3. The Factor of the Church Being in the Triune God, the Local Churches Being Expressions of the Body of Christ, and the Believers Practicing the Church Life in the Consciousness of the Body
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Hymns:

Scripture Reading: 1 Thes. 1:1; 2 Thes. 1:1;

Matt. 16:18; 18:17; 1 Cor. 1:2; 12:12-27

1 Thes. 1:1    Paul and Silvanus and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.

2 Thes. 1:1    Paul and Silvanus and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

Matt. 16:18   And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.

Matt. 18:17   And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to hear the church also, let him be to you just like the Gentile and the tax collector.

1 Cor. 1:2      To the church of God which is in Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, the called saints, with all those who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place, who is theirs and ours:

1 Cor. 12:12  For even as the body is one and has many members, yet all the members of the body, being many, are one body, so also is the Christ.

1 Cor. 12:13  For also in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and were all given to drink one Spirit.

1 Cor. 12:14  For the body is not one member but many.

1 Cor. 12:15  If the foot should say, Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body, it is not that because of this it is not of the body.

1 Cor. 12:16  And if the ear should say, Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body, it is not that because of this it is not of the body.

1 Cor. 12:17  If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were the hearing, where would the smelling be?

1 Cor. 12:18  But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, even as He willed.

1 Cor. 12:19  And if all were one member, where would the body be?

1 Cor. 12:20  But now the members are many, but the body one.

1 Cor. 12:21  And the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you; nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.

1 Cor. 12:22  But much rather the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.

1 Cor. 12:23  And those members of the body which we consider to be less honorable, these we clothe with more abundant honor; and our uncomely members come to have more abundant comeliness,

1 Cor. 12:24  But our comely members have no need. But God has blended the body together, giving more abundant honor to the member that lacked,

1 Cor. 12:25  That there would be no division in the body, but that the members would have the same care for one another.

1 Cor. 12:26  And whether one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or one member is glorified, all the members rejoice with it.

1 Cor. 12:27  Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.

 

I.     The church is in the Triune God—“the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”—1 Thes. 1:1:

1 Thes. 1:1    Paul and Silvanus and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.

A.     In 1 Thessalonians 1:1 we have the revelation of the tremendous fact that the church is in the unique God and that this God is our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

1 Thes. 1:1    Paul and Silvanus and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.

1. The church is not only of God and of Christ; the church is also in God and in Christ.

2. It is important for us to see that the church in our locality is of God and in God, of Christ and in Christ.

B.     The church is composed of human beings, but they, the believers, are in the Triune God—v. 1; 2 Thes. 1:1.

1 Thes. 1:1    Paul and Silvanus and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.

2 Thes. 1:1    Paul and Silvanus and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

C.     The church is a group of human beings who have been born of God the Father with His life and nature and who have been brought into the organic union with Christ:

1. For the church to be in God, God must become our Father, and we must have a life relationship with Him—1 John 3:1a:

1 John 3:1     Behold what manner of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and we are. Because of this the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.

a. In 1 Thessalonians 1:1 the word Father indicates a relationship in life; in God the Father, we have been born again, regenerated, and now, as His children, we have a life relationship with Him—John 1:12-13.

1 Thes. 1:1    Paul and Silvanus and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.

John 1:12      But as many as received Him, to them He gave the authority to become children of God, to those who believe into His name,

John 1:13      Who were begotten not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

b. The church being in God the Father implies that the church is in God’s purpose, plan, selection, and predestination—Eph. 1:4-5.

Eph. 1:4        Even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and without blemish before Him in love,

Eph. 1:5        Predestinating us unto sonship through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,

c. The church in God the Father is the church in the One who is the unique Initiator and Originator—Rom. 11:36; 1 Cor. 8:6; Matt. 15:13.

Rom. 11:36   Because out from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

1 Cor. 8:6      Yet to us there is one God, the Father, out from whom are all things, and we are unto Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we are through Him.

Matt. 15:13   And He answered and said, Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted shall be rooted up.

2. To be in the Lord Jesus Christ is to be united with Christ organically in all that He is and has done—1 Thes. 1:1; 1 Cor. 1:30:

1 Thes. 1:1    Paul and Silvanus and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.

1 Cor. 1:30    But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became wisdom to us from God: both righteousness and sanctification and redemption,

a. In the Lord Jesus Christ we have the termination of everything of the old creation, for to be in Christ is to be in His death, the death that terminates all negative things—Rom. 6:4.

Rom. 6:4       We have been buried therefore with Him through baptism into His death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so also we might walk in newness of life.

b. The title Christ in 1 Thessalonians 1:1 denotes all the riches of resurrection; thus, to be in Christ is to be in resurrection—Rom. 8:10-11.

