THREE ITEMS WHICH DAMAGE THE CHURCH
The enemy Satan has used three main items to damage the church: Jewish religion, Greek philosophy, and human organization. These are the major sources of the church’s division, ruin, and corruption. Because these items invaded the church, some of the faithful, living members of the church were burdened to defend the church, to keep the church away from Judaism, Greek philosophy, and human organization. These defenders were devoted Christians who loved the Lord, but they were not so clear about God’s goal to gain the church as the corporate Body, the new man, the kingdom, the household, the habitation of God, the bride, and the warrior. Thus, although their intention was good, they made big mistakes in their defending of the church. In their intention to defend the church, some of them actually brought more damage to the church.
HIERARCHY BROUGHT INTO THE CHURCH
We can see an instance of this in the second century with a strong leader and defender of the church named Ignatius. Ignatius wrongly taught that an overseer, or a bishop, is higher than an elder. In Acts 20, however, Paul called the elders in the church in Ephesus bishops, or overseers (vv. 17, 28). The Greek word episkopos can be translated overseer or bishop. Epi means over and skopos means seer. The term elder denotes a person of maturity, while the term bishop, or overseer, denotes the responsibility and function of an elder. The responsibility and function of an elder is to oversee the church. From the erroneous teaching of Ignatius that bishops are higher than elders came the mistaken concept that elders are for a local church and bishops are for a region of churches. This led to the episcopal system of ecclesiastical government. This wrong teaching also became the source of the hierarchy of bishops, archbishops, cardinals, and the pope in today’s Roman Catholic Church. Ignatius was able to make such a big mistake because he was not clear about the Body, the one new man. His erroneous teaching gave the ground to rank within the church and brought hierarchy into the church.
THE DEFENDING OF THE TRUTH
CONCERNING CHRIST AND THE DIVINE TRINITY
In the early days of the church, some great teachers stood up to defend the truth that Christ is both God and man. This was because Greek philosophy had entered into the church. When this philosophy became mingled with Christian teachings, it became known as Gnosticism, which taught that all matter is essentially evil. Those who held to the teaching of Gnosticism could not believe that Christ could have had the defilement of human flesh. Hence, they denied the incarnation, redemption, and resurrection of Christ. This is why the apostle John wrote that any spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ came in the flesh is not of God (1 John 4:2-3).
The defenders of the truth attempted to clear up the different opinions concerning the person of Christ. This resulted in Christology, which is the study of who Christ is, the study of Christ’s person. Arius was a heretical teacher who said that Christ was a creature but that He was not the Creator. The council assembled at Nicaea in A.D. 325 declared Arianism a heresy and rejected it. The Nicene Creed stresses that God is triune, that the Godhead has three persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Many, however, unconsciously and subconsciously believe that there are three separate Gods. They do not understand that God is triune, not for doctrinal study or debate, but for the dispensing of Himself into His chosen and redeemed people.
Our God is the Triune God, and He has been processed so that He can be dispensed into us. For a watermelon to be dispensed into us, it must first be cut into slices. As we chew these slices, they become juice. The whole watermelon, the slices, and the juice may be considered as the "trinity of the watermelon." When the watermelon has been processed into juice, it can easily be taken into us to become our very element. God the Father has been processed through God the Son, and now He is God the Spirit. The Spirit today is like the juice of the watermelon available for us to drink. We all have been given to drink of one Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13). The Bible does not tell us that we have been given to drink of one Father or of one Son. We cannot drink the whole watermelon or the slices of watermelon, but we can drink its juice. Likewise, we can drink the Spirit, who is the ultimate consummation of the processed Triune God. Our God today is the "juice God." God has been processed.
The Divine Trinity was not fully revealed until the Lord Jesus was resurrected. After the Lord’s resurrection, He came back to charge the disciples to go and disciple the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19). The Divine Trinity was never so clearly revealed as it was after the Lord’s resurrection, because after His resurrection, God was fully processed. The "watermelon" has been fully processed to become the "juice." Because God has been processed, He is drinkable. The book of Revelation concludes with a call to take the water of life (22:17). The water of life is the processed God, the life-giving Spirit. Those defenders of the truth who wrote the Nicene Creed were not clear that the Triune God had been processed for the divine dispensing of Himself into His elect.
(The History of the Church and the Local Churches, Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)