Ever since the Lord Jesus was raised from the dead and became a life-giving Spirit which was both breathed into His disciples for their living and poured out upon them as power for their work, there is such a thing in this universe called, the church.
God has on earth not only a group of people who worship Him and contact Him but a family: He has many children, many believers who have His divine life and nature, and who contact Him in spirit to be one with Him as His corporate expression on the earth. The church is a mysterious thing: it was invented by the Lord Jesus, and He is the One who builds His church (Matt. 16:18).
According to the New Testament, there are two main aspects of the church: the universal church composed of all the believers in Christ on earth, and the local church, the local expression of the universal Body of Christ. According to the principle in the New Testament, in God’s eyes there is only ONE church in ONE city; that is, if you are a believer and live in New York, you are part of the church in New York, and if you’re a believer and live in London, you are part of the church in London.
“The church in London” is not a name but a designation, that is, the church of God which is in London, just as we see in 1 Cor. 1:2 where Paul wrote, To the church of God which is in Corinth.
Even though this is the principle that God set forth and the early believers practiced, today we see something very different: there are many “churches” in one city, and it seems that almost anyone can start yet another church as he wishes. Many believers meet “from church to church”, while others have become disillusioned with these churches and so they start a “home church”, that is, a church in their home.
All these different “churches” are many divisions in the Body of Christ, and even though the believers in these denominations may be genuine, they are not on the genuine ground of oneness.
We need to come back to the divine revelation in the word of God and take the lead to stand on the unique ground of the church, the genuine ground of oneness, so that the Lord may have a group of people who meet on the proper ground and enjoy the commanded blessing – life forever (Psa. 133). May we receive mercy from the Lord and be willing to pay the price to practice what the New Testament reveals to us concerning the church!
Taking the Lead to Stand on the Unique Ground of the Church, the Ground of Oneness
It is a shame to God when there are so many so-called “churches” in one city, and when the believers in one city are not one but are divided according to opinions, doctrines, race, culture, language, and many other things. Some believers see the matter of the oneness of the Body of Christ, but not many are willing to return to the ground of oneness, because they know that if they do this they will lose their position, name, reputation, or popularity.
In the Lord’s recovery, by the Lord’s mercy and under the shining on His living word, we need to take the lead to stand on the ground of oneness no matter the cost. We really have no choice except to take the Lord’s choice, even though others – not just the unbelievers but even our fellow believers – defame us, despise us, and criticize us.
In the Lord’s recovery we are not “another group of believers” or “another division in the Body of Christ”; we have seen the divine revelation in the word of God and we stand on the unique ground of the church, the genuine ground of oneness, on behalf of the entire Body of Christ. We are taking the lead to stand on the unique ground of oneness ordained by God, and we can testify: we enjoy many spiritual and heavenly things in the church life!
Here on the genuine ground of oneness the heavens are open to us, we enjoy the Lord’s presence, His commanded blessing – life forever, the grace of God descending, and the bountiful supply of the Spirit anointing us. Nothing can compare with the enjoyment of the spiritual riches on the proper ground together with the saints in oneness!
Brother Watchman Nee pointed out that God was very wise in His way of building up the church on the local ground. There are a great number of God’s chosen people. Everywhere around the globe there are believers in Christ, and they should not be scattered but gathered together to be a church. If there were not the proper limitation of the ground, there would be no limitation to the setting up of churches. (Witness Lee, The Divine and Mystical Realm, p. 81)
Even though we may meet some with some other saints that are not like us but quite different from us, we don’t just “move to another church” if we don’t like someone but pay the price to keep the oneness of the Spirit in the uniting bond of peace. We realize that there has to be a local church as a local expression of the universal Body of Christ so that the church may exist, may be expressed, and may be practiced in a practical way.
Without the local church, the universal church is abstract – even non-existent; but when we touch the local church on the ground of oneness, the universal church is real and full of meaning. How can we practice being in the church? It is by being in the local church. Where is the expression of the church? Where can we find the church today? It is in the local churches; the only place where we can see the universal church being expressed is the local churches.
The Lord said that He will build His church: where does this building take place? It takes place in spirit, but the place where this happens is the local church, the local expression of the universal church on the ground of oneness.
The practice of the church life in the early days was the practice of having one church for one city, one city with only one church; in no city was there “more than one church” (see Acts 8:1; 13:1; Rev. 1:11). Today in the Lord’s recovery we stand on the ground of oneness taking the city as the jurisdiction of the church, and we stand in oneness with the whole Body of Christ to practice the church life on the local ground.
Lord Jesus, thank You for revealing to us the genuine ground of oneness – the unique ground of the church. Lord, by Your mercy we want to take the narrow way of the cross and stand on the ground of oneness. Lord, we don’t want to exercise our choice, opinion, or preference, but we allow You to limit us, bless us, and keep us in oneness on the local ground in the local church. Lord, keep us in the church life enjoying You as the descending grace, the flowing Spirit, and the commanded blessing – life forever!
The Church Today must be in Oneness and must be Built on the Ground of Oneness
The local ground of the church – the genuine ground of oneness, the ground of locality – is not something outward, something that we’re legalistic about, or something that we merely practice; it is what the New Testament reveals to be the only way ordained by God for His people to be one.
What the Lord has prayed for in John 17 and what we practice today on the ground of the church is the unique oneness of the universal Body of Christ practiced in the church life. We need to realize that the church today MUST be in oneness and MUST be built on the ground of oneness (Eph. 4:3; 1 Cor. 1:2). This is how it was in the beginning of the church life with the early believers – one church in one city, and one city having only one church – and this is what we want to practice today.
Our God is ONE; He created ONE man, which is a corporate man, and placed him in front of the ONE tree of life. After man fell and was divided, God called ONE man, Abraham, choosing ONE people, Israel, to be His earthly people. After the Lord Jesus died and resurrected, God produced ONE church, and today He desires to gain the ONE Body of Christ so that He may obtain the ONE New Jerusalem with one throne, one street, one river, and one tree of life.
In everything He does throughout the centuries God keeps the principle of oneness, and He desires that we as His people today would be one. May we see more light concerning this precious oneness, and may we give ourselves to the Lord without reservation to pay the price to keep the oneness, remain on the local ground of the church, and practice the universal oneness of the Body of Christ in the local churches.
We treasure what the Lord treasures: the great oneness of the universal Body of Christ to be practiced, expressed, and manifested in the local churches, and we want to be in the genuine local churches on the proper ground so that God may obtain in us and through us what He is after – His Body, His one new man, His bride, His army, and His New Jerusalem!
Lord Jesus, cause us to realize that the church today must be in oneness and must be built on the ground of oneness! Lord, grant us more light concerning the precious oneness of the universal Body of Christ. Lord, may we be those who practice the oneness of the Body on the local ground of the church so that we may enjoy Your blessing, Your speaking, and all Your riches in a bountiful way. Lord, call out Your people from any “sheep fold” so that they may enter into “the pasture” of the all-inclusive Christ in the local churches standing on the genuine ground of oneness!
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 Genuine Ground of Oneness, ch. 10 (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:
# We’re in the local church, / God’s chosen ground; / Here we have Christ as life / And blessings all abound. / “In spirit, on the ground” / Our battle cry; / And we will overcome the enemy / To bring the kingdom nigh. (Hymns #1260)
# Lord, help us ever strive to keep / This unity by taking / The Church’s ground of unity, / The Body-life partaking, / That all Thy heart’s profound desire / May fully be effected, / And God’s eternal purpose may / Completely be perfected. (Hymns #831)
# 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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