Dear Christian Friends
I trust that you proved God’s mercies over the Christmas period (however you did, or did not, celebrate it), and hope that He will give you health and happiness in 2019, as you enjoy Christian fellowship.
As we start a new year, I thought it might be a good idea to remind one another of those things which motivated Darby and others in the early 1800’s, and their relevance to us now.
- A reminder that the Lord’s coming even closer now. Paul wrote, ‘It is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light’ (Rom 13:11-12). Paul was, I believe, looking forward to the rapture – the salvation of our bodies which will be changed. As we look around we see the darkness of the world, getting even darker as God’s honoured relationships are discounted. At the same time the public sphere is becoming more and more confused – in the UK, USA and in the Rome-backed EU, with oppressive regimes and wars elsewhere). The love of the many may have grown cold, but the light shines even brighter amongst Christians who have the hope of our Lord’s coming, and amongst those enduring persecution.
- A reminder that the calling of the church’s mission is heavenly. It’s sad: so often we hear that striving to be better Christians we can make this world a better place. We cannot; we never will. Jesus said, ‘They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world’ (John 17:14), while Paul wrote, ‘For our conversation [or ‘commonwealth’ – Darby or ‘citizenship’ – NIV, ASV etc.] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself’ (Phil 3:21) .
- A reminder that Christians are called to be apart from religious organisations which are based on the principles of the world – human organisation with one person in charge of an assembly be it a pastor, vicar, priest or whatever, and human performances with beautiful music and liturgical rituals on one hand emotional excitement on the other, all pandering to the flesh.
So, what do we see? Small Christian companies which are unattractive outwardly, and if we are honest somewhat struggling. You ask ‘How will they grow and spread, and what is the future?’ If the Lord’s coming is just round the corner, why be worried about the future? Maybe our faith is being tested – meanwhile let’s just obey the Lord – ‘This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you’ (John 15:12). ‘By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another’ (John 13:35).
God’s blessings in 2019.
PS – A thought about Corinth
Thinking about the above, last week we had a meeting for ministry meeting and I was moved to give a word on what constitutes a good local assembly:
Not Corinth – Good numbers, gifted speakers but factions and politics
Not Ephesus – Absolutely correct teaching and well ordered – but no love
Just ’the poor of the flock’ – like Philadelphia – just a little power but as the city’s name implies – brotherly love
A brother followed speaking about Corinth and orderly meetings (1 Cor 14). You could imagine a large hall: I guess they didn’t have seats, but a several (men and women?) speaking simultaneously People gathered round the speaker they liked.