1 Thes. 1:1    Paul and Silvanus and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.

Rom. 8:10     But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is life because of righteousness.

Rom. 8:11     And if the Spirit of the One who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you.

D.     The church is in the processed Triune God—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—the One who has become the life-giving Spirit with the Father and the Son—1 Cor. 15:45b; John 14:17, 23.

1 Cor. 15:45  So also it is written, "The first man, Adam, became a living soul"; the last Adam became a life-giving Spirit.

John 14:17    Even the Spirit of reality, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him; but you know Him, because He abides with you and shall be in you.

John 14:23    Jesus answered and said to him, If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make an abode with him.

II.   A local church is an expression of the Body of Christ in a certain locality—1 Cor. 1:2; 10:32b, 17; 12:12-13, 20, 27:

1 Cor. 1:2      To the church of God which is in Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, the called saints, with all those who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place, who is theirs and ours:

1 Cor. 10:32  Do not become a stumbling block, both to Jews and to Greeks and to the church of God;

1 Cor. 10:17  Seeing that there is one bread, we who are many are one Body; for we all partake of the one bread.

1 Cor. 12:12  For even as the body is one and has many members, yet all the members of the body, being many, are one body, so also is the Christ.

1 Cor. 12:13  For also in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and were all given to drink one Spirit.

1 Cor. 12:20  But now the members are many, but the body one.

1 Cor. 12:27  Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.

A.     The unique Body of Christ is expressed in many local churches in the divine oneness as it is with the Triune God and in the divine nature, element, essence, expression, function, and testimony; there are many churches, yet they have one divine nature, one divine element, one divine essence, one divine expression, one divine function, and one divine testimony because they are one Body—Rev. 1:11; John 17:11, 21, 23.

Rev. 1:11      Saying, What you see write in a scroll and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamos and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.

John 17:11    And I am no longer in the world; yet they are in the world, and I am coming to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, which You have given to Me, that they may be one even as We are.

John 17:21    That they all may be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that You have sent Me.

John 17:23    I in them, and You in Me, that they may be perfected into one, that the world may know that You have sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me.

B.     The church revealed in Matthew 16:18 is the universal church, the unique Body of Christ, whereas the church revealed in 18:17 is the local church, the expression of the unique Body of Christ in a certain locality.

Matt. 16:18   And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.

Matt. 18:17   And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to hear the church also, let him be to you just like the Gentile and the tax collector.

C.     The one universal church—the Body of Christ—becomes the many local churches—local expressions of the Body of Christ—Rom. 12:4-5; 16:16.

Rom. 12:4     For just as in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have the same function,

Rom. 12:5     So we who are many are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

Rom. 16:16   Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.

D.     The unique Body of Christ is expressed in many localities as the local churches—Eph. 4:4; Rev. 1:4, 11:

Eph. 4:4        One Body and one Spirit, even as also you were called in one hope of your calling;

Rev. 1:4        John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is coming, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne,

Rev. 1:11      Saying, What you see write in a scroll and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamos and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.

1. The Body of Christ is the source of the local churches—Eph. 1:22-23; 2:21-22.

Eph. 1:22      And He subjected all things under His feet and gave Him to be Head over all things to the church,

Eph. 1:23      Which is His Body, the fullness of the One who fills all in all.

Eph. 2:21      In whom all the building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord;

Eph. 2:22      In whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in spirit.

2. The universal Body is like the father to all the churches, and all the churches are like the children to the father—Rom. 12:4-5; 16:4.

Rom. 12:4     For just as in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have the same function,

Rom. 12:5     So we who are many are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

Rom. 16:4     Who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles;

E.      Every local church is a part of the unique, universal Body of Christ, a local expression of this Body—Eph. 4:4; 1 Cor. 1:2; 12:27:

Eph. 4:4        One Body and one Spirit, even as also you were called in one hope of your calling;

1 Cor. 1:2      To the church of God which is in Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, the called saints, with all those who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place, who is theirs and ours:

1 Cor. 12:27  Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.

1. Universally, all the local churches are one Body, and locally, every local church is a local expression of the universal Body; therefore, a local church is not the Body but only a part of the Body, an expression of the Body.

2. The universal Christ has a part of Himself in every local church; every local church is a part of Christ, and all these parts constitute the Body—Eph. 1:23; 2:22.

Eph. 1:23      Which is His Body, the fullness of the One who fills all in all.

Eph. 2:22      In whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in spirit.

F.      The local ground of the church is basically the unique oneness of the Body of Christ practiced in the local churches—4:4; 1 Thes. 1:1:

Eph. 4:4        One Body and one Spirit, even as also you were called in one hope of your calling;

1 Thes. 1:1    Paul and Silvanus and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.

1. Both the universal Body of Christ and the local churches are uniquely one.

2. There is one unique Body in the whole universe, and there is one unique local church in each locality respectively.

3. This unique oneness is the basic element in the church life—Acts 1:14; 2:46; 1 Cor. 1:10; Phil. 1:27; 2:1-2.

Acts 1:14      These all continued steadfastly with one accord in prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.

