The Spirit and the Body, by Witness Lee

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Originally, there was one church in Corinth, and all the saints in Corinth were part of the church in Corinth. But suppose the saints were divided into four churches: the church of Peter, the church of Apollos, the church of Paul, and the church of Christ. Suppose also that certain saints remained on the ground of the church at Corinth. Now suppose a brother came from Jerusalem to visit Corinth. As far as the church was concerned, he had no problem in Jerusalem, Antioch, and Ephesus, for in these cities the sphere of the church was the same as the jurisdiction of the locality. However, when he arrived at Corinth, he faced a difficulty. He would have to determine to which church he would go. Surely he would not go to the church of Cephas, the church of Apollos, the church of Paul, or even the church of Christ. He would meet with those standing as the church in Corinth because they had the proper ground. Suppose a leading brother of the church of Christ said to him, "I am a leader in the church of Christ and I would like to have fellowship with you. Are you not of Christ? And do you not think that I am of Christ also? Why would you not come to be with us? You say that we don’t have the proper ground. But our ground is Christ, for we are the church of Christ. Christ is not divided. How then can you say that our ground is divisive? You claim that we divide ourselves from the other saints. But if you don’t join us, then you divide yourself from us." However, the brother visiting from the church in Jerusalem would point out that the church on the proper ground, the church in Corinth, includes them both, for the sphere of the church in Corinth is greater than that of the church of Christ.

Those who say that they are of Christ would not agree with those who say they are of Peter, of Apollos, or of Paul. They would say, "The names Peter, Apollos, and Paul are the wrong names. We should not keep those names. Christ is the proper name. Hence, we are of Christ." However, Christ is the foundation, not the ground (1 Cor. 3:11). We need to see the difference between the foundation and the ground. The ground is the site upon which the building is constructed, whereas the foundation is the bottom part of the building itself. All the groups claim that their foundation is Christ. Even those who say that they are of Peter, of Apollos, and of Paul would claim that Christ is their foundation. However, they are all on different grounds. This means that they place their foundation on different sites. The proper ground is the ground of unity. It is correct to say that Christ is the foundation, but it is incorrect to say that He is the ground. For this reason, those who claim to be the church of Christ are building on the wrong ground.


Today the situation regarding the church is cloudy. But for us the sky is clear. We are members of the Body, and the Body is universal. This universal Body has just one expression in a city. Thus, there should be just one church in a city. It was this way in Jerusalem, in Antioch, and also in Ephesus. But it is not this way in our locality today. Therefore, we must exercise our discernment to discover who is meeting on the proper ground of unity.

Let us go further and suppose that the church of Peter had two thousand members, that the church of Apollos had four thousand, that the church of Paul had three thousand, that the church of Christ had five hundred, and that those meeting as the church in Corinth had only fifteen. Those in the church in Corinth might say, "We are so small in number. The other groups have anywhere from five hundred to four thousand, but we have only fifteen. What shall we do? Can we say that we are the church? The church in Corinth should include all the saints. But the vast majority of them are not with us. How can we say that we are the church?" In such a situation many would be weakened and reluctant to claim that they are the church in Corinth. If those standing on the ground of unity numbered five thousand, they would all be bold to say that they are the church in Corinth. But if the number were small, perhaps only fifteen, they would be weakened in this matter and afraid to say that they are the church. Nevertheless, the fifteen saints standing on the church ground are the church. If they are not the church, then what would you call them?

We need to be clear that the standing of the church does not depend upon any terms or conditions, but only upon the ground of unity. The ground of unity is the ground of locality. Wherever we Christians are, we should be the church in that place. If we are in London, Paris, New York, or Los Angeles, we should simply be the church in that city. Today the situation is confused and divided. Thus, we need to be recovered back to the genuine unity. The genuine unity is the unique oneness, the oneness of the ground. We need to be clear about this so that wherever we are, we shall be nothing other than part of the church in that locality. Being the church is not a matter of how many saints there are. Even if there are just a small number coming together in a particular city, they are the church in that locality. For more than forty-five years I have been standing on this ground. The more I preach and teach it, the more bold I am to say that those standing on the proper ground are the church in that locality.

(The Spirit and the Body, Chapter 20, by Witness Lee)