The History of the Church and the Local Churches, by Witness Lee


I want to point out again that the church is completely apart from religion, philosophy, and hierarchy. We need to understand what religion is. Religion is worshipping God, serving God, and doing something for God without Christ as the Spirit. What we do may be quite good, fundamental, and scriptural, but if what we do is without Christ as the life-giving Spirit, that is religion.

There also should be no philosophy in the church. Philosophy refers to the human thought, the human concept, and the human understanding which is embodied in the human opinion. This philosophy is always expressed in different doctrines. Doctrine can be a cloak to human opinion. Something may appear to be a scriptural doctrine when actually it is the expression of a person’s thought, opinion, or Christian philosophy. It can actually be one’s self-made philosophy under the cloak of scriptural teachings.

We have to be careful not to use our mind apart from the Spirit. We need to be afraid of our natural concept, thought, and understanding. The natural understanding is really poisonous. In the churches the most blessed persons are the simple ones. The ones who are not blessed are the ones who are so much in the exercise of their natural mentality. We need to realize that our mentality is the ground where the tree of knowledge grows to produce all kinds of fruit of knowledge.

Ephesians 4:14 warns us not to be carried about by every wind of teaching in the sleight of men, in craftiness with a view to a system of error. The dividing teachings are organized and systematized by Satan to cause serious error and thus damage the practical oneness of the Body life. Satan utilizes the Bible teachings to systematize people and to bring them into systematized error. We have to be aware of the natural concepts and thoughts behind the winds of teaching. This means we have to reject the philosophies of men and the teachings that distract us from Christ and the church.

Furthermore, we should reject any thought or practice of rank and position in the church. Rank and hierarchy come from the struggle for power. If a brother is an elder, he should not have a pleasant feeling when people call him an elder. It is not so good to call a brother an elder. We want to avoid any concept of rank within the church. The term elder is not and should not be a title. We do not have the title elder among us, but we have some persons who are elders. We do not have any positions or titles in the church. We have to hate hierarchy (Rev. 2:6). That is an insult to Christ. It is a shame that clergymen are referred to as "reverend." Only Christ is reverend. Only He should receive our reverence. In the church there should be no religion, no philosophy, no vain doctrines or teachings, and no hierarchy, clergy, rank, positions, or titles. All the problems, confusion, and divisions come from these sources.

(The History of the Church and the Local Churches, Chapter 2, by Witness Lee)