The Practical Building Up of the Local Churches
Additional Quotes about the Local Church
The New Testament service is spiritual rather than formal (Rom. 7:6). It is of life, not of letter (Heb. 7:16; 2 Cor. 3:6). Although there are outward activities to our services and outward arrangements to our work, these activities and arrangements, in themselves, have no significance. They are merely expressions of the inward reality of life, expressions which match an inward spiritual need. If there is no reality of life inwardly and no spiritual need, any ritualistic activity or business arrangement has no bearing upon Gods New Testament service. It is possible for a local church to have a certain outward expression that appears to be ceremonial in some way. Yet it is there to take care of the inward reality of life. It may have some outward arrangements in its service. But this is done to take care of some inward spiritual need. When other localities see these practices, they should not imitate. Outward things are done to express inward reality; they are done to match inward needs. If there is nothing inward, there should be nothing outward. Outward things should grow out of inward things; they should overflow from inward things. If there is nothing growing and overflowing from within, anything outward is vain imitation. It is worthless and is actually harmful.
(Watchman Nee, Collected Works, Set 3, Vol. 55, 54-55)
This is why Paul comes to the conclusion that we need to walk according to the spirit (Rom. 8:4). To walk is to have our being and our living with all that we say and do. Our living and our being with all that we say and do must be according to the spirit. We have to walk according to the spirit, according to the One who lives in us. This is the Christian walk. We have no more liberty. The Christian walk is not a matter of right or wrong and of loving or hating. It is a matter of walking according to the spirit. Only this life, this kind of walk, can be recorded in the heavens. Nothing else counts in the heavenly account. This is why the Lord said, Apart from Me you can do nothing. What we do apart from Christ can never be recorded in the heavenly account. All the good things we do apart from Christ, regardless of how good they would be, are not a help to the church life.
The walk according to the spirit is for the church life. Only the persons who walk according to the spirit can be the proper members for the building up of a local church. If we do not have such a walk, sooner or later we will be a trouble to our local church. You may say, I am for the church; I love the church so much. But you have to walk according to the spirit. If you do not walk according to the spirit, either you will go away or you will be a trouble in the church. No other life can build up the church life, but the life that walks according to the spirit. This walk saves us from all kinds of bugs, germs, troubles, dissensions, opinions, and concepts. This walk according to the spirit saves us to the uttermost, making us a profit to the building up of the church, not a trouble. There is only one life with one walk which fits in the building up of the local church. That life is Christ with the walk according to Him.
(Witness Lee, Flesh and the Spirit, 26-27)
Even in the book of Revelation, there is the same concept of taking in the Lord. The Lord says, To him who overcomes, to him I will give to eat of the tree of life (2:7). Then He says, Let him who wills take the water of life freely (22:17). To eat of the tree of life and to drink of the water of life are the main aspects in the book of Revelation. This book at the conclusion of the whole Bible shows that out of the redeeming God flows the river of water of life, and in the river of water of life grows the tree of life (22:1-2). The river of water of life is flowing, and the tree of life is growing.
At the end of the whole Bible, the last call from God is a call to take the water of life freely (22:17). The Spirit and the bride yearn that the thirsty ones would come to take the water of life for their satisfaction. When you drink the water, you get the food. This is Gods final call, and this will produce the new city, the holy city, the New Jerusalem. All that we need is to come and drink the water of life that we may feed on Christ as the tree of life. This will produce the Body of Christ, the church life, the local churches, and ultimately the holy city, New Jerusalem.
(Witness Lee, Growth of Christ, 21)
Our Lord is so great that He requires all the believers past and present, here and everywhere, and throughout all the ages to express Him adequately. Brothers and sisters, the outflow of life is the expression of Christ. The Body is where life is manifested. This life is one; however, when it is expressed in different members, it is manifested in different functions. When this life flows to the ears, the ears hear. When this life flows to the eyes, the eyes see. When this life flows to the feet, the feet walk. When this life flows to the mouth, the mouth speaks. When this life flows to the teeth, the teeth bite. The life is one, yet there are many functions. Although the functions are different, the life remains one. Brothers and sisters, what flows into you is the same as what flows into me; it is the life of Christ. Yet the function that is manifested in you is different from the function that is manifested in me. Many times the work that one brother is able to do could never be done by another brother. For certain things you have to go to certain brothers, and for certain other things you have to go to certain sisters. It will not work if you use another person. As a member you have a special function. The function which is manifested in you through the inflow of Christs life can never be replaced by another. It does not matter how small you are, you will always have a function as a member.
