THE SPECIALITY OF THE CHURCH LIFE
These are the six main items of the proper Christian faith. All real Christians do not have any disputations about these items. Some may disagree with the point, one city, one church, but as a proper Christian we have to believe that the church is both universally one and locally one. As the Body of Christ, the church is universally one; as the expression of the Body of Christ, a local church is locally one. This doesn’t mean, however, that a real believer in Christ who does not agree with one city, one church is not saved. Still he or she is saved, but there is something lacking, not for salvation, but for the proper church life.
The faith is the speciality of the church life. This is something very specific, very special. Concerning these points of our Christian faith there should be no argument. If we are going to fight for something, we have to fight for this. There is no need for us to fight for other things. We have to fight the good fight of such a faith (1 Tim. 6:12). We have to contend for such a faith (Jude 3). We have to teach and preach such a faith.
THE WIND OF DOCTRINE
When Paul, who was then called Saul, was persecuting the church, he was attempting to destroy this faith. However, the Lord caught him, and he then became a preacher of the faith which once he destroyed (Gal. 1:23). Our fighting must be for this faith. We have to differentiate this faith from other kinds of doctrine. Ephesians 4:13 says, “until we all arrive at the oneness of the faith” (lit), and then in verse 14 there is the wind of doctrine. In these two verses there is the faith, and there is doctrine. The keeping of the sabbath and circumcision are doctrines. The teaching of head covering is a certain kind of doctrine. Foot-washing is another kind of doctrine. Sprinkling or immersion is also another kind of doctrine. There is also the eating and drinking of Christ, pray-reading, tongue-speaking, and divine healing, as well as other kinds of doctrines and practices. We should not think that any of these doctrines or practices are included in the speciality of the church life.
What time should we have the Lord’s table, morning or evening? This is a kind of doctrine. How many times should we have the Lord’s table, once a week or every day? This is also a kind of doctrine. Should we use leavened bread or unleavened bread? This is another kind of doctrine. When one prays, should he shut his eyes or should he lift up his eyes toward the heavens? This also is a type of doctrine. All of these are doctrines and have much disputation.
DIVIDED BY DOCTRINES
During the last five centuries, since the time of Martin Luther and the Reformation, Christians have been divided by all kinds of doctrine. The divisions have resulted almost totally from the over-emphasis of the doctrines. For example, John Nelson Darby took the lead to say that all the miraculous, supernatural gifts are dispensationally over, but the so-called Pentecostal people and today’s charismatic people believe they are still here. Even among these there are different beliefs. Some say that a person may be regenerated, but he could never be baptized in the Holy Spirit without speaking in tongues. Others even say that one cannot be regenerated without speaking in tongues.
With the matter of divine healing, there are schools of opinion. Some, like George Mueller, believe in divine healing, not in the way of the gifts, but in the way of grace. In his autobiography he told us that when he was young he was very weak, yet he lived for ninety-three years. He experienced the Lord’s healing by grace, but the charismatic or Pentecostal believers say healing is by the gifts.
Just the matter of what name to baptize people in has schools of opinion. Some say we must baptize people in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Others say in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Concerning the rapture, there are different schools of teaching, such as pretribulation rapture, posttribulation rapture, and partial rapture. These are doctrines. None of them is an item of the faith.
There have been teachings upon teachings, and all the Christians have been divided and are still being divided by the differing doctrines. Among the Brethren today there are hundreds of divisions. They began from 1828 or 1829 and by 1919 according to a record that we read at that time, the statistics showed that within those ninety years the Brethren were divided into one hundred fifty divisions, mainly because of so many different teachings.
CARING ONLY FOR THE FAITH
All Christians are the same in the faith, but we may be very, very different in the doctrines. Do you believe that we all will be the same in the doctrines? When will that time be? I can hardly believe that any two of us could ever be absolutely the same in doctrine. Then what shall we emphasize? Shall we emphasize the doctrines? If so, we will become divisive and eventually will be divided. We should not emphasize the doctrines, but only our Christian faith. We can emphasize this because with the faith there is no argument. In the faith we have no problems. We all are the same.
THE NEED TO GROW
However, we all have been infected, influenced, damaged, distracted, and even divided by all kinds of doctrines. Therefore, we need to grow, and as we grow, we will arrive at the oneness of the faith (Eph. 4:13). The more we grow, the less we emphasize the doctrines. All the doctrines are like toys. The more childish we are, the more we like to play with the toys of doctrine. A full-grown man, especially a grandfather, has no interest in toys. The more mature we are, the less toys we have. So we all need to grow until we arrive at the unique oneness of the faith.
(The Speciality, Generality, and Practicality of the Church Life, Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)