THE LORD’S RECOVERY THROUGHOUT THE CENTURIES
Despite the church’s degraded condition, there have been a few since the second and third centuries who have loved the Lord with a pure heart and who have recovered the Lord’s truths. Such a recovery has been gradual and has been continuing throughout the past centuries. The most evident example occurred in the 1500s when Martin Luther recovered the truth concerning salvation through justification by faith. Then in the 1600s the Lord raised up a group of people in the Catholic Church who particularly pursued the matter of life; they were the “mystics” who stressed the inner life. After another century, in the 1700s, the Lord raised up Zinzendorf, who recovered the oneness in the church life and thereby ushered in a tremendous blessing. In the 1800s the Brethren in England were raised up; they brought in a much clearer and deeper recovery of the church life. However, the good condition among them did not last long, and they faded away at the end of the last century.
THE CONTINUAL ADVANCE OF THE LORD’S RECOVERY AMONG US
In the beginning of this century, after 1920, the Lord’s recovery turned from Europe and America to the Far East. Church history tells us that when God could not find virgin soil for the church life, He came to the pagan land of China to raise up the church. In the beginning we mostly adopted the ways of the Brethren in our practice, but later we found that in many aspects of the truth they had not entered into the depths of the spiritual significance of the Bible. Brother Watchman Nee, who was the most advanced and who had the most revelation among us, saw many new things from the Bible, and he put what he had seen into the book The Normal Christian Church Life. From then on, he saw new things again and again. Every time he saw something new, that became a turn to him. At first, he practiced a certain way, but after he saw something new, he would make a turn, a change. Then after another few years, he would change again. Because of this, people could not understand him, and some even condemned him. However, concerning this matter, Brother Nee’s reply was that we are in the Lord’s recovery, and the Lord’s recovery is gradually advancing. Every time there is an advance, spontaneously there will be a turn. If we never make a turn or a change in a certain matter from the beginning to the end, it proves that we have probably fallen from the Lord’s way in that matter.
This is the mistake made by the denominations in Christianity. Those in the Baptist denomination saw the truth concerning baptism and stopped there. Until this day they have not advanced, nor do they want to have any change. Yet, after them, the Lord still had something more to recover. Then the Presbyterian denomination appeared when there were some who saw the truth concerning the administration of the church by the elders, the presbytery. They were right, but they remained there and were not willing to make any further turns. All the denominations are in this condition. Finally, the Brethren also had the same weakness. Because of this, Brother Nee was in fear and trembling before the Lord about this matter. He was afraid that we would be the same, that we would be content with seeing a small aspect of the truth and not be willing to receive more light, supposing that if we made a change which was not in accordance to what we had seen originally, then our new discovery was not the truth. Of course, the truth in the Bible can never change, but how the saints and the church follow the Lord’s truth, and to what extent they follow, changes depending on the amount of light they have seen concerning the truth. The more truths we see and the more light we discover, the more we will make a turn and will advance.
(The Church Life in the Lord's Recovery Today, Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)