When speaking of the church, we first need to see its nature, and then we need to see the unique ground of the church, which is the genuine ground of oneness; in practicality, as the New Testament reveals, there is only one church in one city.
This week in our morning revival we come to the topic of, Standing on the Unique Ground of the Church, Being under the Limitation of the Body of Christ, and Being Body-conscious in One Accord.
If anyone is really clear about the church it is the Lord Jesus, and He spoke concerning the two aspects of the church quite explicitly.
In Matt. 16:18 the Lord said, I will build My church – this refers to the universal church, the Body of Christ. In Matt. 18:17, in giving instructions how to recover a brother and restore him to the fellowship, the Lord said, Tell it to the church, and later He spoke of hearing the church; this is not the universal church but the church in a locality – the church of God in that locality.
The Lord Jesus first prophesied concerning the building up of the universal church, His Body, and then He instructed us concerning the local church.
Furthermore, in Revelation, John received direct instructions from the Lord, What you see write in a scroll and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, etc – the Lord listed seven cities as the seven churches.
Then, when the Lord spoke to the messengers in the churches, He spoke to the messengers in the cities (Rev. 2-3). The Lord clearly identified the church with a locality.
At the end of Revelation, in Rev. 22:16, the Lord said, I Jesus have sent My messenger to testify to you these things for the churches. In other words, if we were to be exact with the Scriptures, we need to be in a local church in order to have the standing to rightly receive and understand the book of Revelation.
The Lord also predicted and prophesied the degradation of the church in Matt 13, where He spoke of the woman with the leaven, and the great tree; He prophesied concerning the Christendom as it developed historically, and later in Rev. 2-3 He also prophesied in the seven epistles to the seven churches concerning the stages of the church, the degradation of the church, and the recovered church.
There is no indication in the Lord’s speaking or in the apostles’ teaching that the local churches were a brief historical phenomenon, that is, that it was that way oly in the first century, two thousand years ago, and that now it may be a different situation.
Rather, our God of purpose has His eternal will, and He will never accept things “as they are today”; He will carry out what He intended in the beginning.
We should NOT accept what God allows; God allows the degraded situation in Christianity today, with the Roman Catholic Church, the Protestant churches, and all the denominations.
Seeing the pure revelation in the Bible, we need to courageously and faithfully return to the beginning, to the way God described the church in the New Testament.
When we return to the genuine ground of oneness, the ground of the church, the site where the church with its foundation is laid and built, we will have the experience of Christ as life, the blessing of life, and the growth of life; here the Lord commands the blessing! And it is here that the eternal purpose of God is worked out for the fulfillment of God’s economy.
Amen, Lord, we return to what You have ordained in the beginning concerning the ground of the church. We want to courageously and faithfully return to the pure revelation in the word of God concerning the church and its ground. Thank You Lord, You have ordained for one church to be in one city, taking the boundary of that city as its ground. We say Amen to your ordination, we stand on the unique ground of the oneness, the ground of locality, and we love and fellowship with all the fellow believers in Christ for the building up of Your Body!
We need to Stand on the Unique Ground of the Church, the Genuine Ground of Oneness
We all know that the foundation of the church is Christ, and no other foundation man may lay; but what is the ground of the church, the site, location, standing, and basis on which the church is practically established?
Paul laid the foundation of the building of God’s temple, and we need to be faithful to the Lord to build up the church with precious materials, our experience of the Triune God; however, what is the ground of the church?
The unique ground of the church, as revealed in the New Testament, is the genuine ground of oneness.
In 1 Cor. 1:2 Paul wrote to the church of God which is in Corinth. The church is of God – it is divine, having God’s element as its nature and source, and having God Himself as the content of the church.
The church is also in Corinth – the church is not merely somewhere in the spiritual realm but it is expressed practically in a locality, which was in Corinth. The locality of Corinth is for the existence, expression, and practice of the church.
The Body of Christ is uniquely one and universally one; there is one Body in this universe, transcending space and time. This is the mystical Body of Christ which includes the early apostles, the disciples, and all the believers throughout the ages.
When this Body is expressed in space and time, it is manifested as local churches. According to the Bible, when the Body of Christ is expressed on earth, it is manifested as the church in Corinth, the church in Jerusalem, the church in Antioch, etc.
Since the Body of Christ is one, the local expression of the Body of Christ is also one. The unique ground of the church is the genuine ground of oneness, and the church takes the locality it is in as the ground, site, and basis.
The ground in which the church is established is the oneness, and the church is practiced in a locality. Since I live in London, UK, I am part of the church in London.
The church in London is not a fellowship center, a mission, a social gathering, a denomination, a sect, or merely a group; the church which is in London is built on the ground of oneness, in the city of London, having fellowship with all the other churches in the Body of Christ.
