B. Teaching Emphasized in the Local Churches
The local churches founded in various places represent distinctions only in locality, not in doctrine. Watchman Nee (Collected Works, Set 2, Vol. 30, 89) made it abundantly clear that if our church is not separated from other children of God on the ground of locality alone, but stands for the propagation of some particular doctrine, then we are decidedly a sect, however true to the Word of God our teaching may be. In the following quote, Witness Lee points out that the common saving faith, that which is centered on the person and work of Christ, consists of the basic, foundational doctrines binding all genuine believers together. Hence, for the sake of maintaining the oneness among the believers, it is the common faith that must be taught and held to in the local church. Witness Lee acknowledges that there are many doctrines in the Bible other than those constituting the common faith which are both necessary and important. Witness Lee points out, however, that while we may present these teachings in the local church, we must not insist on any of them as a basis for our fellowship or we will fall into sectarianism. In such a case, a local church will lose its standing as a local church (the church of God in that locality – 1 Cor. 1:2) because that local church has forsaken its position of generality, of receiving all the brothers and sisters in Christ.
THE COMMON FAITH
Our faith is constituted with certain basic doctrines. First, we all must believe that God is one yet triunethe Father, the Son, and the Spirit. Anyone who does not believe that God is uniquely one yet triune is in error. This doctrine of God is not divisive; rather, it is basic, and all Christians must believe it. Second, we all must believe that our God became incarnated in the Son. This means that the Son of God became incarnated as a man. Anyone who does not believe this cannot be saved. Third, we all must believe that Jesus Christ, the Son of God incarnated as a man, lived on earth and died on the cross for our sins to secure our redemption. On the third day He was resurrected from the dead both physically and spiritually, and today He is our Savior, our Lord in resurrection, and our life. If we believe in Him, our sins are forgiven, He comes into us as our life, and we are regenerated. All the regenerated ones are the unique church. In whatever locality they reside, they are the local expression of the universal church. Finally, all the saints in the churches are waiting for the Lord Jesus to come back to receive them to Himself. These are the basic doctrines, the doctrines that constitute the saving faith, the doctrines we must believe in order to be saved. Because every sound, genuine believer holds these basic doctrines, they are called the common faith (Titus 1:4). There is hardly any argument among saints regarding them.
INSISTING ONLY ON THE BASIC DOCTRINES
In addition to these basic doctrines, the Bible contains many other doctrines. Although these other doctrines are necessary and important, they are not the basic doctrines which constitute the faith. From the time of the Reformation until today, a great many divisions have come into being. Nearly all these divisions have been caused by different doctrines. Not one division was created by a basic doctrine, for none of the basic doctrines divides the saints .
[The doctrine of the kingdom, for example] is not a basic doctrine in the Bible. Some Brethren teachers say that the kingdom has been suspended. But the Bible reveals that the kingdom is here today. But the young people must be warned not to go out and teach this particular view of the kingdom as a local church doctrine. Furthermore, the matter of exercising the spirit is not a basic doctrine. I am concerned that some of the young ones may insist that others believe that the kingdom is here today and that all others must pray-read, call on the name of the Lord, and exercise their spirit. If the young people do this, they will be sectarian. We should not insist on any of these things.
(Witness Lee, Spirit and the Body, 219-221)
The contents of the Christian faith constitute Gods plan or arrangement to dispense Himself into man to produce the church as the Body of Christ. The apostle Paul calls this plan the economy of God. In his first Epistle to Timothy, Paul exhorted Timothy to charge certain ones not to teach different things, but only to teach Gods economy (vv. 1:3-4). In fact, the apostles teaching (Acts 2:42), which is the teaching of the New Testament, has Gods economy as its central line. Witness Lee also understood that the teaching of things outside the central line of Gods economy will lead to the decline, degradation, and division of a local church.
1 Timothy 1:3
Even as I exhorted you, when I was going into Macedonia, to remain in Ephesus in order that you might charge certain ones not to teach 3different things
1 Timothy 1:33
To teach different things was to teach myths, unending genealogies (v. 4), and the law (vv. 7-8). All such teaching was vain talking (v. 6), differing from the apostles teaching, which was centered on Christ and the church, that is, on the economy of God. Pauls Epistles are the completion of the divine revelation concerning Gods eternal purpose and economy (Col. 1:25). His ministry completes the revelation concerning the all-inclusive Christ and His universal Body, the church as His fullness to express Him. Concerning the church as the Body of Christ there are two sides: life and practice. From Romans through 2 Thessalonians a full revelation is given concerning the life of the church, including the nature, responsibility, and function of the church. Now, from 1 Timothy through Philemon a detailed revelation concerning the practice of the church is presented. This pertains to the administration and shepherding of a local church. For this, the first thing needed is to terminate the different teachings of the dissenters, which distract the saints from the central line and ultimate goal of Gods New Testament economy (vv. 4-6). The different teachings in vv. 3-4, 6-7; 6:3-5, 20-21 and the heresies in 4:1-3 are the seed, the source, of the churchs decline, degradation, and deterioration dealt with in 2 Timothy.
(Witness Lee, Footnotes, 970)
To teach the items of the common Christian faith in the local church is to teach God's economy because, as Witness Lee explains, “the faith equals the contents of the economy, the household administration, the dispensation, of God” (Witness Lee, Footnotes, 969). Therefore, the local church as the pillar and base of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15) will do well to emphasize the teaching of God's economy. Watchman Nee and Witness Lee, through the consistent focus of their ministry, have helped the local churches everywhere to stay on this central line of the Bible. The proper teaching of God's economy in the local church will preserve the testimony of oneness within the local church and, as Watchman Nee and Witness Lee also confidently affirm, this teaching will ultimately bring the saints in the local church into a more vital and intimate relationship with the Lord.
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