Acts 2:46      And day by day, continuing steadfastly with one accord in the temple and breaking bread from house to house, they partook of their food with exultation and simplicity of heart,

1 Cor. 1:10    Now I beseech you, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be attuned in the same mind and in the same opinion.

Phil. 1:27      Only, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, that whether coming and seeing you or being absent, I may hear of the things concerning you, that you stand firm in one spirit, with one soul striving together along with the faith of the gospel,

Phil. 2:1        If there is therefore any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship of spirit, if any tenderheartedness and compassions,

Phil. 2:2        Make my joy full, that you think the same thing, having the same love, joined in soul, thinking the one thing,

G.     The churches in different localities are for the universal expression of Christ—Eph. 1:23; Rev. 1:4, 11; 22:16a:

Eph. 1:23      Which is His Body, the fullness of the One who fills all in all.

Rev. 1:4        John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is coming, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne,

Rev. 1:11      Saying, What you see write in a scroll and send it 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. 22:16    I Jesus have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the bright morning star.

1. A local church that makes everything local and that expresses only its locality has become a local sect, a local division.

2. All the basic things for the Body are not local—the Spirit, Christ, God, the Bible, the apostles’ teaching, and the apostles’ fellowship.

H.     In our consideration the Body should be first and the local churches should be second—Matt. 16:18; 18:17; Eph. 4:4, 16; 2:21-22; 1 Cor. 12:12; 1:2:

Matt. 16:18   And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.

Matt. 18:17   And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to hear the church also, let him be to you just like the Gentile and the tax collector.

Eph. 4:4        One Body and one Spirit, even as also you were called in one hope of your calling;

Eph. 4:16      Out from whom all the Body, being joined together and being knit together through every joint of the rich supply and through the operation in the measure of each one part, causes the growth of the Body unto the building up of itself in love.

Eph. 2:21      In whom all the building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord;

Eph. 2:22      In whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in spirit.

1 Cor. 12:12  For even as the body is one and has many members, yet all the members of the body, being many, are one body, so also is the Christ.

1 Cor. 1:2      To the church of God which is in Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, the called saints, with all those who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place, who is theirs and ours:

1. Local churches are the procedure God takes to reach the goal of His economy—the Body of Christ—Rom. 16:1, 4, 16; 12:4-5.

Rom. 16:1     I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a deaconess of the church which is in Cenchrea,

Rom. 16:4     Who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles;

Rom. 16:16   Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.

Rom. 12:4     For just as in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have the same function,

Rom. 12:5     So we who are many are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

2. We should consider our local church as a part of the Body of Christ—1 Cor. 1:2; 10:16-17; 12:12-13, 20, 27.

1 Cor. 1:2      To the church of God which is in Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, the called saints, with all those who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place, who is theirs and ours:

1 Cor. 10:16  The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the fellowship of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the fellowship of the body of Christ?

1 Cor. 10:17  Seeing that there is one bread, we who are many are one Body; for we all partake of the one bread.

1 Cor. 12:12  For even as the body is one and has many members, yet all the members of the body, being many, are one body, so also is the Christ.

1 Cor. 12:13  For also in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and were all given to drink one Spirit.

1 Cor. 12:20  But now the members are many, but the body one.

1 Cor. 12:27  Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.

III.  In practicing the church life, we need to have the consciousness of the Body—vv. 12-27:

1 Cor. 12:12  For even as the body is one and has many members, yet all the members of the body, being many, are one body, so also is the Christ.

1 Cor. 12:13  For also in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and were all given to drink one Spirit.

1 Cor. 12:14  For the body is not one member but many.

1 Cor. 12:15  If the foot should say, Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body, it is not that because of this it is not of the body.

1 Cor. 12:16  And if the ear should say, Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body, it is not that because of this it is not of the body.

1 Cor. 12:17  If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were the hearing, where would the smelling be?

1 Cor. 12:18  But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, even as He willed.

1 Cor. 12:19  And if all were one member, where would the body be?

1 Cor. 12:20  But now the members are many, but the body one.

1 Cor. 12:21  And the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you; nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.

1 Cor. 12:22  But much rather the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.

1 Cor. 12:23  And those members of the body which we consider to be less honorable, these we clothe with more abundant honor; and our uncomely members come to have more abundant comeliness,

1 Cor. 12:24  But our comely members have no need. But God has blended the body together, giving more abundant honor to the member that lacked,

1 Cor. 12:25  That there would be no division in the body, but that the members would have the same care for one another.

