I. The Local Church
The church is the expression of Christ, but how can the church be practically expressed? Only by the local churches, i.e., by one church in each locality. As the expression of Christ, the church is universally one, but it is expressed in many, many local churches.
The church could never be expressed without the local churches. Every local church is the practical expression of the church. This is why in Matthew 16:18 the Lord Jesus mentioned the building of the church upon the Rock. But in Matthew 18:15-20, the Lord said something about the local church. The church mentioned in Matthew 18 must be a local church, because it is a place where we can go. The Lord said that if you have some problem with a brother, go to him first. If he listens to you, the problem is solved. But if he does not, you must bring one or two with you to witness to him, expecting him to listen to them. If he still does not listen, then you are to bring the problem to the church. Of course, this must be the local church. It could not be the universal church. We could never bring a problem to the universal church. (24)
Below, Witness Lee provides many more scriptural references to the local church as the expression of the church in practicality.
What is the practical expression of the church which is the expression of Christ? It is the local churches. Without local churches, there is no possibility for the church to be expressed. Without local churches, the church only becomes a kind of term; it becomes something in the heavens, something in the future, something for us to look forward to, but not so real and practical today on this earth. But according to the Bible it is not so. In the Bible the church is exceedingly practical. In Matthew 18 the Lord Jesus tells us that if we have a problem with a brother and it cannot be solved with two or three brothers, we must bring it to the church. There is no doubt that this is the local church in practicality.
Then in the Book of Acts, we immediately see the first expression of the church on the earth. Acts 8:1 says, the church which was at Jerusalem. It does not say the church in the heavens, but the church at Jerusalem. It is a local church, and this local church is the expression of the universal church. In Acts 13:1, there is the church at Antioch. This is another expression of the church, another local church. Now we can see one church with at least two expressions: one is at Jerusalem, the other at Antioch. All local churches are the expressions of the one (universal) church.
As we continue through the New Testament, we see the church at Cenchrea (Rom. 16:1), the church at Corinth (I Cor. 1:2; II. Cor. 1:1). The Bible never says the churches in one place, but always the church at a certain placee. g. the church at Jerusalem, the church at Antioch, the church at Cenchrea, and the church at Corinth. Every local church is an expression of the one church. The church is one, but the expressions of the church many. And these many expressions of the church are the local churches. The churches in Judea (Gal. 1:22, 1 Thes. 2:14), the churches of the Gentiles (Rom. 16:4), the churches of Syria and Cilicia (Acts 15:41), every church in every place (I Cor. 4:17; Acts 14:23), the churches of God (I Cor. 11:16), the churches of Christ (Rom. 16:16), all the churches of the saints (I Cor. 14:34), and all churches (I Cor. 7:17) mentioned in the New Testament all refer to the local churches, which were the many local expressions of the one universal church in the first century, on this earth both in the Jewish world and in the Gentile world. (25-26)
In these passages, Witness Lee clearly demonstrates from Scripture the fact that the local churches are the local, visible expressions of the unique church. Without our understanding of the church in its local aspect, the church remains impractical and inaccessible. However, with this understanding as well as our participation, the universal church can be expressed practically in each city as a local church.
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