Introductory Note:

Bakht Singh (1903-2000) was dedicated by his parents to become a Sikh. The British missionary school he attended in Punjab gave Bakht Singh the impression that Christianity was an arrogant cultural identity rather than an authentic, life-transforming relationship with Jesus. Though fiercely loyal to his religious heritage, he sensed that neither his affluent lifestyle, nor Sikhism, nor any of the faith traditions he investigated were able to produce real happiness or peace. As a young adult, Bakht Singh had a spiritual encounter with Jesus and recognized the Living Christ as the Teacher of truth and goodness he had longed to meet. Bakht Singh eventually became a world-renowned preacher and revival leader, and is considered the “father” of India’s indigenous church movement.

During a pivotal time in Indian history, when British influence was being violently rejected, Bakht Singh recognized that serving the gospel “in a British cup” to Indian people was counterproductive and out of sync with the pattern of the New Testament Church. His revival movement existed outside of any denomination and embraced its Indian context. Those who came for meetings sat on mats rather than benches, sang hymns in Indian languages with Indian instruments, and shared the “love feast”—a curry luncheon after worship—in a gathering that smashed through caste, religious, and ethnic barriers as people ate together without distinction. Even as he nurtured the indigenous movement, he included Westerners in Indian fellowship and collaborated with Christians around the world.

One of Bakht Singh’s greatest contributions was to renew a scriptural vision of the Church as Christ’s unified Body, a body without divisions. The following excerpt from his book God’s Dwelling Place encourages readers to let Jesus take full possession of our hearts and to nurture the bonds of unity.

Grace Pouch
Content Manager

Excerpt from Beautiful Vessels

The Mystery

    The sparrow hath found a house, and the swallow a nest for herself” (Ps. 84:3). You have all seen the sparrow gathering pieces of straw or hay to build her nest. When the nest is completed, how much rest and comfort it gives to the sparrow! What does this say to us? Does it not teach us that with just such care and patience, our God is gathering material to build for Himself a dwelling place? 

    We human beings, redeemed by the Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, are being gathered together unto Him to become a habitation of God through the Spirit” (Eph. 2:22) — that which will give comfort and rest and satisfaction to Him. This is a mystery, but when you come to understand the true meaning of the Church and its preciousness to God, then this mystery also will be made clear to you. 

    Something Living

      You will often see painted on boards the words Baptist Church,” or Methodist Church,” or Church of South India,” and so on. You can search through the whole Bible, but you will never come across a single instance where any building is called a church. The Church is something living, not dead. A building has no life. Stones and bricks have no life. You can see in Acts 2:47 that the Lord added souls daily to the Church — not to a building, but to a group of people who were believing in the Lord Jesus and had received His Holy Spirit. 

      By this Church, God’s manifold wisdom is to be revealed.

      A Beautiful Vessel

        One day in the bazaar, a clever artist saw an ordinary vessel being sold by the potter. He paid a quarter-anna for it and brought it home. Then he took his paints and brush, and began to draw upon that vessel beautiful designs of trees and flowers and fields. I saw the artist working upon that vessel for many hours and many days. 

        Then he took it to one of his friends, and said: I have brought you a present, my dear friend.” That friend was very delighted to receive it and placed it above the fireplace in his dining room. So that vessel resting upon the mantelpiece was showing forth the wisdom and skill of the artist to all who came in. Going by its value, it cost only a quarter-anna, but its true worth lay in the way it showed forth the wisdom and skill of the artist to so many people. 

        Surely, if an artist of this earth could make such an ordinary vessel so beautiful, God can also work this miracle. As we read our Bible from Genesis to Revelation we may see how in fact God plans to do so, and that He is working out that plan even now.

        Lessons from the Tabernacle

          From the mountain covered by the cloud Moses saw many things, and amongst them the House of God in its glory. When he came down, he told the people: I have seen such wonderful things on the mountain. God has shown to me a glorious heavenly House, and has told me that you — His people — are to have a share in preparing that House.”

          It was God’s direct revelation from heaven to Moses by a pattern or shadow of the real heavenly Sanctuary. That is why, by studying the details of the Tabernacle, we get some idea of God’s Spiritual House.

          We cannot stay for all the details, though we might learn much from the dimensions, from the 50 loops, from the beautifully wrought cherubim… Every small detail has something to teach us.

          Oil Lamp

          The olive oil which was burning in the lamp speaks of the Spirit of God. Only those who have received and are walking in the Spirit can shine with the light of God. In Matthew 25:1 – 13 we see that we must keep our vessels filled, and our lights burning, as we wait for the coming of the Bridegroom. 

