THE NEED OF ALL THE CHURCHES
TO BE IDENTICAL IN ESSENCE,
APPEARANCE, AND EXPRESSION
When I was young, I was taught that the churches should not be the same. These teachers said that the seven churches are different based upon the seven epistles in Revelation 2 and 3. But according to the biblical revelation, all seven churches on the positive side should be the same because the churches signified by the seven golden lampstands are exactly the same in their essence, in their appearance, and in their expression. The lampstands are identical as the multiplied embodiment of the Triune God. In the positive sense, all the local churches should be identical. The church in So Paulo should be the same as the church in New York, and the church in New York should be identical to the church in Hong Kong, to the church in Tokyo, to the church in Paris, to the church in London, and to the church in Stuttgart.
In the seven epistles to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3, the churches are different in the negative sense. All seven epistles are different from one another, but they are different in negative things. The particular characteristic of the church in Ephesus was the loss of the first love (2:4). The church in Pergamos became worldly; worldliness was their particular characteristic (2:13). The specific, particular characteristics of the apostate church in Thyatira were Jezebel, idol worship, fornication, and adultery (2:20-22). The characteristic of the church in Sardis was deadness (3:1), and the characteristic of the church in Laodicea was lukewarmness (3:16). The churches are different from one another in negative things, but the lampstands in Revelation 1, among whom Christ as the Head was walking, are altogether identical. In the positive sense as the testimony of Jesus the lampstands should not be different. Jesus does not have different testimonies. He only has one testimony, that is, the embodiment of the Triune God. Thus, all the local churches, not only in the cities of one nation but also in all the cities of all the nations, should be exactly the same.
In 1968 a group of American saints visited the churches in Taiwan. After visiting the churches, one particular saint told me he was very disappointed. He said that everywhere we went on the island of Taiwan the local churches were exactly the same. When he told me this, I felt that this was wonderful. If you see one local church, you have seen all the local churches. Suppose that you visited all the local churches throughout the earth and you realized that they were exactly the same. This would be wonderful!
Because of human pride, we do not like to be the same as others. The British do not like to be the same as the French, and the French do not want to be the same as the Americans. The British brothers may be proud of the fact that they are full of patience and may look down on the American brothers who do not have much patience. A local church in England may be a church full of patience, whereas a local church in America will be a quick church with no patience. Human pride always likes to make the self different from others. You may speak one thing, but I would never speak what you speak because of my pride. I want to speak something different from what you speak, something new and something better. This is the self, and this is fleshly pride. We all have to learn how to follow the other churches, how to be one with the churches, and how to be the same as the churches.
We may not want to be the same as the other churches because of our pride, but according to the divine economy the more that we are the same, the more glorious we are. It is glorious to imitate others, to follow others, and to be one with others in the spirit. We must learn from one another, be adjusted by one another, and receive grace from one another. The church in So Paulo helps the church in Los Angeles, and the church in Los Angeles receives help from the church in Stuttgart. If we all receive the divine help from one another, we will be shaped into the same kind of image, the same appearance. The image we bear as the lampstand should not be one of national characteristics. The churches in Germany should not bear an image of German characteristics, nor should the churches in the United States bear an image of United States characteristics. The churches throughout the earth should not have different flavors. All the churches should bear one unique flavor—the flavor of the Triune God. All the local churches should only bear one characteristic—the characteristic of the Son with the Father by the Spirit.
I hope that we all would see this vision. Vision controls. Proverbs 29:18 says, "Where there is no vision, the people cast off restraint" (ASV). The Berkeley Version says that "the people run wild." We are not wild because we are under the regulation, under the control, of the heavenly vision. According to the heavenly vision, we see that all the churches are golden lampstands, that they are the same in essence, in appearance, and in expression. All the golden lampstands bear the same appearance and testify the same person—the all-inclusive person of Christ. The Lord is working and moving in His heavenly ministry to bring in such a glorious situation of the churches being the golden lampstands in reality according to their actual situation.
(The Divine Economy, Chapter 14, by Witness Lee)