The Bible reveals that the church is of two aspects: the universal aspect in Matthew 16:18 and the local aspect in Matthew 18:17. In its universal aspect, the church is revealed as the church of God, which is constituted with the element of God (1 Cor. 1:2); the supporting pillar and upholding base of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15); the Body of Christ, the fullness of the One who fills all in all (Eph. 1:22-23); the wife of Christ who is one with Christ (Eph. 5:23-27); and the new man with Christ as all the members and in all the members (Col. 3:10-11). Such a church is an entity constituted and built up with Christ in order to express Christ for the accomplishment of God’s purpose.
The local aspect of the church is for the practical expression of the church in its universal aspect. Thus, it is in the local churches that God practically expresses Himself. The local aspect of the church can be seen in Revelation 2 and 3, where the seven churches in their respective localities are revealed as seven golden lampstands (1:11, 20). The first mention of golden lampstand which occurs in Exodus 25 reveals that the lampstand is a type of Christ as the embodiment of the Triune God, with the Father as the substance, the Son as the shape or the form, and the Spirit as the lamps, the expression. The local churches as the lampstands in Revelation, being the same as the lampstand in Exodus, are therefore the reproduction of Christ, the testimony of Jesus, for the expression of the Triune God. If we desire to see Jesus being expressed practically, we must go to the local churches, and if we desire to be part of the universal church to express the Lord Jesus Christ as His Body, we must be in the local churches practically.
“If we have only the local aspect, but not the aspect of the church being of God, we shall have only an outward formality. We shall be lacking the inward reality. But if we have only the universal aspect, but not the local aspect of the church in a particular locality, we shall have the reality but not the practicality. On the one hand, the church is constituted of God; on the other hand, the church is expressed in a particular locality.” (Life-Study of 1 Corinthians pp. 8-9)
Witness Lee, The Testimony and Ground of the Church, ch. 4 (Print).
(Most references in the Further Reading can also be viewed on www.ministrybooks.org.)