1 Cor. 12:26  And whether one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or one member is glorified, all the members rejoice with it.

1 Cor. 12:27  Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.

A.     In order to have the Body life, we must be full of feeling for the Body, taking the feeling of the Head as our own feeling—Rom. 12:15; 1 Cor. 12:26-27; Acts 9:4-5:

Rom. 12:15   Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.

1 Cor. 12:26  And whether one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or one member is glorified, all the members rejoice with it.

1 Cor. 12:27  Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.

Acts 9:4        And he fell on the ground and heard a voice saying to him, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?

Acts 9:5        And he said, Who are You, Lord? And He said, I am Jesus, whom you persecute.

1. If we as members have the feeling of the Head in everything and care for the Body, we will take the Body as the rule in our mind, thoughts, words, and actions—Eph. 4:15-16; Col. 2:19.

Eph. 4:15      But holding to truth in love, we may grow up into Him in all things, who is the Head, Christ,

Eph. 4:16      Out from whom all the Body, being joined together and being knit together through every joint of the rich supply and through the operation in the measure of each one part, causes the growth of the Body unto the building up of itself in love.

Col. 2:19       And not holding the Head, out from whom all the Body, being richly supplied and knit together by means of the joints and sinews, grows with the growth of God.

2. We should deny ourselves and identify ourselves with the Body (Matt. 16:24; Rom. 12:4-5, 15; 1 Cor. 1:2; 12:12-27); if we do this, the life we live will be the Body life, and the Lord will gain the expression of the Body—Eph. 4:15-16; 1:22-23.

Matt. 16:24   Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone wants to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.

Rom. 12:4     For just as in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have the same function,

Rom. 12:5     So we who are many are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

Rom. 12:15   Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.

1 Cor. 1:2      To the church of God which is in Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, the called saints, with all those who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place, who is theirs and ours:

1 Cor. 12:12  For even as the body is one and has many members, yet all the members of the body, being many, are one body, so also is the Christ.

1 Cor. 12:13  For also in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and were all given to drink one Spirit.

1 Cor. 12:14  For the body is not one member but many.

1 Cor. 12:15  If the foot should say, Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body, it is not that because of this it is not of the body.

1 Cor. 12:16  And if the ear should say, Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body, it is not that because of this it is not of the body.

1 Cor. 12:17  If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were the hearing, where would the smelling be?

1 Cor. 12:18  But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, even as He willed.

1 Cor. 12:19  And if all were one member, where would the body be?

1 Cor. 12:20  But now the members are many, but the body one.

1 Cor. 12:21  And the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you; nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.

1 Cor. 12:22  But much rather the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.

1 Cor. 12:23  And those members of the body which we consider to be less honorable, these we clothe with more abundant honor; and our uncomely members come to have more abundant comeliness,

1 Cor. 12:24  But our comely members have no need. But God has blended the body together, giving more abundant honor to the member that lacked,

1 Cor. 12:25  That there would be no division in the body, but that the members would have the same care for one another.

1 Cor. 12:26  And whether one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or one member is glorified, all the members rejoice with it.

1 Cor. 12:27  Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.

Eph. 4:15      But holding to truth in love, we may grow up into Him in all things, who is the Head, Christ,

Eph. 4:16      Out from whom all the Body, being joined together and being knit together through every joint of the rich supply and through the operation in the measure of each one part, causes the growth of the Body unto the building up of itself in love.

Eph. 1:22      And He subjected all things under His feet and gave Him to be Head over all things to the church,

Eph. 1:23      Which is His Body, the fullness of the One who fills all in all.

3. Our enjoyment of Christ causes us to become conscious of the Body of Christ—Col. 2:16-17, 19.

Col. 2:16       Let no one therefore judge you in eating and in drinking or in respect of a feast or of a new moon or of the Sabbath,

Col. 2:17       Which are a shadow of the things to come, but the body is of Christ.

Col. 2:19       And not holding the Head, out from whom all the Body, being richly supplied and knit together by means of the joints and sinews, grows with the growth of God.

B.     Whatever we do involves the Body; therefore, whenever we do something, we must have a proper consideration of the Body—2 Cor. 8:21; Eph. 4:16:

2 Cor. 8:21    For we exercise foresight for what is honorable not only in the sight of the Lord but also in the sight of men.

Eph. 4:16      Out from whom all the Body, being joined together and being knit together through every joint of the rich supply and through the operation in the measure of each one part, causes the growth of the Body unto the building up of itself in love.

1. We should not do anything without taking care of the Body—1 Cor. 12:12-27.

1 Cor. 12:12  For even as the body is one and has many members, yet all the members of the body, being many, are one body, so also is the Christ.

1 Cor. 12:13  For also in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and were all given to drink one Spirit.

1 Cor. 12:14  For the body is not one member but many.

1 Cor. 12:15  If the foot should say, Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body, it is not that because of this it is not of the body.

