Last Lord’s Day the Lord took our brother Mark Lemon of Sevenoaks to be with Himself. Many readers will have known Mark, not least as editor of the magazine ‘Living Water’, and also for managing the Stone Publishing Trust, a distributor of bibles, tracts and current and old ministry. I knew Mark for over 60 years: he was a very dear brother for whom I have had much affection and esteem, who served the Lord well. He will be sorely missed by his dear wife Monica (they celebrated their golden wedding recently), the gathering in Sevenoaks and many throughout the world who received encouragement from him.
Handing on the Torch
In 1994 Mark Lemon compiled a book entitled ‘Handing on the Torch[i]’ comprising extracts from the Ministry of F E Raven. I know some readers of A Day of Small Things have problems with certain aspects of Raven’s ministry, and I do not want to get into a discussion about other subjects here. I just ask my readers to consider without prejudice some of the things he said as to the church and collective Christian experience. He was very much set against claiming positions – something that brought him into conflict with big-B Brethren.
Here are some selections from Mark’s book.
The church is in ruins; and I am sure we ought to be more under the burden of this than we are. I have felt how little sense I have of the defection of the church, of how far the church is from the mind of God in regard to it. . . . The fact is we have had far too much in our thoughts the idea of setting up an expression of the original, and have been pretty much contented with it. That means that we are losing sight of the ruin of the church. From Fellowship, Privilege and Testimony[ii]
The tendency with man, if he has any sense of the failure of the church, is to begin again, to try and set up a sort of pattern of what the church originally was. It has been said that if we are a testimony to anything it is to the ruin of the church, but people do not quite like that, they want to be ‘a local expression’ of something. . . . If you have apprehended the ruin you can stand apart from what is contrary to the Lord, and be guided by the light which was from the beginning, without making any pretension to ecclesiastical order. Notes of Readings on Romans – Chapter 8[iii]
We cannot return to the power, to that which was at the beginning; but even in recognising that the Holy Spirit is still here, we get great good. The remnant in Malachi could not go back to the Solomon state of things. If Christianity could be set up as at the beginning, it would only fail again. It is a great assumption to imagine that we can set up a representation of the church, From ‘The Divine Side of “in Christ” and its Effect in the Saints’[iv]
I decline altogether the idea of attaching any peculiar value to a particular company because that company holds something distinctive. The only value of any company in the present dispensation is that they return to what was from the outset; that is that they represent morally the church as before Christ. From The Holy City Jerusalem[v]
If you ask me what Christianity really is, I should say it is Christ formed in the saints by the Spirit. It is not holding a certain system of doctrine. . . . I cannot conceive of anything more wonderful than to be able to say that the spiritual constitution of the believer is really derived from the heavenly, so that it can really be said,‘As is the heavenly, such are they also which are heavenly’. From The Last Adam[vi]
From the above, there are a number of significant points.
- The church is in ruins and we are to feel our own part in it.
- We cannot correct it by setting up a new representation as to what was from the beginning (I personally have recently got help as to this one)
- If we did it would fail again, and we would fall back into sectarianism with its structure and formality
- We should not claim to have anything distinctive, setting us apart from other believers
- We need to recognise that we derive from what is heavenly, so our gathering should reflect that.
Increasingly, I have come to the conclusion that, if the Lord has, in His goodness and wisdom has put a few simple believers together enjoying assembly privilege, they are to reflect Christians in testimony, valuing all believers equally. As the Lord said, ‘By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another’John 13:35
Affectionately in our Lord
Daniel Roberts (a.k.a Sosthenes)