Verse 22: "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."
The same words have been spoken six times before. This is the last time. If we do not listen this time, there will be no more chance. This calling is still sounded out loudly to the people of God. How I wish that this calling would meet and create open ears, so that they would no longer be bound by their coldness, and that they would zealously follow the Lord forsaken by the world. What the Spirit can say and should say to the churches has already been spoken. Now He is asking only for open ears to hear what He has spoken. If these words still cannot move their hearts, the Spirit will have nothing more to say.
FULFILLMENT IN HISTORY
This is how the Lord closed His letters to the seven churches. The example of Laodicea has been repeated too many times. We have no more heart to point out who is and who is not Laodicea. The Lord knows whom He is going to spew out; there is no need for me to say anything more. Brothers, if we depart from the dishonorable vessel, we will become the honorable vessels. Our heart is on what the Lord is after. Corporately speaking, Philadelphia preaches that all believers are brothers and that they are all members of the one Body. But Laodicea—the counterfeit of Satan—uses ecumenical conventions to replace the Body of Christ. It sacrifices the truth in order to preserve the whole. It drops the voice of the conscience for the sake of the majority. In man’s eyes, Laodicea has the practice of Philadelphia; it is even considered a greater and more glorious Philadelphia! However, this is what the Lord wants us to come out of. Furthermore, we should not think that as long as we come out of the formal Laodicea, or remove the name from a Christian denomination, we are therefore acknowledging the truth of one Body among Christians. One can find Laodicea among many recently organized denominations; one can find it even among those who have come out of them. All believers are members one of another. This is not just a truth for us to acknowledge with our mouth and conduct; it should be something that we practice in a definite way. I am afraid that after we have read so much, we will think that as long as we are out of the denominations, everything will be all right and we will automatically be in Philadelphia. If one understands in this way, he misunderstands what I am preaching concerning the truth in the Bible. We came out of the denominations because we have experienced the Body of Christ and are compelled to remove what hinders the relationship of oneness among all believers. If this is not the case, to come out of the denominations will merely create confusion and will add another division to the Body of Christ.
What is our experience concerning the oneness of Christ’s Body? It is an experience of life. A life cannot be divided. It is only when we experience the flowing of life among us that we realize the oneness of the Body of Christ. This great truth, like all other Bible doctrines, is an accomplished fact. Yet we need to have the definite experiences of it. The saddest thing is that too many believers today are still living according to the Adamic life so that they do not experience the oneness of the Lord’s life. If we have a clearer separation from the old creation, and if we have a clearer understanding of the Lord’s resurrection life, we will see that not only will we have a deeper union with the Lord (experientially speaking, of course), but we will experience a further oneness with one another. Apart from life, there is no genuine union in the world. The union between the Lord Jesus and the Father is this way, and so is the union between us and the Lord. Why should the union of the believers as the Body of the Lord be otherwise? The real oneness, the oneness that makes us one Body, does not come from agreement of understandings, agreement of comprehension, or agreement of condition. Even if one sacrifices all the differences in opinions, he will still not be able to produce the relationship and experience of being members mutually one of another, a relationship and experience of oneness. It is only when each individual believer seriously puts away all that is of the natural man and of Adam through the cross and lives out the life of the Lord Jesus through the Holy Spirit, that he can know experientially that we are members one of another. If we all are filled with the Lord’s life, how can we stop this life from flowing between one another? This flowing of life is just our experience of the union of the members. This kind of union is the real union; all else is only superficial. (The Lord willing, later on in other places I will give more testimonies concerning this.)
Individually speaking, Laodicea represents a life of freedom and self-will, one which comes from the old creation. Philadelphia, on the other hand, means nothing other than being a prisoner of the Lord, one who has completely forsaken all that is of man, who has obeyed the Lord, and who is living according to the Lord. Unless a believer opens his heart and fully surrenders to the Lord, and unless he is willing henceforth to do nothing according to the self and to fully accept the Lord’s work in him, it will be difficult for him to be delivered from Laodicea. Brothers, this is not a matter of outward behavior; this is a matter of our living. Unless we live by the Lord’s life, much of Laodicea’s work will be manifested. The days are short. May we all be faithful. May we all be more obedient.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 05: The Christian (3), Chapter 4, by Watchman Nee)