In addition to the question of “who is Witness Lee,” I have also heard questions about what Witness Lee and the local church teach.
Over the past several decades, Witness Lee’s teachings have been published through Living Stream Ministry. Hundreds of titles are available in various languages and have benefited millions of Christians throughout the world.
Though Lee’s teachings were initially misunderstood by some, Christian figures around the United States now commend Lee’s teachings and state that the teachings of Witness Lee and the local church has much to offer to all of God’s children. To learn more about what Witness Lee and the local church teach as well as what many are saying about Witness Lee and the local church, please visit An Open Letter.
The following can be considered a condensed summary of some of the fundamental teachings of Witness Lee and the local church.
1. Witness Lee and the Local Church’s Teaching Concerning the Triune God
Witness Lee firstly taught that God is uniquely one in essence, or substance, and distinctly three in hypostases, or persons. The three of the Trinity—the father, the Son, and the Spirit—are eternally distinct, but They are never separate from one another, and They never act independently. Such a Triune God is the Father in Christ as the Spirit to be the life and life supply to the believers. I especially appreciate Lee’s teaching concerning the Trinity as it is very balanced and clear, far from the extreme teachings of Modalism or Tritheism.
Secondly, Witness Lee taught that the Triune God has been “processed and consummated.” In His eternal existence God is unchanging, but in His economical move the Triune God underwent in Christ the processes of incarnation, human living, death, resurrection, and ascension to be consummated as the life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45; 2 Cor 3:17) to dwell in the believers.
Thirdly, Lee taught that the processed and consummated Triune God dispenses Himself into His chosen people to regenerate them with His divine life (1 Pet. 1:3), transform them according to His divine nature (Rom. 12:2; 2 Cor 3:18), and ultimately glorify them with His divine glory (Rom. 8:30), thereby making them the same as He is in life, nature, and expression but not in the Godhead as an object of worship.
2. Witness Lee and the Local Church’s Teaching Concerning Christ
Concerning Christ, Witness Lee firstly taught that the living Christ was versus dead religion. Secondly, Christ as the Head of the Body (Col.1:18) is not merely the Leader of and pattern for the church but more intrinsically the very person of the church, out from whom all the Body has its existence, living, and work (Eph. 4:16; Col. 2:19). Thirdly, Christ’s full ministry is in the three stages of His incarnation, His inclusion, and His intensification, through which ministry God accomplishes in full His eternal economy according to His heart’s desire.
In the stage of His incarnation Christ brought God into man, expressed God in humanity, and accomplished our judicial redemption, effecting for the believers the forgiveness of our sins (Col. 1:14), our justification before God (Rom. 4:25; 5:18), our reconciliation to God (Rom. 5:10), and our positional sanctification (Heb. 13:12).
In the stage of His inclusion, through His resurrection Christ was designated the firstborn Son of God (Rom. 1:3-4; 8:29), became the all-inclusive, compound, life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45), and regenerated all His believers to be the many sons of God (1 Pet.1:3).
In the stage of His intensification, He as the life-giving Spirit is intensified to be the seven Spirits of God (Rev. 1:4; 5:6) to deal with the degradation of the church by intensifying His organic salvation, producing the overcomers, and consummating the New Jerusalem for eternity.
3. Witness Lee and the Local Church’s Teaching Concerning the Spirit
Witness Lee firstly taught that Christ has become the life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45), who is the reality of Christ in resurrection (John 14:16-20). Second, while the Spirit is eternally one (Eph. 4:4), in the age of the church’s degradation the function and working of the Spirit are intensified “sevenfold” for the completion of God’s economy. Third, Witness Lee described the Spirit in full as the all-inclusive, compounded, life-giving, indwelling, sevenfold intensified, and consummated Spirit as the consummation of the processed Triune God. Fourth, the experience of Christ as the Spirit ushers the believers into the enjoyment and experience of the Triune God.
4. Witness Lee and the Local Church’s Teaching Concerning Salvation
Witness Lee taught that the judicial aspect of God’s complete salvation was accomplished by Christ’s death for God’s judicial redemption so that we might be forgiven before God, washed, justified, reconciled to God, and sanctified unto God positionally.
