In order for us to recognize the need for the recovery of the church, we need to first know the original condition of the church and then see the degradation of the church.
What is in God’s heart to have is the church, for the church is His corporate expression on earth, and the church becomes His bride, His counterpart to match Him for eternity. The church is God’s unique goal.
However, throughout the centuries the central matter of the church has been replaced by many other things. First of all, because of the degradation of the church, many basic truths in the Bible have been lost, and many impure things came into the church.
Therefore, the Lord has a recovery of the church, especially in these last days, so that He may gain what He is after in man. Everything God does is for the church, and everything in the Bible and in the universe is for God’s purpose to gain the church.
But so many believers have missed the mark in this respect, not seeing that God wants to gain the church, and thus focusing on many other things such as baptism, the gifts of the Holy spirit, doctrines, and practices.
Even the great reformers which the Lord raised up to recover certain truths in the Bible, because they didn’t see the central and critical matter of the church, they formed yet another denomination or sect based on what the Lord has shown them.
The church as the Body of Christ has very much been divided, split apart, and cut asunder by the enemy who works both from within us and from outside of us.
Satan knows that God wants to gain the church, and when the church is built up, he has no way to prevail against it, so he has a strategy, an evil satanic strategy with his demonic stratagems to destroy God’s accomplishment.
Inwardly, Satan damages and corrupts God’s people, filling their heart with love for money, idols, and all kinds of evil things, and he wants to replace Christ with substitutes. Outwardly, Satan has worked to destroy God’s accomplishment and divide the Body of Christ and kill the function of the members of the Body by the clergy laity-system.
We need to be warned of Satan’s strategy against the church, and we need to be aware of what he’s up to.
Also, we need to realize that, even though Satan does his best to destroy the church and annul God’s purpose, our God cannot be deterred – nothing can change His mind! What He has purposed to gain, He will gain, and even though He may be frustrated for a while, He will come in as the God who recovers His people and fulfills His purpose.
After Satan’s destruction, God comes in to redo the things that He has done before, and He will gain the built up church that He is after!
To Recognise the need for the Recovery of the Church, we need to see the Original Condition of the Church
We need to know the original condition of the church and also the degradation of the church so that we may recognise the need for the recovery of the church.
We need to look at the Lord and His word to see what the original condition of the church is, as He designed and purposed it, and we need to look at history to be warned of the degradation of the church.
We need to be warned to not repeat the history of the degradation of the church, but cooperate with the Lord for the recovery of the church. We should not think that, since we are in the Lord’s recovery of the church positionally, everything is ok; we should be warned that Satan is still working, and degradation may come and set in among us.
We need to learn the lessons from church history.
Only after we understand the original condition of the church can we know how the church has degraded and deviated, and only then can we know what the Lord is recovering and correcting in the church today. Here are some of the characteristics that the original condition of the church had.
In the Original Church there was No Hierarchy among the Believers
In the original church there was no hierarchy among the believers; rather, all believers were brothers, without any distinction in rank (Matt. 23:8).
When the Lord Jesus was on earth, He told His disciples that they shouldn’t be or do what the worldly people do, having some who lord it over others, but all brothers are equal, there is only one Lord and God, and whoever wants to be the first shall be the slave of all (see Matt. 20:25-27; 23:8-11).
All the believers in Christ are brothers and sisters on the same level, and there should be no distinctions involving some who are higher and some who are lower than others.
In Christianity today, however, the matter of the clergy is real, and there are some clearly defined “higher” persons and the “laity” doesn’t function or do much.
Even among us in the church life, can we say that there’s no hierarchy, or even the tendency to have a hierarchy? We may not have an org-chart, but in fact we may practice hierarchy.
As members of the Body of Christ, all believers are learning to coordinate with one another on an equal level, and each one fulfills His particular function (Rom. 12:4-5). We are all members of the Body, and we all learn to coordinate with each other.
There is an organic order in the Body of Christ – as confirmed by the Scriptures, but if we are not careful, we can be degraded to have hierarchy among us, in which some are more active while others are not.
All believers are priests to God, without any “intermediary class” or distinctions, and without any clergy-laity system (1 Pet. 2:5, 9). We all are priests to God, and together we are a royal and holy priesthood.
