“You Have Not Denied My Name” (4)
God’s desire is not merely
for individuals to be saved;
He wants the believers to be
built up together in the
In His letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3, the Lord appreciated and promised to reward the church in Philadelphia for not denying His name (Rev. 3:10). She stood firmly for Christ, not for any other name, such as the denominational or free-group names that so many churches take for themselves today.
To have such churches on the earth will be the ultimate fulfillment of the Lord’s purpose in this present age. We can see this not only in Revelation, but also in the book of Romans, which is the foundational book in the New Testament on God’s full salvation.
For a long time I could not understand why this book ends as it does, with the Apostle Paul greeting so many of the saints in Rome on a personal basis. I really thought Paul should have sent this section as a separate letter, not as part of a New Testament epistle, since it only has to do with the connections he had with the saints there. It did not unveil any great New Testament truths; or so I thought.
But of course, whatever is in the New Testament is there for a reason, under the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit. And eventually I was helped to understand this matter as I read in Witness Lee’s Life Study of Romans.
In brief, chapter 16 is not just an unnecessary appendix to the book of Romans; rather, it is the consummation of the entire book. In this chapter the Holy Spirit is showing us the goal of the gospel: it is not merely that sinners would be saved, or that the believers in Christ would experience some spiritual growth and sanctification, or even that they would bear some fruit unto the Lord.
Of course, these are all very important, positive things. Eventually, however, what God actually wants is for the believers to be built up together in a practical way in churches that exist in different localities on the earth, as a testimony to Christ Himself and of the salvation we have received in Him.
This is the theme of the book of Romans, and that is why this book concludes in the way that it does.
The sections on the Law’s condemnation of sinners (chapters 1-3), redemption and justification (3-5), sanctification (5-8), God’s choosing (9-11), and transformation and building up in the Body of Christ (12-15) all progress toward this result: the practical expression of the Body of Christ in the local churches. In fact, chapter 16 refers to the local churches five different times (vv. 1,4,5,16,23). As Brother Lee states:
What a great contrast there is between Romans 1 and 16. In chapter one we see sinners, people that are evil, unclean, and condemned; in chapter sixteen we see the churches that are holy and glorious. There is no comparison. How did vile sinners become glorious churches? Through the lengthy process revealed from chapter one through chapter sixteen, the process of redemption, justification, sanctification, glorification, selection, and transformation. As a result of such a long process sinners have become glorious churches, churches that are holy and yet so practical.
— The Life-study of Romans, pages 363-364
We need to see a vision from the Lord, and from His word, of how crucial the local churches are for the carrying out of His purpose. Once we have such a vision we will understand that the focus of all our labor for the Lord must ultimately be for the raising up of such churches in different localities on the earth today. This was indeed the focus of Paul’s labor, and now it must be ours as well.
Lord, have Your way in the local churches today!
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— 24 August 2023 —