Additional Quotes about the Local Church by Witness Lee and Watchman Nee

According to the divine revelation in the holy Word, there is deputy authority in God’s economy, both in the Old Testament, such as with Moses and the priests who taught the people the divine oracle, and in the New Testament, such as with the elders, who take care of the church (1 Tim. 3:5; 5:17; Heb. 13:17), and the apostles, who establish the churches and teach the saints (2 Cor. 10:8; 13:10; 1 Cor. 4:21). A local church is under the authority of Christ as the Head, represented by the elders. Hence, the saints in a local church should obey the elders (Heb. 13:17). The churches as the Body of Christ are under their Head, Christ, represented by the apostles. Hence, the churches should obey the apostles (2 Cor. 2:9; 7:15; 10:6). To obey the elders in a local church and to obey the apostles among the churches does not mean that the obeying one does not need to obey the Lord directly. When he is seeking the leading directly from the Lord, he should also take care of the elders in the local church, because he is living and working in the church as a part of the Body. When the churches are seeking the leading directly from the Lord, they should also take care of the apostles, because they are all living and working with the apostles in the churches as the Body of Christ. Whether in a local church or among all the churches, we should be Body-conscious, taking care not only of the Head but also of His Body. Since we are living and working in the Body, we have the Body with the Head. We cannot have the Head without the Body; neither can we have the Body without the Head. We should seek to obey the Head with a relationship to the Body, and we should also seek to obey the Body with a relationship to the Head. We all need to realize that in our natural life we are very independent. So, to take care of obeying both the Lord and the elders or the apostles at the same time is not an easy thing for us. Hence, we may unconsciously feel that the teaching concerning the obeying of God’s deputy authority is overly stressed or even unscriptural. In any case, to say that there is no deputy authority of the Lord is surely unscriptural.

(Witness Lee, Eldership (2), 106-107)

Matthew 18:15-17 says, “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go, reprove him between you and him alone…But if he does not hear you, take with you one or two more.…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.” Some churches are very lazy and do not care to handle troublesome matters. But the Lord said that the church must take care of disciplinary matters, if it is to be a church at all. The Lord’s teaching in chapter eighteen is regarding the local church because it refers to a place in which we can “tell.” The local church must take care of these matters. If a local church does not take care of these matters, she is neglecting her duty. If we are a church in a locality, we must bear all the responsibility in that locality.

(Watchman Nee, Further Talks, 55)

A church in a locality must not only receive all whom Christ has received in that locality, but must also exercise church discipline. What is this discipline? When a brother who has been received by the Lord commits something that requires the Lord to exclude him from fellowship, we too must exercise discipline upon him. We should not say that we want all whom the Lord wants and all whom the Lord does not want. If the Lord puts a certain one into the world, yet we put him into the church, we open a door to the world in the church. As a result, there will be no boundary between the church and the world; the wall between them will be torn down by us.
We often use this illustration: When a boat is at sea, the boat and the sea cannot have fellowship. As soon as they begin to have fellowship, the boat will begin to sink into the sea. Likewise, if a hole is drilled in the church, the line of separation between the church and the world will disappear. Therefore, the local church must exercise discipline; it must have disciplinary action in order to be a local church.
What is disciplinary action? First Corinthians 5 speaks of six different kinds of persons who are saved and have God’s life, but they have indulged themselves and become a fornicator, a covetous man, a reviler, a drunkard, an idolater, and an extortioner (v. 11). Paul told the church in Corinth to “remove the evil man from among yourselves” (v. 13). The command in 1 Corinthians 5 does not say that we must put a brother away from among us as soon as he has sinned. But it does say that we must put him away when he becomes such a one. It does not say one who commits fornication, but “a fornicator"; not a brother who reviles, but “a reviler.” When a man becomes such a one, the church must put him away; it must excommunicate him. Whomever the Lord does not want in the church, we also must not want in the church. If we keep one whom the Lord does not want in our locality, this retention will cause trouble. The Lord said that such a one is like a little leaven which will leaven the whole lump (1 Cor. 5:6). Before long, the whole church will be moldy. The whole church will no longer be pure flour; it will have leaven. Therefore, the church must have discipline…a local church must execute God’s discipline in its locality.
Furthermore, the Bible reveals that the church executes discipline in regard to not only moral issues but also doctrinal issues. However, the Lord does not want us to exercise discipline regarding ordinary doctrines…
Some brothers eat vegetables and some eat meat; we should not argue about this. However, there is a kind of doctrine which we must defend by all means, and that is the doctrine concerning the person of the Lord Jesus. This is mentioned in 2 John 7 through 11:
For many deceivers went out into the world, those who do not confess Jesus Christ coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist…Everyone who goes beyond and does not abide in the teaching of Christ does not have God…If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not say to him, Rejoice! For he who says to him, Rejoice, shares in his evil works…
Therefore, the church must be strict about anything that concerns the person of Christ. It must not be loose or lenient at all in this matter. If someone preaches a different teaching about the person of the Lord, do not receive him into your house and do not say to him, Rejoice. Otherwise, your church will lose its ground. As long as it has no discipline, it loses its qualification as a church. Moral confusion is wrong and not allowed by the church, and doctrinal confusion is also wrong and not allowed by the church. However, we should by no means identify differences over ordinary doctrines as being included in this category. If the church deals with ordinary doctrines as it deals with such confusion, the whole church will be cut up and divided into pieces. We should not argue about ordinary doctrines. We must only defend the doctrines regarding the person of Christ. Here the church must exercise discipline; otherwise, the church is finished.