Brothers and sisters, you can test yourself in the following way: If you are in a local church and your function has not been manifested, this proves that your living outwardly is not for the Lord and that your life inwardly is not yet freed from the self. This is a very specific test. I am not saying that you have a small function; I am saying that it does not seem to matter whether or not you are in the church. If your function is not manifested, you are not living for the Lord outwardly, and you are not yet broken by Him inwardly. We must realize that in order for the Lord to preach the gospel, carry out His work, and fulfill His will on earth, He must work through His Body. The Lords will and way cannot be accomplished through one man. He cannot carry out His work through one man; He has to do it through the church.
The vessel that God uses is not individuals but the church. The life and power of Christ can only be fully manifested through the Body. Hence, the chief work of Satan is to disintegrate the Body. He is trying his best to do this. If we consider everything from this view, we will see the seriousness of Satans work of disintegration. Brothers and sisters are suspicious of one another, and misunderstandings abound; this is the disintegrating work of Satan. We may complain about a brother or murmur against a sister, but if we looked into the reason for this, we would find that there is no great reason other than Satans disintegrating work among us. Satan wants to divide Gods children; he wants to disintegrate them. Gods work is to integrate us, whereas Satans work is to disintegrate us. He is doing his disintegrating work through our corrupted flesh, our strong self, and the world we love. Strictly speaking, the most crucial matter is not whether we deal with the flesh, deny ourselves, or love the world. The crucial matter is that Satan is doing his disintegrating work through these things. When we allow these things to remain in us, we are giving ground to Satan.
(Watchman Nee, Collected Works, Set 2, Vol. 38, 508-510)
Haggai speaks, first of all, not to the people, but to the governor and the high priest. In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, in the first day of the month, came the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet unto Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest (Hag. 1:1). Then after speaking to the governor and the high priest, he speaks to the people (Hag. 1:13; 2:2).
Why is it necessary to mention that Haggai speaks first to the governor and to the high priest? Because for the building up of the house of God there is the need of the kingship and the priesthood. The priesthood is the ministry that brings the people into the presence of God and helps them to contact God, be saturated, and even occupied by God. In the building up of the house of God, there is the need of such a ministry. We do need this kind of saturation, fellowship, and oneness with God for the building up of the local churches. We do not need the knowledge of the teachings, but we do need the saturation, the oneness, the fellowship, and the living contact with God. This is not the ministry of teaching, but the ministry of the priesthood, and this ministry will help us to be real priests. We all must learn to contact the Lord and be saturated with the Lord. This is the first need for the building up of the local churches.
(Witness Lee, Recovery of Gods House, 37)
Through all of our experience, we have learned that no human being is trustworthy. This is because every human being was made of clay and is a piece of clay. When the clay is dry, it seems solid. But when water is poured upon it, it dissolves. Not one human being is a piece of solid stone. Therefore, we are not trustworthy. We cannot trust in a piece of clay, so we need the transformation.
When Simon came to the Lord, the Lord immediately changed his name to Peter, which means a stone (John 1:42). He would no longer be Simon, but Peter, a stone for the building up of the church. Have you ever seen a building with two columns of clay to support the building? Of course not. Any piece of clay is not trustworthy. In my early years, I had complete trust in every brother. Eventually, I learned the lesson that no human being is trustworthy. This is why we need transformation by the growth in life. The church as the house of God is built not with the pieces of clay but with pieces of stone. How strong a local church is depends upon how much transformation has been produced.
