ALL THE MINISTRIES BUILDING UP THE CHURCH
ON THE PROPER GROUND
We may use the city of Corinth as an example. Paul went to Corinth to preach the gospel and to do the work of the Lord, but Paul did not set up a Pauline church with Christ as the foundation. Apollos went there also, but neither did he set up a church with Christ as the foundation and Apollos as the ground. In the same way, Peter did not set up a church with Christ as the foundation and Peter as the ground to establish a Petrine church. In Corinth there was neither a Pauline church, a Petrine church, or a church of Apollos. Paul went to Corinth, preached the gospel, brought many people to the Lord, and established a church with Christ as the foundation on the local ground of Corinth. Paul established a local church there, and when Apollos went to Corinth, he did not set up another church. He simply brought more people to the Lord and built them on the same ground. Peter brought another number of people to the Lord, but neither did he set up another church. Peter built up those people on the same ground.
Therefore, in Corinth there was only one church, built with Christ as the unique foundation and located in the city of Corinth as the unique ground. Thus, there was the church in Corinth. First Corinthians 1:1 and 2a say, “Paul, a called apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, and Sosthenes the brother, to the church of God which is in Corinth.” Paul did not say, “To the churches of God which are in Corinth” but “To the church of God which is in Corinth,” the one church, singular in number. Paul went to Corinth, Apollos went there, and Peter went there. These different ministers with their ministries went to Corinth, but they all built one church with Christ as the foundation on the one unique ground, the ground of oneness, the ground of locality.
Therefore, eventually there was only one church, the church in Corinth. There were not more than one church: a Pauline church, a Petrine church, and a church of Apollos. There was not even a so-called church of Christ, in the divisive sense (v. 12). There was only one church, built with saints of one kind on one foundation—Christ—and upon one unique ground, the ground of oneness in the locality where that church was. There was one church, one foundation, and one ground. This is very clear.
Someone may say, “Yes, in Los Angeles there are the Catholic Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Baptist Church, and others, all on different kinds of ground. Not only so, here we also have many free groups, without any ground.” However, if someone meets without a ground, where can he stand? Even a small man needs at least a square foot of earth to stand upon. Just as no one can float in the air, there cannot be a free group that has no ground. Some free groups do not have a written, declared, or designated ground, but they have some kind of ground that is understood. Every kind of free group has a ground. To say that they take no ground is to be cheated and deceived.
By this we can see the difference between the foundation and the ground. Today the problem is not with the foundation; the problem is with the ground. This is why we say that in order to practice the church life, we must consider the ground as the second main item of the church. By the grace of the Lord, we are endeavoring to give up any other kind of ground and take the unique ground of oneness, the ground of locality. This is the only ground of the church.
THE GOVERNING PRINCIPLE
OF THE ONENESS OF THE CHURCH
The ground of the church can be seen both in the Old Testament types and in the New Testament revelation. We have the church in Corinth, for example, and the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3. The oneness of the church can also be seen in the testimony of the physical universe, and it can be seen in the New Jerusalem. All these types and examples point out that the church is built upon one unique ground.
The church is the Body of Christ. The governing principle and rule is that one head always has one body. One head cannot have more than one body. Since the church is the Body of Christ, and Christ is the one Head, so the church must be one, and the church is one. That is why Ephesians 4:4 through 6 speaks of one Body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father. With the church, everything is one because the church is one.
THE TESTIMONY OF ONENESS IN THE PHYSICAL UNIVERSE
In the whole universe there is only one church. We may compare the church to the moon. In the whole universe the earth has only one moon. Someone may ask, then, why the New Testament speaks of so many churches. It is because these many churches are the churches in many cities, many localities. In the universe the church is one, but the expression of the church is on this earth and among the human communities. In one city there is an expression of the church, which is called the local church, the church in a certain city. Then in another city there is another expression of the church, which is called the church in that city. The church in the universe is one, but the expressions of the church on this earth are many, in many cities. However, we still have the principle that the expression of the church in each city must be unique.
(The Ground of the Church and the Meetings of the Church, Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)