The Recovery of the Ground of Onenessfrom Babylon to Jerusalem
The oneness of the believers in the local church is indispensable; it must be maintained—or, if lost, recovered at any cost. Today the believers meeting in the local churches have paid the price to come back to the scriptural oneness seen originally among the local churches in the book of Acts.
The history of the Old Testament children of Israel, whether in defeat or in victory, is an illuminating type of the New Testament church. One of the most significant victories in the history of Israel was their return to Israel from captivity in Babylon and other countries. Witness Lee applied their experience of recovery to the New Testament church in the following way:
Jerusalem was the unique place, the unique center, chosen by God to maintain the oneness of His people. Eventually, God's people were carried away into captivity, some to Egypt, others to Assyria, and still others to Babylon. Originally God's people were one, with a unique center of worship on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. But they became scattered into at least three major divisions. After the seventy years of captivity in Babylon had expired, God commanded the people to return to Jerusalem. A remnant of the people did return. By returning to Jerusalem, they spontaneously formed a fourth group among God's people. Before the return from captivity, there were just three groupsthose in Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon. Although these three groups were divisions, the fourth group, constituted of those who had returned to Jerusalem, was not a division. Yes, the fourth group was a distinct group, but it was a recovery, not a division.
Perhaps some of God's people who chose to remain in Babylon said, Brothers, you shouldn't be so narrow. God is everywhere. We don't need to go back to Jerusalem to worship Him. Consider Daniel. He loved the Lord and served Him without going back to Jerusalem. If he could stay in Babylon, then we are free to do the same thing. Under the Lord's sovereignty, Daniel remained in Babylon even after the year Cyrus issued the decree ordering the captives to return to Jerusalem (2 Chron. 36:22; Dan. 1:21; 10:1). Prior to that time, he prayed daily with his windows opened toward Jerusalem. This indicates that Daniel desired to go back to Jerusalem; however, he was not given the opportunity to do so. Therefore, his case should not be used as an excuse to remain in Babylon, that is, to stay in division.
For God's people to remain in Egypt, Assyria, or Babylon was to remain in division. Those who returned to Jerusalem did not cause further division. On the contrary, they shared in the recovery of the genuine oneness. Among the four groups, only they could be regarded as the nation of Israel. Although the ones who remained in Babylon may have vastly outnumbered those who returned to Jerusalem, those who returned could be regarded as the nation of Israel, whereas those who remained could not.
(Witness Lee, Genuine Ground, 143-144)
Do you know why many of God's people remained in Babylon instead of making the long journey back to Jerusalem? The reason was they were settled comfortably in Babylon and did not want to pay the price to return to the good land. The same holds true of many Jews in the United States today. They may be very devoted to the nation of Israel, but they find it inconvenient to move there to be part of that nation. Having a settled place in American society, they may prefer to be American Jews. This indicates that they are not willing to pay the price to stand on the unique ground. Sorry to say, the same thing is true of many Christians. A number of them have seen something of the truth of oneness. But the problem is they are not willing to pay the price. Returning to the ground of oneness would cause many to lose their position, name, reputation, or popularity. By the Lord's mercy, we have chosen to take the narrow way of the cross and to stand on the ground of oneness. We have no choice except to take the Lord's choice, even though we may be defamed, despised, and criticized. We must pay the price to stand on the ground of local oneness no matter what evil things others may say about us.
(Witness Lee, Genuine Ground, 146)
The children of Israel were a type of the church, God's redeemed and regenerated people. Just as the oneness of God's Old Testament people was recovered by means of their return to the good land from the various nations into which they had been scattered, so also is the oneness of God's New Testament people recovered when they return from so many divisions to the ground of oneness in the local church. The recovery of the genuine oneness of the believers in the local churches is the glorious fulfillment of the Old Testament return from captivity.
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