THE BIBLE OPENED
The Bible was opened some three centuries later in the hands of the Plymouth Brethren, under the leadership of J. N. Darby and others. It was the Brethren who came to understand the Old Testament typology and prophecies. They studied, for example, the image in Daniel 2, and by comparing it with history, learned that after the head of gold represented by Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon came the shoulders of Media and Persia. They identified the brass abdomen as Greece under Alexander the Great. They saw that the two iron legs were the eastern and western branches of the Roman Empire. They realized the ten toes corresponded to the ten horns of the beast.
THE BRETHREN ENSNARED BY DOCTRINES
But alas! the Brethren fell into the snare of the subtle one. Yes, they opened up the Bible for us, but they fell into the trap of knowledge in letters. They came to care more for the doctrines than for the truth. How, for example, should the Lord’s table be held? With leavened or unleavened bread? With grape juice or wine? With one cup or many? With small pieces of bread or just one loaf? Should it be held morning or evening? Who can participate? Who should distribute the bread and the cup?
All these considerations have no end. They are in the realm of doctrine. They waste time, divide the saints, and create concepts. This is surely not the purpose of the Lord’s table. What is the truth regarding the Lord’s table? It is the Head and the Body, Christ’s death and resurrection. Let us care for these, not for the doctrines regarding the practice.
The same snare accompanied the matter of baptism. Should it be hot or cold water? Fresh water or salt? Sprinkling or immersion? How many times to immerse? In whose name? All these arguments, arising from the study of doctrines, served only to divide. We must care for the truth of baptism. It means that we are buried and terminated, then that we are resurrected and put into the Triune God.
Do you see the subtle device of the enemy? First the Bible was locked. Then it was released but not opened. Then it was opened, but very much in a doctrinal way. The scholars who researched the Bible fell into the subtle one’s trap, turning unawares from the realm of truth to that of doctrines.
THE BIBLE FRESHLY OPENED
The Lord was forced to turn from the sullied soil of the Western world and go to a heathen land, China. From 1922 He raised up a group of young people. We studied the writings of the church fathers and the spiritual writings from the second century down to the present century. We read the histories and the biographies. The Lord gave us understanding and discernment; the revelation came. We realized we were standing on the shoulders of all those who had gone before. The Lord showed us what was right and wrong, what was lacking or superfluous.
Now we are here. Whatever we minister is the result of the past two thousand years of church history. We give credit to all those who have preceded us. But by His mercy the Lord has shown us the proper way to open up the Word, not being deficient and not going to excess. I have been studying this book nearly every day since 1925, more than fifty years. I was helped by Brother Nee, and we were helped by many teachers and expositors from the past. I do believe that what we put into print is the proper way to understand the Word. It is not too little nor too much.
The Lord is now moving in the churches to bring us all back to His Word. Studying the Word is not a simple matter. Either you will be short, or the enemy will push you too far. You could then repeat the history of the Brethren, with their exhausting, divisive, opinion-creating doctrines.
(Life Messages, Vol. 2 (#42-75), Chapter 7, by Witness Lee)