LIVING IN THE REALITY OF THE BODY LIFE
We must see the Body life before we can consider the question of the church in Antioch. First, there is the Body life; then we have the church in Antioch. For this reason, before we discuss the question of Antioch, we must first have some make-up lessons. If the reality of the Holy Spirit is present in the church, the question of central control no longer exists. However, if there is not the reality of the Holy Spirit, instead only approval by vote, planning, and resolutions in our work, what we have will be more than central organizations; it will be Roman Catholicism.
The Catholics say that there is only one church, that their priests are the only kind of people who can understand the Bible, and that their church is the only true church. It is true that there is only one church. But the way the Roman Catholics interpret this oneness is not the right one. How can something right become not right in the hands of the Catholics? We have to realize that it is right for the church to be one. But in the Catholic church, there are the human ideas, methods, and organizations. As a result, that which is right becomes wrong. Luther gave us two things: justification by faith and an open Bible. It is true that the Lord’s recovery has made it possible for everyone to read the Bible, but this does not mean that everyone is able to interpret the Bible. Some do not have the gift of interpretation, yet they insist on interpreting the Bible. The result is errors. Some think that by putting together a few verses they can come up with a new doctrine. To do so not only produces wrong teachings, but it takes men out of the sphere of God’s grace. Some would not be subdued even when others have pointed out the error in their teachings; they would still insist on speaking. These people can never be taught.
God has set up teachers in the church (1 Cor. 12:28). The teachers are those who interpret the Bible. In the church, some have been set up to interpret the Bible. The meeting spoken of in 1 Corinthians 14 has the prophets as its center. Not everyone can interpret the Scriptures. In the meeting, when those who can interpret the Scriptures stand up to speak, the others should discern. However, this does not mean that the interpretation of one or two, or of a few, will ascertain a truth. The speaking is done by one or two, but the others have to discern. Even when the congregation is not able to discern, the words of the prophets must still be judged by the Spirit of the Lord.
Antioch was not a center, because it was not the product of an organization, but the product of the Holy Spirit. Once the church is separate from the Holy Spirit and once it has lost its spiritual reality, it becomes the Roman Catholic Church. It is possible for Catholicism to be found among us. The basic question today is not the method of Antioch, but the kind of person we are. Are we a person living in the spiritual reality? This is the basic issue. Whether or not a local church can become a central church depends basically on whether or not that church is spiritual. This is the foremost issue.
NO LOCAL CHURCH BECOMING A HEAD CHURCH
Factually speaking, the church in Antioch could not have become a head church either. Antioch in fact had never exercised supervision over other churches. One local church cannot exercise supervision over another church. However, the work has the right to exercise supervision over a local church. The church in Antioch never exercised supervision over another church, but the apostles who went out from Antioch did exercise supervision over other churches. When a problem arises in a local church, the matter has to be brought to the attention of the workers. First Timothy says that an accusation against an elder must be accompanied by the word of two or three witnesses (5:19). An accusation cannot be based on rumors or hearsay; there must be witnesses, and the accusations must be presented to Timothy. Timothy was a worker. This is why he could deal with the problem of the elders in a locality. Antioch was only one local church. Jerusalem was also another local church. As far as their being a church is concerned, the question of a head church never existed. But as far as the work is concerned, it is something different.
(Messages Given During the Resumption of Watchman Nee's Ministry (2 volume set), Chapter 44, by Watchman Nee/Witness Lee)