There’s very much confusion today concerning the church, and it seems that most believers join the church of their preference, since there are so many options out there. But in the beginning it was not so! We need to return to the Lord’s word in the New Testament and see the basic principle concerning the church, especially the ground of the church.
The foundation of the church is Christ, and no other foundation may man lay, but the ground of the church is constituted of three main elements:
- The unique oneness of the universal Body of Christ – the oneness of the Spirit, for which the Lord prayed in John 17. The first element of the constitution of the church ground is the oneness of the Body of Christ.
- The unique ground of the locality in which a local church exists and is established. According to the principle in the New Testament, there is only one church in one city, and all the believers in one particular city are part of the church in that city.
- The reality of the Spirit of oneness: the oneness is in the consummated Spirit, so if we want to be on the genuine ground of oneness we need to move out of ourselves and into the Triune God by being mingled with the Spirit to be intrinsically one.
If we are willing to be limited, adjusted, and guided by the principle set forth in the New Testament and practiced by the Apostle Paul – one church in one city, standing on the local ground in the oneness of the Spirit with all the other churches on the earth – we will practice the oneness of the Body and we can build up the Body in a genuine way according to the way ordained by God.
One Church in One City: the City is the Boundary and Ground of Each Local Church
In the New Testament we see a clear picture that all the local churches (as the expression of the universal church, the Body of Christ, in a certain locality) are located in their respective cities. In Acts 8:1 we see the church in Jerusalem, in 1 Cor. 1:2 the church in Corinth, in Acts 13:1 the church in Antioch, in Rom. 16:1 the church in Cenchrea, and in Rev. 1:4, 11 we see the seven churches – one church in one city.
The principle in the New Testament concerning the ground of the church is that a church is established in a particular city and takes the city as the boundary and the ground for its existence. This preserves the oneness, eliminates confusion, and rejects division, keeping the church on the ground of oneness.
The sphere and limit of a local church must be exactly the same as that of the city in which it is located (see Rev. 1:11; Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5).
The church is constituted of the universal God, but it exists on earth in many localities, one of which was Corinth. In nature the church is universal in God, but in practice the church is local in a definite place. Hence, the church has two aspects: the universal and the local. Without the universal aspect, the church is void of content; without the local aspect, it is impossible for the church to have any expression and practice. (1 Cor. 1:2, footnote 2, Recovery Version Bible)
All the instances in the New Testament of the church match this principle. When it says that there’s a church in a home, it refers to the local church in that city which meets in that home; when it speaks of the churches in Galatia, since Galatia is a region there are more than one church there.
Today there’s a prevalent movement of “home churches” around the world, since many believers are discontent and dissatisfied with the big churches and the system in Christianity, so they meet in a home and call it “home church”.
According to the divine revelation in the New Testament, a church can meet in a home, but a home can never be a church. There are many homes in a city, and the church in that city may meet in homes, but the home is not the church. The boundary of the church is the city, not the home or even the neighbourhood.
The essence and constitution of the church is of God, but this universal church has a definite place to meet, and this place is the city where the believers live in. In nature the church is universal in God, but that universal church has a location, a tangible place where people can go and meet, and this location is the city.
In order for us to practice the church life and express God corporately as the church, we need to realize that there’s one church in one city, and the boundary of the church is simply the city limits. This will preserve us in oneness with all the believers in that city!
Lord Jesus, thank You for saving us and bringing us into the church, Your Body. Thank You for putting us in the local church to practice the unique oneness of the universal Body of Christ on the local ground of the church. Lord, we want to keep the oneness of the Spirit on the ground of the church so that Your Body may be built up and You may have a corporate expression! Thank You for the local church in the locality we’re in! Hallelujah, the church is constituted of God and is universal in God, and we can practice the church in every locality on the ground of oneness!
Being in the Realm of Oneness by Exercising our Spirit to be Mingled with the Spirit
The third element of the church ground is the reality of the Spirit of oneness, that is, the reality of the Spirit – who is the living reality of the Divine Trinity (see 1 John 5:6; John 16:13). The ground of the church is not merely something outward, that is, the city limits, but something intrinsic and of life: it is the ground of oneness, which is in the Spirit and is the Spirit.
