The Church, the Body of Christ, Is Expressed in the Local Churches
The church as the universal Body of Christ exists for Christ to have an expression of Himself in the universe. Because of finite mans limitations of time and space, however, the Body of Christ can be expressed practically only through the many local churches manifested in different cities across the earth. Witness Lee has spoken clearly regarding the expression of Christ in the local church:
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.
The church is universal and also local. The local churches in different localities are not merely for a local expression, but for the universal expression of Christ. All the churches express the same personChrist.
(Witness Lee, Five Emphases, 43, 51)
We would like to make it clear that when we speak of the universal church and the local church, we are not discussing two different entities. The Body of Christ is uniquely one. Yet for its practical function and expression, the Body of Christ must have these two aspectsthe universal and the local. Witness Lee had a thorough understanding of this principle, as he expresses below:
Never consider the universal Church to be one kind of church, and the local church to be another kind of church. There is only one Church. Collectively speaking, it is the universal church, and locally speaking, it is the local churches. Strictly speaking, the local churches are the universal Church. The universal Church is simply the sum total of the local churches, and the local churches are simply the local manifestations of the universal Church. Without the local churches, there cannot be the universal Church.
Gods plan is to have a Church in the universe as the Body of His Son for His expression. However, to carry out this plan, He has to set up local churches in the different localities. If He does not set up churches in the different localities, Gods universal plan for the church will be only an empty ideal with no way to be carried out. In order to carry out this plan, God has to set up churches in the different localities.
If you grasp hold of these two points, you will be clear when you read the New Testament again. There is a great vision in the New Testament that tells how the Church as the Body of Christ is the expression of the Son of God. This concerns Gods plan in the universe. On the other hand, the New Testament shows us that the Church appears in the localities. It is in the different localities that Gods plan is realized.
(Witness Lee, Elders Management, 12)
Witness Lee expounds the clear New Testament revelation concerning the universal church and the local churches. There is only one Church, but it appears on earth as many local churches. These local churches are the practical way for God's universal plan for the church to be carried out.
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