Importance of the Ground of the Local Church
Any Christian who confesses to loving the Lord Jesus and caring about Gods purpose with His church may be familiar with John 17:21, where the Lord Jesus desperately prayed to the Father before His impending crucifixion, that they all may be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that You have sent Me. For the world to believe in the Savior sent from God, there must exist on earth an observable testimony of believers standing together as one. However. any honest observer of the present situation must admit that Gods children, for the most part, have failed to maintain this testimony. Yet there is a solution presented in the Bible, the biblical formula for oneness among the believers: simply keep the ground of the local church, that is, meet as the local church in a city. Actually, to stand on the ground of the local church is the first step toward absolute oneness. To be in the local church is to be in the practical, observable oneness of the Body of Christ. Witness Lee explains below:
According to the book of Revelation, the oneness of the believers in Christ is a local oneness. Anyone who is not in the local oneness is not actually in the oneness at all. Those who are not in a local church are not truly in the church. In order to be in the church we must be in a local church. In the same principle, if we would be in the oneness, we must be in the local oneness, in the practical oneness in our locality. The local oneness is very practical and personal. If you are not personally in this oneness, you are not really in the oneness, and you are not actually in the church. For this reason, in the title of this chapter we spoke of the ultimate revelation of the local oneness. How we praise the Lord for the revelation and recovery of this oneness!
(Witness Lee, Genuine Ground, 139)
As the above quote from Witness Lee indicates, the biblical oneness of the believers is neither hollow, impersonal, nor nominal. It is a practical oneness, a oneness that can be lived out only within the context of a practical local church. Merely meeting as the local church on the scriptural ground of locality certainly does not fulfill the lofty biblical imperative to "think the same thing, having the same love, joined in soul, thinking the one thing" (Phil. 2:2), but it is at least the first step. Indeed, the unity displayed among believers who congregate based upon the scriptural ground of the local church is so basic and tangible that, in its absence, one must question the sincerity, or at least the commitment among believers to true Christian oneness. God greatly treasures this oneness,as seen in Psalm 133 where He blesses the brothers who dwell together in oneness:
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
Here God praises as well as promises abundant spiritual blessing to the brothers who dwell together in unity. Such practical oneness invites the outpouring of the rich anointing Spirit signified by the precious flowing ointment, and the refreshing grace of God signified by the dew of Hermon. In its New Testament application, it is only through our oneness with the Body of Christ that we can, by association, share in the abundant blessings poured upon Christ the Head (2 Cor. 1:21). There, in the place of oneness, the Lord commands the blessing, even life forevermore. Witness Lees co-worker Watchman Nee spoke from both knowledge and experience when he linked the believers oneness with Gods spiritual blessing:
The clearer the ground of the church is, the richer are the spiritual blessings. In these recent years and in particular during the past one or two years, we have seen God blessing the church ground. Many brothers and sisters have begun to see the difference between the way of individualism and the ground of the church. As the authority of the Holy Spirit is manifested in all the members, causing them to serve God in coordination rather than in individual activities, we see the Lords blessing. In some local churches the members increase twofold, fivefold, and tenfoldall in multiples.
(Watchman Nee, Further Talks, 25)
It has been the testimony of many Christian brothers and sisters that when they, by the mercy of God, received and practiced the Biblical imperative to meet on the scriptural ground of the local church, Gods grace and His abundant life supply filled them as never before. Perhaps many more who are mired in spiritual poverty would find seasons of spiritual refreshing and untold blessing when they resolutely stand as one on the ground of the local church for Christs Body and for Gods testimony.
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