The Son of God—Expect His Life in Every Locale
“Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’
“Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven’” (Matthew 16:16-19).
“... if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
“I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
“Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:16-20).
“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27).
“...and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19-22).
“For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is the Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:12).
We have seen that the Church is actually in Christ. He is ACTUALLY and TRULY in the Church. Jesus is God’s temple, God’s dwelling place. It is in Him that we find God. He serves the purpose of all that the Church is intended to mean. The Church is fully in Christ, and Christ fully in the True Church. But so far as the world is concerned, the Church is Christ distributed, though not divided. Not a bunch of Christs, but One Christ.
If you remember, Paul equated the subtle comparisons the Corinthians were making with each other as a dividing of “Christ” Himself. They were, if it were possible, tearing Christ Himself apart by the way they were treating one another.
The Vital Character of the Local Assembly
Please understand as you hear the previously cited verses, that this is the vital character of the local assembly. “Where two or three are gathered in my name” and all the like passages indicate a precious, though almost unknown truth: Jesus is present in a much more profound way when two or three are gathered together because He has committed Himself to His Body.
To gather “in His Name” does NOT mean that we sing lovely “praise and worship songs” to Jesus. It means that we are consecrated to Him in our life’s purpose and obedience. We are under His Holy Authority and accurately represent Him and His Spirit in what we love, and what we hate. We cannot be lukewarm, or love the world, or live in undealt-with sin or with those who do, and still “gather in His Name.” It is not Biblically possible. Do remember this, as you consider in the years to come whether or not “two or three” are TRULY “gathered in His Name.” Is “leaven” an undealt-with part “of the batch”? If so, then you did not meet “in HIS Name.” “Your meetings do more harm than good” in such a case, and we bring judgment on ourselves, according to the very Voice of Almighty God and His Chosen One, Jesus. This is very important. Most things that are today called “church” are most definitely NOT a Church, by GOD’S definition. They may be “teaching places” or social clubs with a Jesus logo on the sign, but they cannot be legitimately called “Churches” if they are not gathered “in His Name” as the Bible defines it and has been capsulated moments ago. Please do not forget this point, because you may never hear it again. Certainly you will not hear it from those that have mobilized “attendees,” and have extracted monies from large numbers of people for their own ambitions and pocketbooks, or misguided man-orchestrated means of serving God by their organizations.
God’s Mind is upon the corporate, the many that are truly daily ONE with Him and with one another. Nothing else will fulfill His Heart’s Desire! “The body,” Paul says, “is not one member, but many.” While it is true that the Lord does live in each one of us individually, and that each of us can have a personal relationship with the Lord, the Lord has bound Himself up with His Church, His TRUE Church, when it comes to the matter of His Manifestation.
What I mean is this: Though you may be saved, though you may know the Lord, though you may do many good works, you are unable to manifest the True Full Life of the Lord. It is a corporate issue. The Lord is limited, and I mean severely limited, when He is only expressing Himself through an individual; because no individual is Jesus. But, He is fully in the Church, “the Pillar and Foundation of Truth.” “The Habitation of God, by the Spirit.” The Church, which “the gates of Hell cannot overcome.” “The FULLNESS of Him that fills everything in every way!” The True Church, which lives His Life, together, daily. A “CITY” set on a hill that can’t be hidden.
Now, keeping in mind what “in My Name” truly means, Jesus did not say, “Where there is ONE present in my Name, there I am.” Now He could have said that, but He did not. But what did He say? He said, “Where two or three are together in My Name, there I *AM* in the MIDST of them.” Notice what this passage deals with in the first place. It is a practical matter. According to God’s Word, out of Jesus’ mouth, there are certain people in the Church who must be disciplined. And when they are dealt with by the “Church,” in the Lord’s view, it is dealing with Himself. That is what He is saying. Notice it is not merely representatives acting on His behalf as it would be in the case of the individual, but it is HE HIMSELF, expressing Himself through a corporate unit. He is present. It is He who is acting. He is connected in an executive way. He said He would be, and He meant it to the fullest extent. That is so, for any True Church which is His Body, and functioning together daily connected as “every supporting ligament.” It is NOT simply “figurative.”
Some Fatal Hindrances to God’s Purpose
I say that it has been a fatal mistake. It has been fatal to spiritual growth, fatal to spiritual fullness, to spiritual power, to spiritual light and to spiritual life.
