In order for us to know the church, we must first recognize the ground of the church. The one unique foundation of the church is Christ Himself, and no other foundation can anyone lay besides Christ, but the ground of the church is the practice of the oneness of the universal Body of Christ on the local ground of locality.
There’s much confusion today in Christianity: there’s a great variety of “churches” to suit people’s needs, preferences, opinions, cultures, and burdens; is this what the Lord intends to have? The ground of the church is the key to knowing the church in today’s chaotic situation; just as we cannot choose the materials or foundation for the church, so we have no say in what the ground of the church is – we simply need to take what the Bible says.
The New Testament clearly reveals that there is one unique Body of Christ in the universe, and there is only one unique local church in each locality as the expression of the universal Body of Christ. This unique oneness of the Body of Christ expressed in the local church is the basic element of the church life.
The organic Body of Christ is undivided and indivisible; this unique Body is expressed in many local churches in the divine oneness as it is with the Triune God (see Rev. 1:11; John 17:11, 21, 23). The oneness of the Body of Christ is what the Lord prayed for in John 17 and what we need to keep as the oneness of the Spirit in the local churches.
There are many local churches – one church in each locality – yet they all have one divine nature, one divine element, one divine essence, one divine expression, one divine function, and one divine testimony, because they all are ONE Body (see Rev. 1:11-12, 20).
Hallelujah, there is only one Body of Christ, and in the Lord’s recovery we are being brought back to the genuine ground of oneness so that we may practice living in the local churches for the building up of the universal Body of Christ!
Today we want to see how, according to the divine revelation in the New Testament, the church ground is constituted of three crucial elements: the unique oneness of the universal Body of Christ (also called, the oneness of the Spirit), the unique ground of the locality in which a local church exists, and the reality of the Spirit of oneness (the reality of the Spirit).
The Unique Oneness of the Universal Body of Christ – the Oneness of the Spirit
The first element of the constitution of the church ground is the unique oneness of the universal Body of Christ; this oneness is called by Paul “the oneness of the Spirit” (Eph. 4:3) which we need to diligently keep; this is the oneness for which the Lord prayed in John 17.
The matter of the ground of the church is not merely a “practice” which we have picked up based on the proper interpretation of the New testament revelation; the ground of the church is intrinsically a matter of the oneness of the Body of Christ. Christians today don’t see the ground of the church and therefore they meet in a divisive way according to their preference and opinions, and they don’t keep the oneness of the Body.
The way we maintain the oneness of the Body is not merely by declaring that we are the church in the city we live in because we don’t take any other name besides the name of the Lord, we don’t take any particular teaching or follow a particular man, we don’t have any peculiar practice, and we have a proper eldership.
We need to have the content of the ground of the church, which is the oneness of the Body of Christ, which is very much a matter of the Spirit – the oneness of the Body is the oneness of the Spirit!
This is the oneness that the Lord prayed for in John 17. It is a oneness of the mingling of the processed Triune God with all the believers in Christ. This oneness is in the name of the Father (John 17:6, 11), denoting the Father’s person, in which is the Father’s life. This oneness is even in the Triune God through sanctification by His holy word as the truth (John 17:14-21). This oneness is ultimately in the divine glory for the expression of the Triune God (John 17:22-24). Such a oneness was imparted into the spirit of all the believers in Christ, in their regeneration by the Spirit of life with Christ as the divine life; this oneness has become the basic element of the church ground. (Witness Lee, A Brief Presentation of the Lord’s Recovery, p. 28)
Unless we are filled, saturated, and mingled with the Spirit, there is no way for us to be one. If we don’t have the Spirit, we don’t have the oneness – even though we may have a correct practice.
We may practice to meet as “a local church” with many sound New Testament practices, but unless we keep the oneness of the Spirit by being one with the entire Body of Christ, we are merely a local sect. We may claim that we “practice the oneness of the local church” but unless we keep the oneness of the Body, we have no content of the oneness.
Since the oneness of the Body of Christ is the oneness of the Spirit, the oneness practiced in a local church MUST be in the move of the Spirit and under the government of the Spirit. The Spirit is the element of our oneness; no Spirit, no oneness, and more Spirit, more oneness!
