Originally posted on the Bibles for America Blog.
Have you ever heard that God has an economy?
The word economy usually brings to mind things like money, resources, or financial systems. So you might think God’s economy is related to the way God wants believers to handle their money, or how He provides people with material resources.
In the New Testament, the phrase God’s economy is used in a number of verses. But none of them refer to anything material. Instead, this phrase in the Bible points to something much more profound.
In this post, we’ll discuss the usage of the word economy in the New Testament, focusing on a key verse and its accompanying note from the Recovery Version. We’ll also read excerpts from The Economy of God by Witness Lee, a book that examines this tremendous subject in a detailed way.
The Greek word oikonomia
Greek is the original language of the New Testament. The Greek word oikonomia, which is translated into English as economy, appears in several New Testament verses. In 1 Timothy 1:4, the apostle Paul instructed Timothy, his young co-worker in the Lord:
“Nor to give heed to myths and unending genealogies, which produce questionings rather than God’s economy, which is in faith.”
Since this verse states that God’s economy is in faith, and given the context of the entire book of 1 Timothy, we can clearly see that Paul wasn’t speaking of finances or material things.
So what does God’s economy mean?
Let’s read the first section of note 3 on this verse in the New Testament Recovery Version:
“The Greek word means household law, implying distribution (the base of this word is of the same origin as that for pasture in John 10:9, implying a distribution of the pasture to the flock). It denotes a household management, a household administration, a household government, and, derivatively, a dispensation, a plan, or an economy for administration (distribution); hence, it is also a household economy.”
Now that we’ve seen what the word oikonomia means, let’s read the next section of the note to see what God’s economy is:
“God’s economy in faith is His household economy, His household administration (cf. note 101 in Eph. 1; Eph. 3:9), which is to dispense Himself in Christ into His chosen people that He may have a house to express Himself, which house is the church (3:15), the Body of Christ.”
So God’s economy is a plan and administration to dispense not material things, but Himself in Christ into people. These people would then be His house, which is the church, the Body of Christ, for His full expression.
God’s divine enterprise
Keeping this note in mind, let’s read some excerpts from The Economy of God by Witness Lee.
In the foreword, Lee explains the title of the book:
“The word economy used in the title of this volume may sound somewhat strange to the reader. The ‘economy of God’ is a quotation from 1 Timothy 1:4, according to the Greek. ‘Economy’ is the Greek word ‘oikonomia’ which primarily signifies the household management, the household administration, arrangement and distribution, or dispensation (of wealth, property, affairs, etc.). It is used with the intention of stressing the focal point of God’s divine enterprise, which is to distribute, or dispense, Himself into man.”
God has a divine enterprise, something He wants to achieve in this universe. The focal point of that enterprise is God distributing, or dispensing, Himself into the human race.
In a previous post about God’s plan, we saw that God had a particular purpose in mind when He created man. He wanted man to receive Him and be filled with Him. By God and man being joined together and sharing His divine life, God would be life and everything to man, and man would express God to the whole universe. This is the divine enterprise of God!
We were made to contain God
How does God’s grand enterprise apply to us? Actually, God’s economy has everything to do with us as a human being and as a believer in Christ.
On page 46 of The Economy of God, Lee says:
“For what purpose did God create man? Only that man might be His container. I like to use this word ‘container’ because it is clearer than the word ‘vessel.’ It is clearly seen in Romans 9:21, 23, and 2 Corinthians 4:7, that God created us to be His containers in order to contain Himself. We are only empty containers, and God intends to be our only content.”
God created us as vessels, or containers, because He wants to be dispensed into us to be our content—in fact, our only content.
To illustrate this point, Lee points out that bottles and light bulbs are both made to contain something particular. Just as a light bulb is designed to contain electricity and nothing else, we were made to contain God.
Lee continues on the same page:
“Man was made purposely to contain God. If we do not contain God and know God as our content, we are a senseless contradiction. Regardless of how much education we may obtain, what kind of position we may have, or how much wealth we may possess, we are still meaningless, since we were purposely made as a container to contain God as our sole content. As containers, we must receive God into our being. Although this word may seem simple, it is the exact word needed to point out the main thought of the whole Scriptures. The basic teaching of the whole Scriptures is simply this: God is the very content, and we are the containers made to receive this content. We must contain God and be filled with God.”
Since we were made specifically to contain God, nothing else truly “fits.” This explains why we felt empty inside before we received the Lord Jesus. Things like a great education, a high-paying job, or endless entertainment can never provide lasting satisfaction. God must be our unique content.
How can we contain God?
When we repented and believed in Jesus, God dispensed Himself into us for the first time. We received Him and were born of the Spirit in our human spirit. Now from our regenerated spirit, God wants to spread into every part of our being until we’re filled and saturated with Him.
On page 212, Lee explains why our spirit is so crucial in God’s economy:
“Using our spirit as His center, God works Himself out through us. The Triune God is in the center of our being. This is most wonderful! God came into the human nature, brought the human nature into the divine nature, and put an end to all negative things; now the Triune God and all that He has accomplished are in our spirit as our life and everything. From this central point the Triune God spreads out to saturate the inward parts of our being with Himself. The human spirit is the very spot of the mark of God’s economy.”
So our spirit is the starting point. From there, God wants to dispense Himself into our whole being to fill us completely.
Why does God want to fill us? God’s goal in dispensing Himself into us isn’t merely to make us more spiritual or better people. God wants to fill us completely so He can be expressed through us. When every part of our being is filled with God, we will express Him in a full way as the living Body of Christ. This expression is the desire of God’s heart.
We need to see God’s economy
Everything God does is with His economy in view. God created us and even redeemed us so He could dispense Himself into us and fill our entire being. This is how He will gain His heart’s desire. If we really see God’s economy, our life will be full of meaning, and our Christian life will be full of purpose.
May the Lord open our eyes to see His wonderful economy!
God’s economy involves many profound matters in the Scriptures, including God’s Person in His Trinity; His creation and redemption; Christ indwelling our spirit; the inward parts of our being, such as our heart, spirit, and soul; and God’s goal, His expression through the Body of Christ.
We could only briefly introduce this tremendous subject in this post. We encourage you to read The Economy of God with its twenty-four eye-opening chapters. Lee lays out the purpose of God as seen in the Bible and provides many practical examples that apply God’s economy to our daily life. You can download the book for free from anywhere in the world.
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