Two Aspects of the Church

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)

Further Reading: 

Witness Lee, The Testimony and Ground of the Church, ch. 4 (Print).

Witness Lee, Life-Study of 1 Corinthians, msg. 1 (NookKindleiBooksPrint).

Witness Lee, The Church as the Body of Christ, ch. 1-6 (NookKindleiBooksPrint).

(Most references in the Further Reading can also be viewed on www.ministrybooks.org.)

One thought on “Two Aspects of the Church

  1. The 2 aspects of the church can be understood as the universal aspect and the local aspect. The universal church is composed of all the members of the Body of Christ. The local aspect is the practical expression of the universal church. Without the universal church the local church is just an organization, without the local church the universal church is too mysterious and spiritual. If a member wants to see the universal church, he or she only needs to visit a local church. An illustration I enjoy pointing out can be viewed in the sky. If you look up at the moon from Tel Aviv and then you view it from city of Tehran, you would discover the same moon. The moon has the same expression in both cities. Just as the Body of Christ is one, its expression should be the same in every locality. This gives us a magnificent picture of the relationship between the universal and local aspects of the church.

    In Matthew 16, the Lord reveals the greatest prophecy in the Bible. Christ will build His church! Praise the Lord for the building. But how does the building take place? This chapter gives us insight into the things for and against God’s building. In these verses 3 main items that frustrate God’s building are revealed: the gates of Hades, Satan, and the will of men. On the positive side, the keys of the kingdom of the heavens, the cross, and the will of God are all for the building. If we desire the building to take place in us, the cross needs to terminate everything natural, and God’s will must become our will. Many believers experience these items in their daily life. While coordinate with a companion the cross comes swiftly to shape us for the building. While one is fast your fellow member tries to be faster, this kind of situation should turn us to the Lord in our spirit for His temperament. There is a need for building.

    In the letter Paul wrote the Corinthians, the divine view of the church is presented to us during the churches poor condition. Paul directs his letter to the church of God. Although He tells of trespasses, sin, and divisions, Paul still writes to the church of God. This is because the nature of the church will always be the same, it is of God. Even though the condition of the church may fluctuate, the church remains the church of God. This is part of the heavenly vision of the church we must pray to see.

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