Lesson Book, Level 5: The Church—The Vision and Building Up of the Church, by Witness Lee

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[The first mention of the house of God in the Bible is in Genesis 28. One night, when Jacob was escaping from his brother, he had a dream. In his dream he saw “a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it’’ (v. 12). When he awoke from sleep, he said, “Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not. And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven’’ (vv. 16-17), which means the house of God.

This first mention of the house of God in the Bible is a seed that grows and develops elsewhere in the Scriptures. The Lord Jesus refers to Jacob’s dream in His word to Nathanael in John 1:51. “He said to him, Truly, truly, I say to you, you shall see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.’’ This is the fulfillment of Jacob’s dream, for Christ as the Son of Man with His humanity is the ladder set up on the earth and leading to heaven, keeping heaven open to earth and joining earth to heaven for the house of God—Bethel.]

[Three verses which reveal that the church is the house of God are 1 Timothy 3:15; Hebrews 3:6; and 1 Peter 4:17. In 1 Timothy 3:15 Paul says, “If I delay, that you may know how one ought to conduct himself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and base of the truth.’’ As God’s dwelling place, the church is both God’s house and His household, His family. In the Old Testament the temple and God’s people were two separate things, but in the fulfillment in the New Testament the dwelling place and the family are one. According to God’s New Testament economy, God’s house is His family.

Another verse that speaks of the church as the house of God is Hebrews 3:6. This verse refers to “Christ, as a Son over His house, whose house we are.’’ In Old Testament times, the house of God was the house of Israel (Lev. 22:18; Num. 12:7), symbolized by the tabernacle or the temple among them (Exo. 25:8; Ezek. 37:26-27). Today the house of God is the church. The children of Israel, as people of God, are a type of us, the New Testament believers (1 Cor. 9:24—10:11). Their history is a prefigure of the church.

The church has a twofold function. To Christ, the church is the Body; to God, the church is the house. Christ is the Head, and the church is the Body of the head. This is one function of the church. God is the Father, and the church is His house. This is another function of the church. Just as Christ is the Head and the church is His Body, so God is the Father and the church is His house. The church as the Body of Christ is an organism. In like manner, the church as the house of God is a living entity, a living house.

First Peter 4:17, another verse that refers to the church as the house of God, says, “Because it is time for the judgment to begin from the house of God.’’ Here we see that disciplinary judgment begins from God’s own house. God’s house, or household, is the church composed of the believers. From this house, as His own house, God begins His governmental administration by His disciplinary judgment over His own children, that He may have strong ground to judge, in His universal kingdom, those who are disobedient to His gospel and rebellious to His government.

In speaking of the church as the house of God, Paul specifically refers to God as the living God. The living God who lives in the church must be subjective to the church and not merely objective. The God who not only lives but also acts, moves, and works in His house, the church, is living. Because God is living, the church is also living in Him, by Him, and with Him. A living God and a living church live, move, and work together. The living church is the house of the living God. Therefore, in our meetings, service, and ministry we should give people the impression that the living God is living, moving, speaking, and acting among us.]

[The first characteristic of the status of the church is that it is an assembly called out of the world. The second characteristic is that the church is God’s house composed of those who have been born of God. This second characteristic is a matter not merely of separation but of a spiritual, divine birth. In order to be the assembly, we need to be sanctified, that is, separated from the world. But to be a component of the house of God, we need to be born of God. Anyone who has not been born of God cannot be part of His house, part of His family.]

(Lesson Book, Level 5: The Church—The Vision and Building Up of the Church, Chapter 3, by Witness Lee)