(Watchman Nee, Collected Works, Set 3, Vol. 56, 273-275)

The Body of Christ is not only universal; it is also local. Every local church is the manifestation of the Body of Christ in that locality. All of the riches of Christ are vested in the local church. The authority of the Head is vested in the local expression of the Body. Apostles and elders in the local church are representative members of the Body, but they are not the Body. The entire company of believers in a locality, not just a section of the believers, constitutes the church in that locality.

(Watchman Nee, Mystery of Christ, 61)

The second thing which we must avoid is rebellion against authority. Miriam and Aaron, the elder sister and elder brother of Moses, rebelled against Moses, who at that time was the authority. Yes, Moses did something which was not good—he married a Gentile woman. Undoubtedly he was wrong. That was his shortcoming, and Miriam and Aaron took it as the ground to oppose him. Nevertheless, regardless of what he had done, Miriam and Aaron must recognize authority, and Moses was that authority. Regardless of everything, they must not rebel against authority…
Perhaps in your city there is a local church, an expression of the Lord’s Body, and in that church there are three or four leading brothers. You must realize that not one of us is one hundred per cent perfect. Everyone has at least one shortcoming. Your eyes should not be so opened toward the elders; rather, they should be opened to the Lord. Do not set your eyes upon the elders to search them out. If you do, you are a rebellious one. You will spoil yourself.
Consider Miriam and Aaron. Were they right or wrong in what they said against Moses? Unquestionably, they were right and Moses was wrong. Moses, as a servant of the Lord, gave the ground for their accusation. Yet when Miriam and Aaron took this ground and rebelled against authority, they brought upon themselves the judgment of God. Miriam was immediately gripped with leprosy, and although she was subsequently healed, Aaron and Miriam both died later in the wilderness.

(Witness Lee, All-Inclusive Christ, 151-152)

The church is also the flock of God as God’s possession, allotted to the elders for their care (1 Pet. 5:2-3). The local churches are the flock of God, His possession, His inheritance. He has allotted this inheritance to the elders, who are the trustees. God’s possession is given to the elders for their care.

(Witness Lee, Eldership (3), 9)

He pointed out that the church is constituted of all those who believe into Christ and who belong to Christ. On the one hand, this church is universal, and on the other hand, it is local.
In order to exist among mankind, this church is scattered over all the earth to become the many separate local churches. Each one has its elders for administration and its deacons for service. In business affairs the churches are independent and separate, but in life and nature they are still one universal Body, receiving the same apostles’ teaching, maintaining the one apostles’ fellowship, and bearing the one testimony for Christ for the accomplishment of God’s one plan (economy).

(Watchman Nee, Collected Works, Set 1, Vol. 1, xxxiv-xxxv)



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