THE VESSELS AND THE ALTAR
When the Lord stirred up the spirits of the people to return to Jerusalem, not only was there a recovery of the ground of oneness; there was also a spontaneous recovery of all the positive things that had been lost. The vessels that Nebuchadnezzar "had brought forth out of Jerusalem, and had put..in the house of his gods" were brought back to Jerusalem (Ezra 1:7-11). Moreover, once the remnant of the people had returned, "they set the altar in its place" (Ezra 3:3, Heb.). God’s people knew that the place for the altar was not in Babylon, but only in the unique place of God’s choice in Jerusalem. The altar could not even be put in any place in the good land. It had to be set up on the very place Abraham offered Isaac to God on Mount Moriah. Anyone who wanted to present an offering to God had to go to that definite, specific, and unique place.
Today this unique place is the oneness. Whenever Christians lose the oneness, they automatically lose the place to set up the altar. As a result, they have no way to present a proper offering to the Lord. Before coming into the church life, many of us tried to offer ourselves to the Lord. I can testify that a number of times I consecrated myself to Him. But from our experience both before and after we came into the church life, we can testify that such a consecration was not genuine. Without returning to the unique ground of oneness, there is no way to offer anything to God. Soon after God’s people had returned to Jerusalem, they set up the altar and began offering sacrifice again. It was the same in our experience. After we came into the church life, we found ourselves able to consecrate ourselves to the Lord in a proper and genuine way.
THE PROPER FUNCTION OF THE CONSCIENCE
Furthermore, it was after they returned from captivity that God’s people dealt with their mixed marriages with the heathen (Ezra 9:1-7). Their conscience could no longer tolerate such an ungodly practice. This was a spontaneous result of returning to the ground of oneness. Surely there were many mixed marriages among the people in Babylon. However, their conscience caused them to deal with these marriages only after they returned from captivity.
The same is true in the Lord’s recovery today. After we came into the church life, our conscience began to function in a proper way. We "girded up our loins" and became careful regarding matters about which we had previously been rather loose. Before we came to the Lord’s recovery, we might have been free to engage in certain worldly amusements. But after we came into the church life, our whole being was girded up. We began to pursue godliness, and we had an increased desire to pray and to read the Word. Spontaneously we exercised our conscience more thoroughly. This behavior was not the result of teaching or regulation. It was the automatic issue of returning to the ground of oneness. Simply because we had come into the church life, we had a desire for godliness. Many negative things began to drop off, and many positive things became our experience. For example, we had the sense within that we should no longer practice Christmas. No one charged us to discontinue the celebration of Christmas. We simply began to have the sense that we should no longer celebrate it. In like manner, we began to discard many other negative things and to enjoy positive things. This illustrates the fact that when the oneness is recovered, all the positive things are recovered along with it.
(The Genuine Ground of Oneness, Chapter 9, by Witness Lee)