In the Old Testament there was a certain tribe that was qualified to be priests, but in the New Testament we all are priests! We all were purchased by the blood of Christ to be a priestly nation, and we all should serve the Lord as a priesthood.
In the original condition of the church, all believers are just brothers (with no distinctions), they are members of the Body of Christ, and they are priests to God.
Lord Jesus, cause us to see the original condition of the church and return to it so that we may be recovered back to Your original intention concerning the church. Thank You Lord, we are all brothers in the Lord, and there’s should be no distinction or hierarchy among us! Hallelujah, we all are members of the Body of Christ, and we can coordinate with each other on an equal level in the Body, each fulfilling our own particular function. Praise the Lord, we are all priests to God, serving God and enjoying God as the royal and holy priesthood!
The Original Church was Separated from the World and Sanctified to God
If we look at the original condition of the church we realize that the early church was completely separated from the world; yes, the church was in the world, but the church was not of the world (see Rom. 12:2; 1 John 2:15; 2 Cor. 6:14-17).
Just as the boat is in the water but the water is not the boat, so the church is in the world but the world should not be in the church.
There are situations, however, where there’s a marriage between the world and the church, and this is very serious.
The church should not be fashioned according to this age but we all should be transformed by the renewing of the mind so that we may know what the will of God is – the church!
Furthermore, we should not love the world or the things of the world but love God the Father, His word, the church, and all the saints; if we love the world, the love for the Father is not in us.
We need to be sanctified by the Lord’s word day by day, and this will cause us to have a clear separation between us and the world; the more we spend time in the word of God by exercising our spirit to contact the Lord, the more we are sanctified, and the more we are separated from the world.
The Original Church Forsook Idols and Fully Allowed God to Speak
The early church forsook any idols and fully allowed God to speak (1 John 5:21). We may not have outward physical idols which we bow down to, but we may have idols in our being, things and persons that we love and treasure more than the Lord Jesus.
We need to forsake any idols and set our eyes on the Lord Jesus so that He may draw us with His beauty and attract us with His loveliness; then, we will simply let Him speak what He wants to speak to us.
A very important matter in the original condition of the church is that the church is the place where God has full authority and freedom to speak what He wants to speak. In the church the Bible has the highest authority, and the authority of the Holy Spirit is present.
The word of God is God’s speaking, and the Spirit is a speaking Spirit; in the original condition of the church, the Holy Spirit had a free way to speak, direct, encourage, and lead the believers.
In the Lord’s recovery of the church we need to care for the word of God and for the speaking of the Spirit. We should not put the word of man above God’s word, neither should we heed to opinions of men more than to the speaking of the Spirit.
This is a fundamental lesson we all have to learn: what matters in the church is not what you feel or what my opinion is, but what the word of God says and what the Spirit speaks.
Lord Jesus, we want to forsake all the idols and fully allow You to speak. We treasure Your word in the Bible and we cannot live without Your speaking as the Spirit. Lord, keep us in Your word, enjoying You and beholding You as we read the Bible with an exercised spirit. Keep us open to the speaking of the Spirit through the word and in the Body, so that we may be recovered to the original condition of the church, the way You want the church to be. Amen, Lord, may You have the full authority to speak in the church life today!
References and Hymns on this Topic
- Inspiration: the Word of God, my enjoyment in the ministry, the message by Minoru Chen for this week, and portions from, The Testimony and the Ground of the Church, pp. 187-195 (by Witness Lee), as quoted in the Holy Word for Morning Revival on, The Recovery of the Church (2017 fall ITERO), week 2, The Original Condition of the Church, the Degradation of the Church, and the Recovery of the Church.
- Hymns on this topic:
# Lord, we’re wholly for Your heart’s desire— / Make Your church sanctified. / Through the washing in the pure word’s water / May You gain Your glorious Bride. [Eph. 5:25-26] (Song on Our Condition to God’s Heart’s Desire)
# From every tribe and nation / Do all the members come, / Regardless of their classes / United to be one. / No high there is, nor lowly, / No Jew, nor Gentile clan, / No free, nor slave, nor master, / But Christ, the “one new man.” (Hymns #824)
# In the church life, in our daily living too, / In the meeting, and in everything we do, / Christ is speaking and the Spirit’s breaking through, / That is why there’s the supply to water you. (Song on God’s speaking in the church)
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