“You Have Not Denied My Name” (2)
The history of the church,
in the light of Biblical
prophecy, can show us how
we should gather together
as Christians today
As we saw in the previous Note, it matters a great deal to the Lord that we as His believers not deny His name. We may feel it is a small thing to say that we belong to this or that denomination or free group, but in reality it will very much frustrate our going on with the Lord in the best way. (See.)
But how can we avoid taking a sectarian name for ourselves, yet still gather together for fellowship with our fellow believers? For this we can be helped by knowing something of the history of the church, in the light of Biblical prophecy.
If you are familiar with the remarkable, prophetic aspect of the seven churches in the book of Revelation 2-3, you know they signify the seven stages the professing church will pass through before the Lord’s return. (Watchman Nee has an excellent book on this,.)
Sardis, the fourth of the seven churches, prefigures the spiritually dead, or almost dead, church that was produced out of the Reformation (Rev. 3:1-6). The next church, Philadelphia, prefigures the church that brings the saints back to the Lord’s original desire. It was of this church that the Lord said, “You have not denied My name” (Rev. 3:7-13, esp. v. 8).
This phase of the history of the church began some time after the Reformation, with the Moravian Brethren in the 1700s under Count Zinzendorf; these saints were the first to really appreciate the need to keep the genuine oneness among the believers (cf. Psalm 133, John 17:20-22). It continued with the remarkable recovery that took place in the 1800s with the Plymouth Brethren, who were the first to see that we should simply identify ourselves as brothers and sisters in Christ; thus, they forsook the denominations and gathered together simply as Christians.
Then in the 20th century the Lord used Watchman Nee and Witness Lee to further this recovery; they saw that the proper way for Christians to meet is to simply gather together as Christians wherever they live; this is the Biblical way to keep the oneness of the Body of Christ, so that our fellowship is truly “the fellowship of God’s Son” (1 Cor. 1:9).
And so, in the light of this history, we can say this: the way to keep the Lord’s name in regards to our fellowship with other believers is to simply gather together as the believers in Christ wherever we live.
And indeed, this is just what we see in the New Testament: the only gatherings ever designated there as churches are those in a specific city, such as the church in Corinth (1 Cor. 1:2), or the church of the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 1:1; cf. Rev. 1:11-12). Despite what some have claimed, there is no exception to this principle in the entire New Testament.
Brother Nee and Brother Lee referred to this basis, this ground, of meeting as “the ground of oneness in locality.”
Yet, while this sounds very simple (and in a way it is), there will always be a great spiritual conflict when the believers seek to meet in such a way. That is what we will consider in the next Note in this series.
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— 15 August 2023 —