THE TESTIMONY OF JESUS
In Revelation, as the last book of the New Testament, the importance of the church is stressed even more as the testimony of Jesus in each locality. Every local church is a lampstand shining out Christ. Without a proper local church, the testimony of Jesus could never be practical and prevailing.
THE INWARD AND OUTWARD ASPECTS OF THE CHURCH
Having seen the importance of the church, we now come to the inward and outward aspects of the church. According to God’s ordained principle, virtually everything in the universe has two aspects, an inward aspect related to the content and an outward aspect related to the appearance. This is also true of the church. The inward aspect of the church is the content of the church and is related to the church’s testimony. The outward aspect of the church is related to the ground of the church, to the church’s appearance. The content of the church is the church’s testimony, but the appearance of the church is the church’s ground. Many so-called spiritual believers care only for the content of the church, the testimony, but not at all for the ground of the church. However, it is ridiculous to care for the one aspect and neglect the other. We should have a high regard for both the content of the church and ground of the church.
Our very existence as human beings testifies that we must care for both aspects. As humans, we have an inward aspect, our soul and spirit, and an outward aspect as well, our body. Although we very much appreciate our spirit and our soul, we also devote a great deal of attention to the care of our physical bodies. Actually, most of the things in our culture are designed for the care of man’s physical existence. We dare not minimize the importance of the outward aspect of human life.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE GROUND OF THE CHURCH
Although we can easily see the importance of the outward aspect of man’s life, we may not see the importance of the outward aspect of the church. Some so-called spiritual people actually ignore the ground of the church. They may even claim that this aspect of the church is unimportant or unnecessary. They may realize that to touch this aspect of the church can cause problems. In dealing with spirituality or with the spiritual testimony of the church, on the contrary, the problems may be fewer. But when we come to the outward aspect of the church, to the ground of the church, many problems arise. This is the reason that those who pursue spirituality often attempt to avoid the matter of the ground of the church. Nevertheless, just as we care for our physical bodies in order to maintain our existence, so we must also take care of the ground of the church in order to practice the proper church life. Apart from the ground of the church, there is no way for the church to exist in a practical way. Because the ground of the church is neglected, there is no practical expression of the church in today’s Christianity. By this we see that the matter of the church ground is extremely crucial.
More than fifty years ago in China, the Lord raised up a group of young Christians and brought them into His recovery. As the years went by, we gradually came to see the ground of the church. However, it was not until 1937, when Brother Nee delivered the messages printed in The Normal Christian Church Life, that we clearly saw the importance of the church ground. Now, by the Lord’s mercy, this matter has been made crystal clear to us.
The question of the ground of the church exposes the seriousness of division. Whenever we come to the church ground, we must be prepared to face the problem of division. As we all know, today there are hundreds of divisions among Christians. These divisions are all related to the neglect of the ground of the church, not of the content or testimony of the church.
The ground of the church is the oneness of the church. When we have oneness, we have the ground. But if we lose the genuine oneness, we also lose the ground. Hence, to speak of the ground of the church it is necessary for us to see the oneness of the church. This oneness is a great truth in the Scriptures.
(The Genuine Ground of Oneness, Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)