THE CHURCH AS ONEPrint This Page.
The Bible says that there is only one church. The church which Paul was in is the same church that we are in. The church that we are in is the same church that the apostle John, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and all regenerated persons are in. The church in the Bible is not separated by time, locality, or race. There is only one church, which exists at all times and in all places. There are not two churches. The Bible only recognizes one Body of Christ and never recognizes two, because there is only one Head. Although there are many members in the Bible, the Body is singular. Therefore, all saved persons past and present, here and elsewhere constitute one church and one Body. If this is the case, why are there “churches” in different places? Since Ephesians mentions one Body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God, why does the Bible mention churches also? Is this not a contradiction? Why is it that, on the one hand, there is only one Body, but on the other hand, there are many churches? This shows us that there are different views in the Bible concerning the Body of Christ and the local churches. Strictly speaking, there is only one church, in the same way that there is only one Body of Christ. However, in each locality, there may be as many as three to five thousand believers, or there may be as few as two or three, as described in Matthew 18. As long as there is a group of believers meeting together in a city or a town, that group of believers constitutes the church in that city or town. Therefore, in the original language, the Bible clearly shows us that the church is “the church in such-and-such place.” The word in indicates that there is only one church, which is scattered and sojourning in different places. The Bible calls the meeting of those who sojourn and meet together in one place a local church; it serves as a miniature representation of the unique church.
We treasure very much the words in Romans 12 which say, “We who are many are one Body.” “We” includes all the believers. There is only one bread. Therefore, do not think that we have one bread in Wen-teh Lane and another bread in Gordon Lane, and yet another in Peking or Changchun. Materially speaking, in the whole world there can be hundreds and thousands of loaves, but before God there is only one bread, spiritually speaking. However, we cannot participate in only one bread, because we are limited in our flesh by time and space. If it were possible, all the believers in the world would break only one bread. Although brothers can break bread in Changchun, Peking, Hangchow, or Nan-shu-chow, there is only one bread before God. The one bread that we touch on the Lord’s Day evening in Shanghai is the same bread that Brother Luan touched in Hangchow and that Brother Hwang touched in Nan-shu-chow. The bread that is broken in every place and the Body of Christ that it represents is the same bread and same Body of Christ in every place. God has only one church in the world. This one church is scattered in all the cities and villages. These scattered churches in the cities and villages are called the churches in those cities or the churches in those villages. For convenience’ sake, we call the churches in all the cities and villages the churches of God. Actually, the churches of God are just the church of God. The Lord charges us to break the bread every Lord’s Day in order to remind us that the churches in the various localities are not independent churches but are joined as one church. This is why we have the symbol of the one bread. The one bread reminds us that although there are many believers in all places and at all times, and although there are many local churches, we are still one bread.
I do not like to use political figures for illustration, because the subject of politics is too fashionable. But I have to use one today. The Nationalist Party of China respects Mr. Sun Yat-sen to the utmost. All government offices have the picture of Mr. Sun. There may be thousands and tens of thousands of pictures of Mr. Sun, but the person they represent is the same. In the same way, we may be breaking thousands of loaves of bread, but the Body of Christ, which these loaves represent, is just one, and the Lord, whom these loaves represent, is just one. Therefore, the miniature churches in all the places are representations of the whole Body of Christ. When we see a local assembly with fifty people meeting, we should realize immediately that they represent all the believers at all times and in all places. Today in Gordon Lane there are over fifty people meeting. If in Bao-shan there are only seven or eight people meeting, the bread which they break before the Lord at the Lord’s table includes Peter, Paul, Martin Luther, Wesley, and others; it also includes you and me. Therefore, whether it be the meeting in Bao-shan, Hangchow, Soo-chia-tsui, or anywhere else, all these meetings represent the Body of Christ. This is why no church can act independently. All the moves must take care of the whole church. While you are sitting in a meeting, you should not see only the brothers and sisters next to you but the whole Body of Christ. What you are doing affects not only the one or two hundred people who are meeting with you; it affects the whole Body of Christ because we only have one Body. Although you are only a member, what you do is what the Body of Christ does. One member can drag down the whole Body.
Most of the Chinese who live in Southeast Asia are from the provinces of Fukien and Kwangtung. Everywhere in Southeast Asia, whether in a village or in a city, one can find Chinese Associations. The number of members in these associations may vary, but if an association receives respect in one place, it means that the whole Chinese race receives respect in that place, and if an association is persecuted in a place, it means that the whole Chinese race is persecuted in that place. Just as these associations represent China in Southeast Asia, we represent the church in our respective localities. Since this is the case, we can see how intimately related the conduct of an individual church is to the conduct of the Body of Christ. We can also see the relationship between the various assemblies. Although you are a miniature church and a small community within a certain boundary, God intends that this miniature church, this small community, express the large-scale church, the large community. Therefore, what we are doing in the small local churches represents and includes all that the Body of Christ does. For this reason, we have to be related to other local churches and the brothers and sisters in the other localities.