OUR SPECIALITY AND GENERALITY
We believe in the Bible, in God, in Christ, and in His redemptive work, and we also recognize that the church is uniquely one in this universe and in any locality. As to other teachings, we may or may not take them. This is up to the Lord’s leading. Whether we have a noisy meeting or a quiet meeting is up to the situation. If the saints are quiet, let them be quiet. If the saints are noisy and some like to play the tambourine, we have to say, “Praise the Lord!” It depends on the situation. In other words, it is up to the Lord’s leading. We all have to be in our spirit. Then we are one.
We can say this based on Romans 14. Paul was a great teacher. As such a one he knew that since this is the day of grace, all things are good for eating (1 Tim. 4:3-4). However, in Romans 14 he gave a very liberal and neutral word: “He who eats, let him not despise him who does not eat; and he who does not eat, let him not judge him who eats, for God has received him.…He who regards that day, regards it to the Lord; and he who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who does not eat, does not eat to the Lord, and he gives thanks to God” (vv. 3, 6). How neutral and liberal he was! Did Paul not know that in the age of grace there is no need to regard a certain day? All days are the same. Paul knew this better than we do, but in this chapter he did not teach such a thing. Instead, he took a neutral stand. This was because of what he had said in chapter twelve concerning the Body life. Today many Christians talk about the Body life according to Romans 12, but they neglect chapter fourteen. Without chapter fourteen we could never have the Body life. We need chapter fourteen to keep the Body life in chapter twelve.
We have to be neutral, general, and liberal. Of course, I do not mean liberal like today’s modernists. As to the faith we would never be general; we would be specific. We are specific as to the Bible, God our Father, our Lord Jesus Christ, His Person, His incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and coming back, and as to the church being one. We would never tolerate anything against the truth. These items are our speciality. Concerning other things, however, we must be general. This is our generality. Baptism by immersion and by sprinkling are both all right. Both bare feet and covered feet in the meetings are all right. Using wine or grape juice in the Lord’s table is all right, and using either a big cup or a small cup is also all right. If you would take the Lord’s table in the morning, that is all right, and if you would take it at midnight, that is also all right. We are liberal in all the generalities, but we are special in our speciality. In our speciality we would not give any ground. We would not give in. We would pay the price of our life for the faith. Brothers and sisters, can we all say this? Can we put this into practice? If so, then we can keep the oneness of the faith.
THE CAUSE OF THE DEGRADATION OF THE CHURCH
Leaving the First Love for the Lord
From chapters two and three of Revelation we can see that the degradation of the churches in the ancient time was first due to the leaving of their first love to the Lord (Rev. 2:4). They left their first love because they cared for the work; they labored, working and doing things for others. They were even very fundamental, very sound. They would not take anything that was evil, and they tried anyone pretending to be an apostle (v. 2). They were so fundamental, so sound, and so scriptural, yet they left their love for the Lord. The Lord does not care for any work. The Lord only cares for Himself. If we would allow something else, even the best things for the Lord, to come in to take the place of the Lord, we are wrong. This is like a wife’s relationship with her husband. Regardless of how much she does for her husband, if something comes in to take his place in her heart, she is wrong. Leaving the first love, or the best love, toward the Lord was the cause of the church’s degradation.
The Lord told the church in Ephesus that they needed to overcome (v. 7). In the past we had a wrong concept. We thought that to overcome was simply to overcome our little temper or our little besetting sin. In the book of Revelation to overcome does not mean this. It means to overcome the degraded Christianity, to overcome the present situation of Christianity in its leaving of the best, the first, love to the Lord. Many in Christianity take care of the work in the mission field, in Bible studies, and in helping others, but they do not care for the Lord. Dr. A. W. Tozer published an article saying that if Christian leaders were holding a conference to discuss how to work for Christ, and Christ walked in, they would not recognize Him. This indicates that in today’s Christianity the Lord Jesus has no place. Much work fully preoccupies today’s Christianity.
The Lord Jesus promised, “To him who overcomes, to him I will give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God” (v. 7). We need not work so much; rather, we have to eat. Eating was God’s original concept, even in the garden of Eden. At the very beginning of the Bible, God was concerned for our eating (Gen. 2:9, 16-17). It is as if He said, “Don’t work for Me. You have to eat Me. Eat the tree of life.” Eventually the Lord Jesus came. The Jewish people thought He was a great man, and they tried to make him a king, but the Lord Jesus withdrew from them (John 6:15). The next day He came back and told them, “I am the bread of life” (v. 48). By this He meant, “Don’t make Me that big. I don’t like to be that big. I like to be eaten by you. He who eats Me, he also shall live because of Me. I am the bread of life. I am just good for eating. I don’t care for what you do. I care for what you eat. Eat Me.”
The Lord’s recovery is to bring us back to the beginning (Matt. 19:8). We must go back to eating. Do not do so much work. Rather, take care of Christ. Take care of the enjoyment of Christ. Christ does not care much for the work we do for Him. He mainly cares how much we gain Him, enjoy Him, and take Him in, that is, how much we eat Him. “To him who overcomes, to him I will give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God” (Rev. 2:7). Eating truly brings us back to the beginning. This is the reality of the Lord’s recovery.
(Enjoying the Riches of Christ for the Building Up of the Church as the Body of Christ, Chapter 14, by Witness Lee)