Messages Given During the Resumption of Watchman Nee's Ministry (2 volume set), by Watchman Nee/Witness Lee

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Brother Tang asked: What is the relationship between the members and the Body? Where does the individual end and the Body begin?

The Starting Point Being the Body

Brother Nee answered: It is difficult to answer this question. Where does the individual end and the Body begin? Let me change your starting point a little.

We have to ask the Lord to give us the mercy to have a make-up lesson today. We have to see that God’s children did not receive an individual life, but a corporate life. God sees us as one Body, but we pay our attention to individual members. Suppose here is a stalk of wheat. You may say that here are just grains of wheat. Actually, there is only one stalk of wheat. Bread is made out of many grains. We have a corporate life. What you should ask is when does the Body end and the individual begin. When does the individual life emerge out of the Body? You should not ask when does the individual end and the Body begin. One does not put all the members together and form the Body. Rather, it is in the Body that the many members are produced. In the Bible, there is no such thing as individuals receiving life; all the time it talks about the Body. We pay attention to the members, but God pays attention to the Body.

Do not think that by saying this, I am bringing you back to Catholicism. In the Catholic Church, there is only the catholicity; there is no church. The reason for this is that it does not have life. The Body life that we are speaking of does not start from the Catholic Church, but from the corporateness of the Body. Since our salvation was not a strong one in that it did not originate in the Body, we have to go back to the starting point to make it up for our lesson today.

First Corinthians 12:12 says that the Body is one and has many members. Here it speaks of first the Body and then the members. We proceed from the members to the Body. But here it speaks of the Body first and then the members. First there is the life of the whole Body. Then we go home and live our individual lives. These two things point out two different stances. A different stance produces a different result. When I stand here, I can see a few stars. But when I step to the other side, I cannot see them any longer. The place one stands is very crucial. The stance we need to take today is that of the Body.

What we have received is the life of the Body. It is only after I go home that I acquire personal inward knowledge. Brother Tang’s question points out our problem in this age. We cannot say when the individual stops and the Body begins. When the next generation studies history, they will say that Brother Tang is surely a man of 1948. Today, with the individual there is no way to go on. Only with the Body is there the way.

Having Fellowship in the Body

We have to know that the life we have is corporate. Today, man thinks that the life he received is individual, the experience he has is individual, and the conscience within him is individual. But in the future, we will realize what is the conscience of the church. In twenty years, this matter will be as common as having a haircut.

If a person comes up to any major decision, he has to learn to follow the Body and to fellowship with the brothers ahead of him. Do not think that it is a difficult thing to ask others. You have to realize that it is more difficult to be asked of others. No one likes to mind others’ business. No one can have so much interest as to take upon himself everything concerning others. This is troublesome, and it is too much responsibility. However, if we want to take the way of the Body, we have to fellowship. What you eat and wear by yourself are things in the realm of Adam; they are personal matters. But if you go beyond the normal limit, I will say, "This is wrong. You have taken all your monthly income to spend on eating. You have indulged yourself in eating. For this reason, I have to say something." I have to deal with the matter. This is a matter of the Body. The way a sister dresses herself may have gone beyond a certain limit. At such times, someone can say, "We are not interfering with the way you dress, but this is something that is damaging the Lord’s testimony." This is not being a busybody.

(Messages Given During the Resumption of Watchman Nee's Ministry (2 volume set), Chapter 50, by Watchman Nee/Witness Lee)