THE VISION OF THE CHURCH
Scripture Reading: Acts 8:1; 13:1; 1 Cor. 1:2; Rev. 1:11
We all need to see the vision of the church. The vision of the church is neglected more by Christians than the vision of Christ is. In a doctrinal way Christians may talk about Christ, but not even in a doctrinal way do they speak much concerning the church.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE CHURCH—
THE CHURCH BEING THE HEART’S DESIRE OF GOD
If we read the New Testament carefully, we will see the importance of the church. The New Testament reveals that without the church Christ would be isolated and unable to do anything. The New Testament especially reveals that the church is the heart’s desire of God. God’s desire in this age is to have the church.
We need to pray that we may see the importance of the church. The work of gospel preaching, the work of edifying the saints, and the work of teaching the Bible should all be for the church. Gospel preaching must not be for gospel preaching—it must be for the church. The edification of the saints must not be just for edification—it must be for the church. Teaching the Bible must not be simply for teaching the Bible—it must be for the church. In God’s intention and according to His purpose, all such works are for the church. Even all the saved persons are for the church. We were saved not for ourselves and not merely for our salvation; we were saved for the building up of the church. The church is God’s heart’s desire.
We need to be impressed with the importance of the church and pray concerning this. Then we will no longer be indifferent about the matter of the church. We will see that what must come first is the church, not the preaching of the gospel, not the edification of the saints, and not the teaching of the Bible. The building up of the church should be our top priority.
THE PRACTICALITY OF THE CHURCH—
THE PRACTICE OF THE CHURCH IN THIS DISPENSATION
We also need to see the practicality of the church. The church is very practical. We must have the church not in thought, in theory, or in teaching and not even in vision; we must have the church in practice. We all need to pray that we would see the practicality of the church.
The New Testament does not say much about the doctrine of the church, but it does give us a full picture of the practice of the church. Whereas some today have the doctrine of the church, the New Testament has the practice of the church. Therefore, in the New Testament we have the church not mostly and mainly in teaching but mostly and mainly in practice. In other words, in the New Testament we have the practicality of the church. We need to see the vision of the practicality of the church.
During the past century and a half, many Christian teachers have said that it is impossible for us to have the real church today. Some have said that the real church is invisible and that the visible church is not the real church. Furthermore, some Christian teachers claim that the real church is something for the future, not for the present. According to their understanding, since the real church is invisible and is something for the future, it is impossible for us to have a real church today. What we have today is just something visible, and according to these Christian teachers this is not the real church.
What kind of church do we have in the Bible? In the Bible are there two kinds of churches—the visible church and the invisible church? In the Bible do we have the church in the future and the church in the present?
According to the Bible we are now in the dispensation of the church, and the next dispensation will be the dispensation of the kingdom. If we do not have the church during the dispensation of the church, then in what dispensation will we have the church? Those who say that the church is something for the future need to realize that the next dispensation, the millennium, will be the dispensation not of the church but of the kingdom. After the dispensation of the kingdom there will be the new heaven and the new earth with the New Jerusalem. From this we can see that the teaching that the church is something for the future is absolutely unscriptural. The church must exist during the dispensation of the church, and the church must be practical. The book of Acts speaks of the church in Jerusalem (8:1) and the church in Antioch (13:1). This indicates that in the early days the church was visible and practical. Therefore, it is erroneous to say that the church is invisible.
(The Heavenly Vision, Chapter 2, by Witness Lee)