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Apologetic discussions Apologetic Discussions Regarding the Teachings of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee

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Old 07-10-2009, 10:51 AM   #1
aron
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Default 3 things

It seems to me there are 3 things God sees:

1. He sees the human heart, whether it is responsive to His love or not.

2. He sees the "ekklesia" the gathering, the assembly, the congregation of those who are called out of the world into the name of His Dear Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

3. He sees the "universal church", the Body of Christ, His dear bride.

Without the first thing, a heart of love for His dear Son, I don't think any gathering or activity is of any value at all. It is the essential prerequisite. Without this foundation, a heart of love, based on the solid rock of unwavering faith in God's call in His Son, everything else is vain.

The second thing is what is commonly called, in christianity, the church "service", like the Sunday service. A sermon, or a prayer meeting, or a Bible study meeting. It's label varies with the aim and time and location of the gathering, usually. In the LCs we commonly called them "meetings" whether on Sunday morning or not. Other meetings were "prayer meetings", "home meetings", etc. The catholics call it a "mass", I believe.

Anyway, it is a physical gathering. Hebrews 2:12 is clearly referring to this when it says, "In the midst of the church I will sing hymns of praise to You". It seems to me that this "church" must really mean what LC'ers typically call a "meeting". It is an actual physical assembly of human persons, in time and space, on the earth.

The third thing is the universal Body of Christ. Ephesians 5:25 "Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her". This cannot refer to just one meeting somewhere, but must represent all believers everywhere. At least that is my take.
==================================

Why am I writing these points? Because when we say "church" we usually don't refer to the "meeting", or "service", or "mass". Rather we refer to an organization, like the RCC or the Lord's Recovery or the Baptists or Methodists or the Assemblies of God. We refer to an alliance of usually legally-incorporated religious groups scattered across the face of the earth.

It is a human organizational construct, and it doesn't exist in the Bible. The universal church is bigger than any of these; none of them can equate with the mystical Body of Christ. It is the fallen human's try to climb too high, to go where only God can go.

Only Christ can build His church. His command to us is "Love thy neighbor". But instead we try to build extra-local religious organizations, and in the eventual, inevitable clamor that ensues we have to trample our neighbor. We have to toss them under the bus because they couldn't get with our organization-building program.

Only Christ can know his church. The brothers who presume to speak for the "feeling in the Body" are saying they know the heart of every believer on the earth today. This is nonsense. It is patently absurd.

Even in any major urban area, to designate the "church in Toledo" or some such is patently absurd. Can you say you have the name, and allegiance of every believer in Toledo? Of course not. God does, however.

So let God take care of the third entity. Take care of your own heart, love your neighbor (i.e. meet with them, "receive them as God received them in Christ Jesus [Rom 15:7]), and God will indeed build His church.

It is when we try to go to the third level that we go past our God-allotted portion, our mandate. We are then cast away from the heavenly realms.
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Old 07-10-2009, 01:30 PM   #2
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The third thing is the universal Body of Christ. Ephesians 5:25 "Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her". This cannot refer to just one meeting somewhere, but must represent all believers everywhere. At least that is my take.
My only real quibble with this ever was that the focus on the "Universal" is ALWAYS to the detriment of the "local."

Regardless, I would still contend that the reference here was indeed to just one assembly but simultaneously as to, not "all believers" per se, but all assemblies.

In this sense:

The federal government has authority over the state government.

The idea of "all states" expressed in terms of the singlular but implying, not one giant glom called "The State", but with regard to each individual singular "state" simultaneously.

If you see my point.

It's a relatively small point at the end of the day, I think.

Just makes more of the New Testament make sense to me.
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Old 07-10-2009, 03:38 PM   #3
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Only Christ can know his church. The brothers who presume to speak for the "feeling in the Body" are saying they know the heart of every believer on the earth today. This is nonsense. It is patently absurd.

Even in any major urban area, to designate the "church in Toledo" or some such is patently absurd. Can you say you have the name, and allegiance of every believer in Toledo? Of course not. God does, however.

So let God take care of the third entity. Take care of your own heart, love your neighbor (i.e. meet with them, "receive them as God received them in Christ Jesus [Rom 15:7]), and God will indeed build His church.

It is when we try to go to the third level that we go past our God-allotted portion, our mandate. We are then cast away from the heavenly realms.
Amen, dear brother Aron.

My family and I recently attended the "Family Christian Conference" in Farmville, VA. The speakers at this conference were dear brother Stephen Kaung (the "other" co-worker of WN who has been in the U.S. since 1952) and some other brothers who labor with him.

