Additional Quotes about the Local Church by Witness Lee and Watchman Nee
The church of God, as the living Body of Christ, needs the local churches for its existence and function. Without the local churches, the Body of Christ has no way to exist and to carry out its function in practicality. Actually, the local churches are the Body of Christ, and the Body of Christ is all the local churches.
(Witness Lee, Brief Presentation, 30)
Secondly, we must see that the church is very practical. It is not just a vision. It is not just a teaching or something in the heavens, but an intensely practical matter. We must have a practical church. We should not have a church in our thoughts, in teaching, or even in vision, but in practice. We all need to pray that we will see the practicality of the church. The New Testament does not give much doctrine concerning the church, but it does give us a full picture of the practice of the church. People today may have the doctrine of the church, but the Bible has the practice of the church.
The church in Jerusalem in the early days was visible, real, and practical. The church in Antioch was visible, real, and practical. The church in every city today must also be visible, real, and practical. We cannot say that the church is invisible and for the future.
If we would put the church into practice, if we would make it practical, we must have a local expression. There is no other way.
Can you find a verse in the New Testament telling us that the church is in the heavens? You cannot. But we do have the church in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1), the church in Antioch (Acts 13:1), the church at Cenchrea (Rom. 16:1), the church in Corinth (1 Cor. 1:2), and the church in so many other cities. They are the local churches. Eventually at the end of the New Testament, in the book of Revelation, we have a picture of seven churches in seven cities. It is so clear. The practical expression of the church must be local. We need to see this.
(Witness Lee, Vision of the Church, 4-7)
Watchman Nee saw that the church is both universal and local. In the entire universe there is only one church, the church of God (1 Cor. 10:32). This unique church is expressed in many localities on earth, and in each locality it is a local church. The universal church is composed of all the local churches, and the local churches are the practical expression of the universal church. In Matthew 16:18, the universal church is revealed, whereas in Matthew 18:17, we see the local church. Without the local churches, there is no way to participate in the universal church, and there is no way to have a practical church life.
(Witness Lee, Seer of the Divine Revelation, 154-155)
The church also has different aspects. The church is the unique, one, universal church. In practice, however, the church is expressed as the local churches. Therefore, the New Testament speaks of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1), the church in Antioch (13:1), and the church in Corinth (1 Cor. 1:2). Revelation 1:11 speaks of the seven churches in Asiain Ephesus, in Smyrna, in Pergamos, in Thyatira, in Sardis, in Philadelphia, and in Laodicea. In practice these are many churches, but all the local churches are the one, unique church. The church has the local aspect, and it also has the universal aspect. Locally, the churches are many. Universally, the churches are one. The church is the unique Body of Christ, and this one Body is expressed in many localities as the local churches.
(Witness Lee, Five Emphases, 43)
The Body of Christ is unique in the universe. In the whole universe there is only one Body. The church of God is also unique in the universe. This unique church of God in the universe becomes the churches in the various cities locally in all five continents through the spread of His children over all the earth. Every believer can only live in the practical church life in one local church. If anyone is not happy with the church where he is, he may move to meet in another church. After a while, he may move to yet another place to find a church that will satisfy him. This kind of moving is not according to the will of God. God wants the believers to live the church life locally, practically, and without any opinion.
(Witness Lee, Salvation in Life, 51)
The Word of God teaches us that the Church is one. In the Gospels the word is used on both occasions by our Lord, but it is employed in a somewhat different sense each time.
You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18). What church is this? Peter confessed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, and our Lord declared that He would build His Church upon this confessionthe confession that as to His Person He is the Son of God, and as to His work He is the Christ of God. This Church comprises all the saved, without reference to time or space, that is, all who in the purpose of God are redeemed by virtue of the shed blood of the Lord Jesus, and are born again by the operation of His Spirit. This is the Church universal, the Church of God, the Body of Christ.
And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church (Matt. 18:17). The word church is used here in quite a different sense from the sense in Matthew 16:18. The sphere of the church referred to here is clearly not as wide as the sphere of the Church mentioned in the previous passage. The Church there is a Church that knows nothing of time or place, but the church here is obviously limited both to time and place, for it is one that can hear you speak. The Church mentioned in chapter sixteen includes all the children of God in every locality, while the church mentioned in chapter eighteen includes only the children of God living in one locality; and it is because it is limited to one place that it is possible for you to tell your difficulties to the believers of whom it is composed. Obviously the church here is local, not universal, for no one could speak at one time to all the children of God throughout the universe. It is only possible to speak at one time to the believers living in one place.
