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Building up believers and the New Testament church

Spiritual Understanding of the Church

The Church is Local in Expression

As we have already said, it is God's responsibility to build this house, but we as individual members must be willing to be placed in God's house, wherever it pleases Him. There must be a coming together in this hour, a spiritual building up of a spiritual house, for the habitation of God through His Spirit. We must be willing to function in the measure of faith or the gift that He has given us, for the glorification, building up and edification of the body of Christ. The Lord has said in His Word that those who have a single eye, one purpose of heart, one Source, shall have fullness of light in their body (Luke 11:34). So if we see the single purpose of God, and the full manifestation and working of the Spirit in each individual member, then we can receive the light of God and see the divine outworking of all that is of God.

The New Testament church is made up of local expressions of Christ, with God's divine laws, and principle, and pattern in full manifestation. This is a work by the Spirit, the one who draws together God's many-membered body. In our thinking, this must be taken out of the realm of commandments, and become the reality of the Spirit working in the power of an endless life. God has an exact pattern, and down to the very last detail, nothing is left undone or overlooked. To the natural mind it appears to be a form, yet Christ's church is completely spiritual. As we are being conformed by the Spirit, through discipline and in loving obedience to the Head, we will know the real liberty which is in Christ Jesus. Spiritual men and women can see and move in this spiritual life, not having to answer to man or defend themselves. Under the divine authority of the Head and through the ministries that God has placed in the midst, the church will function fruitfully for God's purpose, touching the life of every member.

A local church is comprised of believers in any locality such as a city, town, or village. The church comes together to worship, exhort and edify each other as the Spirit leads, through the ministry of the word of God and the gifts of the Spirit, offering praise to the Lord and making melody in their hearts unto Him. If we possess the life of God which is in Christ Jesus, our gatherings must not be based on personalities, doctrines, creeds, rituals, denominations, fellowships, or any idea of man, but come together solely in Christ, with Him as the Head.

We must see by the Spirit that the local assembly is the center of our body life. All our activities stem from the local church. Our whole life is taken up with Christ, and He is in His body. There must first be a real dedication which can only come by a revelation from the Spirit. If this is not settled in our hearts, we cannot go any further. But once this is settled, we can proceed and begin to draw from the body, with our eyes solely on Christ the Head and our life completely coming from Him.

We also need understanding concerning local bodies coming together. Many today are more concerned with conventions and convocations, or the linking of local bodies of Christ, than with the outworking of His life in the local body. Nowhere has God said that we should join together with other local bodies. The many-membered body, now separated into local expressions in local areas, shall only be brought together in a universal visible expression when Jesus returns and catches the saints away together to meet Him in the air. Any efforts on our part to bring this about before then will only bring confusion and cause division and strife in that which may have begun in a spiritual manner.

God has placed five ministering gifts in His local churches: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, for the "perfecting of the saints, until we all come into the unity of the faith" (Ephesians 4:13). In the local expressions of the church, He is able to bring about a perfecting and oneness of the saints so that when the time comes when we all assemble into one, at that great day of the catching away of God's church, they will all resemble Christ. If we try to bring this about by our own efforts, we will miss the Spirit's work. But if we will be diligent in the Spirit in our local bodies, for the fulfillment of God's purpose and the maturing of each member, then we shall see the fulfillment of God in other areas as His apostles are sent. Through their ministries God will give an increase, bringing into existence more local expressions of the one body of Christ.

There is much room for individual fellowship, and the speaking of the Word of God in different local areas. When we say that local expressions or churches should not come together, we do not limit the movements of God's apostles, prophets, teachers, and evangelists. According to the scriptures, they are directed by the Spirit of God to minister to needs, wherever they might be. But there is nothing scriptural to support local churches having fellowship with other local churches, other than the giving of their substance to meet a need. Otherwise, it takes away from the maturing and dedication of the saints, and the authority of Christ as the head of the body.