The church ground on which a genuine local church is built must be constituted with and prevail in the oneness executed by the Spirit. If we lose the Spirit, we lose the oneness; but the more we enjoy the Spirit and are mingled with the Spirit, the more we are one with the saints and with the entire Body of Christ!
Lord Jesus, we want to keep the oneness of the Spirit in the uniting bond of peace. Fill us with the Spirit, saturate us with the Spirit, and mingle Yourself with us as the Spirit more for the keeping of the oneness. Lord, we treasure the oneness of the Body of Christ for which You prayed in John 17! We want to be in the move of the Spirit and under the government of the Spirit. May every local church be constituted with and prevail in the oneness executed by the Spirit!
The Unique Ground of the Locality in which a Local Church is Established and Exists
The second element of the church ground is the unique ground of the locality in which a local church is established and exists. In Rev. 1 John was given a message by God to speak to the seven churches: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamos and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea (Rev. 1:11).
Here the Lord emphatically equals a church with a city: one church in one city. The boundary of the local church is equal to the boundary of the city: this is the Lord’s divine concept concerning the church.
Similarly, Paul established elders in every church (Acts 14:23) and he instructed Titus to establish elders in every city (Titus 1:5); this was not only Paul’s way of establishing the churches and the elders but also the Lord’s concept. The elders of the church in a place are considered to be the elders in that city.
All the believers in Christ are the components of the Body of Christ. Practically, they are scattered in many cities on this earth. Spontaneously, they are separated into many units in each city, respectively, according to their dwelling. According to the New Testament pattern set up and ordained by God and according to the principle of the New Testament revelation concerning God’s economy of the church, in each city in which the believers dwell, it is not allowed to have more than one unit as a local expression of the unique Body of Christ, nor is it permitted to have a local church in a certain city without the proper fellowship in the Body of Christ with the other local churches. (1993 Blending Conference Messages concerning the Lord’s Recovery and Our Present Need, p. 22)
There are many different grounds on which Christians meet today, such as a particular teaching, a certain practice, a great teacher of the Bible with his ministry, a culture, a nationality, a race, a common work, a common opinion, and many more other grounds. What kind of confusion there is today in the church simply because of the lack of the revelation of the ground of the church!
Most people after they are born again face a great dilemma: what church should they go to? So they pick a church that matches their preference, inclination, and taste, without having any regard of God’s word or the revelation in the New Testament.
What a mercy it is that we are in the Lord’s recovery, where we stand one with the universal Body of Christ and keep the oneness of the Spirit on the local ground of the locality. When we hear about the ground of the church being the practice of the oneness of the Body in the boundaries of a locality we have a clear feeling in our spirit that this is right, this is how the Lord ordained, and this is how all the believers throughout the earth can practice the oneness of the Body!
The practice of the oneness of the Body on the local ground is versus any kind of hierarchy: there’s no “head church”, no “pope” or top leader, no federation of churches, and no ecumenical movement in the church. In the New Testament the proper ground of oneness ordained by God is the unique ground of one church for one locality!
Lord Jesus, save us from taking any other ground for the church other than the practice of the oneness of the Body of Christ in the boundaries of the locality – one church in one city! Lord, we want to come back to the clear revelation in the New Testament and be limited by Your ordained way to meet and keep the oneness. Save us from today’s confusion and misunderstanding concerning the church, and keep us on the local ground of the church in oneness with the universal Body of Christ! Hallelujah, there is one church in one locality as a local representation of the universal Body of Christ!
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 Crucial Points of the Major Items of the Lord’s Recovery Today, pp. 21-22 (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:
# One Body universal, / One in each place expressed; / Locality of dwelling / Her only ground possessed; / Administration local, / Each answ’ring to the Lord; / Communion universal, / Upheld in one accord. (Hymns #824)
# The seven golden lampstands in / The seven cities see, / So burning, shining with this Christ, / It’s God’s economy! / We’re absolute that this become / Our full reality / Upon the earth, within the church / In each locality. (Hymns #1262)
# We must eat Jesus till God can / Have the fulfillment of His plan— / One man expressed for all to see, / One church in each locality. (Hymns #1146)
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