THE LOCAL CHURCH BEING THE MANIFESTATION
OF THE BODY OF CHRIST ON EARTH
When Paul wrote to a group of believers in Corinth, he said, "Now you are the body of Christ" (1 Cor. 12:27). The Body of Christ is not only universal; it is also local. Every local church is the manifestation of the Body of Christ in that locality. All of the riches of Christ are vested in the local church. The authority of the Head is vested in the local expression of the Body. Apostles and elders in the local church are representative members of the Body, but they are not the Body. The entire company of believers in a locality, not just a section of the believers, constitutes the church in that locality. The church is not one member; it represents the whole Body in a locality. Hence, when we touch the local church, we touch the Body. Participating in the fellowship of the local church is participating in the fellowship of the Body of Christ. The Body of Christ is not something abstract or unfathomable; the Body of Christ is manifested in the local churches. Anyone who wants to live in the Body in a practical way has to be in the local churches. He should fellowship with the local saints, be edified in the local church, and be built up together in mutuality.
GOD’S WILL BEING EXPRESSED
IN THE LOCAL CHURCH
When Christ was on earth He referred to the church two times—in Matthew 16 and Matthew 18. In the first instance, He referred to the universal church, and in the second instance, He referred to the local church. In speaking of the authority of the local church, He said, "If he refuses to hear the church also, let him be to you just like the Gentile and the tax collector" (18:17). This verse shows us that the authority of the church is derived from its representation of Christ. Christ has given His authority to the church and authorized the church to execute His will on earth. The Bible shows us that there are three ways in which a person can receive guidance from God: (1) God’s Word—the Bible, (2) the indwelling Holy Spirit, and (3) the church in a locality. The third line is the most important line. The leading of the Bible and the Spirit are individual in nature, but the leading of the local church is corporate in nature. The local church, being the local expression of the Body of Christ, has the headship of Christ and, therefore, can know the mind of Christ, which is always communicated to His Body. The local church declares the headship of Christ. "Truly I say to you, Whatever you bind on the earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on the earth shall have been loosed in heaven" (v. 18). A person who sees the Body seeks fellowship and accepts the leading of the church. Often the decision of a church in a rural area is proven to be better than the decision of a church in the city. Such a decision does not originate from man’s ability or wisdom but from the corporate seeking in one accord. In order to know God’s will and His way, it is not enough for us to read the Bible or pray by ourselves. We have to be in the fellowship of the local church, live the Body life, and follow God’s leading in the Body.
THE LOCAL CHURCH
EXECUTING THE AUTHORITY OF THE BODY
In a local church, God has established the elders as representatives of His authority. But this does not mean that they are everything. The elders should not monopolize anything; they are merely the overseers in the church. They stand on the side to guide the saints on, to stop improper activities, and to encourage proper activities so that the whole Body can be activated. Acts 12:5 says, "So then Peter was kept in the prison; but prayer was being made fervently by the church to God concerning him." Today the church should pray fervently for world events and the state of our nation. This kind of prayer involves the exercise of the authority that God has given the Body.
Much revelation has been lost to the church because believers have sought light individually instead of seeking light in the sanctuary. When a man does not see the Body, he loses many blessings. This is a great loss to the church. May the Lord show us what the Body is so that we can live in the Body and receive the riches of the Body. When we are in the Body, we know God’s will, have the authority of the Body, and experience the power of the Body.
(The Mystery of Christ, Chapter 10, by Watchman Nee)