Question: If that is the case, can a person who represents the church go to the sick brother and anoint him? Will this heal the sick brother?
Answer: Yes, this can be done. But before the anointing is applied, there must first be the confession of sins and prayers. James says that we have to confess our sins to one another. The reason there is the need for confession is that the mutual relationship in the Body has been severed. There is the need of confession in order to remove the sin of detachment and return to the original position. If the detachment remains, it is useless even if there is the anointing. Therefore, one must first remove the detachment and thoroughly confess his criticisms of and offenses with the brothers. Before they can anoint others with oil, even the elders have to confess their sins to one another in order to remove any detachments and blockages and return to the proper relationship in the Body of Christ. Only then will the oil of Christ the Head flow onto the members.
Question: What kind of oil should we use for the anointing, and where should we apply the oil?
Answer: The best kind of oil is olive oil. But if one does not have olive oil, he can use any kind of oil. The oil should be applied to the head.
Question: How should one deal with a believer who has disturbed the meeting and been stopped by the elders but does not listen, but who has not committed the sins of 1 Corinthians 5?
Answer: We should inform the brothers to stay away from him. The elders are those who are particularly charged to bear spiritual responsibility. If there are such people in a locality, the elders should be responsible to deal with them in their prayers. We have to know that it is a serious thing to deal with a brother in prayer. If a few responsible brothers would deal with such matters in one accord and in a sober way, many tragic, serious, and dangerous things can happen because God will use His appointed authority to judge. This is not a question of being good at prayer or not. When trouble arose in Corinth, Paul rebuked them for not being able to deal with the situation. This is why the elders have to be careful and deal with matters properly. If moral corruption in the flesh is not dealt with, such flesh will be destroyed. This will result in terrible consequences. Therefore, we have to learn to be obedient persons so that our flesh will be morally restrained and so that we will not cause any trouble.
Question: What does it mean to meet by standing on the ground of the church? How can we know that our meeting is standing on the ground of the church?
Answer: If you go to a new place and find an assembly in which baptism, the breaking of bread, the way of meeting, the place given to woman, and the appointment of elders and deacons are all done according to the Bible and which is the same as we are, you must not rashly join their table and their fellowship. I have to clarify one thing here: Concerning the matter of the breaking of bread and the fellowship, we are, at the same time, very open and very closed. We are open because all of God’s children, as long as they are not disqualified from fellowship according to the Scripture, are received by us if they come, irrespective of what denominations they come from. We are closed because we cannot go to others for fellowship or the breaking of bread, as long as they are not standing on the ground of the church, no matter how scriptural in form their meeting may be.
If you find an assembly which is very scriptural in form and looks the same as we do, you must not presume that everything is the same and that we can join them. There is one very crucial question, which is whether or not the meeting is standing on the ground of the church. Before this question is properly answered, you cannot go to them and join them in the breaking of bread. The reason we do not go to the denominations to join them in the bread breaking is that they are not standing on the ground of the church. Their bread cannot represent the whole Body of Christ but merely their own denominations.
What does it mean to be “standing on the ground of the church”? Two things are very crucial.
(1) One must not be a sect. What is the difference between a sect and the church? The church includes all the believers, while a sect only includes a part of all the believers. A sect erects walls within the church and divides itself from the rest of those who belong to the church. A sect is not standing on the ground of the church, because it bears a name which is not shared by the whole church. It emphasizes special truths which the whole church does not necessarily emphasize, and it has a fellowship (with its members) which is not shared by the whole church. In order to stand on the ground of the church, an assembly must not have a name that is different from the general name of the church; it must not have any special truths or special membership.
(2) In order to stand on the ground of the church, one must live out the Body. If you come across a certain group which does not have a name, creed, or membership and which meets and practices other matters according to the Scripture and is the same as we are, you must still ask (even though it is not a sect) whether it is living out the Body life. Not every group that is not a sect is standing on the ground of the church. If a group is not a sect on the negative side, it does not necessarily follow that it knows the Body of Christ and the church of God on the positive side.
