A LINE OF THE CENTRAL THINGS
But history tells us that by God’s mercy through all the centuries there was a line of the central things. There was a line of the divine reality, but it was always on a very small scale.
At the time of the Reformation, the Lord used Martin Luther to recover justification by faith, which is actually Christ being our righteousness. To recover justification by faith is just to recover one matter or one item of the doctrine, but to recover Christ being our righteousness is to recover the Person. Today the Lutheran Church strongly holds to the doctrine of justification by faith, but so many of the members are not justified. They do not lay hold on Christ the living Person as their righteousness. God’s intention at Luther’s time was not to recover justification by faith, but to recover His Son Jesus Christ as our righteousness. Unless Christ is our righteousness, our faith cannot justify us before God.
Most people, however, consider that the Reformation recovered a certain kind of doctrine. According to this thought, after the Reformation, other doctrines and practices were also recovered. The presbytery, the rule of the church by elders, was recovered, so the Presbyterian Church was produced. The matter of the bishop was recovered, so an Episcopalian Church was produced. Some believers in Northern Europe realized that baptism should be by immersion, not by sprinkling. So they practiced baptism by immersion and were called Baptists. This practice produced the Baptist Church. Some recovered certain teachings and practices concerning holiness, producing Holiness Churches. Since the last century some recovered the practice of speaking in tongues, producing the Pentecostal Churches. All these recoveries are just recoveries of doctrines and practices. Mostly they have left Christ aside. A century and a half ago the Brethren were raised up in Great Britain. At first they paid much attention to Christ, but later they were distracted to pay attention to doctrines and different practices more than to Christ. After them the Lord’s recovery was raised up in China. In the early days even the recovery among us was quite strong in doctrines and practices and not so strong in Christ the Person.
In 1933 I began to work directly with Brother Nee in the ministry. At that time he edited a kind of church news publication. All the articles were concerning leaving the denominations, baptism by immersion, head covering, and other outward practices. All the letters that came in from the different places simply testified concerning these few things. Brother Nee was busy, and he was also physically weak. so he had assigned Sister Lee, an elderly sister, to be the acting editor. Sometimes Sister Lee traveled, and at that time I was charged to do the editing. Once while I was editing he wrote me a letter that he wanted published in the news publication which said that from now on any brother who still preaches and teaches leaving the denominations, baptizing by immersion, having the Lord’s Table instead of "the holy communion," the head covering, and so forth, is not our co-worker. Following this he wrote another letter to me in which he said that due to this situation we have to terminate this paper. He advised all the brothers to turn away from the external things to the overcoming Christ. He encouraged them to experience the overcoming life of Christ.
(Concerning the Lord's Recovery, Chapter 7, by Witness Lee)