Question: Sometimes I live in Shanghai and sometimes in Suchow. When the brothers in Suchow want me to do something for them, they consider me a brother in Suchow. Otherwise, they consider me a brother from Shanghai. Should I be considered as a brother from Shanghai or from Suchow?
Answer: Since you return to Suchow every year during the holidays and you feel that you should bear more responsibility for the meeting in Suchow, perhaps it is right for you to be considered as a brother in Suchow. Since you are in Suchow often, the brothers in Shanghai cannot consult with you about things concerning the assembly in Shanghai. I think you should consider yourself as a brother in Suchow. At present, the assembly in Suchow needs some responsible ones very much.
As to whether a brother should belong to this place or that place, we can say only that it depends on how long this brother stays in each place. Whatever place he stays in longer is the place he should belong to. Additionally, there are questions related to the boundary of the assembly. Concerning this last question, we will cover it in the next Monday night meeting.
Question: We know that when we receive a person, we have to ask him four questions: (1) Is he saved? (2) Does he have the obvious sins in 1 Corinthians 5? (3) Is he willing to be responsible to the meeting? (4) Is he willing to fellowship with the brothers? If a person is saved and does not have any obvious sins that forbid him from partaking of the bread, yet he does not want to be responsible to the meeting or fellowship with the brothers, and instead wants to control us, what should we do?
Answer: Please notice that the first and second points are our conditions for receiving a person to the Lord’s table. The third and fourth points are for discerning the Body. If such a person does not discern the Body, he is eating judgment to himself. All who serve as elders in an assembly should be clear about this. Furthermore, there are two aspects to discerning the Body. First, we have to discern that this Body is the Body of the Lord Jesus and that when we break bread, we are eating and drinking for the remembrance of the Lord. Second, we have to discern this Body as the whole Body of Christ. When we gather together on the Lord’s Day evening to break bread, we should realize not only that the ones who are breaking bread together are the Body of Christ, but that all those who are redeemed by the precious blood of the Lord are the Body of Christ. If a Japanese comes to our midst and breaks bread with us, we should acknowledge him as our dear brother just like all other brothers. If the British in Tibet start a war with China, and an English brother comes into our midst to break bread with us, we should regard him as our dear brother. We should not care for the distinction that exists between men but only for our relationship in the Body of Christ. If one who does not discern the Body comes to break bread with us, we can ask whether he is willing to discern the Body. Is he willing to be responsible to the church for all his actions? If he is not, we will not reject him from partaking of the bread, because he is saved. However, we have to let him know that if he does not discern the Body, he is eating judgment to himself and that it will be to his loss.
Question: Will one die if he eats judgment to himself?
Answer: Yes, he may. If a meeting is holy, and if it knows how to exercise God’s authority, such things can happen. Why is the breaking of bread so important? When one recognizes the Body of Christ and acknowledges that he is a part of this Body yet does not discern it, he is making a false testimony and putting God to shame. Moreover, the testimony of the bread is made before angels, demons, and all the principalities and powers. Therefore, if one makes a false testimony, it is a great shame to God. God will bear with ignorant ones. But to those who sin willingly, who acknowledge yet make false testimonies, He will send forth His punishment.
Question: In a certain place, one brother has incurred a serious illness. He once committed the sin of reviling. Is his illness a punishment from God?
Answer: Yes, it is.
Question: If a brother is sick, must he ask the elders to anoint him with oil before he can be healed?
Answer: There are a few reasons why believers become sick. Some illnesses are caused by carelessness in the natural realm. Some are caused by attacks from Satan. Some are the result of being detached from the Body of Christ. If a believer is sick because of being detached from the Body of Christ and because he is not holding the Head and standing in the proper position in the Body of Christ, he should first understand how he has become detached before he asks the elders to anoint him with oil. The meaning of anointing with oil is to return to the proper position in the Body of Christ through the Holy Spirit. We all know that we are members in the Body of Christ. Just as a member in our body receives the circulation of blood and the life of our body, so the members of the Body of Christ receive the circulation of Christ’s life and His blood. This is typified by the ointment which flows from Aaron’s head to his whole body. As long as the members are standing in their proper positions, the ointment will flow to them; they will receive the protection of the ointment, and their sickness will be gone. All those who take the proper standing in the Body of Christ are under the anointing of the Head. The ointment is on Christ the Head, but it flows from the Head to us. When we have the ointment, we have health. Where there is ointment, there is life. Believers are sick because they fail and because they have become detached and separated from the Body of Christ. When this happens, the life and ointment of Christ will not be able to flow to them.
The book of James says that if anyone among us is sick, he can ask the elders of the church to anoint him with oil (5:14). It says to ask the elders to do the anointing. The gifted ones are useless because the elders represent the church, the Body of Christ. The anointing of the oil signifies the restoring of the sick believer back to the anointing of the Head. If you can bring a person back to the anointing of the Head, his sickness will be healed.