Then, having been judicially redeemed and reconciled to God, the believers now enjoy the “organic” aspect of God’s salvation, which is being carried out in Christ’s life (Rom. 5:10), as made available to the believers by Him as the life-giving Sprit. In such an organic salvation the believers are regenerated, sanctified, renewed, transformed, conformed to His image, and ultimately glorified.
5. Witness Lee and the Local Church’s Teaching Concerning Life
Following his senior co-worker, Watchman Nee, Witness Lee defined life as the processed Triune God being dispensed into the transformed, tripartite man (1 Thes. 5:23; Rom. 8:10, 6, 11). This dispensing transforms man into the glorious image of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18) so that man may become God’s expression.
Lee stated that the bible begins with the tree of life (Gen. 2:9) and ends with the tree of life (Rev. 22:2). The line of the tree of life is always versus the line of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Another major emphasis in Lee’s ministry was the experience and enjoyment of Christ by eating and drinking Him (John 6:54-58). Because Christ is the life-giving Spirit today, the believers can practically and actually enjoy Him as their life and life supply. Lee said the best way to eat the Lord is to “pray-read” His Word, that is, to receive the Word of God by means of all prayer (Eph. 6:17-18) as practiced by many Christian figures in the past such as George Muller. Furthermore, the practice of pray-reading has been endorsed by members of the Christian community such as Hank Hanegraaff (See “A Brief Affirmation of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee”).
Witness Lee also said that the simplest way to enjoy Christ is to call on His name. No one can call “Lord Jesus” except in the Holy Spirit (1 cor. 12:3). Calling on the Lord was joyfully practiced by both the Old Testament figures (Gen. 4:26; 12:8; Isa. 12:3-4; Lam. 3:55) and the New Testament Christians (Rom. 10:12-13; 1 Cor. 1:2). In fact, Saul of Tarsus, before his conversion to Christianity, identified a person as a Christian by the fact they called on the name of the Lord (Acts 9:14, 21).
Furthermore, because Christ is the life-giving Spirit, or Pneuma (the word for “breath” in Greek), the believers in Christ can breathe the Lord. Actually, calling on the Lord is both a drinking (Isa. 12:3-4) and a breathing (Lam. 3:55-56).
6. Witness Lee and the Local Church’s Teaching Concerning the Church
The church is the Body of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23; Col 1:24). As the Body of Christ, it is an organism (John 15:1-8) and not an organization. The church is also the new man composed of the redeemed and regenerate believers from the two peoples of mankind, the Jews and the Gentiles. Those who formerly were enemies by nature, Christ has reconciled in His own Body through the cross, forming the two into one new man and making peace between them (Eph. 2:15-16). Witness Lee taught that one of the results of Christ’s work on the cross was to abolish the ordinances that divided the Jews and the Gentiles, thus opening the way for the genuine blending of all the believers in the one new man.
Witness Lee also taught that the church as the fullness of Christ results from all the believers enjoying the unsearchable riches of Christ (Eph. 3:8). The riches of Christ enjoyed by the believers become the fullness of Christ for His expression. The church is also the increase of Christ as the bride of Christ (John 3:29). It is the counterpart of Christ, and it matches Christ.
In addition, he also taught that the church is expressed in every locality, or city, as the local churches. These local churches are the lampstands standing on the ground of locality to express the one unique Christ. Lee stated that the local churches are the process, the procedure, while the one Body of Christ is the unique goal.
Witness Lee was a prolific Christian teacher who really has a lot to offer the Body of Christ. His teachings are orthodox and very helpful to any Christian searching for a deeper understanding of the Triune God, Christ, the Spirit, eternal life, and the church.
If you haven’t read any of Witness Lee’s teachings but are interested in learning more, I highly recommend these free Christian books available from Bibles for America. They’re helpful and will be enlightening for anyone seeking a deeper understanding and experience of what’s revealed in the Scriptures.