For us to appreciate the Lord’s recovery, it is helpful to know what the background was. Such a contrast will help us to be clear. The background of the Lord’s recovery is Christianity, whose characteristics are confusion and division. These characteristics first appeared at Babel (Gen. 11:1-9) or Babylon (Gk. for Babel), whose very name means confusion. This is why in the book of Revelation the Lord called today’s Christendom Babylon the great (17:5; 18:21).
First Corinthians 12:12 tells us what the Lord would have instead of the confusion and division. “As the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.” “One” stands out here in contrast to division and “Christ” in contrast to confusion. This is what the Lord’s recovery is: an answer to confusion and division.
EARLY CHURCH HISTORY
By reading the New Testament you can see that even in the time of the Apostle Paul (around A.D. 60-70) confusion had begun to creep in. On the day of Pentecost there was nothing but Christ in the church. But before long, the subtle serpent, Satan, introduced Judaism. Religion stands at the top of human culture, and among the religions none can exceed Judaism. It teaches the worship of God, morality, ethics, proper social relations, and good human living. Only something attractive like this could have gained an entrance into the church, which is on the highest level. If I had some dollar bills and someone wanted to add a counterfeit, he would not add just any piece of paper. The counterfeit would not be taken unless it resembled the dollar bills in every respect; it would need an expert to discern that it was false. It was because Judaism seemed so close to Christianity that it was able to creep in. Even today historians say that Christianity is the offspring of Judaism.
Paul also had to contend with Greek philosophy. Philosophy ranks next to religion, and Greek philosophy was the highest. At the end of the first century, then, the so-called church had within it Christ, Judaism, and Greek philosophy. Galatians was written to deal with Judaism; Colossians, to deal with philosophy.
The third source of confusion made its appearance in the second century. This was the satanic snare of Christology, the study of Christ’s person, undertaken by the so-called church fathers. From the studies of these great, fundamental Christian teachers arose various schools regarding Christ. One said that Christ was not God till after His resurrection. Another said that Christ was God but not a man in the flesh. The result of these Christological studies, on such a seemingly good scriptural topic, was actual division, no longer just confusion.
There seemed no way to solve the problem till Constantine the Great summoned the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325. As emperor he utilized Christianity to appease the warring factions within the kingdom. This worldly Constantine presided over that Council which resolved the theological differences and produced the Nicene Creed, accepted by both Catholics and Protestants.
Darkness followed. Several centuries were even called the Dark Ages. Then the reformation under Martin Luther brought in the truth of justification by faith. Regrettably, it also brought in the state churches. From this time on, there was the Church of England (Anglican or Episcopalian), the Church of Germany (Lutheran), and a national church in most of the northern European countries. Not too long after these were formed, private churches, like the Baptist, Presbyterian, and Methodist, came into existence.
Now here we are in the twentieth century, surrounded, even in this city, by all these divisions. By the Lord’s mercy we are in His recovery. If we do not clearly see what this means, we may become a continuation or extension of Christianity. If that is all we are, it is meaningless for us to continue to meet; we may as well go back and join them.
(Life Messages, Vol. 1 (#1-41), Chapter 14, by Witness Lee)