THE LINE OF THE CHURCH
The fourth line in 1 Corinthians is the line of the church. This is a book written to the local church at Corinth (1:2). In this book there is a definite church-consciousness. Whatever Paul said was for the church.
Today the Lord’s desire is to recover the proper church life. From the time of Martin Luther, the Lord began His recovery work in a definite way. Within the Lord’s recovery there have been four main categories of things: 1) the teachings or doctrines of fundamentalism; 2) the gifts of Pentecostalism; 3) the preaching and spreading of the gospel of evangelicalism; and 4) the inner life. The Lord’s recovery has passed through these stages to reach the present-day recovery of the local churches. All the previous recovery work is for this present-day recovery, the building up of the local churches for the building up of the Body of Christ. We need to take Christ as our inner life for the building up of the church.
We also need to see the difference between the gifts and life. Balaam’s donkey speaking a human language was a gift, but that did not change the donkey’s life. There was no change in life, but there was a change in speaking ability. Some think that the more gifts they have, the more life they have. But a gift is an enablement or ability for service. It is not life. First Corinthians 13 confirms this. This chapter tells us that everything is empty without love, and love is the expression of Christ as life. If you have the gift of speaking in tongues without love, you are as sounding brass and a clanging cymbal, making empty sounds without life (v. 1).
Gifts are outward. They are the outward endowments of God to enable and equip us for His service. But in addition to these gifts, we need the inward life. The Corinthians had the gifts, but they were short of life. In fact, they were still babes, with hardly any growth in life. They were not only soulish but also fleshly and even fleshy. They misused their gifts because of the shortage of life. They were short of love, which is the expression of life. The gifts are the outward abilities, but life is the inward spiritual essence, which is Christ Himself.
In order to realize life, we have to learn how to exercise our spirit, because the essence of life is Christ Himself. Today Christ is the life-giving Spirit who indwells our spirit, so we have to learn to walk, to behave, and to have our being in our spirit. Never do anything according to what you think, what you like, or what you decide. But always have your being in your spirit. You have to renounce and reject your smart mind, your loving emotions, and your strong will. If you behave yourself in these parts of your soul, you are a soulish man and you are through with Christ. Your behavior will become an insulation between you and Christ. It is not a matter of whether we are good or bad. It is a matter of whether or not we are one with Christ. You may do good things and yet be insulated from Christ. You have to remain in the spirit to be spiritual, not soulish, fleshly, or fleshy.
We can practice the church life and build up the church life only by living in our spirit. Christianity has been divided by teachings, doctrines, and by gifts. Also, the church cannot be built up by good speakers. Many good speakers today minister very little of Christ. We need to enjoy, experience, and partake of Christ and then minister what we have experienced to others. If we enjoy Christ in the spirit and minister Christ to one another, the local church will be built up and there will be no division. We will have the oneness of Philadelphia with the real brotherly love. As long as Christ is enjoyed and ministered, the church will grow up with the nourishment of Christ. Today we are in the age of the recovery of the local churches by Christ being enjoyed by us to be our nourishment for our growth in life.
(The Experience of Christ as Life for the Building Up of the Church, Chapter 6, by Witness Lee)