I heard a very interesting comment by one of the brothers attending the conference. When I mentioned my background in the LC, he said, "One point where Stephen Kanung and Witness Lee diverged is that Stephen Kaung was never comfortable with any assembly calling itself 'The Church in such-and-such a city'. While Stephen Kaung agrees with the principle of the ground of oneness - which is standing for the oneness of all believers in any given city or town - since no assembly today includes all the believers in any given city or town, none should refer to themselves as 'The Church' in that place. We stand for the reality of oneness, and we practice it as diligently as we can. Calling ourselves 'The Church' in our locality can only lead to pride and separateness from other believers."

I thought this brother's remarks were very interesting. And yes, I saw the fruit of this attitude at the conference. There were many at the conference who were not part of one of the "official" assemblies which receives Stephen Kaung's ministry. I met several pastors at the conference. In fact, I had an absolutely delightful time of fellowship with a pastor from Syracuse, NY. We sat around a table and talked a long time about TAS's two books entitled The Stewardship of the Mystery. Marvelous!
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Old 07-13-2009, 07:26 AM   #4
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I would still contend that the reference here [Eph 5:25] was indeed to just one assembly but simultaneously as to, not "all believers" per se, but all assemblies.
I think I see your point. Christ loved the Ephesian assembly and gave Himself up for her, and by extension the assemblies elsewhere as well.

And as to your comment that the focus on the universal is to the detriment of the local, I agree. When we end up quarantining the Ephesian assembly, among many others, for the sake of "the church", I think we need to reexamine our interpretational hermeneutic.
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Old 07-13-2009, 07:56 AM   #5
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It seems to me there are 3 things that God sees:

1. He sees the human heart, whether it is responsive to His love or not.

2. He sees the "ekklesia" the gathering, the assembly, the congregation of those who are called out of the world into the name of His Dear Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

3. He sees the "universal church", the Body of Christ, His dear bride.
Actually, of course, God sees much more than three things. Not a sparrow falls but the Father doesn't know. Every hair on your head is counted.

I am just doing a simplification for the sake of my argument. I am focusing on 3 things which I believe are precious to God.

Likewise, we don't say literally that the RCC, the Lutheran Assembly, the Baptist Convention, the Methodist Church, the Anglican Church don't exist. It's just that God doesn't show these, at least positively, in the NT useage, nor the OT type. What God seems rather to be revealing in His Word is the local assembly. If we take care of our relations with our neighbor, God can do the "universal" stuff quite nicely, thank you.

If you look at the human body, each cell is given a place and a function. Each has neighbors, with whom it communicates, sending signals (pressure, heat, electrical impulses), and with whom it trades substances (food, oxygen, waste). Each cell has been carefully chosen to fill a local place in the universal organism, the body.

But unfortunately, occasionally some cells take it upon themselves to go "universal", to reproduce unchecked and spread their domain beyond the carefully chosen boundaries ordained by physiology. These are called cancer cells. They don't know how to keep their own place.

"And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day." Jude v. 6

I think it would behoove us to look at boundaries, from the "anointed cherub" in Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14, to the scene in the Garden of Eden, to the Babel tower in Genesis 11, right up through the OT record (both the Jewish kings and their Babylonian counterparts come to mind) and into the NT, gospels ("who gets to be the greatest among us") and beyond. What happens when people leave their appointed place?

In the NT we do have positive examples of supplies being sent to others, located elsewhere, who are in need. We also have many messengers, and messages, going back and forth. Surely isolation is not envisioned by anyone. But is there any positive record of "universalistic control", save that found in one faith, the baptism in one Spirit, the one Father, and the one Lord of all?

Second, look at the history of universalism, both in the Bible, with the decrees shown in Daniel and Revelation for enforced, universal worship, and then in subsequent church history, from the RCC to the New England Puritans to the current LSM-orchestrated polemics against Dong, GLA, etc. What can be found there that we might wish to emulate in any way?
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Old 07-13-2009, 12:14 PM   #6
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I think I see your point. Christ loved the Ephesian assembly and gave Himself up for her, and by extension the assemblies elsewhere as well.
See how personal and applicable a reading that is?

It loses something in the non-particular Universal glom reading, in my opinion.

Technically, it isn't really different, per se, but at least my brain for some reason seems to go someplace else besides right here and right now when you interpret "ekklesia" with a capital letter.

Christ loves the folks YOU ARE MEETING WITH and gave Himself up for Y'ALL, in the same way He would for His own wife, His own Body. Corporately. And, yes, that's applicable, of course, to all the assemblies everywhere, too. You might even be able to say "The Assembly" in that context, but I don't think I will join you just because I think it's a little bit of a stretch based upon the etymology of the word and it's unique usage in the New Testament. But it's not that big a deal for me as long as you mean those WITH you at least as much as those NOT with you.
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Old 07-13-2009, 07:02 PM   #7
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[Re: Eph 5:25, e.g.]...

Christ loves the folks YOU ARE MEETING WITH and gave Himself up for Y'ALL, in the same way He would for His own wife, His own Body.