There are a great many Christians who are occupied with the salvation of the individual. And well we should be, but the Lord saves the individual with the Church in view. He created the PLANET, “for the church.” It is important that we must settle this matter! In this age, from the ascension of Christ and the giving of the Spirit right on up to the end of the age, the Lord is working to secure for Himself a Body, not simply the salvation of individuals.
In most cases, initial salvation is as far as it goes, and it repeats itself in a very shallow, though evangelistic cycle. All that is accomplished is personal salvation; in the sense of forgiveness of sins and peace with God—those rudiments of the Gospel—and people stay in this condition for 10, 20, 30, 40, and 50 years. When you meet them, you would think they had made no spiritual progress. Their growth has been stunted. And there is another odd characteristic besides having their growth stunted. They lack the spiritual senses or desire to apprehend more. They are quite content in this stunted condition. For the most part, when you share with them more of God’s full thought regarding His House, they cannot apprehend it. They do not understand it. There is an acute dullness to the revelation of God’s heart for His people. This is heartbreaking to the Father, and the cause of such shallowness and dryness and dullness is criminal in the courts of the Most High. It is NOT optional in God’s House to grow daily into the image and likeness of the Beloved Son.
(B) The Prevailing “Church System”
Another fatal thing is that which is represented by the present “church system.” This, by far, occupies the largest realm of “Christendom.” It is congregations of INDIVIDUALS who gather for preaching and services and then go back to their homes. While there may be exceptions, this is by far the norm.
It is NOT a corporate expression of Christ! This is NOT the Body of Christ. This is not the Body locally expressed and functioning. It is something far less. And what has been the result?
The same result as in the first case...namely, very little spiritual growth. I am being very frank now, but I must bear my heart because of where the Lord wants to take us in this hour. And I must run the risk of stepping on some people’s toes in order to get there.
We are everywhere finding people today in the present Church system who do not have a glimmer of light on the Lord’s fuller purpose and do not know what we are talking about—and the bulk of them have no interest in anything else. They are content, with little real hunger for more.
This thing, this going to “church,” this going through rituals, this public worship line of things has usurped the place of the true local expression of the Body of Christ, and has set it aside.
Today thousands are in a state of spiritual infancy and immaturity and unenlightenment even after all these centuries. People born and brought up in it do not grow spiritually. I know there are some who do grow despite it, but I am speaking of the thing itself. It has become a fatal menace to the real purpose of God.
Now understand this, satan is not opposed to all of these services. Christian “meetings” of all sorts can go on for literal centuries with little or no opposition. There also seems to be little satanic opposition to the host of Gospel missions throughout the world. Thousands of missionaries traverse the earth with a message of salvation from sin, and face little opposition.
But satan is adverse to local families—local expressions of the Body of Christ. Just let some folks begin to take seriously this matter of the House of God, and watch the opposition flare up out of nowhere. Satan’s effort and energy are spent in the purpose of breaking up and scattering corporate life, intimate daily Life together amongst all of God’s People in a local assembly. He attempts—by slander, or unBelievers’ hatred, or fear, or confusion by lies he authors—to bring an end to their practical functioning together.
The Purpose and Function of the Church
(A) The Meeting Place Between God and Man
The temple of old served this purpose. It was the meeting place for God and man. The Holy of Holies in the midst of the temple was the place that signified coming into the presence of the Lord. This was Holy ground. It was the place of meeting directly with God.
Christ was that temple in the fullest sense—and we know that God said that the true Church is in and a part of Christ in the fullest sense; “the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way.” While this certainly doesn’t apply to the majority of the world system’s marketing and religious weekly expressions, when it is a daily-intertwined expression of His Life, He means this literally.
Jesus said, “Destroy this temple and I will raise it up in three days.” He made it clear that He was not speaking of the old physical structure, but of Himself. Now listen to Paul’s words to the Ephesians:
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a Holy temple in the Lord. (That, God insists, is His Life in His Church.) And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19-22).
Now it simply follows that since Jesus is the temple of God, and we are also spoken of as that temple, and since we are an expression of the fullness of Him, that the Church is to be the place where men meet God. Not to merely hear truths about God, but to meet God Himself—because He is to be expressed through His Church.