1 Cor. 12:16  And if the ear should say, Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body, it is not that because of this it is not of the body.

1 Cor. 12:17  If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were the hearing, where would the smelling be?

1 Cor. 12:18  But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, even as He willed.

1 Cor. 12:19  And if all were one member, where would the body be?

1 Cor. 12:20  But now the members are many, but the body one.

1 Cor. 12:21  And the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you; nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.

1 Cor. 12:22  But much rather the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.

1 Cor. 12:23  And those members of the body which we consider to be less honorable, these we clothe with more abundant honor; and our uncomely members come to have more abundant comeliness,

1 Cor. 12:24  But our comely members have no need. But God has blended the body together, giving more abundant honor to the member that lacked,

1 Cor. 12:25  That there would be no division in the body, but that the members would have the same care for one another.

1 Cor. 12:26  And whether one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or one member is glorified, all the members rejoice with it.

1 Cor. 12:27  Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.

2. We need to consider how the Body would feel about what we are doing and how the Body, the recovery, will react.

3. How we behave ourselves depends upon the degree of our seeing the Body.

4. If we are in one accord only in our local church and do not care for the other churches, this kind of one accord is a sect, a division—Acts 1:14; 15:25.

Acts 1:14      These all continued steadfastly with one accord in prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.

Acts 15:25    It seemed good to us, having become of one accord, to choose men to send to you together with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,

5. If we take care of the Body and are concerned for the Body, there will be no problems—Eph. 4:4, 16.

Eph. 4:4        One Body and one Spirit, even as also you were called in one hope of your calling;

Eph. 4:16      Out from whom all the Body, being joined together and being knit together through every joint of the rich supply and through the operation in the measure of each one part, causes the growth of the Body unto the building up of itself in love.

C.     Among all the churches that compose the one universal Body of Christ, there is no organization, but there is the fellowship of the Body of Christ—Acts 2:42; 1 John 1:3; 1 Cor. 1:9; 10:16-17; 11:29:

Acts 2:42      And they continued steadfastly in the teaching and the fellowship of the apostles, in the breaking of bread and the prayers.

1 John 1:3     That which we have seen and heard we report also to you that you also may have fellowship with us, and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.

1 Cor. 1:9      God is faithful, through whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

1 Cor. 10:16  The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the fellowship of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the fellowship of the body of Christ?

1 Cor. 10:17  Seeing that there is one bread, we who are many are one Body; for we all partake of the one bread.

1 Cor. 11:29  For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not discern the body.

1. All the churches on earth are one Body, and within this one Body there is the circulation of the divine life—the fellowship of the Body—1 John 1:3.

1 John 1:3     That which we have seen and heard we report also to you that you also may have fellowship with us, and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.

2. Fellowship is related to oneness; the circulation of the divine life in the Body brings all the members of the Body into oneness—Eph. 4:3-4; Rom. 16:1-23.

Eph. 4:3        Being diligent to keep the oneness of the Spirit in the uniting bond of peace:

Eph. 4:4        One Body and one Spirit, even as also you were called in one hope of your calling;

Rom. 16:1     I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a deaconess of the church which is in Cenchrea,

Rom. 16:2     That you receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints and assist her in whatever matter she may have need of you; for she herself has also been the patroness of many, of myself as well.

Rom. 16:3     Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus,

Rom. 16:4     Who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles;

Rom. 16:5     And greet the church, which is in their house. Greet Epaenetus, my beloved, who is the firstfruits of Asia unto Christ.

Rom. 16:6     Greet Mary, one who has labored much for you.

Rom. 16:7     Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.

Rom. 16:8     Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord.

Rom. 16:9     Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and Stachys, my beloved.

Rom. 16:10   Greet Apelles, approved in Christ. Greet those of the household of Aristobulus.

Rom. 16:11   Greet Herodion, my kinsman. Greet those of the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord.

Rom. 16:12   Greet Tryphaena and Tryphosa, who labor in the Lord. Greet Persis, the beloved sister, one who has labored much in the Lord.

Rom. 16:13   Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother as well as mine.

Rom. 16:14   Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers with them.

Rom. 16:15   Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints with them.

Rom. 16:16   Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.

Rom. 16:17   Now I exhort you, brothers, to mark those who make divisions and causes of stumbling contrary to the teaching which you have learned, and turn away from them.

Rom. 16:18   For such men do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own stomach, and through smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.

Rom. 16:19   For the report of your obedience has reached to all; therefore I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and guileless as to what is evil.

Rom. 16:20   Now the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

Rom. 16:21   Timothy, my fellow worker, greets you, as well as Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen.

Rom. 16:22   I, Tertius, who write this epistle, greet you in the Lord.