And, yes, that's applicable, of course, to all the assemblies everywhere, too. You might even be able to say "The Assembly" in that context,

... as long as you mean those WITH you at least as much as those NOT with you.
You'd think that at some point the disconnect should become evident, along with the concomitant utility of reassessing scripture. We began with Jesus proclaiming that the great commandment is to love one's neighbor as oneself. Everyone said, "Oh, great, now I don't have to go up to Jerusalem 5 times a year to sacrifice rams and bullocks and turtledoves. I just love my neighbor as myself. Wonderful."

Then at some point, in our desire to please our Master, we embarked on the Great Universal Church building scheme, which inevitably entailed dispatching mass quantities of our fellow humans, whether by auto-da-fe or the more recent practice of quarantine.

Then, as we stand there hip-deep in the blood of the saints, it may occur to us that we have disregarded loving the person next to us, in favor of Building the Great Universal Church in the Sky, which God seemed incapable of doing on His own.

In contrast, one alternative interpretation of the word "ekklesia" seems quite appealing. This alternate reading of the "local church", i.e. the assembly, is really the meeting, the gathering, the congregating-together of all the called-out ones.

So, we believe; we gather. Christ builds.
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Old 07-13-2009, 10:27 PM   #8
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You'd think that at some point the disconnect should become evident, along with the concomitant utility of reassessing scripture.
I don't know, aron. Some people have looked at me pretty askance around here for asserting that your points 2 and 3 may be wrongly divided from each other, but claiming you're one with THOSE guys but not so much with THESE guys is rather transparent to me.

The importance of God entering into human history in the person and work of Jesus Christ is in large part because it is globally repeated and replicated in each human life. If He had merely come and gone, we wouldn't be much better off than in the Old Testament. However, He is Emmanuel.

Fundamentally, all we ever REALLY know is HERE and NOW.

It's a concept that's a little foreign to classic western ritual Christianity and its tales about a distant afterlife but it's one that has resonated with me since I was young.

Maybe it's Yoda's fault.

Quote:
"All his life has he looked away... to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing. Hmph."
I know that His people perish for lack of a vision and the entire Bible is a history but just consider that we we have a living hope and we look away unto Jesus...
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Old 07-14-2009, 06:28 AM   #9
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[The disconnect of] claiming you're one with THOSE guys but not so much with THESE guys is rather transparent to me.

The importance of God entering into human history in the person and work of Jesus Christ is in large part because it is globally repeated and replicated in each human life. If He had merely come and gone, we wouldn't be much better off than in the Old Testament. However, He is Emmanuel.

Fundamentally, all we ever REALLY know is HERE and NOW.

It's a concept that's a little foreign to classic western ritual Christianity and its tales about a distant afterlife but it's one that has resonated with me since I was young.
I transposed this idea into another conversation elsewhere, when they were saying that Jesus "is" the reality of the Father, i.e. "I have been with you for years, Philip, and you still say 'show us the Father' ?"

I said, "Likewise, if we say, 'show us the church, Your body and bride', Jesus might say, 'see this poor sinner next to you, trembling before my throne? That's My body'. "

God is the One who fills all in all, so we concede to Him a universal expression. But God's expression to us is by definition a local one. He is manifesting Himself in the redeemed sinner right next to us.

So I ask, For which cause, for which movement, for which truth can we raise our hand to strike our brother?
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Old 07-14-2009, 08:02 AM   #10
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So I ask, For which cause, for which movement, for which truth can we raise our hand to strike our brother?
My sentiments exactly, whether the topic is cult books or quarantines...
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Old 07-16-2009, 06:56 PM   #11
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Fundamentally, all we ever REALLY know is HERE and NOW.

It's a concept that's a little foreign to classic western ritual Christianity and its tales about a distant afterlife but it's one that has resonated with me since I was young.
I started a thread, once, entitled "the two kingdoms" and I'd like to revisit the concepts I introduced there; but I'll do so here because my thinking is linear and it seems related to this, more recent, discussion.

A kingdom is a domain, a realm, a sphere of influence, a field. The animal kingdom is the domain of carbon-based biotic organisms; a gravitational field is the area in which the attractive pull of an object's mass is felt; a man's kingdom is the area over which he has some sway. Where you have subjects, you have a kingdom; conversely, where folks ignore you, you have no kingdom.

You know, "the Spirit is given without measure", but what is measured is our ability, our capacity to receive. One has "one talent", one has "two talents" and one has "five talents". Our job is to maximize the talents we are given, but like the card game of "21", we don't want to overbid, to go beyond our capacity.

Look at the seven sons of Sceva: they went beyond their capacity. And look at the parable of the man going out to battle with 10,000 troops -- he sees an adversary coming with 20,000 and he sues for peace. He wisely doesn't "overbid".