It is not just a matter of saying we love one another and of embracing one another. We need the transformation. Without transformation, we may embrace one another today, but later we may criticize and condemn one another. I am happy to see the young people seeking the Lord, but I am waiting to see something more. I want to see how much transformation can be carried out. This is the need. The church needs the solid building, not anything of mere emotional affection, but something solid in Gods transformation with all the fullness of the Godhead. The nature of the Father has to be built into us, the redeeming work of the Son has to be wrought into our nature, and the transforming work of the Holy Spirit has to be accomplished within our whole being. Then we become solid and trustworthy. Then God can put His trust in us because through His transformation we have become the material for the building up of the church.
(Witness Lee, Growth of Christ, 56-57)
A great part of the believers in the local churches are still in the natural man, but to be in the reality of the Body of Christ, we need to be absolutely in the resurrection life of Christ. We do have some good coordination in the local churches. However, I would ask, Is this kind of coordination carried out by the natural life or in resurrection? To be in resurrection means that our natural life is crucified, and then the God-created part of our being is uplifted in resurrection to be one with Christ in resurrection. In Philippians 3:10 Paul said that we all need to be conformed to the death of Christ by the power of His resurrection. We all need to ask ourselves whether the coordination among us is by the power of Christs resurrection or merely by our natural man.
(Witness Lee, Practical Points, 19-20)
Ezra was a priest, a descendant of Aaron, and he was also a scribe. The scribe in the Old Testament equals the teacher in the New Testament. But there is a difference between the prophet and the scribe or teacher. The prophet is one who speaks directly from God, and the teacher is one who teaches the things spoken by the prophet. We know, for example, that Moses was a prophet, because he spoke something directly of God. But a scribe is a teacher who teaches the things spoken by Moses.
Haggai and Zechariah were prophets because they spoke directly from God. What was spoken by Haggai was new; it was never revealed to anyone else. Zechariahs message is even more marvelous. He said that Christ is the branch, the foundation stone with seven eyes, and the topstone. Did Moses say this? No, Zechariah was the first to say it. Zechariah was not a teacher, but a prophet, speaking from Gods instant, present, up-to-date inspiration. Ezra spoke nothing new. What he spoke had been already spoken by Moses. He was a scribe and a teacher. But according to the principle in Gods recovery, we do not need an old teacher, but a priestly teacher. Ezra was also a priest.
A priest is one who is mingled with the Lord, saturated with the Lord, feeding upon the Lord, and breathing Him in all day long. Whatever he speaks is just the Lord Himself. This is exactly what the teachers in the Lords recovery must be. Ezra was this kind of person. He proclaimed a fast, and he fasted; he was simply one with the Lord by contacting the Lord continually. He was not a letter-scribe, but a priestly scribe.
In the local church, we are afraid of objective teachers. Some people have a certain amount of knowledge, and they like to teach what they know, but they themselves are not that kind of person. The Lords recovery today does not need this kind of teacher. We need Ezra, the priestly scribe, the priestly teacher. This is the teacher who contacts God constantly and instantly, who is saturated with God and one with God. Ezra was very much with the Lord. He was in a position to ask the king for an army to protect him while returning to Jerusalem, but he did not do it. He put his trust in the Lord. This is the kind of person who is qualified to be a teacher in the Lords recovery. Even if you have the physical means to help you, you must not take it. You must put your trust in the Lord. We do not need objective teachers in the recovery of the Lords building. Just the knowledge of the teachings will not help. We need the life; we need the priesthood to be mingled with the teaching. We need the priestly scribes like Ezra. Mere knowledge does not build; it kills. It is the priestly teacher who builds. This is the kind of person who can strengthen the recovery with an increase of numbers and enrich it with the rich experiences of Christ. Praise the Lord there are such Ezras, and I have full assurance the Lord is going to bring in more and more Ezras those who are one with God, saturated with God, filled with God, and skillful in the work of God. These persons are the right ones to bring in a good number of returned captives and to bring more riches of Christ into the recovery of the Lord.
(Witness Lee, Recovery of Gods House, 69-71)
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