Wednesday, August 1, 2007Print This Page.:

THE CHURCH IN THE CITY AND THE CHURCH IN THE HOUSEPrint This Page.

Question: Concerning the ground of the church, we have said that there should be only one church in a city, because there is only one unit. Some people, however, speak of “the church in a house,” quoting the Scriptures as their basis, as being an additional unit to the locality. They imply that the church may possibly have several units in a locality. What should we say to this kind of statement?Answer: The New Testament has a total of four passages which refer to “the church in a house,” that is, in a home.Romans 16:5“And greet the church, which is in their house.” “Their” refers to Prisca and Aquila mentioned in verse 3. Here the fact is simple. The church in Rome, like hundreds and thousands of other local churches, first started in the house of a brother. This means that the principal members of such a house were brothers and sisters in the Lord. At the same time, there were not many members in the church; therefore, they used this brother’s house for their meeting place. This is a historical matter, not a doctrinal matter. It is possible to give an explanation for a doctrine, but it is impossible to give an explanation for historical events, because historical events are facts. Anyone who is acquainted with history knows that hundreds and thousands of churches first started in homes. Therefore, the church in a certain place became the church in a certain person’s house. The church in Rome was the church in Prisca and Aquila’s home.Question: Some say that since Paul sent greetings to the church in Rome as well as to the church in a house, this signifies that there was not only a local church but also a church in a house. Are there not, therefore, two churches?Answer: Let us consider the matter slowly. I fear that you have not listened to the word of God carefully. The book of Romans never speaks of “the church in Rome.” How then could the apostle have greeted the church in Rome? The book of Romans does not present clearly in writing one greeting to “the church in Rome” and another greeting to “the church in the house.” But in greeting the church in the house of Prisca and Aquila, it is implied that such a greeting is to the church in Rome, which was meeting in Prisca and Aquila’s house. Hence, the church in Rome was the church in Prisca and Aquila’s house.I presume the difficulty of those who argue about the church in both the house and the locality lies in the fact that after verse 5 Paul mentions so many names. I think all Bible expositors know that after Paul greeted the church in verse 5, he purposely mentioned several important individuals and especially greeted them one by one. This does not mean, however, that these people were outside the church in the house, but that they were the ones inside the church in the house to whom Paul sent his particular greetings. Some people, besides being included in his general greetings to the church, needed special attention. Do not make the mistake of thinking that since everyone is included in the general greetings to the church, it is unnecessary to add further greetings to them individually. That is not holy affection; neither is it the fact. Paul did not do such a thing, and neither would you or I.The proof of this is in verse 3. If the greeting sent to the church automatically included everyone and it was unnecessary to greet them again by mentioning certain names, Paul should not have greeted Prisca and Aquila in verse 3. Paul should have greeted in verse 5 just “the church, which is in their [Prisca and Aquila’s] house.” Should this not have included Prisca and Aquila already? Greeting the whole church naturally includes individuals. However, mentioning individuals in addition to greeting the church does not mean that these individuals are not of the church but members of another group. If this were so, then Prisca and Aquila were not of the church that was in their own house! Do you see the point? Paul greeted Prisca and Aquila in verse 3. Then in verse 5 he proceeded to greet the church which was in their house. If mentioning individual names in addition to greeting the church means that these individuals were not of this church and that there was another church in existence, then even Prisca and Aquila, whom Paul mentioned separately in his greeting, were not of the church which was in their own house!The fact is that the church in the house of Prisca and Aquila was the church in Rome. The church in Rome at that time was in the house of Prisca and Aquila. Just as the individuals mentioned before verse 5, such as Prisca and Aquila, were of this church, so the many individuals named after verse 5 were also of this church. Moreover, the many individuals who were not mentioned were also of this same church.In verses 10 and 11 two more houses are mentioned in which there were also the Lord’s people. Nevertheless, Paul did not say, “Greet the church in Aristobulus’s house” or “Greet the church in Narcissus’s house.” Only in verse 5 did Paul say, “Greet the church, which is in their [Prisca and Aquila’s] house.” Even though the whole household of Aristobulus believed in the Lord, there was only one church in Rome, which was the church that was in the house of Prisca and Aquila. Therefore, although there were believers of the household of Aristobulus, they could not become the church. Although many of Narcissus’s household were believers, the believers in his house could not become an independent church. There was only one church in Rome, which was the church in the house of Prisca and Aquila. Therefore the Bible does not mention the church in the house of Narcissus. The household of Aquila, the household