The recent International Training for Elders and Responsible Ones (ITERO) elaborated on the fellowship between Brother Witness Lee and the trainers of the full-time training in Anaheim, California in January 1996. This fellowship, the notes of which constituted the outline of message 1 of this recent ITERO, recalibrates our pursuit and consideration of the truths in the Bible. In this post we seek to view the vital groups from this perspective in order to give it a balanced emphasis. All the quotations are taken from the outline of Message 1 of the 2011 Spring ITERO.
“In the Lord’s recovery we consider that there are three lines of truth in the divine revelation of the Bible – the central line, the line of supplemental points, and ‘the leaves and the branches’”.
The central line is constituted of 7 items: the Word of God, the Triune God, the economy of God, the all-inclusive Christ, the life-giving Spirit, the Body of Christ, and the New Jerusalem. The line of supplemental points includes, but is not limited to, the prophecy concerning Christ, the Old Testament types, the church (supplementary to the Body of Christ), and the kingdom, including the judgment seat and the wedding feast. Finally, “the leaves and branches” include but are not limited to the God-ordained way, the Lord’s table, the administration of the local church, head covering, foot-washing, the rapture, the keeping of days, and the handling of idol sacrifices.
“In all our handling of the Scriptures, the central line should stand out.”
The central line should focus us in both our pursuit and ministering of the truth. When we fellowship with others, the emphasis should be placed on the central line and it should be the standard with which we receive all believers. This safeguards us from division and builds up the Body of Christ. If we over-emphasize or receive one another according to the line of supplemental points or “the leaves and branches”, we may become divisive. For example, although every church may differ in their practice/emphasis of the God-ordained way, we cannot base our fellowship on these practices. The analogy given is that the central line is the trunk of the tree, without which the tree cannot survive, while the lesser points of truth such as the God-ordained way or the vital groups are “the leaves and branches” of the tree. So what should our attitude be toward “the leaves and branches”?
“There are many other items in the Bible that are there as helps to the central line and the line of supplemental points. These items are either manifestations of the organic nature of the other lines (leaves) or channels of the organic supply for the working out of the other lines (branches).”
This quote points out two things:
- The leaves are the manifestations of the other lines. In other words, as we are constituted intrinsically with the other lines, this will spontaneously issue in the beautifying leaves. Take the vital groups for example: if we truly enjoy the Word of God, become one with the Triune God, are in the economy of God, and have the consciousness of the Body, we will spontaneously be vital persons who are grouped for the building up of the Body of Christ. We will be energized by the life-giving Spirit to visit sinners with the gospel and shepherd believers with the all-inclusive Christ.
- On the other hand, the branches are the channels of organic supply for the working out of the other lines. Using the same example, as we are practicing the vital groups, we will realize how short we are and how much we need the life-giving Spirit and the all-inclusive Christ as our daily supply. We will be exposed as to how little consciousness of the Body we have and be desperate to seek the Lord. Also, we will have the opportunity to learn how to be blended into one as the reality of the Body of Christ. All of these may strengthen our appreciation and application of the central line.
Using visitation as another “leaves and branches” example, if we are one with the Triune God (central line), who traveled out of eternity into time to visit us, we will for sure be ones who visit others (manifestation). On the other hand, when we start visiting others (channel of organic supply), we will be desperate for the Triune God (central line) in order to minister the all-inclusive Christ (central line) and find ourselves carrying out the economy of God (central line).
To take the tree analogy even further, we know from biology that leaves are necessary for photosynthesis. In order for a tree to grow, the water absorbed by the roots has to travel to the leaves where it is combined with carbon dioxide to produce organic molecules as the supply and building blocks of the tree. If you cut off the leaves and branches, the tree may not die but neither will it grow. May the Lord continue to balance us and give us all the proper emphasis on the central line, the line of supplemental points, and “the leaves and branches” for the accomplishment of His purpose.