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

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Immediately after the Lord’s prayer in John 17, He went to the cross. On the cross, He accomplished redemption for us. He also “abolished in His flesh the law of the commandments in ordinances, that He might create the two (both Jews and gentiles) in Himself into one new man, making peace’’ (Eph. 2:15). In His resurrection and ascension, He became the Spirit. As the life-giving Spirit, He breathed the Spirit into His disciples (John 20:22). Before His crucifixion, His disciples were arguing to see who would be greater in the kingdom. They were afraid of the Jews and the soldiers who sought to seize Jesus and therefore ran away when Christ was captured. They were divisive and cowardly, but after receiving the Spirit they were able to pray in one accord (Acts 1:14). This indicates that they received the Spirit of oneness. Later, on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) and in the house of Cornelius (Acts 10), the Spirit was poured out upon them to form the one Body of Christ. In one Spirit, they were all baptized into one Body (1 Cor. 12:13). These are all accomplished facts.


The oneness of the Body was accomplished by the Triune God and we began to experience this oneness when we believed and were baptized. [Matthew 28:19 refers to a marvelous fact in the universe: we believers have been baptized into the Triune God. This verse says that we have been baptized into the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Spirit. The name of the Triune God denotes the person of the Triune God. To be baptized into the Triune God is to be baptized into the divine person of the divine Trinity. Our baptism brought us into a mystical and organic union with the processed Triune God so that all of us, the believers in the Son, may be one in this organic union. The proper oneness among us Christians is a oneness in the organic union among one another and a oneness between us and the Triune God. The Lord prayed in John 17 based upon the fact that we all have to be one in the Triune God.]


A. Receiving the Teaching and Fellowship of the Apostles

As we have pointed out in earlier lessons, the Lord sent the apostles out to raise up churches by their gospel, teaching, and fellowship. The saints in these local churches were once sinners under God’s righteous condemnation, but due to the apostles preaching of the truth of the gospel they became obedient to the faith. They repented, believed, and were baptized into the Triune God, Christ, Christ’s death, and His Body. Then they continued in the teaching and fellowship of the apostles that they might grow in the Lord and be perfected to build up the church. Because they were begotten of the apostles and were shepherded by the apostles, they should always receive the apostles, their teaching, and their fellowship. Local churches should never be divided from the apostles who raised them up. This type of division causes a local church to lose its supply of life.

On the negative side, a church must not be separated from the fellowship of the apostles. On the positive side, it is the apostles who raised up the church, and therefore can and must continue to nourish the church and perfect the saints. They have the authority to resolve problems in the church, as was the case in the church in Corinth and the churches in Galatia. As a result of the care of the apostles, the church will be built up. This is God’s very sweet and effective ordained way to care for the church. Any deviation from His ordained way will cause the building up of the church to slow down and possibly stop. This is very practical.

Some may have a [different opinion concerning the apostles’ relationship with the churches that they have established. Some have said that once the apostles establish churches and appoint elders, they should keep their hands off the churches. To their feeling, the churches should be absolutely independent from the apostles. But according to the Bible, after the apostles established churches and appointed elders in them, they still took care of the churches.

The apostle Paul’s relationship with the church in Ephesus is a strong evidence of this. According to Acts 20, Paul established the church in Ephesus and appointed elders in that church, but after this he did not leave the church and the elders alone. Instead, he once stayed with the church in Ephesus for three years (v. 31). While Paul was on his way to Jerusalem, he sent some from Miletus to call the elders in Ephesus to come to him (v. 17). When they came to him, Paul reminded them of how he behaved, worked, and labored among them for three years, admonishing the saints with tears (v. 31) and teaching them publicly and from house to house (v. 20). He charged them to take heed to themselves and to the flock committed to them (v. 28). He warned them that after he would leave, wolves would come in among them, not sparing the flock (v. 29). He told them that some would rise up from among them, speaking perverted things to draw away disciples after themselves (v. 30). This portion of the Word in Acts 20 shows that Paul did not leave the church in Ephesus alone. On the contrary, he was always caring for them.]

(Lesson Book, Level 5: The Church—The Vision and Building Up of the Church, Chapter 15, by Witness Lee)