IV. The Lords Recovery of the Truth and Practice of the Church and the Practicality of the Churchthe Local Churches
During the 1500s, a period rightfully known as the Dark Ages, the Bible was closed to mankind; many people therefore had no knowledge of it. From the 1600s, however, beginning with Martin Luther, the Lord began to recover the truth and practice of the universal Church and the local churches revealed in the Bible. In the following excerpt, Witness Lee gives a history of the Lords recovery of the scriptural truth and practice of the Church and the practicality of the church life, the local churches, from the fifteenth century through the twentieth century.
We all realize that everything is in the Bible. But not long after the New Testament was completed, the Church began to lose all the important things found in the Bible. Eventually, by the fifteenth century, everything was lost. Very little of God was known. Then the Lord began His recovery at the time of the Reformation with Martin Luther. First He recovered justification by faith. Then after this, He recovered many more things. But the things regarding the Church were not recovered until the eighteenth century. The first time after the Reformation that Christians began to practice the church life was when the Moravian Brethren came together under the leadership of Count Zinzendorf. They practiced the church life, but they did not have adequate knowledge regarding the Church. They were, however, inspired to come together to practice the church life. They came from Moravia and settled in Bohemia, a part of todays Austria.
But the doctrine of the Church was largely inadequate until 1829. If we read the history of the Church, especially the history of the Lords recovery, we will see that it was from 1829 that the British Brethren, under the leadership of John Nelson Darby, became clear concerning the doctrine of the Church. In the early part of their church life, there was tremendous reality. But gradually they lost the reality and have declined very much to mere doctrine. The doctrine is good, but only to have the doctrine without the reality is empty. (24-25)
Witness Lee discusses here the recovery of not only the doctrine of the Church, but its reality, or spirituality.
Then in the first part of this century, the Lord began to recover something more regarding the Church. What He recovered was the reality, or we may call it the spirituality of the Church. The spiritual principles of the Body of Christ were recovered mainly in the first third of this century.
Nearly all the books written in the last century by the Brethren were concerning the doctrine of the Church. There was a shortage of the reality, and even of the spirituality. But in the first part of this century many books were written regarding the reality, the spirituality, and all the spiritual principles of the Body of Christ. It was wonderful, it was real, but it was not practical. There was the doctrine and the reality, and in a sense the spirituality, but no practicality. Those who saw the spirituality of the Church simply did not know how to practice it. (25)
Finally, Witness Lee proceeds to the more recent history of the Lords recovery of the practicality of the church life, the local churches, through Watchman Nee:
It was after 1930 that the Lord used Brother Watchman Nee to recover the practicality of the church life. He not only saw the doctrine and the reality, but also the practicality. At least three or four books were written by Watchman Nee concerning the practicality of the church life. The first was published in 1934, and he asked me to write an introduction to that book, which I did. This book was written before The Normal Christian Church Life and was called The Life of Meeting. The messages in this book were given in January of 1934. This was the start of the publication of Brother Nees vision regarding the practicality of the church life.
Then later, in 1937, Brother Nee gave us another series of messages, which was clear and adequate regarding the practicality of the church life. These messages were put into a book in Chinese in 1938 and translated into English in 1939. The English translation was originally entitled Concerning Our Missions, but is now called The Normal Christian Church Life. This is the second book by Brother Nee regarding the practicality of the church life.
Then after the war, from 1948 until his imprisonment in 1952, Brother Nee gave many messages on the practicality of the church life. We have chosen some of these messages and put them together in the book, Further Talks on the Church Life by Watchman Nee. This could be considered the third book by Brother Nee regarding the practicality of the church life.
This is the history of the Lords recovery of the church life. He first recovered the practice of the church life in the eighteenth century with the Moravian Brethren. But that was not adequate. Then in the nineteenth century He recovered the doctrine of the Church, and at the beginning of this century the reality and spirituality of the Church. Then after 1930, He began to recover the practicality of the church life. Now we have inherited all the items of the Lords recovery! We have inherited the doctrine, the spirituality, and the practicality. We are not boasting in a proud way, but we can humbly say by His mercy that we have the doctrine, the spirituality, and the practicality of the church life. And where is the practicality? The practicality of the church life is in the local churches. If we do not have the local churches, we do not have the practicality of the church life. (25-26)
In these passages Witness Lee stresses that the recovery of scriptural truth would be incomplete without the practicality of the church. To have the doctrine of the Church as well as its spirituality is wonderful, but incomplete. Only in the local churches is the practicality of the Church realized.
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