ONE LOCALLY AND UNIVERSALLY
We have seen that the Body is one. Does this mean that the church in Cleveland is one Body, that the church in New York is another, and that the church in Anaheim is still another? If this were so, then there would be many local bodies. All the local churches are one Body. The church is not only locally one, but also universally one. All the local churches are one Body. We have seen that as long as we are in a division or outside the oneness, we are not in the Body. Now we must see that the Body is one both locally and universally. In the city of Cleveland there is just one Body, and in the entire universe there is still just one Body. If we truly intend to practice the Body life, we need to see that locally we are the Body and that universally we also are the Body.
ALL LOCAL CHURCHES BEING THE SAME
Today there is an erroneous teaching that every local church is independent. When I was young, I was greatly influenced by this concept, and I even taught it myself. I told others that every local church was independent. But if we go back to the Bible, we shall not find such a thing in the New Testament. Ephesians 4:4 speaks of one Body. Does this one Body refer simply to the local church at Ephesus? According to the best manuscripts, the Epistle to the Ephesians was not expressly addressed to the Ephesians. Rather, it was a universal Epistle addressed to all believers. No matter how many local churches there are, there cannot be more than one Body on earth. How could Christ, the Head, have more than one Body? A head with two bodies is a monstrosity. Universally, there is just one Body. Since the Body is one, how can one shoulder say to the other that it is independent? None of the members of the Body can claim to be independent. It would be foolish to ask whether the ears are dependent or independent. Nevertheless, today Christians are talking about this kind of thing. As Paul told the Corinthians, Christ is not divided. Since Christ is not divided, the Body must be one.
In the New Testament the apostles considered all the local churches the same. In 1 Corinthians 4:17 Paul spoke of the way he taught "every where in every church." There is not a verse that indicates that the Apostle Paul taught differently in the various churches. In 1 Corinthians 7:17 he said, "And so ordain I in all churches," and in 11:16 he said, "We have no such custom, neither the churches of God." In Colossians 4:16 Paul said, "And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea." In these verses we see that the teaching of the apostles was the same in all the churches. Thus, Paul encouraged the churches to follow each other (1 Thes. 2:14).
As we all know, in Revelation 2 and 3 there are the seven epistles to the seven churches. Although various differences are seen in these seven churches, these differences are all on the negative side. On the positive side, the churches are all the same. This is the reason that the seven epistles were not sent to each church separately and respectively; rather, all seven were sent to each of the seven churches. Moreover, at the end of each of the seven epistles there is the following word: "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Rev. 2:7). Whatever was written to the church in Ephesus, for example, was a word that the Spirit was speaking to all the churches. This is a strong proof that all the local churches must be the same.
In Revelation 1:20 we see that the seven churches are seven golden lampstands. If all seven lampstands were standing in front of you, you could not discern one from another. All of the seven would lose their separate identity. Therefore, at the end of Revelation we have the New Jerusalem with the wall on the four sides (Rev. 21:18). Each side of the wall is built with the same material—jasper. Thus, the four sides have the same appearance. If we consider all these things, we shall be convinced that all the local churches must be the same. But this does not mean that we should be organized. On the contrary, we must oppose organization. Nevertheless, all the churches, as part of the unique Body on earth, must be one in spirit, in life, and in testimony.
(The Spirit and the Body, Chapter 18, by Witness Lee)