The History of the Church and the Local Churches, by Witness Lee


At the time of the reformation, the Lord’s recovery came into a definite form. Martin Luther was a great servant of God. The Lord used him to recover the truth concerning justification by faith and to make the Bible open to the general public. Thank the Lord that justification by faith has been fully recovered. It will never be lost again. At the cost of his life, Luther stood for this truth, but when he came to the truth concerning the church, he was weak. He did not bring us back to God’s genuine intention to have the church life.

Luther realized that it was wrong to be joined with the German government, yet he still did it. Due to this big mistake, the state churches were produced. Besides the Roman Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox Church, there are also the state churches. All the state churches are Lutheran churches except the Church of England, which is an Episcopal church. The German state church, the Danish state church, the Norwegian state church, the Swedish state church, and the Anglican state church were the issue of the seed sown by Luther. I respect Luther as one of the great servants of the Lord, but his mistake shows us that if we are short in our vision and knowledge of the church, we will have no safeguard. We may do the best thing and still make some mistake. Our safeguard is to know the church in an adequate way.


History tells us that the reformed churches, especially the state churches, eventually became a dead religion. In the seventeenth century, the Lord raised up a group of saints as a reaction to the deadness and emptiness of the reformed churches. These mystics, such as Madame Guyon, Father Fenelon, and Brother Lawrence, were used by the Lord to recover the experiences of the inner life. These saints, who still remained with the Roman Catholic Church, began to realize that life is God Himself in His Son by His Spirit. Although these saints knew something concerning Christ as the inner life, there was no practical church life with them. They were still in the sphere of the Roman Catholic Church. Many seekers of the Lord have been helped by Madame Guyon’s autobiography. However, even though she had so much experience of the inner life, she still went to the statue of Mary. Although she was used by God as a reaction to the deadness of Protestantism, she was not clear about the church and she was not even clear about the idolatry in Catholicism.


Throughout the history of the church, many groups of so-called puritans were raised up. These puritan groups were formed by leaders who saw something concerning the truth. Some saw that the proper baptism was by immersion. Spontaneously this was the beginning of the Baptist church. The Baptist denomination is one among many private churches, which may be considered as the fourth category of so-called church, in addition to the Roman Catholic Church, the Greek Orthodox Church, and the state churches. These private churches include the Baptist church, the Presbyterian church, the Methodist church, etc. Today there are many private churches. The fifth category of so-called church is the free groups. These free groups include all of the Bible churches. The Bible churches do not belong to the Roman Catholic Church, the Greek Orthodox Church, the state churches, or to any private denominations. Those in the Bible churches endeavor to have all their practices based on the Bible. In addition to these Bible churches, there are many other free groups which meet outside the denominations.

(The History of the Church and the Local Churches, Chapter 3, by Witness Lee)