I recently read a writing that questioned whether Jesus would be pleased if He were to visit our “services” today. While the article made some challenging remarks, it also revealed a disturbing view of things.
Is this our conception of things? You see, that suggestion implies that the Church is one thing and Christ is another. It also implies that it would be out of the ordinary for Him to “visit” us. (And we do not refer to an emotional high manufactured by pre-planned “worship” and “preaching.”) If He did visit, in this way of thinking, it would still be a visit as a separate entity—“descending” to participate in and to ascertain how He liked“our” “service”.
Oh, no! That’s not God’s Church! God’s Church is very much Christ Himself, if it is truly, legitimately, observably “from the least to the greatest”...HIM. And where you find the Church, according to God, there you find Christ, and no disparities, no inconsistencies, no contradictions; it is the Lord. The Church is a real, connected part of Christ, and when men encounter the Church, it is the Lord’s intention that they encounter Him.
Now I am not saying that we ourselves, as individuals can bring men into direct contact with God. Nor am I trying to make the Body of Christ as an equal with God. A bride is an equal yoke, but not an equal; so also is Christ and the Church. “The two shall become one flesh,” Paul reminded us. While that phrase speaks secondarily of marriage, it speaks primarily of Christ and the Church. The Church should never be thought of in any terms that are less than these!
If the Lord is in His people, then when men meet His people, there is a sense in which they meet Him as well. But if He is not in us, we may talk about God until Doomsday with 100% accuracy, but men will not meet Him! When the Church is truly constituted, it is the ground upon which men meet God and God meets men, and that ground is Christ Himself.
There shall be a far greater impact of the Lord registered upon men by a company of Christ-indwelt men and women being together in the power of the Holy Spirit, than can be by ANY number of isolated Christian units.
(B) The Embodiment and Expression of God’s Thoughts
God’s spiritual House, as Peter said, should “show forth the excellencies of Him who has called us from darkness into light,” and as Paul said that “now through the Church God’s manifold wisdom should be made known” to both the seen and unseen worlds.
The Church is meant to be an expression of God’s thoughts and mind. We are again not referring to sermons and truths (though they may be present), but the unveiling, through an open Heaven, of God’s current mind. We live by “...every Word that continually proceeds from the mouth of God,” “...and we have that Spirit.”
(C) The Sphere of Divine Government and Authority
When a crisis in the New Testament is at its peak, the final thing to do is “to tell it to the Church.” It is the Church who is to make the final call. Those that “will judge angels” are, because of God’s Plan to inhabit His True Expressions of Church, “the Pillar and Foundation of Truth.” Jesus has said that where there is a corporate expression of Himself that has bound a matter on earth, that matter will be bound in Heaven as well. If the Church looses a matter on earth, then that matter is loosed in Heaven as well. We have generally not believed this to be true (in spite of the fact that GOD has said it) because we have seldom SEEN churches that are truly Churches, by God’s definition. Those with much to lose have always claimed that Acts 2:42-47 is merely a cultural phenomenon rather than simple consecration of a People “called out” for the Lord, and living like it.
Since the Church is an expression of the Fullness of Christ, it cannot help but express some of His Divine Authority. Since there is Authority in Christ Himself, it must also reside in the Church, because the Church is not “about” Christ, but it is an expression of Him. The only way to conceive that the Church would have no authority would be to construe that Christ Himself had none, or that the Scriptures are in error. For the “Head” is Christ, and the “body” is also Christ, as “the two have become one flesh.”
I do want to say this to you from my heart, that it is necessary for you, dear friends, to be a part of, to be in the midst of, to have behind you a living, functioning company of the Lord’s people. I know the difference, and many of you know the difference—the difference it makes in depth and in strength. For many years, I was a minister, as we say, of different “churches,” congregations. But oh, I know the difference between that, and what has been obtained since. It is not a difference of the natural caliber of the people at all, but a difference in kind. The one was a part of a system largely organized and run by man for religious purposes; the other is something formed of the Spirit; and that is an immense difference.
Hold out for the true vision and do not settle for anything less. Call out to the Lord of the harvest that you might see His Kingdom expressed on earth as it is in Heaven. As by the Lord’s Holy Call in His teaching of the merchant of pearls, pay whatever cost is before you to attain it. You will reap the reward of His heart, for Eternity, “along with persecutions” and “with much tribulation.”