of Aristobulus, and the household of Narcissus all belonged to the church in Rome. Although these were three households of believers, there were not three churches. There was only one church. Rome was a locality; therefore, it had only one church, which was in the house of Prisca and Aquila.History tells us that Rome was a very large city during the time of the Lord. But in the early days the believers in Rome were few. Because the city was large and the believers were scattered throughout the city, it was normal for Paul to add personal greetings to the greeting sent to the church in Rome, which was meeting in the house of Prisca and Aquila. He especially mentioned, “Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers with them” (v. 14), and also, “Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints with them” (v. 15). These saints were scattered in places far away from each other in the city of Rome, just like the saints today in the church in Shanghai who live in the Yangshupu District or the region of Jiangwan. But Paul told us that there was only one church in the city of Rome and that was the one in the house of Prisca and Aquila. Although they were scattered and a few brothers were together with those who lived nearby, Paul did not call them the church; Paul only called them “the brothers with them” or “all the saints with them.” Only one church can exist in one locality.First Corinthians 16:19“The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Prisca greet you much in the Lord with the church, which is in their house.”This salutation was given in A.D. 59 when Aquila and Prisca lived in Ephesus (Acts 18:18-19). The church in Ephesus was meeting in their house; it was therefore called “the church, which is in their house.” This does not mean that one church was in the city of Ephesus and another church was in their house. It means that the church in the city of Ephesus was the church in the house of Aquila and Prisca. This historical fact cannot be changed.Later, they returned to Rome and again opened their home to be the meeting place for the church in Rome. They were really a faithful and lovely couple.Colossians 4:15-16“Greet the brothers in Laodicea, as well as Nymphas and the church, which is in his house. And when this letter is read among you, cause that it be read in the church of the Laodiceans also.”We can discover from history that the church in Laodicea met in the house of a brother by the name of Nymphas, a believer in Laodicea, not Colossae. (Please refer to the writings of Moore, Alford, Earle, and Finley.) Therefore, Paul called the church in Laodicea the church which was in Nymphas’s house, that is, the church in Laodicea in the house of Nymphas. This is a fact, and it is very evident.Question: Is it possible that “the brothers” mentioned in verse 15 are different from the church?Answer: No. How could it be possible? Paul mentions three categories of people: 1) the brothers, 2) Nymphas, and 3) the church. If the brothers and the church are not the same, where does Nymphas fit in? It says, “The brothers…as well as Nymphas.” Does “the brothers” include “Nymphas” or not? Everyone has to acknowledge that “the brothers” includes “Nymphas.” Therefore, both “the brothers” and “Nymphas” are of the same group. Although both are of the same group, after Paul had greeted the brothers (that is, after Nymphas had been included in the greeting to the brothers), he especially singled out Nymphas and greeted him personally.Furthermore, regarding “Nymphas” and “the church, which is in his [Nymphas’s] house,” does the latter include the former? Of course, the church has to include him. If so, why is it not enough for Paul to say, “Greet the church, which is in the house of Nymphas”? Although the church in his house includes Nymphas, Paul still says, “Greet…Nymphas and the church, which is in his house.” He greets the church, but he especially greets Nymphas.In these three categories of people, Nymphas is a part of each. In the same manner, “the brothers” and “the church” are identical. Therefore, Paul does not stop with greeting “the brothers in Laodicea,” he goes on to greet a particular brother by the name of “Nymphas.” Since the meeting of the church is in Nymphas’s house, Paul therefore goes on to greet “the church, which is in his house.” “The brothers” refers to individuals, while the church refers to the whole group. But they are identical. Paul first greets individuals, then greets the whole church.Question: What is the relationship between “the church, which is in his house” in verse 15 and “the church of the Laodiceans” in verse 16?Answer: Verse 15 is a greeting, while verse 16 regards the reading of the Epistle. In verse 15 Paul greets the brothers in Laodicea who are the church meeting in Nymphas’s house. In verse 16 he spontaneously informs those at Colossae explicitly and without further explanation that the brothers in Laodicea whom he has greeted in verse 15 are the church that meets in Nymphas’s house and that this church is the church in Laodicea. Now he requests that the brothers in Laodicea read his Epistle to the Colossians. (Colossae is only twelve miles away from Laodicea.) By reading these two verses carefully, you will see that the church in Nymphas’s house in Laodicea (v. 15) is the very church of the Laodiceans (v. 16). Peter is Cephas, and Cephas is Peter—the two are interchangeable. The same is true here.Philemon 1-2“To Philemon…to Apphia…to Archippus…and to the church, which is in your house.”Philemon was a believer living in Colossae, and he was a co-worker of the apostle Paul. The church in Colossae met in his house; consequently, the phrase “to the church, which is in your house,” indicates the church in