central subject, but we will not consider these items now.
FOUR PERIPHERAL MATTERS IN THE BIBLE
The peripheral matters, the skin and feathers, in the Bible can be grouped into four categories.
The First Category—Consolation in Sufferings
The first category is related to sufferings, consolation in trials, and deliverance from difficulties. We can find many things in this category in the Bible. Although God’s central thought and goal are to work Himself into man to be man’s life, from man’s perspective there are many things that he must face. The first is suffering. Human life is always accompanied by sufferings. For example, I can preach the gospel to a friend and exhort him, saying, “You should believe in the Lord Jesus. He wants to save you and enter into you to be your life.” My friend, however, may respond, “My wife has had tuberculosis for three years. Can you come and pray for her? If she is healed as a result of your prayer, I will believe in Jesus.” Whereas God is trying to work His Son into my friend to be his life, my friend does not understand or even care for this. Instead, he cares for his wife’s deliverance from tuberculosis. God wants to enter into him to be his life, but he wants his wife to be healed. There is a conflict of interests. In such a situation God may sympathize and give in a little, causing me to respond, saying, “Has your wife had tuberculosis for three years? God is a sympathetic God. His name is also Jehovah-ropheka, Jehovah who heals” (Exo. 15:26). “He can heal. As long as you and your wife pray to Him, she can be healed.” This word may comfort my friend, and he may return to his wife, saying, “I spoke with a preacher today. Even though I did not understand or care for what he said, he did say that there is a true and living God who can heal you. If we pray, your sickness may be healed. Why don’t we try?” The two of them may pray for healing, but as they are praying, they are also providing an opening to the Lord and affording the Holy Spirit an opportunity to enter into them and work on them. The Holy Spirit may convict them of their sins and lead them to confess their sins. They may call on the Lord Jesus without much understanding and confess Him as their Savior. They might not be clear concerning who the Lord Jesus is, but by calling on Him, they can still be saved by God’s mercy. On the one hand, the wife is healed, but on the other hand, God has entered into them.
Even if the wife is healed, the husband might not have a job. Hence, when we speak again, I may say, “God has cared for you. He knows your troubles and answers your prayers. Go and pray with your wife again.” As long as he is only concerned about his troubles, those who try to help him can only help him solve his troubles. There is no way to help him to know God in a simple way and to experience Him as life.
The human life is full of sufferings. God knows this and, therefore, is somewhat obliged to help man before He can be life to man. I believe that the Lord allows me to say “somewhat obliged,” because this is not the main work of God. But man misunderstands God and thinks that God desires only to heal people and find jobs for them. It is as if God is a free doctor and a great employment agent. People think that God is only supposed to find jobs, schools, and homes for them. Many people begin their Christian lives by asking Him to do many things for them and thank and praise Him when their prayers are answered. However, when He no longer answers their prayers, they immediately question Him, saying, “What is wrong with Jesus? Why is God partial to some people? Maybe God is not a faithful God, or maybe He is not trustworthy.” They become angry and stop going to meetings or praying at home, thinking that God is not faithful and not trustworthy. There are many examples of such Christians. Many among us may even be such Christians.
Since man does not know God, he thinks that God is a goodhearted and good-natured God, who blindly dispenses love and mercy. Veiled by this misconception, he cannot understand God’s desire. He does not understand God’s thoughts and is completely occupied with his sufferings. Some preachers even say that man suffers because he lacks religion and that only religion can solve the problems of human suffering. They even preach that Christianity solves the problems of human life, giving examples of families whose problems were solved once they believed in Jesus. They use these words to attract people and to satisfy man’s psychology, because they know that human life is full of sufferings; however, they are ignorant of God’s mind.
The Bible does show that God is compassionate and cares for man. He is ready to comfort the suffering and heal the sick. Although the Bible does mention many such precious promises, these things are not the central goal in God’s heart. God’s central goal is not to heal our sicknesses or to remove our sufferings. His central goal is to enter into us to be our life. Because we have sufferings, sicknesses, and needs, He comforts, heals, and abides by the promises in the Bible. However, promises such as these are peripheral matters in the Bible. They are not the central matters. They are not the root and the trunk; rather, they are the branches and the leaves. Unfortunately, we often find only these superficial and outward things in the Bible. We fail to see the central, foundational things.