The church of the Londoners is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thes. 1:1).
It is very limiting yet very scriptural and full of blessing to meet with no other name but the church in locality we are in, allowing the boundary of the city to be the ground of the church, and fellowshipping in love with all the fellow believers in that city to be the church in that locality!
Lord, we want to stand on the unique ground of the church, the genuine ground of oneness, to build up the church as the Body of Christ. Hallelujah, there is one Body in this universe, and we express it here on earth in all the localities as the many local churches! Amen, Lord, we want to keep the oneness of the Body of Christ by standing on the ground of oneness, the ground of the locality, even as You have ordained in the word.
The Practice of the Church Life is the Practice of having One Church in One City
The practice of the church life in the early days (see Acts 8:1; 13:1; Rev. 1:11) was the practice of having one church for one city, that is one city with only one church; in no city there was more than one church.
Furthermore, the church in a city was simply “the church in Jerusalem” or “the church in Antioch”, not taking any other name beside the locality.
In Acts 14:23 Paul ordained elders in every church, and in Titus 1:5 he told Titus to appoint elders in every city – there was only one church in one city.
In Rev. 1:11, when the Lord told John to write in a scroll all that he sees and send it to the seven churches, He listed seven cities.
Brother Watchman Nee pointed out that God was very wise in His way of building up the church on the local ground, the ground of the locality. The Lord’s believers are scattered all over the earth, but they can and should gather together in their respective localities to meet on the ground of the locality, on the ground of the oneness, and practice the church life.
It is so sad, however, that there are such “churches” as the Anglican church, the Baptist church, the Pentecostal church, the Chinese gospel church, the Taiwanese church, the Orthodox church, the Catholic church, etc – all these take a ground different from the ground of locality as their basis, and they are divisive.
If we as believers in Christ were to keep the pattern set up by God in the Bible to have one church in one city, we can keep the oneness.
For example, if we live in Tokyo, we meet with the church in Tokyo, and if we visit Seoul, we should meet with the church in Seoul. If we live in Dallas, Texas, we should meet with the church in Dallas, and if we are away for business in Montreal, Canada, we should meet with the church in Montreal.
Although there is one church in one city, the church won’t necessarily meet in one place. There may be many homes, districts, meeting halls, and meeting places, but in God’s eyes there is only one church in one city.
The church doesn’t take a certain doctrine as its ground, neither is the street or the area the ground for the church to meet. According to God’s ordained way in the New Testament, the locality is the unique ground for a church to practically meet, and all believers one locality need to be on the ground of oneness.
The Lord Jesus taught this, the apostles and early disciples practiced it, and there’s no indication in the New Testament that it should be different. All the degradation that crept in the church is a departure from the truth concerning the oneness of the Body and the practice of the church life.
Yes, the Bible does mention “the church in the house of Prisca and Aquilla” – but this is because the church met in that home, not because it was a “home-church”. The jurisdiction of a local church should cover the whole city in which that church is located – it shouldn’t be greater or lesser than the boundary of the city.
All believers within the boundary of the city should constitute the one unique local church within that city.
As we take the ground of locality as the ground of the church, we also consider the believers in that locality as part of the church there, and not only those assembling with us.
Our heart is broad: we receive all those that the Lord receives, all the believers based on the common faith, common salvation! We are not another sect: we are returning to the proper ground of the church, the ground of oneness, and this is an inclusive ground.
We don’t make teachings or doctrines the standard or criterion to receive other believers; rather, our heart is enlarged to receive and fellowship with all the believers.
Lord Jesus, thank You for ordaining that the practice of the church life should be the practice of having one church in one city. Thank You for placing us in the city where we are to meet with the local church in that city. Enlarge our heart, Lord, to receive and fellowship with all the saints in the city we’re in, based on the common faith and salvation as revealed in the Bible. Cause us to receive all the believers even as You receive them, and fellowship on the ground of oneness for the building up of the church as the Body of Christ!
References and Hymns on this Topic
- Inspiration: the Word of God, my enjoyment in the ministry, the message by Ron Kangas for this week, and portions from, The Divine and Mystical Realm, ch. 6 (by Witness Lee), as quoted in the Holy Word for Morning Revival on, Knowing Life and the Church, msg. 5 (week 5), Standing on the Unique Ground of the Church, Being under the Limitation of the Body of Christ, and Being Body-conscious in One Accord.
- Hymns on this topic:
# We are one as people of the Lord; / We declare that we are really one! / Not just word, but life in one accord / Testify what God in us hath done. / Eat the bread and drink the wine, ye saints! / We are one in Him fore’er. / Stand in oneness on the local ground, / Eat and drink in oneness there! (Hymns #1108)
# 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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