Colossae. This is history.Theotorian (?) said that until the fifth century, whenever visitors toured Colossae, they would visit the house of Philemon as a historical site. It was a place tourists could not miss in Colossae. This was due to the fact that the church in Colossae met in that particular house.The church in the house of Philemon was the church in Colossae, for the church in Colossae met in the house of Philemon. Therefore, the churches in the Bible all take locality as the unit—the house can never be the unit for the church.The House Being Insufficient as an UnitWe have seen that the New Testament speaks of the church in a house four times. What do all these actually mean? We must see whether or not the house is the unit for the jurisdiction of a church by examining this matter from another angle. I do not know whether or not you understand what a “unit of jurisdiction” means. For example, when we weigh things, we use the pound as the unit of measurement; thus, the pound is the “unit of weight.” When we measure things, we use a foot as the unit. Thus, a foot is the “unit of length.” A pound is a unit of weight, and a foot is a unit of length. Is a house the unit of jurisdiction for the church? As I have said before in other places, the unit of jurisdiction for the church is a city, or a locality. This is based upon God’s teaching.Why is it that a city, or a locality, is the unit? It is because Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea were all localities, and only one church stood in each locality. If God did not take locality as the basic unit of church jurisdiction, there would not have been seven churches in these seven localities. There would have been instead one church for all seven localities. In other words, although one can say that there are seven localities, he cannot call the seven congregations in the seven localities seven churches (presuming that a church is not based on locality). But in the Bible, God told us that there were seven localities and there were also seven churches! They were seven churches in Asia, not the church in Asia; they were churches, not the church; they were the ekklesiae, not the ekklesia. Not only were there seven different churches on this earth, but there were also seven lampstands in the holy place before the Lord—there were seven, not one. It is undoubtedly evident that what men should obey is what God has shown us, that the locality should be the unit of jurisdiction for a church.This is to say that a church takes a locality as its unit. When we add more than one unit together, we do not have just one unit; we must have two or more churches. Therefore, we have “the churches…in Judea [a province]” (1 Thes. 2:14) and “the churches of Galatia [a province]” (1 Cor. 16:1). Because a province is made up of many localities and the basic unit of the church is a locality, once there are many localities, there are also many churches.Again, may I ask, Can the house become the unit for the church? To answer this question, we must have a very clear mind; otherwise, we will make mistakes. We have to understand the difference between the house mentioned in the Bible and the house mentioned by those who advocate house churches today. The house that is spoken of in the Bible is the place where the church in that locality met. Therefore, the church in a certain person’s house is also the church in that locality. The church in the house of Aquila was the church in Rome, the church in the house of Nymphas was the church in Laodicea, and the church in the house of Philemon was the church in Colossae.What about today? Some people teach that although Rome is one locality, there can be two churches in Rome—one on a street and one in a house. They say that in Colossae there can be three churches—one on a street and two in different houses. They teach that the church in a house is a church that is smaller than the jurisdiction of a locality, and in the same locality there can be many churches. They utilize the word house in the Bible to assume that the church unit in the Scriptures is not limited or bound to a locality but to a house. You must take note that the house spoken of in the Bible and the house proposed by some people are entirely different.Now the question is: In the Bible, is there a unit smaller than the locality for the boundary, the jurisdiction, of the church? Man says there is; God says there is not.This question is very easy to answer. We have seen that there was only one church in Rome, one church in Colossae, and one church in Laodicea. Clearly, the book of Revelation shows us that the church in Laodicea was singular in number, which also corresponds to the one golden lampstand in the heavens.The most obvious example was the church in Jerusalem, which at that time was the church with the greatest number of members. All those who study the Bible know that the meetings of the church in Jerusalem were held in different homes. The Bible says, “In the temple and…from house to house” (Acts 2:46). The word house here is not merely one house. Acts 5:42 also records, “…in the temple and from house to house.” Here again it is not merely one house. Later, when Peter came out of prison, he went to the “house of Mary” (12:12), which was one among many of the houses. Now the question is whether this kind of house can be the unit of jurisdiction for the church. History shows us that among all the other churches, Jerusalem had the greatest number of members and the greatest number of home meetings. If God had any intention to take the house as the church unit, then Jerusalem would have been the most qualified locality and the best church to be a pattern to others. If in Jerusalem, where there were many members and many