The Ground of the Church and the Meetings of the Church, by Witness Lee


The people of Israel did as God commanded, but once they were captured, they went into exile in Babylon and other places for seventy years. After the seventy years, the Lord came in to call them to come back to keep the oneness. However, not all the people in exile came back; only a small number, a minority, returned. When this small number returned to the place of oneness, spontaneously they separated themselves from those who did not return. This was a separation, but it was not a division. They simply came back to realize the proper oneness on the proper ground. It was those who still insisted on remaining in Babylon who made the division. Those who came back had the oneness, but those who remained in exile kept the divisions.

Someone who remained in exile might have said, “Ezra and Nehemiah, you preach that we have to keep the oneness of the people of the Lord. Why then do you separate from us? Why do you not stay with us and join us? On the one hand, you preach oneness, but on the other hand, you create division.” If someone asks us in this way, we should say, “Brother, come along with me. We can keep the oneness only on the proper ground. As long as you are outside the proper ground, you are in division. Therefore, it is not lawful for me to join you. If I join you, I join the division.”

Someone may ask, “What about Daniel? Daniel remained in Babylon and did not return from exile.” It is true that under the Lord’s sovereignty Daniel did not go back. Still, Daniel’s heart and his eyes were always going back. Day by day he opened his window and prayed toward Jerusalem (Dan. 6:10). We should not take Daniel’s case as an excuse not to return to the oneness. It is not right to stay back. We cannot have the real oneness on the wrong ground. We have to come back to the proper ground. We cannot have real oneness in a denomination. To join a denomination is to join a division.

Some Israelites left Babylon, but they stopped midway in the Arab lands before they reached the proper ground. In doing this, they created another division. Others who left Babylon came back to places very close to Jerusalem, but they stopped short. This created yet another division. We have to come back to the unique ground, the ground of oneness, the local ground. Some may say, “We have given up the denominations. We now have free groups in our homes.” However, that ground may be in “the Arab lands” or even close to Jerusalem, but it is not yet the proper ground. It is still in division.

In the present day, the nation of Israel has only a few million people. In New York, however, there are even more millions of Jews. Who are the ones in division, those who went back to Palestine to form the nation of Israel or those who are in New York? It is those who remain in New York, simply because they are on the wrong ground. If they want to practice the Jewish oneness, they have to go back to Israel. They can never practice the proper oneness in New York. New York is a ground for division, not for oneness.

We may also use the illustration of a university with several thousand students. The school may call all the students to be assembled in the auditorium. Most of the students, however, may not like to go there. Some would prefer to assemble in another hall, some in a dormitory, some in their small rooms, and some outside. They all have their own choice and taste, and most of them would not follow the rule of the school. Only a small number, perhaps twenty or thirty, may consider that since they are students of this school, they have to take the order of the school and assemble in the proper place. Then they would call the others and say, “Friends, let us come together.” Who are the ones taking the proper ground, and who are the ones taking the wrong ground? All the other assemblies are wrong; they are divisions. Only a small number of students are endeavoring to keep the oneness of the school. One of the other meetings may have twenty thousand students, but they are still a division because their ground is wrong. We have to keep the oneness on the proper ground.

(The Ground of the Church and the Meetings of the Church, Chapter 2, by Witness Lee)