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The Teachings of Witness Lee of the "Local Church" (Church of Recovery)

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The Teachings of Witness Lee of the "Local Church" (Church of Recovery)

[Updated: November 24, 2003]

by abuGian

The late Mr. Witness Lee, of the "Local Church" otherwise known as "Church of Recovery" criticized the historical and biblical theology:

"When it comes to the matter of the Triune God, many Christians only care for their tradition, not for the clear, accurate word of the Bible."[1] What he called "tradition" is what the mainstream calls the "orthodox" view,

"Because of this tradition, a fight is going on. Although we do not like to fight, we cannot avoid it. Therefore, we must point out that many Christians hold a concept, which is certainly heretical, of two divine Fathers, two life-giving Spirits, and some, even of three Gods."[2] As we shall see at the conclusion of this article it is Mr. Lee who had a heretical view. It is Mr. Lee who had a wrong understanding of the Triune God.

The purpose of this paper is to contend for the faith that was once delivered to all of us,

"Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints."[3] To contend for the faith that Mr. Lee calls traditional. To contend for the faith that Mr. Lee and the "Local Church" called heretical.

Confusing the Persons of the Triune God

Mr. Lee and the "Local Church" or the "Church of Recovery" maintain that they uphold the doctrine of the Trinity:

"We believe that God is the only one Triune God-the Father, the Son, and the Spirit-co-existing equally from eternity to eternity."[4]

Let us not be deceived by their pretensions as Mr. Lee and the Local Church also maintain:

"He is all in all. He is God, the Creator, the Father, the Son, the Spirit, and also the proper man. He is the reality of all divine attributes and of all human virtues. The hinge of all the aspects of this all-inclusive Christ is the living Spirit. We have no choice except to tell our fellow Christians that our Savior, Jesus Christ, is the living Spirit. Undoubtedly, He is the Lamb of God and the Redeemer, but these are simply two aspects of this all-inclusive One. Christ, the all-inclusive One, is everything. The Bible even describes Him with the term "all in all" (Col. 3:11). Christ is the reality of every positive thing. He is light, life, righteousness, holiness, redemption, salvation, and everything. In our experience, He is the life-giving Spirit indwelling our human spirit. Because we proclaim this, we are accused of being heretical. Our critics say that we teach heresy in telling people that Christ, the Son, is the Father as well as the Spirit. Today, many Christians do not believe that Christ is not only the Son, but also the Father and the Spirit."[5] This view is called Modalism an error that surfaced in the 3rd century Christian Church. This is the same error held by the Oneness Pentecostals. This Modalism, however, has taken a different form in the "Local Church" as they refer to it as "Trinity"—How further from the truth!

Mr. Lee and the Local Church contend that they are not Modalists by saying,

"All three, the Father, the Son, and the Spirit were present at the same time. I fully believe in the co-inherence and co-existence of the Three of the Godhead."[6] I’d say this is double-talk, observe,

"The divine Trinity has the side of the one and the side of the three. Modalism stresses the side of the one, misunderstanding and misappropriating the side of the three, and tritheism stresses the side of the three, denying the side of the one. But the pure revelation in the Bible contains both sides of the truth."[7] "The charge that I am a modalist is false, and I absolutely repudiate it. Modalism teaches that God is not at the same time Father and Son and that the revelation of the Son ended with the ascension. The permanence of the Father, Son, and Spirit was denied by modalism. Modalism is a heresy, and we do not believe in it."[8]

Yet they said:

"Isaiah 9:6 says that a child is born unto us, that a son is given unto us, that the child is called the mighty God, and that this son is called the everlasting Father. To say that the Son is the Father is not an interpretation; it is a quotation."[9] This interpretation is too literalistic, this is the same error that holds the Oneness Pentecostals.

In KJV alone, the Person of Jesus Christ refers to God as "my Father" in 47 times. Let’s read some of those:

"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven."[10] We only need to ask them this, is Jesus his own Father?

"And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt."[11] Was Jesus praying to himself?

"Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God."[12] Was Jesus lying when he said that he has a corroborating witness in the above passage?

"Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I."[13] Was Jesus greater than himself?

"Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God."[14] Did Jesus ascend to himself?

"Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you."[15] The list goes on and on.

"And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him:"[16] Did Jesus descend upon himself? Did he proceedeth from himself?

"But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:"[17] Again did Jesus send himself?

The members of the "Local Church" have been led astray by the teachings of Mr. Lee. Furthermore observe how he brainwashed his followers:

"Therefore, we must point out that many Christians hold a concept, which is certainly heretical."[18] "However, the concept held by them actually is heretical because it implies two divine Fathers, two life-giving Spirits, and, in some cases, three Gods."[19]

"While they condemn us for being heretical, they themselves are exposed as being heretical."[20]

"It is heretical to say that besides the divine Father in the Godhead there is another divine Father of creation or of the age to come."[21]

Yet the "orthodox" or the "traditional" view never subscribe to the claim that there are two Divine Father’s in the Godhead.

By now you should have discerned the consequence of this subtle brainwashing. What is it? What is the consequence? If you say "exclusivism" you are right. If the "traditional" view of the Trinity which is held by the Roman Catholics and Evangelicals alike (though this is denounced by cults of Christianity) is declared heretic, which church do you think is the true church of Christ Jesus in the eyes of their members?