houses, God did not use the house to be the sphere, the jurisdiction of the church, then we know it is not likely to find any factual basis for taking a house as the sphere of the church elsewhere in the Bible.What then is the fact? There were many houses in Jerusalem, but God had only one church in Jerusalem. Every time the Holy Spirit speaks of the church in Jerusalem, He consistently uses the word church in the singular, never churches in the plural. The Bible only uses the term the church in Jerusalem, never the churches in Jerusalem. It never says, “Every church in every house in Jerusalem.” There may have been many houses for meetings, but there was still one church in Jerusalem. Any thought of taking the house as the unit of the church is a human concept, not the teaching of the Bible. Just this one phrase “the church which was in Jerusalem” (Acts 8:1) is enough to make it impossible for anyone to establish an isolated, independent, individual, and solitary church in a house.We also can compare Acts 14:23 with Titus 1:5: “…appointed elders for them in every church” and “…appoint elders in every city.” These two verses correspond and agree with each other. “Every church” is in “every city.” It is in every city, not in every house. The house may be used as a meeting place, and the church may be called the church in a certain person’s house. However, the church in Nymphas’s house was still the church in Laodicea. The city or the locality, not the house, is the proper designation of a church; it is the proper boundary of the church and the proper unit of the church.Two MistakesTwo great mistakes are found in men today.First, some people desire to have a church bigger than a city or a locality. They want to unite many churches in different localities and make them one big church, that is, bigger than a locality. They have never considered that there is not such a term like the church in China in the Scriptures. How many realize that the term the church in China is not scriptural? All of God’s children must understand that in the Scriptures there is not a united church that is greater than a locality.It is “the churches of Galatia [a province]” (Gal. 1:2), not “the church of Galatia.”It is “the churches of the Gentiles” (Rom. 16:4), not “the church of the Gentiles.”It is “the churches…which are in Judea [a province]” (1 Thes. 2:14), not “the church in Judea.”It is “the seven churches which are in Asia [a province]” (Rev. 1:4), not “the church in Asia.”It is “the churches” in Syria and Cilicia [districts], not “the church” in Syria and Cilicia (Acts 15:41).Therefore, the boundary, the jurisdiction, of the church on the earth is limited to a locality. Even if we put two churches in two different localities together, they cannot be one church; they are still two churches. In the province of Asia, if we add up the churches as one plus one plus one plus one plus one plus one plus one, the result is not one church, but seven churches. In the whole province of Galatia, if all the churches in the different localities are added together, we still will not have the church in Galatia, but “the churches of Galatia.” Who can say that the church is over and above the locality? May God open our eyes so that we will not cause confusion to the testimony of God.Second, some people desire to have a church smaller than the city or the locality. They want to divide one locality into many “churches,” many “assemblies,” or many “congregations.” Some euphemize these gatherings as “house churches.” But these are all of the same nature. They are divisions, the purpose of which is to establish men’s own sects according to the flesh. God’s children must discriminate between the house spoken of in the Bible and the house as it is conceived in human thought. In the Bible, when the house is equivalent to a locality or city, that house is called the church, like the church in Rome, the church in Colossae, the church in Laodicea, etc. But when the house is smaller than the locality or city, that house cannot be called the church, like the house meetings of the church in Jerusalem. This is very different from the house conceived in human thought, which is purposely made smaller than the locality or city, perpetuating the life of the sects or changing the sects into another form.The brothers, therefore, must remember the teachings of the Bible:It is “the church which was in Jerusalem” (Acts 8:1), not “the churches in Jerusalem.”It is “the church…which is in Corinth” (1 Cor. 1:2), not “the four churches in Corinth.”It is “the church in Laodicea” (Rev. 3:14; Col. 4:15-16), not “the two churches in Laodicea.”There is “the church in Ephesus,” not “the churches in Ephesus.” There is “the church of the Thessalonians,” not “the churches of the Thessalonians.” There is “the church in Antioch,” not “the churches in Antioch.”God’s church takes locality as its boundary. When the church in a certain person’s house is completely equivalent to the church of that locality, it can be called the church in that person’s house. However, when the “church” in a certain person’s house is smaller than the church in his locality, it cannot be called a church. If the “churches” in the “house” of Cephas, in the “house” of Paul, in the “house” of Apollos, and in the “house” of Christ were added together, there would not be four churches in Corinth, they would still singularly be the church in Corinth. From this we can see that God has never made this type of “house” a unit for the boundary, the jurisdiction, of the church. Since the four houses are not four units, the believers meeting in them respectively cannot be four churches.There must have been over ten thousand brothers in Jerusalem, and they might have been divided into