III. As Revealed by the Apostles in Acts and the Epistles
B.Taking a City as the Boundary and Ground of Each Local Church
The next point covered in this chapter is a particularly critical one for the preservation of the oneness of the universal church. Witness Lee presents to us the biblical standard by which Christians must be governed when relating to one another and meeting together: that is, the oneness of the local church must reflect the oneness of the universal church. Just as the universal church is one, so must its local expressions be one. There must never be more than one local church within a city. Witness Lee explains below that the city is the ground of a local church, and the city boundaries thus constitute the boundaries of the local church:
The churches are established in different cities by taking a city as the boundary and ground of each local church. Revelation 1:11 indicates this very clearly. In this verse the voice said to John, What you see write in a book and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, and to Smyma, and to Pergamos, and to Thyatira, and to Sardis, and to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea. This verse is composed in a very important way. Here we see that the sending of this book to the seven churches equals the sending of it to the seven cities. This shows clearly that the practice of the church life in the early days was that of one church for one city, one city with one church, with the city as the boundary and ground of each local church. In no city was there more than one church. This is the local church, local with respect to city, not with respect to street or area.
If we read Revelation 1:11 carefully, we shall realize that the church in a place must be equal to the city in which the church is located. When something was written and sent to the church in Ephesus, for example, it was sent to the city of Ephesus, because the church in Ephesus represented that city in the eyes of the Lord.
Revelation 1:11 corresponds to Acts 14:23 and Titus 1:5. In these two verses we see that to ordain elders in every church is to ordain elders in every city, and to ordain elders in every city is to ordain elders in every church. This makes it abundantly clear that the sphere and limit of a church must be exactly the same as that of the city in which it is located. In other words, the boundary, the jurisdiction, of the church is identical to that of the city in which it is established. In Revelation 1:11 the Lord Jesus makes it extremely clear that a local church is equal to the city in which it is located. (2153-2154)
In the above excerpt, Witness Lee clearly demonstrates, based on the consistent testimony of Scripture, that the local church must take its city as its boundary and ground. This principle is particularly crucial for the preservation of the oneness of the church as the unique Body of Christ.