The Heavenly Vision, by Witness Lee

The Self

Whereas the substitutes are the hindrance to seeing the vision of Christ and the cost is the hindrance to seeing the vision of the church, the hindrance to seeing the vision of the Body and to practicing the Body life is the self. Yes, we are practicing the church life on the proper ground of the church, but are we built up together? Are we rightly related to one another? Are we fitly framed together? We meet together, but we may not be built up together. We have the meeting, but we do not have the building. We need a vision of the Body, but this vision is at the cost of the self. If we are to be built up in the Body, the self must go. This is why we also need to see (in the next chapter) the vision of the self. The self is a problem to the Body.


Once we see the vision of Christ, we are qualified to see the vision of the church. However, with the matter of the church, you may sense that there is a cost and that you will have to pay the price. If you are not willing to pay the price, you may go back to the vision of Christ and say, “It is sufficient that we know Christ. Christ is everything. We should not talk about the church. Let us speak to others concerning Christ, telling them what He is. Let us preach Christ to sinners, and let us minister Christ to the saints. It is enough that we talk about Christ. There is no need for us to talk about the church.” This kind of speaking is subtle; it is a sugar-coated excuse for not paying the price to practice the church life on the ground of the unique oneness.

At this juncture let us consider the Lord’s word to Peter in Matthew 16. Immediately after Peter declared concerning the Lord Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” He said to him, “Upon this rock I will build My church” (vv. 16, 18). This indicates that knowing Christ and experiencing Christ are for the church. Today some condemn us, saying that we are too much for the church, that we make the church greater than Christ. Some go so far as to say that we make the church an idol. This argument is subtle. Oh, the subtlety of the enemy! Christ died on the cross for the church (Eph. 5:25). If we are too much for the church, Christ was the first one to be too much.


After we have seen the vision of the church, the Lord will open our eyes to see the Body. We will see that we need to be built up in the Body. We are not just members of the church; we are members of the Body. For the Body we must not only pay a price—we must lose the self.

By the Lord’s mercy I can testify that from the time I first began to meet on the proper ground more than thirty years ago, I have not changed in this matter. Furthermore, after coming to this ground, by the Lord’s mercy I began to realize and practice the Body, and I am still practicing the Body today. I have not moved from this ground, and I have not changed my position on this ground.

You may not change in the matter of the ground, but you may change your position on the ground. As an illustration let us suppose that various kinds of material are brought to a certain lot, or site, as the ground. All these materials are now on the same ground. However, it is possible for them to remain on the building site and yet have a change of position on that site. In like manner, we have been brought to the proper ground of the church, and on this ground we are practicing the church life. Perhaps a “soft” brother is put together with a “hard” brother. The “soft” one may cry out to the Lord, saying, “Lord, I cannot stand being with this brother. I want to have a change.” This brother is seeking a change not of the ground but a change of position on the ground. He remains on the ground, but he wants a change of relationship on the ground. This is the situation with many in the church life, and it may be your situation. You have not changed concerning the ground, but you may have changed in position, in relationship, again and again.

Some of today’s Christians are wandering among the denominations, among different grounds. At present they are meeting with a particular group, but tomorrow they may begin to meet with a different group. Others are not wandering among different grounds, but they are wandering in their position on the proper ground. This indicates that with them there is a lack of building. They have not been built up with others. But once we have been built up, just as the materials in a house or a meeting hall cannot change their position, so we will not be able to change our position. We are fixed in place and can no longer wander from one position to another.

Why is it so difficult for us to be built up? The difficulty is the self. It does not matter whether the self is good or bad, pleasant or ugly. As long as there is the self, there cannot be any building.

For instance, some brothers have a dominating self, and because of this dominating self they cannot go along with others in doing things for the church. No matter what the situation may be, these brothers must be the dominating ones. How, then, can they have the building? In order for them to be built up with others, the self must be broken. The problem is not their strong character; it is their dominating self. It may be right for them to be strong, but they should not dominate others. A person who is built up with others may be very strong, but he is properly related to others and constantly has fellowship with others. A marble column in a building is strong, but it is related to others. It is strong, but it does not dominate. The situation is the same with a strong brother who has been built up with others in the Body.

(The Heavenly Vision, Chapter 3, by Witness Lee)