one hundred houses for meetings. Since houses of this kind are smaller than the city, that is, smaller than the locality, and smaller than Jerusalem, they are not sufficient to become the units of the church. If we add these one hundred houses together, they do not become one hundred churches. In the Bible there is only the singular church in Jerusalem. Since one hundred meetings added together could not become one hundred churches, but only one, this means that each one is not sufficient to become a unit by itself.If the church in Nymphas’s house (Col. 4:15) and the church in Laodicea (v. 16) are not the same, then when we add them up they must be two churches, but after we add “them” together in this way, God speaks of “the church in Laodicea” in Revelation 3:14, not “the churches” or “the two churches in Laodicea.” They are just one.When the house is smaller than a locality, it is not sufficient to become a unit. When the house is equivalent to the locality, it is qualified to become a unit. But the unit is the locality, not the house. We must be very clear that the standard unit for the boundary of the church in the Bible is the city or locality. When the house is equivalent to the locality, we can speak of the church in So-and-so’s house. When the house is smaller than the locality, we can add one plus one, but the total is not two; it is still one. We may add ten plus ten, but the total is not twenty; it is one. We may add one hundred plus one hundred, but the total is not two hundred; it is only one. The total is always one. By this we know that a “house” cannot equal the unit for the boundary, the jurisdiction, of the church.Who can point out from the Bible two churches in one locality? No one! I can only say that one locality has two denominations, or one locality has four sects, or one hundred localities have more than one hundred manifestations of the flesh. But I cannot say that one locality has two or more churches. I can only say that one locality has over one hundred home meetings. One locality only has one church. This is certain.For the past twenty-eight years, as a result of the Lord’s calling, the denominations have lost their place in the heart of those who love the Lord. The brothers who recommend dividing the church into houses must guard against the suspicion that they are changing things for the sake of defending the sects or themselves. May the Lord cause His children to see that all those who have left the denominations have not necessarily left the sects. May God have mercy on me for speaking frankly.We must seriously ask our hearts in the light: Am I rejecting the sin of denominations on the one hand, while refusing to “submit to the church” on the other hand, and by so doing have I only come up with the compromise of the house? May the Lord have mercy on those who do this, and may He have mercy on me for speaking it.I am very sad at heart because at the critical moment when the Lord is moving on victoriously, such a disruption has come in. If we are only slightly disobedient today, a hundred years from now—should the Lord delay His coming—this disobedience will become a great detour for the church. I hope you brothers would fast and pray for our brothers. May God turn back their hearts. On the other hand, those who have contact with them must demonstrate firm and unchanging love so that the Lord could gain back these ones. May the Lord put a fear and a trembling in them. May they know that speaking for the Lord requires the putting aside of oneself. They should be humble, and they should see and listen before speaking. May they also see the serious result of speaking without revelation. Once Ishmael is born, the fleshly will forever persecute the spiritual. This is going on all the time, even until today (Gal. 4:29).The Impossibility of Having It Both WaysSome people have a wrong thought. They agree that the boundary, the jurisdiction, of the church is locality, yet because they are unwilling to get out of the sects, they think that the house is also a boundary of the church. They think the two can go together side by side without contradiction. They cannot distinguish when the house is the same as the locality and when the house is different from the locality. When the house is the same as the locality, it can be the boundary of the church. When the house is different from the locality, the two cannot be the boundary, the unit, of the church at the same time. The key rests with locality, whether or not the house equals the locality.If the house is the unit, then locality, which is bigger than the house, cannot be the unit. How can locality be the unit if it can be divided into smaller units? If we acknowledge locality as the unit, how can we also acknowledge the house as a unit? Since locality is the smallest unit, how can it be divided into smaller units such as houses? (Please remember that those who promote “house” churches do not view the word house scripturally; that is, they do not consider house in the context that locality and house are identical. Instead, they view the house according to their own concept, making it smaller than locality. This is not the kind of house spoken of in the Bible. Please pay attention to this matter.) If a foot is one unit of measure, then an inch is not sufficient to be the unit, because it is less than a full unit. If we take an inch to be the unit, a foot can no longer be the unit, because a foot equals twelve units. Likewise, if the unit for the church is locality, then the many houses in one locality cannot be many churches. One locality with one house has but one church; one locality with one hundred houses also has but one church. With one hundred houses there are not one hundred churches. If