The Life and Way for the Practice of the Church Life, by Witness Lee


Divisions come into existence due to two factors. One factor is related to the Lord’s servants. There is no doubt that the ministers, the servants, of the Lord work for the Lord by trying their best to help people through preaching and teaching. But eventually nearly all the servants of the Lord keep the results of their work in their hands. A servant of the Lord may be called by God and sent by the Lord with a real ministry and a real commission. Then he goes out to work for the Lord. He works hard and effectively to help people, and he eventually gains some real results. But the problem or the danger here is that this very servant of the Lord may keep the results of his work in his own hands to form something as a support to his work. If this happens, a division is created.

Let us illustrate in this way: Here is the apostle Paul, who is sent by the Lord with a real commission. He comes to Los Angeles and works very hard with much effectiveness. As a result, a great number of people are saved through him. So his work issues in a great result, and he keeps the result of his work in his hands for his ministry. Then after three years, Apollos comes. He is also sent by the Lord with a real commission. He works hard and effectively, and a great number of people are saved through him. Like Paul, he keeps his work in his hands and forms something in Los Angeles other than what Paul has formed. So now in Los Angeles there is something of the apostle Paul and there is something else of the Lord’s servant Apollos. After another two years, Peter comes and he does the same thing as Paul and Apollos. So now in Los Angeles there are three groups of Christians. You should not call them churches. The best you can say is that they are three groups. No matter what you call them, whether denominations, missions, sects, congregations, assemblies, or "churches," they are divisions, and even if you call them nothing, they are still divisions.

Here the servants of the Lord have to learn the lesson from history. None of us should keep the work in our hands. We have to work for the Lord, for His church, and for the saints. The result, the issue, of the work must go to the saints. Nothing should be kept in the hands of any of the Lord’s servants. Paul did go to Corinth and worked there effectively. Although many were saved through him, he did not set up his own group. He worked for the local church which was in Corinth. Apollos and Peter also did the same thing. There were not three "churches" in Corinth, one of Paul, another of Apollos, and still another of Peter. There was only one church in Corinth.

However, although Paul, Apollos, and Peter did not do this kind of divisive work, the pitiful Corinthian believers did something to separate themselves from one another (1 Cor. 1:12-13). Some would say, "I appreciate Paul. Paul is wonderful. I am of Paul." Others would say, "I appreciate Apollos. He is an eloquent man and is powerful in the Scriptures. I am of Apollos." And still others would say, "Peter is the greatest one. I am of Peter." Eventually, some would say, "You are all wrong. We do not belong to anyone. We belong to Christ alone, so I am of Christ." So there were four groups in Corinth, and they were condemned by the apostle for being carnal, fleshly (3:3-4). Look at today’s Christianity, and you will see that the same situation exists there.

We must realize that the local churches do not belong to the apostles or the workers. As the churches of God (1:2), the local churches belong to God; as the churches of Christ (Rom. 16:16b), they belong to Christ; and as the churches of the saints (1 Cor. 14:33b), they belong to the saints. The churches must not belong to any of the workers. The churches are neither for the workers, the ministers, nor for the work, the ministry. Rather, the workers or ministers and their works or ministries must be for the churches. If I come here to carry out a work, and keep the results of my work in my hands, this is absolutely wrong. After much laboring, the apostle Paul had nothing in his hands. Everything was left in the hands of the local church.

You have to realize that as long as you keep the results of your work in your hands, you have a sect, a division, in your hands. You have to keep your hands off the results of your work and leave the results to the local saints. Let us follow the footsteps of the apostle Paul. Many churches were established through him, yet in the end he kept nothing in his hands. So Paul did not create any division.

(The Life and Way for the Practice of the Church Life, Chapter 12, by Witness Lee)