Witness Lee on the local church: The Testimony of Church History concerning the Ground of the Church
Witness Lee on the local church: Oneness





Watchman Nee 

Witness Lee 



Testimony of Church History from 1920-Present

Arthur C. Headlam, D.D. in The Doctrine of the Church and Christian Reunion (1920):

It has been suggested that the expression of the “churches” might be used in the same manner as has become customary in certain modern circles, for a number of different societies in each place separate from one another, just as there are what are called Anglican, Romanist, Wesleyan, Congregational churches in one city. It is difficult to conceive of anything more fundamentally alien to the whole spirit of the New Testament than this. As there could only be one Church of God in the world, so there could only be one Church of God in Corinth, although it might, and probably did, consist of many congregations [meeting places]….No justification can be found in the New Testament for our modern divisions. (78)

Frank Theodore Woods, D.D. in Interpreters of God (1922):

Two more fatal objections must be mentioned. Not the least of them is that the New Testament knows nothing of any such scheme, nor would it have been conceivable to the mind of a man like St. Paul. The modern plan of Christian communities standing distinct and apart from one another, and in many cases existing to emphasize assent to some particular article of the Creed, or dissent from any creed at all, or to emphasize some particular form of polity—I say that this modern form of confessional Church can claim no sanction, whether from the New Testament or the practice of the early Church. There were, indeed, local Churches—many of them founded by St. Paul himself—but the only thing that separated them was distance, not faith or order; and what is more important, each local Church was regarded as representing the whole body, not some particular section of it. Each Church, therefore, stood for the one truth and the whole truth. (51-52)

Norris Jacob Reasoner in Be One: A Loving Appeal from One Who Loves the Lord to Every Other One Who Loves the Lord that Denominational Ties May Be Lost in the Larger Fellowship of Christ Only (1928):

What shall the church be called, when unity shall have been accomplished? A number of names are given in the Book, but more than all others, it is simply “the church.” Therefore, to be wholly scriptural, and to avoid alignment with any denomination, why not call it simply and scripturally, “The church in your town.” (376)

Reverend Franklin Weidner in The Doctrine of the Church, Outline Notes based on Luthard and Krauth (n.d.):

In Apostolic times, and for generations after, there was but one congregation in one city, however large that city might be. One congregational organization was retained even where the members were so numerous and so widely scattered as to require different places of worship and different pastors [shepherds]. (N. pag.)

G. H. Lang in The Churches of God (1959):

G. H. Lang, one of the greatest Bible expositors and scholars during the past century and the author of forty Christian books, had this to say concerning the churches in Scripture. In his treatise called The Churches of God, Lang writes:

There were “the saints in the whole of” a province (II Cor. 1:1), “the church in” a city (I Cor. 1:2), “the churches of Macedonia” (II Cor. 8:1) and “of Galatia” (Gal. 1:2), that is, situated in those territories, and we read of “the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria” (Acts 9:31); but there was no church of Galatia or Judea or Macedonia, no combination of churches in a given area into the church of that area, and thus by organization and locality a body corporate, distinct from the church universal, only a part thereof. (14)

Lang, in his chapter entitled The Administrative Independence of Each Local Church, then quotes from Dr. F. J. A. Hort’s The Christian Ecclesia on “The Early History and Early Conceptions of the Ecclesia,” as follows:

St. Paul’s recognition of the individual responsibility and substantial independence of single city Ecclesiae was brought into harmony with his sense of the unity of the body of Christ as a whole. (17-18)

John Heading in The Directory of New Testament Churches (1992):

There was no such thing as “the church of Achaia”, since in the New Testament any church was designated only by the name of the city in which the believers met in the Lord’s name. There were “churches” of a region, as “the churches of Galatia”, 1 Cor. 16.1, but local churches in several cities were never grouped to form a church of a district or country. (10)

Note carefully that there was no “church of Asia”, since in God’s purpose local churches in cities never amalgamated to form a church of a province. In 1 Corinthians 16.19 we read of “the churches of Asia”; each individual church sent greetings to Corinth. In this respect, God’s purpose has never changed since New Testament times, whatever may be the traditions and innovations of men. (18)

On many occasions, the words “church” and the plural form “churches” occur with reference to (i) historical situations when the context usually decides which locality is meant: (ii) activity and practice relating to some or all churches; (iii) doctrinal background pertaining to service, of relevance to all churches. We shall not draw attention to verses that refer to the universal church as the mystical body of Christ, such as when He said, “I will build my church”, Matt. 16.18. But when the Lord spoke of “the church” in Matthew 18.17, He referred to a local church gathered in His name for disciplinary proceedings. (30)