the house is the unit, then there is one church with one house, and there are one hundred churches with one hundred houses. In this case a locality with one hundred houses could never have only one church. These two, house and locality, are completely different units. Either we take the house as the unit or locality as the unit. There must be a unit, but we cannot have both. The house and the locality cannot both be units for the church.If the locality is the unit, then 1) a united church of several localities joined together is wrong, and 2) isolated divisions within one locality are also wrong. If the house is the unit, then 1) the united church is still wrong, but 2) the divisions in each locality are justified. All the divisions within a locality can hide behind the word house. If the “house” is the unit, all who refuse “to hear the church” (Matt. 18:17) can organize separate “house” churches. The “house” church becomes a shelter to all the divisive ones in a locality. May the Lord be merciful to His church.Therefore, we must be clear that there can be only one unit—either house or locality, not both of them together. Similarly, if our salvation is not by grace, it has to be by works. It cannot be by grace and works; we cannot have both. According to the Bible, the boundary, the jurisdiction, of the church is the locality, just as our salvation is by grace. Dividing the church in a locality into many “house” churches brings divisions into the Body. It is the work of the flesh.I believe God in His great wisdom made the locality the boundary of the church in order to eliminate the works of man, which try to divide the church within one locality.The Intention and the OutcomeWhen we search the Bible for judgment and settlement upon some teaching, we must not only check the intention of our heart, but we must also take heed to the direction in which this kind of teaching leads and the outcome it produces.For example, someone said that the Bible never prohibits Christians from smoking opium. He said, “If you say that Christians should not smoke opium, please prove it from the Bible.” Undoubtedly, the Bible does not have clearly written statements prohibiting the smoking of opium. But we must take note of the outcome that this kind of saying will bring to the children of God. The only thing this teaching will do is lead men into the world and to fulfill their lusts. Another example is baptism. Some think that immersion is right, but sprinkling is also right. They give many reasons for their position. But these reasons simply reveal that man can change God’s word. Likewise, if anyone says that there can be the church in a house besides the church in a locality, we will also ask, What will be the outcome of this kind of teaching? Could there be any other outcome than that of men within a locality having the freedom in the flesh to break the unity of the church and to lead God’s children into the way of divisions? If in one locality there can be many “house” churches, with all having their own administration and thinking that they are one spiritually, are they not deceiving themselves? If we maintain this kind of teaching, how many more divisions will result in a locality, divisions under the name of so-called “house” churches? At present there are already scores of denominational churches, but if “house” churches are scriptural, there will be hundreds more churches in one locality! Is this something that a person who has consecrated himself to the Lord and who loves the Lord would want to see?We all know there is only one church. Throughout history, past and present, there is only one church. Because there is only one Head, there is only one Body. The church is a Body with life; thus, it is not right to divide it for any reason. We must stress this: The church is one because the Body is one. Any excuse to divide the church is a sin. Division is sin, because it is a “division in the body” (1 Cor. 12:25).Although the church is one, it is impossible for all the brothers to meet together. Time and space prevent all the brothers around the whole world from meeting together all the time. Besides this, it is impractical as far as church administration, supervision, and management are concerned for all the brothers to come together in one world church. Therefore, God’s Word not only permits but also ordains that the church be separated. In order to practically make the church (singular) become the churches (plural), God has established the way for one individual church and another individual church to remain two churches instead of one. This is the principle of “locality” as revealed in the Bible.In the Bible no church is bigger than the locality; neither is any church smaller than the locality. Whenever people gather and dwell together, there is a “locality.” A locality is where people gather and dwell together. As long as a locality is a place where people gather and dwell together, it is the boundary of the church according to the Bible. People who dwell together in one locality can be independent of other localities. It is not a matter of the number of people (believers), but a matter of locality. The basis for separation is not love or lack of love, but locality. The basis for God allowing the church to be separated is locality. Any other kind of separation is sin. We commit sin if we are separated from our brothers for any other reason than that of locality. In the Bible the only kind of distinction that does not touch upon the nature of the church is the distinction of locality. The distinction of locality is God’s great wisdom. I am in Shanghai and you are in Soochow, but when we both come to Nanking, we will not create any problem. Other than the boundary of