Rom. 16:23   Gaius, my host and host of the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer, greets you, and Quartus the brother.

3. The local churches should fellowship with all the genuine local churches on the whole earth to keep the universal fellowship of the Body of Christ.

4. Although the administration of the church is local (Acts 14:23), the fellowship of the church is universal (2:42); there are churches in many cities, but there is one fellowship in the entire universe.

Acts 14:23    And when they had appointed elders for them in every church and had prayed with fastings, they committed them to the Lord into whom they had believed.

Acts 2:42      And they continued steadfastly in the teaching and the fellowship of the apostles, in the breaking of bread and the prayers.

 

Excerpts from the Ministry:

 

CHRIST BUILDING THE UNIVERSAL CHURCH

The church that Christ is building is the universal church, not the church in a nation or the church in a city. In Matthew 16:18 the Lord Jesus said to Peter, “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church.” In this verse the Lord considered Himself as the rock (cf. v. 16). Christ Himself is the very rock upon which the church is built. The church in Matthew 16:18 is the universal church, the one church in the entire universe.

The Universal Church Being the Unique Body of Christ

The universal church is the unique Body of Christ. According to Ephesians 1:22-23, Christ is the Head, and the church is His Body. Christ the Head has only one Body (4:4). It is abnormal for a head to have more than one body. If you saw a person with one head and two bodies, surely you would consider him a monster. In Christianity today, the unique Body of Christ has been divided into countless “bodies.” These bodies are the many so-called churches in existence around the globe. All the different “churches” claim that their Head is Christ. This means that the one Head, Christ, has many bodies. This is not only wrong, but this is grotesque. In the midst of today’s abnormal situation, we strongly affirm that the Body of Christ is uniquely one. There is one Head and one Body. Surely, this one Body cannot be a particular local church. This one Body must be the universal church, the church as a whole. Christ as the Head is unique, and the universal church as the Body is also unique.

The Universal Church Comprising All the Local Churches

This one universal church, one Body, comprises all the local churches. There may be thousands of local churches, but together they constitute one universal church. Each local church is only a part of the universal church. The universal church is the unique Body of Christ, and all the local churches are simply the local expressions of that one Body.

The local churches compose the one universal church. Acts 15:41 speaks of the churches in Syria and Cilicia, and Romans 16:4 mentions the churches in the Gentile world. Second Corinthians 8:1 speaks of the churches in the province of Macedonia; Galatians 1:2, of the churches in the province of Galatia; and Revelation 1:4, of the churches in the province of Asia. According to Revelation 1:4, there were at least seven local churches in the one province of Asia. In the New Testament we can see many local churches, and together these local churches are considered as one universal church. Today in the Lord’s recovery there are nearly six hundred local churches on six continents. All these local churches together are just one universal church.

THE BELIEVERS LIVING IN THE LOCAL CHURCHES

The believers are living in the local churches. Actually, we cannot live directly in the universal church. It is impossible for us to live in the universal church without living in a local church. The Lord is building up the universal church, and each of us is living practically in a local church. In Matthew 18:17 the Lord said that if, as a believer, you have a problem with another believer, you should tell it to the church. Surely, the church mentioned in this verse is not the universal church; it must be the church in the place where you are. If you are in Seoul and you have any problem, you should tell the problem to the church in Seoul. If you are in Pusan, you should go to the church in Pusan; if you are in Hong Kong, you should go to the church in Hong Kong; and if you are in New York, you should go to the church in New York. The church to which you should tell your problem is the local church.

The Local Churches Being the Local Expressions of the Body of Christ

The local churches are the local expressions of the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27; Eph. 2:22). There is only one Body, but there are many expressions. Universally, all the churches are one Body, and locally, every local church is a local expression of that universal Body. A local church is not the Body; it is only a part of the Body. It is a local expression of the Body. The church in Seoul is not the entire Body; it is a part of the entire Body as the Body’s local expression.

All the Local Churches Constituting the One Body of Christ

All the local churches constitute the one Body of Christ (4:4). In Matthew 16:18 the Lord said, “I will build My church.” Here the church is in the singular number, indicating that it must be the universal church. But in the Acts and the Epistles, a number of times the Bible says “the churches”—the churches in Syria, the churches in Asia, the churches in Macedonia, and the churches in Galatia. How could the Bible refer first to one church and then to many churches? It is because the one church, the universal church, is the totality of all the churches, and all the churches are local constituents of the one universal church.

THE GENUINE GROUND

Now we need to consider what the genuine ground of the church is. The ground denotes the site on which a building is built. Every building is built upon a certain piece of land, and this land is the ground on which the building is constructed. The church has spread to many nations in Europe, North and South America, Africa, and Asia. In all the different nations the church is built upon the proper ground.