You must see whether an assembly can bear the responsibility of being the local church in that locality. If there are small meetings of similar nature in its locality, does this assembly strive to join itself to them to become the local church in that locality? Does it deal with them, teach them, and help them to realize the nature of a local church? Or does it ignore the issue and allow the situation to remain loose, disqualifying any of the meetings from becoming a representation of the local church? If there are independent free preachers in that locality who do not belong to any denominations, does this assembly take the initiative to guide and deal with such ones, so that there will not be isolated workers in that locality? Or does this assembly care only for itself and adopt an attitude of unconcern toward other workers? Is it trying its best to accommodate all of God’s children, or is it digging deep ditches and building walls around its own small community? If it does these things, it is not standing on the ground of the church and not trying to bear the responsibility of being the local church in that locality.
In addition, even if an assembly has taken the responsibility of being the local church in that locality, one must still investigate whether it has adopted an attitude of “localism,” in which it cares only for its own locality. Does such an assembly recognize that the church of God is universal and that it has to fellowship with other local assemblies who are standing on the ground of the church? If it does not want to fellowship with other local assemblies and bear the responsibility of walking in the same footsteps as the others, it is still not standing on the ground of the church. An assembly that stands on the ground of the church should be responsible for representing the members of the Body of Christ in that locality. It should try to fellowship with other members of the Body of Christ in other localities. (For further explanation, see the main text in this chapter.) If an assembly does all these things, it is standing on the ground of the church.
I believe you know that in the Bible there were originally only local churches. Today the (outward) church has degraded and fallen into serious divisions. Since there are so many denominations in one locality, no one meeting can claim to be the local church in that locality anymore. Therefore, we can only say that we are merely an assembly that stands on the ground of the local church; we are not “the local church.” The reason we stand on the ground of the church is that so many of the existing denominational meetings are not standing on the ground of the church in that locality.
Question: If a table meeting is willing to receive all of God’s children, can we then say that such a meeting is standing on the ground of the church?
Answer: The first thing to settle is the meaning of standing on the ground of the church. We know that to stand on the ground of the church, one must not be a sect. Yet this is the negative aspect only. On the positive side, one must express the life of the Body of Christ. This means that one must not act independently, and there must be the willingness to move together with all the brothers who are not in the sects. Of course, we cannot take the same way as the brothers in the sects. Yet, even though the church is in ruins today, there are still those who desire to walk outside the sects and human organizations. We should take the same way together with those who are not in the sects. Only then can we say that we are standing on the ground of the church.
Strictly speaking, the expression “standing on the ground of the church” applies only to today, a time when the church has become degraded. When the church really becomes one, without sects or human organizations, everyone will be standing on the ground of the church and expressing the life of the Body of Christ. But at present, the (outward) church is in ruins, and men have divided themselves into sects and walk according to human ways. Therefore, there is the need for a group of people who will not only be non-sectarian but who will also stand on the ground of the church to express the proper life of the Body on behalf of the whole church.
In many places today, there are believers who see the error of the sects but who do not see the Body of Christ. They think that as long as there are no sects, nothing could be better. They do not realize that being rid of the sects is only the negative aspect. Although the church has lost its outward oneness, those who have left this disunity must still walk according to the principle of the oneness of the church in everything. Therefore, even when a table is willing to receive all of God’s children, we must still ask if its work, testimony, and fellowship are joined to all those who have left the sects. It must not have the concept that because others have become sects, those who are left behind and do not want to be in a sect can no longer be one like those in the early days when there were no sects. All those who are not in the sects should express the proper Body life of the church. If anyone thinks that he is not in a sect but does not want to cooperate in work and fellowship with others who are not in a sect but would rather act independently, he is not standing on the ground of the church even though he receives all of God’s children. He still does not know what the Body of Christ is. As such, that table is still not the Lord’s table, because that bread cannot represent all the believers. Since its work does not include all of God’s children, and in particular, those children who are not in the sects, we cannot participate in that bread. God has not excused us from expressing the Body life just because other members have divisions among themselves.
If a denomination is willing to openly receive all of God’s children, can we go and fellowship with it? Surely we cannot. If there are brothers who are not in a sect in one place who do not fellowship with those who are not in a sect in another place, they are the same as the denominations and not standing on the ground of the church. In reality, they are another sect, and we cannot go and break bread with them. But this does not mean that we will not receive them when they come to us. It merely means that we cannot go to them.