II. As Revealed by the Lord in Matthew 18:17
The concept of the local church is introduced by the Lord Himself in the Gospel of Matthew. The Lord spoke of the universal church in Matthew 16:18, but it is in 18:17 that the church is described as an accessible, practical church one can go to. Witness Lee explains as follows:
The universal church was revealed by the Lord in Matthew 16:18, but the local church was revealed by Him in Matthew 18:17. The church mentioned in this verse must be a local church because it is a place where we can go. The Lord said that if you have a problem with a brother, you should go to him first. If he listens to you, the problem is solved. But if he does not listen, you should bring one or two with you to witness to him, expecting him to listen to them. If he still does not listen, then you should bring the problem to the church. This, of course, must be the local church. It cannot be the universal church, for we cannot bring a problem to the universal church, only to the local church. (2150)
A. For the Churchs Administration in Its Locality
As Witness Lee points out in the following passage, Matthew 18:17 further reveals that the church requires a local aspect for the sake of its practical administration.
What the Lord revealed in His second mentioning in Matthew 18:17 is the local church for the administration of the church in its locality. In a local church there is the need of administration. If we do not have the local churches, we do not have this administration. (2150-2151)
B. To Bind and to Loose with the Authority of the Heavens
Matthew 18:18 reveals that the local church carries out its administration by exercising through prayer its God-given dominion over the authority of darkness. Witness Lee explains below:
In Matthew 18:18 the Lord says, Truly I say to you, Whatever you bind on the earth shall be what has been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on the earth shall be what has been loosed in heaven. This indicates that the churchs administration is exercised in binding and loosing with the authority of the heavens. This is not mainly to deal with man but to deal with the authority of darkness.
The church revealed in Matthew 16:18 is the universal church, the unique Body of Christ, whereas the church revealed in Matthew 18:17 is the local church, the expression of the unique Body of Christ in a certain locality. Matthew 16 concerns the universal building of the church, but Matthew 18 concerns the local practice of the church. Both chapters indicate that the church represents the kingdom of the heavens, having the authority to bind and to loose. (2151)
As Witness Lee points out, the Lord Himself revealed in Matthew 18:17-18 the strategic importance of the local aspect of the church for its practical administration and for representing the authority of God's kingdom.
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