The Ground of Locality—One City, One Church

The proper ground for the building of the church is the ground of locality. When the church spread to Korea, it first came to Seoul. The church is now being built in Seoul. Thus, the city of Seoul has become its ground.

In the Bible the church does not bear any particular name. In this respect the church is like the moon. The moon does not have a particular name; its name is simply the moon. We do not name the moon the American moon, the Chinese moon, the Korean moon, or the German moon. There is only one moon, not many moons. However, we may speak of the moon in Seoul, the moon in Osaka, or the moon in Shanghai. This does not denote many moons but one moon appearing in different cities.

The city is the ground on which the church is built. Therefore, taking the city as the ground, we may denote the church according to the city (Rev. 1:11). For example, you may say that you are a member of the church in Seoul. Since my wife and I live in Anaheim, California, we are members of the church in Anaheim. Many of the saints attending this conference came from different cities. We use the names of these cities to denote the different local churches. Because of this, we may say that there are many churches. But actually, the many local churches are simply the one universal church appearing in many cities.

When the one moon is seen in Seoul, it is the moon in Seoul. When it appears in New York, it is the moon in New York. There is only one moon. The moon in America is the moon in Korea, and the moon in Korea is the moon in China. There is only one moon, but this one moon appears in different cities. Therefore, it is correct to speak of the moon in a certain city. It is the same with the church.

We may say that there are many churches, yet the many churches are still just one church. Are we all in different churches, or are we in just one church? The proper answer is that, locally speaking, we are in many churches, but universally speaking, we are all in one church. Are you in the local churches, or are you in the universal church? It is wise to answer, “I am in the universal church by being in a local church.” We are not in the Roman Church, the British Church, the American Church, or the Korean Church; we are in the universal church by being in the local churches. Since we are now in the city of Seoul, we should say that we are in the universal church by being in the church in Seoul. Although my wife and I reside in Anaheim, we should remember that during our stay with the saints in Seoul, we are not in the church in Anaheim but in the church in Seoul.

Now let me ask, of what church are you a member? The best answer is that you are a member of the universal church, which Jesus Christ is building, by being a member of a proper local church. While we are in Seoul, we are members of the universal church by being members of the church in Seoul. This is the proper practice of the church. We are members of the universal church by being members of one of the local churches. As long as we are members of a proper local church, we are members of the churches universally.

The ground of the church in Seoul is the city of Seoul. Therefore, in one city there can be only one church (Titus 1:5; cf. Acts 14:23). Furthermore, the city can never be divided; a city always remains one city. Thus, the ground of locality is permanently one. Just as the city cannot be divided, the church ground can never be divided. Since we do not have two cities in Seoul, we do not have two churches in Seoul. In Seoul there is only one city; hence, in Seoul there is only one church. This unique ground keeps the church in oneness.

Today in a given city there may be many so-called churches. This may be likened to one city having many city halls. If a particular city has more than one city hall, this would mean that that city is divided. In any city there is only one city hall. This preserves the oneness of the city. A local church is built on the ground of its locality. This unique ground may be termed the ground of locality. The ground of locality is a protection to ensure that a church in a particular locality will always be preserved in oneness.

The Ground of the Genuine Oneness—One Body Universally

The ground of the church should not be merely local; it should also be universal. Locally, the ground of the church is the ground of locality; universally, the ground of the church is the genuine oneness. Christ has only one Body. The oneness of Christ’s Body is the universal ground of the church.

Suppose all the local churches in Korea are one with each other but are not one with the churches in other continents. If this were the case, the churches in Korea may have the local ground, the ground of locality, but they would not have the universal ground, the ground of the oneness of the Body. In the entire universe Christ has only one Body. All the local churches in the six continents—in North America, in South America, in Europe, in Africa, in Australia, and in Asia—are one Body. This is the universal ground of the genuine oneness.

The churches in England may say to the churches in Germany, “We are the churches in England, and you are the churches in Germany; therefore, don’t bother us.” Locally, they may be right, but universally, they are wrong. They may keep the local oneness, but they destroy the universal oneness. Locally, the ground of the church is the ground of locality, and universally, the ground of the church is the oneness of the universal Body of Christ. Hence, there is the local aspect of oneness, and there is also the universal aspect of oneness.

I hope that the young sisters will be clear about this and that they will teach their children, “Children, from my youth I have learned that the church should be one in two aspects: one in its locality and one in the universe.” The church is one locally, based upon its locality, the city, and it is one universally, based upon the one Body of Christ. This local and universal oneness is the genuine ground of the church.

THE LOCAL ADMINISTRATION AND THE UNIVERSAL FELLOWSHIP

At this point we need to consider another two items related to the proper practice of the church life: the local administration and the universal fellowship. In the proper church life the administration of the church is local, but the fellowship of the church is universal.