          Do you carry with you the light of God into your business and into your shop? Can people see God’s glory shining upon your face? That is the heavenly vocation of God’s people upon earth. We are to shine as lights of God, burning with the living oil of God’s Spirit. All the seven lamps were of one piece, and speak of true oneness among God’s children. When that is so, then God’s message will go out. Ye are the light of the world.” 

          Sweet Incense

          Incense speaks of the intercession which ascends from the hearts of believers before God’s throne. Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice” (Ps. 141:2). Sometimes we wonder how to pray, and what to say in prayer, for the words will not come to us. Now remember, prayer does not depend on nice language. If it comes from the heart, God accepts it. 

          I met a happy young man some time ago and I said: Why are you so happy today?” He said, I have received the first letter from my small boy.” How old is he?” I asked. Three years old,” he answered. I said in surprise, How can a three-year-old boy write to you? Let me see the letter.” So he showed me the letter — simply a piece of paper with nothing but lines all over it. 

          The young man said that when his wife was writing to him, the boy saw her doing so, and questioned her, Mummie, what are you doing?” She said, Writing to your Daddy.” So the child took a piece of paper and an old stick and put it in the ink bottle and scribbled just lines. The father said, My son has written to me,” and was so happy. Though there were only lines on the paper, yet for that father they were something more than mere lines. He saw the love in the heart of the small boy expressed in them. So do not think that you need to say long prayers with fine words in order to get an answer. 

          We are God’s co-workers. When we see sin here and wickedness there, we pray: O God, wilt Thou not do justice?” and through our prayer God will work. Through your prayers God can do wonders — souls can be brought back to Him, hearts can be softened, and many homes can be blessed. All of us can take part in that. When people speak ill of you, begin to pray for them: O God, please bless so-and-so!” That is how you can send incense into heaven, and fill God’s Sanctuary with fragrance. 

          Holding all together

          Now, we want to study the meaning of the holy structure itself. The walls of the Tabernacle were made of boards of wood covered with gold. Uniting the boards of the Tabernacle there were rods of wood, overlaid with gold. Four of these rods could be seen from the outside. The fifth rod was made to go through the middle of the boards from end to end, to keep all the boards united (Exod. 26:26 – 29). All the boards put together speak of the whole Church. 

          If the life of the Lord Jesus Christ flows in me and flows in you, we are bound together. But if we are not living in the Spirit, there will be disagreement and factions. The Church of Christ cannot be bound by man-made constitutions, which are often only made for the sake of power and authority, like that of the Brahmins over the Hindus. Such bonds must be broken. But the inward bond of life in Christ will never be broken, for with that bond we are joined to every believer in the world.

          You see how the work began in the days of the Apostles. There was a wonderful love among them all, whether they were Gentile converts, or Jewish, or Samaritan. They were not bound together by any man-made organisation or rules. What were the common bonds which bound them? The inward bond of the life in Christ was there first of all, it is true. That is what made them Christians. But there were also four outward bonds.

          The Four Outward Bonds

            First, there was the Apostles’ doctrine (see Gal. 1: 11 – 12; 1 Cor. 2:3 – 5). The Apostles travailed upon their knees for God’s message, and spoke, as God’s mouthpieces, the whole counsel of God. This is the Apostles’ doctrine and only such teaching and preaching can bring true unity among Christians. 

            Secondly, there is fellowship. It begins with the Father and the Son, and what we have received from God the Father and God the Son, we share together among ourselves. In love and fellowship there is power and strength. By coming together as one body we forget our sorrows and poverty. By bearing each other’s burdens we fulfill the law of Christ. By praying together in His Name we bind Satan (Matt. 18:18 – 19).

            Thirdly, the prayers.” Those early believers had to face many trials and many foes. They won, not by fighting and quarreling, but upon their knees in prayer. In this way believers everywhere were brought together and united by the bond of prayer, and in this lay their strength.

            Then fourthly — there is the breaking of bread. When the believers came together Sunday by Sunday, they were told to judge themselves before they partook of the Lord’s Table. Our hearts should be able to say: O Lord, Thou hast redeemed me by Thy Blood, and I have peace in my heart. Because of this I am ready to eat and drink at Thy Table with a pure heart and clean hands; a heart filled with joy and with love for everybody. This bread speaks of Thy body; this cup of Thy blood. Reveal Thyself to me more fully, Lord. I am ready, Lord, to see Thy face.”

            God wants oneness, and that bond of unity should be peculiarly manifest at the Lord’s Table. Remember it is the Lord’s Table and not man’s (1 Cor. 10:16). He, and not man, is the Host. At the Lord’s Table all believers are equal. No man can say: I am better than so and so.” Every man-made difference is broken. Then only can true love prevail, and Christians begin to bear one another’s burdens and those who are fighting to be reconciled. If there is sin, it is confessed and washed away, and believers are found looking forward together to the coming of Christ. 

