In this age God shows us four different churches. We may put it in this way: There are the Roman Catholic Church, the Protestant churches, the brothers who love one another, and the Brethren Assemblies. The fourth one, the Brethren Assemblies, has fallen into the position of Laodicea. As far as this group is concerned, it has become a sect. I asked a certain brother, “Do you think I look like a brother?” He said, “Yes, you do, but in `your’ midst there still…” Immediately I replied, “Then what are `you’? Is it not enough for me to be a brother? All those who are redeemed by the blood are included in `us.'” If at any time there is a brother saved in Chungking, yet the church in Chungking says he is not a brother, then the church in Chungking has become a sect. A sect requires something more of a man who is a brother before they will call him a brother. Although they may not say that they are the Brethren Assembly, yet there is an invisible boundary placed there.
What kind of people are today’s Philadelphia? The church in every place may be Philadelphia, and it also may not be. Actually, there is no way for me to say which one is and which one is not. Perhaps the church in Chungking is Philadelphia and the church in K’un-ming is not. Perhaps Cheng-tu’s church is Philadelphia and Lan-chou’s is not. Today it has become a problem of locality, just as the seven epistles are for localities. We must reject the Roman Catholic Church, and we must leave the Protestant churches. On the negative side, we can eliminate these two; but on the positive side, are we Philadelphia or still Laodicea? It is easy to withdraw from the Roman Catholic Church, and it is also easy to withdraw from the Protestant churches; all we need to do is write a letter and walk out the front door. But whether or not we are Philadelphia remains a question. This depends on whether or not we have walked out the back door. Philadelphia may not fall back to Sardis, but she may fall into Laodicea. The Lord’s criticism of Laodicea is much stronger than His criticism of Sardis. The Lord wants us to learn to exalt His name, for where two or three are gathered together in the Lord’s name, there He is in their midst. But we should never exalt ourselves. Whoever claims to be Philadelphia no longer appears as Philadelphia.
Today if you have left the denominations and have seen the church, then only the Word of God can be the standard. Consider a brother who is born again. Can you say that he is not a brother? He is a brother if he knows the truth clearly, and he is still a brother if he does not know the truth clearly. If he stays at home he is my brother, and if he falls into the ditch by the street he is still my brother. If there is a problem, I can only blame my Father for begetting him. The special characteristic of Philadelphia is brotherly love—today this way is the only way for us to walk. But we should never have this kind of attitude: I love the brothers who are clear and the brothers who are lovable, but those who are not lovable I will not love. Whether he is clear or not, that is his business. We should never say, “You are a rebellious one.” What we see this year, we did not see last year. Perhaps next year he will also see what we have seen this year. While he reads the Bible, the Lord will also show him the light. God’s heart is great; so ours must also be great. We must learn to have a heart that is large enough to include all of God’s children. Whenever we say “we” and yet do not include all the children of God, we are the biggest sect, for we are not standing in the position of brotherly love but exalting ourselves. The way of Philadelphia is the way we must take. The difficulty lies in the fact that Philadelphia includes all the brothers, yet some are not able to include as much.
Let me give you an illustration: Before the war with Japan I went to K’un-ming. There was a brother there of the _______ Church who asked me to talk with him. He was a very good brother. When he saw me he said, “Do you remember that I asked you a question in Shanghai? You still have not answered how we can cooperate.” I said, “Brother, you have a _______ Church in which I have no part.” He said, “Right, but you need not worry about that; what I mean is that we can cooperate nicely before the Lord.” I said, “I have a church, and I am in it, Paul is in it, Peter is also in it, and so are John, Martin Luther, John Wesley, and Hudson Taylor. You too are in it. The church that I have is so great that all who are in Christ, whether great or small, are in it. You and I have a difference: I only build up one church; you wish to build up two churches. My work is only the church of Christ, not the _______ Church. If your aim is to build up the church of Christ and not the _______ Church, then I can absolutely cooperate with you.” Brothers and sisters, do you see the difference here? That brother’s love was not great enough. He stresses the church of Christ within the _______ Church. He is building up two churches. After I spoke he confessed that that was the first time he saw what it was all about. He held my hand and said that he hoped this question would not be raised again.