VII. IN FELLOWSHIP
The fellowship we refer to here is fellowship in life. Since we are all one in life, the fellowship issuing from this life is one. Whenever there is oneness, there is fellowship. When there is no oneness, there is no fellowship. Therefore, when we are in fellowship, we are one. Today, in Christendom, people often advocate unification. This proves already that they are not one and not in fellowship; that is why unification is necessary for them. If we live in fellowship, there is no need for unification, for we are already united; we are one. This oneness is the Body of Christ.
VIII. IN EXPERIENCE
Since all the seven points already mentioned indicate oneness, in our experience we should also be one. If in our experience we are one, we are conscious of the oneness, and we touch the oneness; then we know the Body and live in the Body. But in fact it is not so simple. In God’s plan, in God’s creation, in God’s redemption, in Christ, in the Holy Spirit, in life, and in fellowship, all is one. We have no problem with these matters, because these are accomplished facts on God’s side. But on our side, whether we are one in experience differs with individuals. Some already have a little experience, while others have none. What we shall stress now is this oneness in our experience.
First of all, we must know that our knowledge and experience of this oneness are definitely related to our spiritual age. With the young and immature, their knowledge and consciousness of this oneness is superficial and light; with the experienced and mature, it is deep and weighty. For example, a newly saved brother feels that he is far behind the other brothers who have been saved for five or ten years. But when this brother grows in his love to the Lord, he tends to feel that the other brothers and sisters who do not love the Lord cannot be compared with him. When he learns some spiritual lessons, he feels that he is much superior to those brothers and sisters who have not learned. Sometimes, when in a meeting with young brothers and sisters, he feels that their prayers, being poor both in content and in utterance, are not good; therefore, he will not open his mouth. This continuous feeling of being different from others proves that he does not have the consciousness of oneness and that he is still in an immature stage, not knowing the Body.
This is not the case, however, with the experienced brothers and sisters. There are two seemingly contradictory aspects to their feelings. On one hand, they feel that these younger brothers and sisters are really far behind them; but on the other hand, they feel that they are the same as all the brothers and sisters. Whatever the brothers and sisters feel, they feel likewise. The immature ones always feel different from others, but those who are deep in the Lord and developed in their spiritual experience feel no such difference. Therefore, the reason we cannot be one in our experience is because we are immature and shallow. When we arrive at this fourth stage in our spiritual experience, there is no feeling of difference, but a spontaneous feeling of oneness with all. This is knowing the Body.
If we speak with regard to dealings, knowing the Body is also a kind of dealing, that is, a dealing with individualism. All those who do not know the Body are individualists. Their views, actions, living, and work are individual. All this individualism is because they still live in the flesh, the self, and the natural constitution. It resembles the parasitic vine, which winds itself about the tree and dies only when the tree of flesh, self, and the natural constitution is cut down. Only when the flesh, the self, and the natural constitution have been severely dealt with will individualism be removed. When men no longer live as individualists, they come to know the Body.
Knowing the Body is not a doctrine which by speaking and hearing you may understand. Knowing the Body is the result of many past experiences. Having passed through all these experiences, we come at length to know the Body. When we go to visit a place of fame, we travel a certain distance; at length we arrive at our destination and see the object of our journey. So it is with knowing the Body. If we wish to know the Body and touch the reality of the Body in experience, we must walk a certain distance and climb certain slopes in the spiritual life. We must start from the experience of the clearance of the past and pass through the experiences of dealing with sin, the world, and the conscience, climbing diligently from one stage to the next. We must be severe with ourselves in learning the lessons one by one, especially in dealing with the flesh, the self, and the natural constitution. Only when we have experienced the first three stages of our spiritual life and attained to the fourth stage do we naturally arrive at the place where we can know the mystery of the Body of Christ.
Any spiritual knowledge in reality cannot be gained without experience. All is based on experience. True spiritual knowledge does not go beyond the lessons we have experienced. For example, there may be a Bible truth of which we cannot fully grasp the meaning because of our limited experience; all we have is a small feeling about it. If we would follow that feeling and try to experience it, the truth would one day become enlightened to us. On one hand, the truth brings in the experience; and, on the other hand, because of the experience, we know the truth. In this way we come to true spiritual knowledge.
Consider some other examples. If one has not experienced fellowship in life, he does not know the meaning of abiding in Christ. If one does not have the experience of walking according to the Spirit, he does not know the teaching of the anointing. Likewise, if the flesh has not been dealt with, self has not been abandoned, and the natural constitution has not been broken, he cannot know what the Body is. He may know a little regarding the doctrine of the Body, but he cannot touch either the actuality or the reality of the Body. The Body of Christ is not a doctrine; it is a reality. One must climb over the hills of experience before he is able to see and touch the Body. Knowing the Body does not depend on our supplication. Praying and fasting for three days and three nights will not enable us to see the Body. This is useless. The knowledge of the Body is the result of our experience and spiritual growth. After sufficient experience we arrive at a place where we naturally know the Body.
I will never forget the message given by Brother Watchman Nee in a special meeting. He repeatedly stressed the fact that before Romans 12 there must first be Romans 8. One must pass through the putting to death of the flesh of Romans 8 before he can attain to the knowledge of the Body of Romans 12. Therefore, from the beginning we must be very severe in dealing with ourselves, especially in regard to our flesh, our self, and our natural constitution. We must mean business and be thoroughgoing until we have the experience of Romans 8. Not until we have experienced the putting to death of the flesh in Romans 8 can we realize the Body in Romans 12. When our body (flesh) has been put to death, the Body of Christ will then be manifested. This is a spiritual reality wherein is no counterfeit and which cannot be counterfeited. There may be counterfeiting in other spiritual areas, such as humility, gentleness, faith, and love. We may even pretend to be spiritual. But no pretension is possible where knowing the Body is concerned. When our experience has attained to the degree of knowing the Body, then we know it. If in our experience we have not attained to this degree, we do not know it, and listening to much preaching on the subject avails nothing.
(The Experience of Life, Chapter 15, by Witness Lee)