THE FUNCTION OF THE CHURCH
The fourth point we must see is the function of the church. Now we may come back to the Body of Christ and the house of God. To Christ the church is a Body; Christ is the Head and the church is the Body. To God the church is a house; God is the Resident and the church is the residence. In principle the Body and the house are the same. In the New Testament our body is likened to a house. Second Corinthians 5:1 says that our body is a house, a dwelling place. The Body is a container to contain the life of the Head, and the house is also a container, a residence, to contain the One who dwells in the house. The Body is a vessel and the house is also a vessel. Where is Christ contained? In the Body. Where is God contained; that is, where does He dwell? In His house. In principle, to speak of the Body or the house is the same because both the house and the Body are containers, vessels, to contain God and Christ.
However, there is still a difference. The Body as a container is to express the life which it contains. Therefore, with the Body there is the aspect of expression. All that we are, all we can do, and all we have are expressed through our body. It is by means of a person’s body that he can speak, walk, demonstrate his wisdom and knowledge, and do many things. The body is a container to express what it contains. However, the main point of a house is not to express something. With a house the main point is rest, completion, and accomplishment. To accomplish something, we need a house. In these days we are endeavoring to publish a little magazine entitled The Stream, and we will now publish some more messages in booklet form. For this we need a room in a house. A house is for resting and for the completing of a purpose. Christ needs the church as a Body to express Himself, while God needs the church as a house to rest and to do His will, to accomplish His eternal purpose.
Now we know what the source, the nature, and the essence of the church are and what the function of the church is. To Christ it is a Body; it contains Christ to express Christ. To God it is a house; it contains God for God to rest in it and to accomplish His will through it. This is the function, the duty, of the church.
THE PRACTICE OF THE CHURCH
Now we may see a practical point, the practice of the church. How the church is practiced is a great issue for the believers. First we must realize that the church was formed and founded universally, the church is built up universally, and the church is practiced universally, in the whole universe, and among the human race. From the time of Pentecost the Lord began to establish His church, to practice His church, not only in one place, in one locality, but in many places, in many localities, in locality after locality and place after place. Moreover, this was not only in one age or generation but in age after age and generation after generation.
We all know the meaning of the word universal. It refers to time plus space, what is throughout all time and throughout all space. Localities are a matter of space, generations are a matter of time, and space plus time equals the universe. Therefore, the Lord formed, founded, establishes, builds up, and practices His church universally. In place after place, time after time, city after city, nation after nation, and generation after generation the Lord practices the church universally.
However, while the Lord practices the church universally, there is still the local aspect. I must ask you to be very sober-minded in this matter because today in Christianity there are some wrong speakings, saying that there are two different kinds of churches, one being the eternal and universal church and the other being the local churches. We must say no to this. This is a wrong speaking. We can only speak of different aspects of the church, not different kinds of churches.
(Basic Principles for the Practice of the Church Life, Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)