The Lord’s Recovery—The Life, Function, and Practical Oneness of the BelieversWe believe that the Lord is moving today to recover the proper testimony of the church in this age based upon the truths revealed in the New Testament. To this end He is working to recover the genuine experience of Christ as life, the function of all the members of His Body, and the practical oneness among the believers.
In The Conclusion of the New Testament Witness Lee provides a helpful explanation of the concept of “recovery”:
When we speak of the recovery of the church, we mean that something was there originally, that it became lost or damaged, and that now there is the need to bring that thing back to its original state. Because the church has become degraded through the many centuries of its history, it needs to be restored according to God’s original intention. Concerning the church, our vision should be governed not by the present situation nor by traditional practice but by God’s original intention and standard as revealed in the Scriptures. (The Conclusion of the New Testament, Messages 221-239, 2447)
In 1948 Watchman Nee spoke of the need for the recovery of the proper testimony of the Body of Christ that would match Ephesians 4:
Brothers and sisters, we believe that there will be a day when God’s recovery will reach the fulfillment of Ephesians 4. God is doing a recovery work everywhere. The ultimate work among all these works may very well be the recovery of the Body testimony. God’s leading today is to bring us back to the beginning and to recover us to the condition at the beginning. (The Collected Works of Watchman Nee, Volume 57: The Resumption of Watchman Nee’s Ministry, 221)
The Experience of Christ as Life
One vital item of recovery to which we are committed is the experience of Christ as life. In the writings of John there are many striking statements that reveal the Lord Himself as life and His intention that His believers know Him as life: “I am the way and the reality and the life” (John 14:6), “I am the resurrection and the life” (11:25), “I have come that they may have life” (10:10), and “He who has the Son has the life” (1 John 5:12), to cite just a few. The “life” spoken of by both John and the Lord Jesus is the very uncreated, divine life of God (Eph. 4:18), the eternal life of the Triune God (John 3:15-16), that is embodied in Christ and was lived out through Him while He was on the earth. It is life of another kind, of a source other than our mere human life. It is the life that is imparted into all believers at their regeneration, that is, when they are born again (v. 6). It is the life meant to be experienced and enjoyed by God’s people for their full salvation (Rom. 5:10). It is only by this life and the experience of the unsearchable riches of Christ that the church can manifest and express Christ as a living reality (Eph. 3:8, 10). In the ministry of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee, this life is the basis for all genuine Christian experience. Throughout their writings the eternal, uncreated life of God is made known, made practical, and made experiential. There is no greater need among God’s people, and no matter more crucial, than the experience of Christ as life.
The Functioning of All the Members of the Body of Christ
Another item being recovered by the Lord today is the crucial matter of the functioning of all the believers to build up the Body of Christ. According to Ephesians 4:11-12, the specially gifted members given to the Body by the Head do not accomplish the building up of the Body directly. Rather, they perfect all the believers to carry out the work of the ministry. Through the functioning of the gifted members as the joints of the rich supply and the operation in the measure of each perfected member, the Body of Christ builds itself up in the divine love organically and in mutuality (Eph. 4:16).
Watchman Nee taught the importance of perfecting, or equipping, all the believers to function as members of the Body rather than limiting the Lord’s service to the work of a few:
In the church no member should be left out. This is not the way taken by the Lord. Today, if the Lord is going to recover His testimony, He must make all the one-talented ones rise up. All who belong to the Lord are the members of the Body. Everyone must rise up and be in his function. (The Collected Works of Watchman Nee, Volume 51: Church Affairs, 57-58)
Witness Lee labored to work out the way to practice this. In the principle of “each one has” (1 Cor. 14:26), everyone in the local churches is encouraged and equipped to be an active participant in the meetings of the churches. Witness Lee laid out the biblical premise:
In the present advance of the Lord’s recovery, He is also moving to recover the church meeting in mutuality (1 Cor. 14:23a, 26). In a big meeting with one person speaking and the rest listening, there is no mutuality. We have to meet as the church in the way that is revealed in 1 Corinthians 14:26— “Whenever you come together, each one has….” For every meeting we should get ourselves exercised to have something ready to share in the meeting. Then day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year, we all will be exercised for the building up of the Body of Christ organically. (The Present Advance of the Lord’s Recovery, 15)
If you visit a Lord’s Day meeting of a local church, you will likely find such a meeting in mutuality: not one speaker, but many—perhaps twenty or thirty—each sharing their portion of Christ from their study of the Word, their contact with the Lord through prayer, and their day-by-day enjoyment and experience of Christ. This, indeed, is a striking characteristic of the churches raised up by this ministry.
A Practical Testimony of Oneness
According to Matthew 16:18, the church is first revealed in the New Testament as universal. Then, in Matthew 18:17, the church in its practicality is revealed as local. Since the universal church includes all believers, so also should its practical expression in a particular locality. Therefore, we hold the conviction that the biblical model for the church as practiced in the first century is more than adequate for the believers today. Since the church is God’s goal in this age and is woven into the very fabric of the gospel (Eph. 1—4), we dare not tamper with, adjust, or add to the blueprint unveiled in Scripture any more than we would tamper with, adjust, or add to the truth of the gospel. That blueprint identifies the church in a given place as being bounded by its geographical location, the city (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5; 1 Cor. 1:2), and is inclusive of all the believers in that city. Hence, we meet only as the church in Los Angeles, the church in London, or the church in Hong Kong, according to the revelation of the New Testament (Acts 8:1; 13:1; Rev. 1:11; 2:1, 8, 12, 18, 3:1, 7, 14). All believers possess the “oneness of the Spirit” (Eph. 4:3), and by meeting on the ground of this oneness, they seek to testify to that oneness, the oneness of the entire Body of Christ. We respect that every believer should be persuaded before the Lord as to how to meet and identify himself. Thus we make no distinction between those who meet with us and those who do not (Rom. 15:7; 1 Cor. 1:9). We feel compelled by conscience to maintain the testimony of oneness for the sake of the entire Body of Christ.
How precious it is simply to take the Word of God by faith. It is our testimony that it is possible to practice the biblical revelation concerning the experience of Christ as life, the building up the Body of Christ by the functioning of all the members in mutuality, and the testimony of the oneness of the Body of Christ in local churches. We believe that what the Lord desires to recover is for the benefit of the entire Body of Christ, and we treasure fellowship in mutuality with our fellow believers in Christ.
This is an excerpt of An open letter from the Local Churches and Living Stream Ministry concerning the Teachings of Witness Lee.
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