We have clearly two different aspects of the Church before usthe Church and the churches, the universal Church and the local churches. The Church is invisible; the churches are visible. The Church has no organization; the churches are organized. The Church is spiritual; the churches are spiritual and yet physical. The Church is purely an organism; the churches are an organism, yet at the same time they are organized, which is seen by the fact that elders and deacons hold office there.
(Watchman Nee, Collected Works, Set 1, Vol. 9, 51-52)
Before that revival, Brother Nee had a big turn in 1939. In that year he saw the Body of Christ and the practicality of the local church. I went in 1939 to attend his conference on the Body of Christ. Then I went to his training in 1940. At that time I received much help from him, mainly from the private talks he had with me. Through those talks I saw what he called the blueprint of the practicality of the local church.
(Witness Lee, History of the Church, 117)
Second Corinthians was not addressed to individual saints but to the church of God (1:1). It was not addressed to the church in the heavenlies but to a local church in Corinth. In 1:1 Paul said, To the church of God which is in Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia.
Pauls letter was addressed to the church in a certain city on this earth not to the church in the heavenlies. You may say that you are with a church, but are you with an abstract, unseen, invisible church in the heavenlies or with a concrete, visible, practical local church today on this earth in the very place where you are? Many people who talk about the church are churchless. They are talking about a wonderful home in the future in the heavenlies, but today they are homeless. All the Epistles written by the apostles were dealing with the local churches on the earth. All of us need to be in a local church where we can practice the proper Christian life today.
(Witness Lee, Person in the Spirit, 66-67)
The first point is that the Christian life is the life in which the believers of Christ live Christ and magnify Christ. The second point is that the Christian life is the life in which the Christians live Christ and magnify Him corporately in their locality as a local church to be a local expression of Christ as a part of the universal Body of Christ. The Christian life is and should always be in these two aspectsthe individual aspect and the corporate aspect. We need to live an individual Christian life for a corporate Christian life. The corporate Christian life is the church life. This refers specifically to the local church. If we do not have a local church life, we cannot experience anything of the universal Body of Christ.
(Witness Lee, Christian Life, 8)
The Christian life must be a church life. The Christian life should not be just an individual Christian life. It should be a corporate Christian life, the church life. Wherever you are on this earth, you should participate in the local church there.
We all are a part of a local church, and every local church is a part of the universal church, which is the Body of Christ.
(Witness Lee, Christian Life, 15)
In the first message, we fellowshipped concerning the definition of the Christian life. We saw that the Christian life is the life in which the believers of Christ live Christ and magnify Him (Phil. 1:20b-21a). It is also the life in which the Christians live Christ and magnify Him corporately in their locality as a local church to be a local expression of Christ as a part of the universal Body of Christ.
(Witness Lee, Christian Life, 17)
The church of Christ has two aspects. The first aspect, the universal aspect, is spoken of in Matthew 16. The universal church includes all the believers both past and present. There is only one such church, and we cannot add another to it. The universal church is unique. The second aspect, the local aspect, is spoken of in Matthew 18. The local church includes all the local believers at a certain time and in a certain place. It is limited to time and place. It can be counted. This is why we see expressions in the Bible such as the church (Acts 9:31), the seven churches (Rev. 1:4), and the churches (1 Cor. 11:16; 14:33). There is no difference in content between the universal church and the local church, except that the local church is a miniature of the universal church. Paul said that the Corinthian believers were the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27). This means that the local church represents the Body of Christ. The local church should represent the universal church.
(Watchman Nee, Collected Works, Set 2, Vol. 43, 572)
Spiritually the Church of God is one; therefore, it cannot be dividedbut physically its members are scattered throughout the earth; therefore, they cannot possibly live in one place. Yet it is essential that there be a physical gathering together of believers. It is not enough that they be present in the spirit; they must also be present in the flesh. Now a church is composed of all the called-out ones assembled in one place for worship, prayer, fellowship, and ministry. This assembling together is absolutely essential to the life of a church. Without it, there may be believers scattered throughout the area, but there is really no church.
(Watchman Nee, Collected Works, Set 2, Vol. 30, 53-54)
The universal church as the Body of Christ is expressed through the local churches. The local churches, as the expressions of the one Body of Christ, are locally one. Without the local churches there would be no practicality and actuality of the universal church. The universal church is realized in the local churches.
(Witness Lee, Incarnation, 32)
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