            The true and strong bond which binds us together is the bond of mutual love springing from our common life in Christ. That bond is for eternity, and by it believers are bound together throughout the world, whatever their nationalities may be. 

            The Chief Bond

              We have seen the four outward” bonds. If these four things are manifested in assemblies everywhere we shall see union and strength. But the chief and most important bond is that indwelling life of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul said: I have been thanking God on your behalf, and now I am praying for you who are far away. I am praying that the Lord Jesus Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.”

              But, you ask, Was not the Lord Jesus Christ living in them already?” Ah, there is a great difference between coming and living in a house, and taking possession of it. You may stay as a guest in any house, but you cannot have full liberty to do as you please in that house. When you own the house, however, you have freedom and authority in any part of the house at all times. 

              That is how our Lord ought to live in us. He must occupy every sense and every faculty of our being. When that is true of us all, then we will know the full range of the love of God. Then with all saints” we will comprehend that love.

              Paul tells us that the real comprehension of God’s love is only possible when all of us are brought together. It cannot be comprehended by our living alone, in ourselves and unto ourselves. If you are confined by the barriers men make between Christians, your appreciation of God’s love will also be narrow, and your attitude to your fellow Christians will be narrow. You have to rise above all those barriers to be able to love God’s children in other parts of the world with a big heart.

              But to make this possible, the Lord Jesus Christ must not only dwell in our hearts but must fully occupy all our being. That is the hidden rod going through the boards from end to end. When the Lord Jesus Christ becomes Lord of our being, we cannot help but love everybody because the love of the Lord Jesus Christ goes out from us to all His children. May He make strong this hidden bond in the lives of us all.

              Bible Selection: Colossians 3:10 – 11, 14 – 15 (NRSV)

              You have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!

              … Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. 


              1. In section 5, Singh asks: Do you carry with you the light of God into your business and into your shop? Can people see God’s glory shining upon your face? That is the heavenly vocation of God’s people upon earth.” How do you understand the word vocation”? In practical terms, how do you carry with you the light of God” into your work at home or outside the home?

              2. Bakht Singh points out the difference between staying in a house and fully occupying and directing a house. What parts of your house” — your desires, work, friendships, hobbies — does Jesus have full access to? Which parts is he closed out of? What are you afraid will happen if you give him access there?

              3. What barriers or divisions do you see between Christians today in your part of the world? What distinctions among Christians do you make? In what areas can we give more grace to those with whom we disagree?


              1. Find a local shop that sells incense (like the kind commonly used in eastern parts of the world). Set a time and place where you can burn the incense while giving special attention to the movement and fragrance of the smoke. Reread section 6, Sweet Incense,” and envision your specific prayers as fragrant smoke connecting you to the Trinity. Picture yourself as God’s co-worker, and your prayers as conversation with God about blessing others and doing justice. Soaking in the smell of the incense, feel yourself wrapped in God’s love. 

              2. Picture yourself as the little child writing to Daddy” and try writing a prayer from the heart to your Heavenly Father.

              3. Host a barrier-breaking meal in your home or in a public space. Who could you invite? What food would you serve? Enlist a friend to help you envision and carry out a warm time of eating and fellowship in the spirit of the early Church and of Bakht Singh’s caste-crushing love feasts.


              There is an enduring human disposition to make distinctions between people. But the Kingdom of God offers a better way. Bakht Singh directly targeted barriers in Indian society by hosting gatherings that put everyone on equal footing (or seating, to be exact). He emphasized the laying on of hands because he recognized the significance of affirming unity through touch in a society where touch was traditionally restricted between castes. His rejection of Christian sectarianism may have been imperfectly carried out — he drew lines between Catholics and Protestants, for example — but he recognized that stylistic preferences and doctrinal disputes were often excuses for maintaining class and caste divisions, and he made headway in dissolving these distinctions. 

              Bakht Singh did not set out to break up congregations or create new local churches, yet old wineskins are rarely able to contain the new wine of a gospel that radically transforms lives and challenges existing social structures. Thus, local assemblies sprang up by the hundreds where his New Testament model for fellowship, prayer and worship could thrive in an indigenous Indian style. His impact will resonate for generations in India and the Church worldwide.

              —Tina Dyer and Grace Pouch

              The Unity of the Body of Christ” adapted and reprinted by permission from God’s Dwelling Place by Bakht Singh. Copyright © Gospel Literature Service, 1963, Bombay, India.

              Image credit: Lucas Hoang on Unsplash

              Text First Published January 1963 · Last Featured on August 2022