locality, there absolutely should be no other boundary. In the church God only allows us to separate by the principle of locality.Undoubtedly the church is one. How then can there be many churches? The distinction can only be on the basis of locality. Because we have our physical body, we are naturally limited by geographical boundaries. Any difference because of names, human feelings, or other factors is harmful to the nature of the church. Only the distinction of locality does not touch the nature of the church. In this way, no one can turn away from the general ground of locality. We may be able to do many things, but we are not qualified to establish a church as we like. Once we see that the ground of the church is local, there will be no more reason for the existence of any sects. The matter of locality cuts man’s flesh to the deepest part.Now let me repeat what I have been saying about the nature of the church. Any reason to divide the church damages the nature of the church; that is, it turns the unity of the church into disunity. Due to the fact that we are in the human body, geography is the only factor that can separate us. Such separation does not threaten the nature of church unity. Therefore, God ordained to have locality as the earthly boundary of the church. God also ordained that in one locality there should be only one church to express the unity of the heavenly church.We must see the spiritual reason for separating the church by localities. Once we see this, we will know whether or not the present-day principle of separating the church by houses is of God. The way to separate the saints at Jerusalem by houses was scriptural. Due to the great number of people—a physical reality—they were separated into many meetings in the houses. The church, however, was still one, “the church [singular number] in Jerusalem.” Today, man’s way to divide the church by houses is to make many churches within one locality. It has nothing to do with physical limitations, geographical reasons, or the inconvenience of coming together from great distances. It has nothing to do with the fact that the crowd is large and that there is not enough room to sit together. It has nothing to do with the fact that there are so many people and that care for them is impossible. It has nothing to do with the practical problem of handling administration over great distances. It is simply a way of dividing the church into many churches. Dividing people into many churches because of such an underlying reason is harmful to the nature of the church. Separations that are not based on geographical or physical demand are spiritual in nature; they touch the spiritual unity. This kind of separation is not outward and limited, but inward and spiritual. Any division that is not for a geographical or physical reason is an intrinsic, real, basic, and spiritual division. Therefore, this kind of division is a division in the very nature and essence of the church. It is damaging to the spiritual unity.This is very serious. Since we first saw the light concerning the oneness of the Body of Christ twenty-eight years ago, we have passed through many waves of adversity. But I believe we have never passed through one that is more serious and more ambiguous than the teaching about the “house” church. This is the first time people have opposed the truth by agreeing with it. Since we all are people who serve God, I beg you to seek the light of God. Do not send forth a confusing voice in the church of God; rather get rid of the sectarianism from your heart.We must not push the oneness of the church entirely to the “spiritual” side by saying, “We are one in life! We are one spiritually!” Brothers, when we do not live together in the same city, we might be able to cover ourselves with spiritual words and hide our disunity with such “spiritual oneness.” But since we all live in the same city, is it conceivable that we would not express or demonstrate our oneness? Since there are no geographical and physical factors to divide us, is not this the time to show that we are one church? Why at such an opportune time for us to show our oneness should this different teaching related to a “house” church come into being? Does this teaching related to a “house” church represent unity or separation and sectarianism? Lord, have mercy on us!I dare not say from where the teaching about the “house” church comes. But I am afraid that the brother who speaks about this has not seen the sin of sects. This teaching is a halfway place to sectarianism; it is not a thorough rejection of sects. A person who has left the denominations is not necessarily one who has left the sects. I am afraid that some who only know their individual movement, individual living, and individual work are not willing to be limited by the Body. These are the ones who love this kind of talk about the “house” church. Those who do not desire to listen to the church but desire to establish their own churches value this kind of “doctrine.” May the Lord’s blood cover me for speaking like this. I think humility may be profitable to some people, but not to take our own way is profitable to all of God’s children.Finally, this kind of “house” church is not the house that is in the Scriptures. This kind of “house” church is a sect, a disguised sect. This kind of “house” church causes people to divide, not to unite. This kind of “house” church hurts the nature of the church while concealing its wound. This kind of “house” church builds up the individualism, lawlessness, and ambition for leadership in many. May the Lord have mercy on me for speaking in such a way. May He have mercy on His churches that they may not be damaged.

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