The Orthodoxy of the Churchpor Watchman Nee
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PREFACE TO THE ENGLISH EDITION
I have never met a servant of the Lord so balanced as Brother Watchman Nee. He is rich in life, and he is also rich in knowledge. He knows and loves the Lord, and he knows and loves the Bible too. He knows Christ, and he also knows the church. He is for Christ, and he is also for the church. Thus, his ministry has been always balanced with two sidesthe spiritual and the practical. Books such as The Normal Christian Life; Sit, Walk, Stand; What Shall This Man Do?; The Spiritual Man; The Release of the Spirit; The Song of Songs; Love Not the World; The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; The Glorious Church; and many others which have not yet been translated into English contain messages given by him on the spiritual side. On the practical side, there are The Assembly Life (messages given and published in 1934), The Normal Christian Church Life (messages given in 1937 and published in 1938), The Orthodoxy of the Church (messages given and published in 1945), Further Talks on the Church Life (messages given and published within the period of 1948 through 1951), and Church Affairs (messages given in 1948 and published in 1949-1950). The messages on the spiritual side are principally concerned with the matters of spiritual life, while those on the practical side are absolutely concerned with the practice of the church life, i.e., the way to practice the church life. Spiritual life, of course, is vital to us. But the practice of the church life is also necessary. Most Christians pay much attention to the spiritual life but neglect the practice of the church. Some Christian teachers even stress the spiritual life but oppose the practice of the church life. Brother Nee, however, is adequately balanced in these two matters. He not only takes the commission of the spiritual life, but also bears the burden of the practice of the church life. He has a clear vision of both, and he is faithful to the Lord for the spiritual life as well as honest to His people regarding the practice of the church life. He realizes that even if we are rich in the spiritual life but do not have the proper practice of the church life, we are still short of the purpose of God. Therefore, he emphasizes both of these matters. May we also be so balanced and give adequate attention to both sides.
The messages in the book were given and published in 1945 at Chungking. They are exceedingly unveiling and illuminating. Besides many other points, they cover the two main matters: returning to the orthodoxy of the church and taking the ground of locality, which is the unique ground of genuine unity.
Some think that the ground of locality is something of the Brethren teaching and that we have adopted this kind of teaching from the Brethren. In fact, the Brethren have never seen the ground of locality and have never used the term the ground of unity. In chapter seven of this book, Brother Nee says:
The brothers did not see the "local" ground and boundary of the church...[They] have not noticed the oneness of each and every local church in each and every locality as recorded in the Bible.
The Brethren did not pay enough attention to the fact that the church has the locality as her boundary...The "Exclusive Brethren" exceed the boundary of locality, while the "Open Brethren" are smaller than the boundary of locality. They forget that in the Bible there is one and only one church in every locality.
Still further he says:
The difficulty of the Brethren..was that they were not clear enough regarding the teaching in the Bible on locality... Because they have not realized the importance of the teachings in the Bible concerning the locality, divisions have resulted.
There is more which Brother Nee says in this regard which I do not quote here.
The ground of locality was not discovered by us until 1937, and that through Brother Nee. Even by 1934, Brother Nee had only discovered the boundary of a local church, which is the boundary of the locality within which a local church is situated. Due to the confusion among the Brethren assemblies (that is, in one city there are several Brethren assemblies) which he saw in 1933, he studied the New Testament once again in order to ascertain the boundary of a local church (assembly). Eventually, he discovered that the New Testament reveals clearly that the boundary of a local church is the boundary of the locality (city) in which the local church stands. Immediately after his new discovery, Brother Nee gave a series of messages on this matter in January of 1934 in Shanghai, and these were published in the same year as the book The Assembly Life. Thus, in his messages and publications subsequent to that time, he began to use the term the boundary of locality, not yet the term the ground of locality.
Then, based upon the boundary of locality, Brother Nee came to see the ground of locality. Since the boundary of a local church is the boundary of the locality in which it stands, so the ground of the church must be the ground of the locality on which a local church is built. This is the unique ground which keeps the genuine unity of the church. Any ground other than this is divisive. After he saw this, Brother Nee called a workers' conference in January of 1937 in Shanghai to pass on this clear vision of the proper church ground to his fellow workers. The same series of messages was given again to the co-workers in the fall of the same year at Hankow and was published in 1938 as the book The Normal Christian Church Life. Thus, it was in 1937 that the ground of locality was revealed to us and the term the ground of locality began to be used among us.
I relate some of the history just to make it clear that the ground of locality is a new discovery, another item of the Lord's recovery in the last days through Brother Nee, not something of the recovery through the Brethren.
We do not care merely for doctrine. We care for the Lord's recovery and the Lord's way. May the Lord's grace bring us up to date in His recovery. May we see the proper ground of the church, which is the ground of locality, the unique ground of genuine unity, that we may have the proper way for the practice of the church life. May we see the vision unveiled in the last seven epistles of the Lord to His church and hear what the Spirit speaks to the churches, that we may not join the Catholic Thyatira, nor stay in the Protestant Sardis, neither fall into the Brethren Laodicea, but absolutely remain in the brotherly-love Philadelphia, which is the church that has returned to the orthodoxy of the apostolic church. What we urgently need today is to come back to the orthodoxy of the beginning and stand firmly on the ground of locality. The time is short! The Lord is coming! May we prepare ourselves to meet Him in and through the proper church life! Amen!
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