The Administration Being Separate and Equal Locally

The administration of each local church is separate from the administrations of all other local churches. Furthermore, the administrations of all the local churches are on an equal level. In administration, no church is higher than another church, and no church is lower. In a country or nation there are different levels of government. The highest is the central government, and under the central government are the provincial, or state, governments and the city governments. This kind of government with different levels may be likened to a pyramid. The central government is the highest level, and the provincial and city governments are on lower levels.

But in the proper church life there is not such a thing. All the local churches are on one level. In the Roman Catholic Church the highest level of administration is in the Vatican. The pope is at the top, and around him are the cardinals. The pope exercises control over Roman Catholics in all the nations. All over the earth he has a number of archbishops. Under the archbishops there are the bishops, and under the bishops are the priests. This kind of governmental organization is a religious hierarchy. Such a hierarchy should be condemned. In the proper practice of the church life, all the churches on the whole earth are on one level. On the top there is only one throne, the throne of the Head, Christ, in the heavens. Only the Head is on the throne. Under the Head all the churches are on the same level.

Suppose the church in Seoul is the largest local church in Korea. Would it be right for the church in Seoul to control all the other churches in Korea? Suppose the church in Pusan is the second largest church in Korea. Would it be proper for the church in Pusan to be under the church in Seoul? Then, suppose there is a smaller church in the vicinity of Pusan. Would it be right for the church in Seoul, as the largest church, to control the church in Pusan, and for the church in Pusan to control the smaller church in the same vicinity? In answer to such questions I must say strongly that this kind of hierarchy and control is absolutely wrong.

In reference to the administration of the local churches, I have used two adjectives: separate and equal. The administration of the church in Seoul is separate from the administrations in Pusan and Geochang. The administrations of these churches are separate and equal. Even the administration of the smallest local church in Korea is equal with the administration of the church in Seoul. If I were an elder in the church in Seoul, I might consider that, since the church in Seoul is the largest, I should exercise some control over the smaller churches. The elders of the smaller churches may also consider that, since the church in Seoul is the largest and the oldest, they should surely submit to the elders in Seoul. In human eyes this may seem right, but in the practice of the proper church life, it is absolutely wrong.

Every local church has its own administration, and this administration is separate from all the others. It is also equal with all the others. Although the church in Seoul has been in existence for a number of years, and a much smaller church may have come into existence only two days ago, the administrations of these two churches are separate and on the same level. The administration of the church is local. No church, regardless of how large and mature it may be, should control another church.

The Fellowship Being One Universally

Although the administration of the church is separate and equal locally, the fellowship of the church is one universally. In fellowship there is no separation. On this entire earth there is only one fellowship, and this fellowship is universally one. The fellowship of the church is one not merely in a particular nation but in the entire universe. There is not one fellowship in England, another fellowship in the United States, another fellowship in Germany,

another fellowship in China, and another fellowship in Japan. In these nations there are separate churches in many cities, but there is only one fellowship in the entire universe.

This fellowship is called the fellowship of the apostles. Acts 2:42 says that the three thousand who believed in the Lord Jesus and became the members of the church on the day of Pentecost continued steadfastly in the teaching and the fellowship of the apostles. In the church both the fellowship and the teaching should be one universally. In all the churches we should teach only one thing—Jesus Christ as the Spirit to be our life for the producing of the church. This is the teaching of the apostles. If a different teaching comes in, we must reject it (1 Tim. 1:3-4). We accept only one kind of teaching, the teaching of the apostles, and have only one fellowship, the apostles’ fellowship.

In the early days all the believers continued in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship. This fellowship of the apostles is with the Father and with the Son. First John 1:3 says, “That which we have seen and heard we report also to you that you also may have fellowship with us, and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” The apostles’ fellowship is with the Father and with the Son. This means that it is with the Triune God. Around the globe there is only one Christian fellowship—the fellowship of the apostles with the Triune God.

This fellowship is expressed at the Lord’s table. When we eat the bread, we participate in the fellowship of the body of Christ, and when we drink the cup, we participate in the fellowship of the Lord’s blood (1 Cor. 10:16). The Lord’s body and blood are unique, and the fellowship of Christ’s body and blood is also unique. By partaking of the one bread, we have become the mystical Body of Christ (v. 17). Therefore, this universal fellowship is the fellowship of the Body of Christ. It is the fellowship passed on to us by the apostles. Hence, it is the apostles’ fellowship, and this fellowship is with the Triune God. Such a fellowship must be universal. In administration the churches are separate locally, but in fellowship they are united to be one universally. (The Collected Works of Witness Lee, 1984, vol. 4, “Vital Factors for the Recovery of the Church Life,” pp. 488-496)


 
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