Exclusivism Anyone?

Observe the "double-talk" in their standing:

"We stand on the genuine unity of the Body of Christ. We are not sectarian, nor denominational, nor nondenominational, nor interdenominational. "We stand on the ground of the oneness of all believers in each locality; we recognize all the blood-redeemed and Spirit-regenerated believers in Christ as members of the one church in each city." [22]

Though they say they are non-sectarian, they also say "we recognize all the blood-redeemed and Spirit-regenerated believers in Christ as members of the one church in each city"

So we ask, what’s the name of that "one church" in each city? Isn’t that the "Local Church"?

What about those who are non-members of that "one church"? Are they also "blood-redeemed" and "Spirit-regenerated" believers in Christ?

Even if they hold what Mr. Lee calls a "traditional" and "heretic" view of the Trinity will they embrace them as brothers in the Lord?

Another bothering position of the "Local Church" can be observed in the following statements:

"The word 'recover' means to obtain again something that has been lost, or to return something to a normal condition. 'Recovery' means the restoration or return to a normal condition after a damage or a loss has been incurred. To say that God is recovering certain matters means that in the course of church history they have been lost, misused, or corrupted and that God is restoring them to their original state or condition."[23] "Because the church has become degraded through the many centuries of its history, it needs to be restored according to God's original intention. Concerning the church, our vision is governed not by the present situation nor by traditional practice, but by God's original intention and by His unchanging standard as revealed in His Word. We regard the New Testament revelation of the church not merely as a historical antecedent, but as the norm for church practice in the present day."[24]

We are therefore compelled to ask, was there a time when the church of Christ was not? Read their answer:

"God's recovery did not begin in the twentieth century. Although it is difficult to fix an exact date for its beginning, it is convenient to set it at the time of the Reformation. The recovery has gone through several stages since the Reformation, passing through the partial recovery of the church life in Bohemia under the leadership of Zinzendorf, moving on to the unveiling of the many precious Bible truths through the Plymouth Brethren, and then going on to the genuine experience of the inner life. Now it has reached its present stage with the establishment of genuine local churches as the expression of the Body of Christ."[25] In their own version of the Holy Bible, The Recovery Version, in the study note #5 for Revelation 2:9, we read:

"Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, as well as Judaism, fall into this category [opposing God], having become an organization of Satan as his tool to damage God's economy." [26] (Emphasis mine.) In Witness Lee's Satan's Strategy Against the Church, he said,

"No. He [Satan] has taken another step by creating all the sects, denominations and divisions in the Body of Christ. He [Satan] has not only replaced the life and killed the function of the members, but he has cut the Body into pieces. He [Satan] has moved to utterly wipe out the expression of Christ. The life has been replaced, the functions have been severely damaged to say the least, and the whole Body has been divided. This is his [Satan] master stroke. He [Satan] is really clever." [27] (Emphasis Mine.) And, "But, today, where is the real expression of the church? It is almost non-existent. Regrettably, the church has been dominated by the substitutes of Christ, the clergy-laity system, and the divisions." Mr. Lee made it look like the Church was lost to Satan and his group, the Local Church, is the ONLY place to be. In closing we have to remember the promise of Jesus Christ of Nazareth:

Matthew 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Conclusion

The "Local Church" is it a cult of Christianity? The teachings of Witness Lee, is it heretic? Though we cannot classify the "Local Church" or the "Church of Recovery" alongside the major cults of Christianity (Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc.) because of the latter’s major deviation from the "faith once entrusted to the saints" we cannot also consider them "orthodox" because of their aberrant teachings following that of Witness Lee. We need to have a constant watch on this group and therefore pray for them that they may see the truth in the light of the Holy Scriptures. By our definition of the cult of Christianity I’d say they are inclined to be one.

Related Articles:

An Open Letter: To All Zealous "Witness Lee-Teaching" Followers Regarding the Triune God Doctrine. Witness Lee and Watchman Nee Believe Jesus is the Holy Spirit. Back to the top


[1] Witness Lee, "What a Heresy — Two Divine Fathers, Two Life-Giving Spirits, And Three Gods!" (1977). Http://www.contendingforthefaith.com/summary/booklets/heresy.htm.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Jude 1:3. The Holy Bible KJV(1611)

[4] The Co-workers in the Lord’s Recovery. "The Beliefs and Practices of the Local Churches" (1978). Http://www.contendingforthefaith.com/summary/booklets/beliefs.html

[5] What A Heresy. (Emphasis mine.)

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Matthew 7:21

[11] Matthew 26:39

[12] John 8:54

[13] John 14:28

[14] John 20:17

[15] John 20:21

[16] Mark 1:10

[17] John 15:26

[18] What A Heresy.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] The Co-workers in the Lord’s Recovery. "The Beliefs and Practices of the Local Churches" (1978). Http://www.contendingforthefaith.com/summary/booklets/beliefs.html.

[23] The Beliefs and Practices.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid.

[26] The Recovery Version New Testament Online (LSM Copyright 1997-2002), http://online.recoveryversion.org/FootNotes.asp?FNtsID=8699

[27] Satan's Strategy Against The Church, http://www.therecovery.us/Satans%20Stategy%20vs%20the%20Church.htm