THE NEED FOR A VISION OF GOD’S GOAL—THE CHURCH
All the negative things we have mentioned crept into the church throughout its history. Some of the saints fought against these things and defended the truth. Ignatius, a great defender of the truth, was martyred at the beginning of the second century. We have seen that although Ignatius was such a defender of the truth, he made a mistake because he was short of a clear vision, a complete view, of the church. Nearly all the defenders of the truth made mistakes for this reason. Ignatius made a great mistake that turned into the establishment of the episcopal system. He did it unintentionally. His heart was good, but he made a mistake because he did not have a clear vision of the Body.
By the end of the sixth century, the papacy was fully formed and established. During the five and a half centuries before the establishment of the pope, many so-called puritans were raised up by the Lord to fight for the truth. They loved the Lord, loved the Bible, and stood for the Lord according to what they had seen, but nearly all of them made some mistakes. In the second century the term Catholic Church was used. The so-called Catholic Church became very worldly. Some of the faithful saints did not agree with this, and they fought against the worldliness in the Catholic Church. This was very positive, but they did not have a clear vision of the Body. They were just for not being worldly. They were fighting against worldliness and stood so much for not being worldly. In a sense, that was good, but in another sense, they made a mistake in that they became a mere free group of unworldly Christians. They did not care for the Body, the church, the new man, or for the oneness. They did not care for God’s goal but only for not being worldly. There are many Christians today who are acting in the same principle of caring for other things besides God’s goal.
According to church history, human power, human rule, hierarchy, and human organization crept into and prevailed in the so-called church, but there was not much place or ground left to the Holy Spirit. A group of puritans were raised up who were very much against this. They declared that the church should be under the authority of the Holy Spirit, and they fought against human rule in the church. Regretfully, however, they did not care for the Body. They only cared for being spiritual.
The first group I mentioned cared for not being worldly, and the second group cared for being spiritual. However, neither group cared for the oneness. They did not care for the Body. Eventually, these kinds of free groups gave up the Catholic Church, the general church, and began to meet by themselves. History tells us that these groups even began to exclude one another. They left the Catholic Church for different reasons and they stressed different points, and sadly they began to exclude one another. They became different free groups who did not receive one another.
(The History of the Church and the Local Churches, Chapter 2, by Witness Lee)