If we overextend our reach, we will be like the man in the parable of the wedding feast, where the master of the feast tells him to sit down further, where he goes with shame. Note that the man doesn't get cast out of the feast, he is just modified negatively. Contrast that with the man who takes the "last place", and the master of the feast says, "Friend, come sit up higher".

In the inner kingdom, our soul, we should rule. But in the outer physical kingdom, we should endeavor to take last place. This includes, even especially, what is known as the "church life". We should not lord over others, but serve others.

As I've said elsewhere, the best way to change the world is not to try to change the world, but rather let God change your soul, your inner "kingdom". Then you'll have influence, because the world will have to adjust to your changed spiritual "field", the effects of which will be felt beyond your borders.

I believe someone wrote that Benson Phillips felt a calling that he'd one day head a wordwide religious organization. I myself would rather not overbid like this in the external realm. Rather, I'm going to try to let God change my person. What influence this change has in the external world is God's arrangement. When you see people like Jonathan Edwards and the "Great Awakening", you realize the Holy Spirit can do much more than any man's organizational talents.
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Old 07-17-2009, 07:17 AM   #12
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A kingdom is an area over which one has some sway, some authority. And we each have received a portion. Our portions vary -- some have one talent, some 2 talents, some 5 talents (someone might have 3.6 talents; we are not strictly limited to those 3 enumerations by Jesus. They are hypotheticals given for comparison purposes only).

Now, if we have 1 talent, we don't want to hide it in a napkin, in a hole in the earth. We want to do business. Likewise, if we have 2 talents, we want to gain 2 more. Merely gaining 1 talent from an original disbursement of 2 talents signifies an opportunity cost. It's like selling your BMW for 2,000 dollars. Yeah, you got something, but it was worth at least $8,500 in that condition, so your "gain" of 2,000 dollars actually represented a 6,500 "loss" of what should have been your return. Likewise, you want to get 2 more talents from your original 2 talents, and to gain 5 talents from your 5. Anything less will be considered sub-optimal.

But, you also don't want to overreach. If you have 2 talents, and try to gain 5, you will suffer loss. Like overbidding in the game of "21". You don't want to get a hand of 22, because that equals "0".

I say this because of the parable of the man going out with 10,000 who meets a man coming against him with 20,000 troops. (Luke chapter 14) Jesus said, "Don't fight against one stronger than you." If God wants to deal with this opposer, God can produce an army greater than 20,000. Instead, you should take your 10,000 troops and find a smaller opponent, say 5,000 troops. Then you'll have your victory, with commensurate spoils.

Well, what does this have to do with my topic? We have full command over our inner kingdom, our heart. If we want to be miserable, we can just turn on the news for a while; eventually we'll see something disgusting and we can become outraged and angry. The world is full of bad news if you want to find some. But if you want an inner kingdom of peace and joy, you also have that option.

This inner kingdom is fully given to each and every believer. Through faith in Jesus Christ we have made peace with God and with one another. And when we receive one another, and we assemble together, and we trade our peace, and joy, our consolation and hope and encouragement, we are "doing business until our Master returns"... and we can expect some reward.

But as YP put it, we are limited in space and time, so we should not overstretch our allotted portion. God has wisely put a neighbor next to each one of us; someone to care for and uplift. But if we go all "universal", and try to become the arbiters and spokesman for the "feeling in the Body", as some of our midguided brethren seem to be doing, we overstep our bounds. We just showed a hand of "22" in the game of "21". We reveal a hand of no value.

So how do we know our limit? How to avoid overbidding? My thought is to follow the Spirit. We are like blind men in a room: we cannot see the walls, the edges. All we can do is follow the spirit. At some point the spirit will say "stop" and we have to train ourselves to listen to this small still voice.

Paul at one point wanted to go and preach the gospel in Asia and Bithinia, but the Holy spirit forbade him to do so. At one point Philip was walking down by the south road from Jerusalem, and the Spirit told him to run up to a chariot and address the rider. At one point the Spirit might say "go", another point it might say "halt". Jesus said that we shouldn't worry before hand what we are to speak, because the Spirit in that very hour will supply us with the utterance (see Matt. ch 10).

Jesus said that the Spirit would come, and guide us into all the reality (see John ch 14). Reality is nothing less than the abiding Spirit (John 15). We are being trained to follow the leading of the Spirit by His presence, His parousia. When we meet with one another, there is a strengthening of this inner presence, and also an outward expression; an issue.

But any desire to meet for "extra-local" affairs, i.e. for domains or realms beyond the assembly itself, whether they be ministries, sects, denominations, movements, or whatever, are a distraction from the leading of the Spirit, which is the neighbor He's sovereignly placed beside you. When you trample your neighbor for some "foriegn affair", you clearly have left the leading of the Holy Spirit.
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