The real oneness is in the Triune God; actually, oneness is God Himself, and His foremost attribute is that God is one. In the divine and mystical realm of the consummated Spirit we are mingled with the Triune God for the keeping of the oneness (see John 17:21, 23; Eph. 4:3).
The real oneness is in the Triune God, in the mingling of the believers with the Triune God. Oneness is not a “thing” but the Triune God Himself, and the genuine oneness in this universe is the Triune God. Outside of God there’s no oneness, and the only oneness is the oneness in the Triune God.
The Triune God is a divine and mystical realm of oneness, and when we get into this realm, we have oneness in a spontaneous way. It is impossible for us to be one outside of being in the Triune God. In order for us to have the oneness, we need to enter through the consummated Spirit into this realm of oneness.
We cannot enter into the realm of the Triune God but we can enter into the realm of the consummated Spirit, the processed and consummated Triune God. The Lord prayed concerning the oneness in John 17:21 and He said, That they may be one, even as We are one…that they may be in Us.
The oneness the Lord prayed for is that we would be one even as the Triune God is one; the Triune God is one by mutually indwelling one another. The only way we can be one is by entering into the realm of oneness, the realm of the consummated Spirit!
We need to exercise our spirit to be mingled with the consummated Spirit; as we are mingled with the Spirit, the communicable attribute of oneness is being imparted into us and we are spontaneously one! The more we are mingled with the Spirit, the more we are one.
When we are sufficiently mingled with the Spirit, we become incorporated into God; first we are united and joined with Him, then we are mingled with Him, and finally we are being incorporated with God so that we may be one even as the Triune God is one!
The oneness that God wants to obtain is not mere outward unity or conformity but the enlarged oneness of the Triune God, so that the Three-in-One God would become four-in-one: the Father, the Son, the Spirit, and the Body of Christ (see Eph. 4:1-4).
Our way into the oneness is through the mingling of the Spirit with our spirit; when we are in the Spirit we are in the oneness, but when we’re not in our spirit we cannot be one with the saints or even with our spouse, no matter how much we try. We need to exercise our spirit to move out of ourselves and into the Triune God so that we may be one not by effort but spontaneously!
When we’re outside of the realm of the Spirit it is really hard to be one, but when we move out of ourselves by exercising our spirit to get into the consummated Spirit as the realm of oneness, we are one!
It is by this Spirit that the oneness of the Body of Christ becomes real and living. It is by this Spirit that the ground of locality is applied in life and not in legality. It is by this Spirit that the genuine ground of the church is linked with the Triune God (Eph. 4:3-6).
Lord Jesus, we want to exercise our spirit to move OUT of ourselves and into the realm of the consummated Spirit, the realm of oneness. Save us from mere outward unity or conformity so that we may “be one”. Lord, cause us to be more mingled with the Spirit so that we may spontaneously be one even as the Triune God is one! May we exercise our spirit to be in the realm of the consummated Spirit, the realm of oneness, and be spontaneously one with the Lord and with all the saints! Hallelujah, our oneness is in the Spirit – our oneness is the Spirit!
References and Hymns on this Topic
- Inspiration: the Word of God, my enjoyment in the ministry, brother Mark R’s sharing in the message for this week, and The Practical Expression of the Church, chs. 6, 8-9 (by Witness Lee), as quoted in the Holy Word for Morning Revival on, The Crucial Points of the Major Items of the Lord’s Recovery Today (ITERO 2015 fall), week 8 / msg 8, The Local Ground of the Church.
- All Bible verses are taken from, Holy Bible Recovery Version.
- Hymns on this topic to strengthen this burden:
# Oneness is not unity, / Outward agreement / But a life within— / God’s very life! / The Triune God—included us / In His divine— / Oneness—Oneness. / That they all may be one; / Even as You Father, are in Me / And I in You— / That they may be— / May be in us. / Oneness—Oneness. (Song on, Oneness)
# We are one in the spirit in each locality, / For the Lord’s own intention we would consecrated be, / That the oneness He’s given us the whole world may see. (Hymns #1243)
# We are for the Lord’s recovery / Of the local church; / We are for the Lord’s recovery / Of the city and the earth. / Standing on the ground of oneness, / Oneness in the Lord, / We are building up the temple / Of our glorious Lord. (Hymns #1255)
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