Rekindling – in Days of Breakdown

 

Issue 2A

Reading at Warrenpoint, Northern Ireland 7 October 2017

Martin Cook

 

I am thankful to God, whom I serve from [my] forefathers with pure conscience, how unceasingly I have the remembrance of thee in my supplications night and day, earnestly desiring to see thee, remembering thy tears, that I may be filled with joy; calling to mind the unfeigned faith which [has been] in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and in thy mother Eunice, and I am persuaded that in thee also.  For which cause I put thee in mind to rekindle the gift of God which is in thee by the putting on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of cowardice, but of power, and of love, and of wise discretion. Be not therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner; but suffer evil along with the glad tidings, according to the power of God;

2 Timothy 1: 3-8

 

Thou therefore, my child, be strong in the grace which [is] in Christ Jesus.  And the things thou hast heard of me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, such as shall be competent to instruct others also.

2 Timothy 2:1-2

 

Yet the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, [The] Lord knows those that are his; and, Let every one who names the name of [the] Lord withdraw from iniquity.  But in a great house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also wooden and earthen; and some to honour, and some to dishonour.  If therefore one shall have purified himself from these, [in separating himself from them], he shall be a vessel to honour, sanctified, serviceable to the Master, prepared for every good work. But youthful lusts flee, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace, with those that call upon the Lord out of a pure heart.  But foolish and senseless questionings avoid, knowing that they beget contentions.

 2 Timothy 2:19-23

 

I testify before God and Christ Jesus, who is about to judge living and dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom, proclaim the word; be urgent in season [and] out of season, convict, rebuke, encourage, with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time shall be when they will not bear sound teaching; but according to their own lusts will heap up to themselves teachers, having an itching ear; and they will turn away their ear from the truth, and will have turned aside to fables. But thou, be sober in all things, bear evils, do [the] work of an evangelist, fill up the full measure of thy ministry. For Iam already being poured out, and the time of my release is come. I have combated the good combat, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth the crown of righteousness is laid up for me, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will render to me in that day; but not only to me, but also to all who love his appearing.

2 Timothy 4:1-8

 

Martin Cook: When the apostle Paul wrote to his child Timotheus, they had known each other for approximately 14 years.  There was a very strong bond between them.  They had laboured together; they had travelled together.  They had known joys; they had seen increase; they had introduced the testimony into Europe, they had spent much time in Greece and Asia (which we now know as Turkey).  The word of the Lord had increased, especially in Ephesus.  Six years before this epistle was written, Paul had called over the elders (Acts 20), warning them that grievous wolves would come in after his departure, not sparing the flock (see v. 29). It says,  ‘they all wept sore; and falling upon the neck of Paul they ardently kissed him, specially pained by the word which he had said, that they would no more see his face(v. 37-38).  How they loved him!  Two years before this second letter to Timothy, Paul wrote to the assembly in Ephesus, speaking about the highest truths.   Now all in Asia, including Ephesus, had turned away from Paul.  They were ashamed of his chain.  They were turning their minds to other things.  Timothy felt it; Paul felt it.

Beloved brethren, let us all think about what these brothers were experiencing.  It was something never known before in the history of the testimony.  Up to this point the church had been viewed in its pristine glory.   There had been much rich teaching to the glory of God, but Timothy was witnessing the breakdown of the church publicly.  Paul now writes to encourage his beloved child in the truth.  He would say, ‘I want to remind you of the faith that was in your grandmother, and in your mother, and I want to rekindle the gift of God which is in you.’  The note says ‘to revive, to rekindle, what is drooping.  The whole subject of the epistle is energy in the darkening state of [Christendom – no!  – the darkening state of] the assembly.’ See Note e 2 Timothy 1:6).  If much energy was required then, how much  more is required now?

I spent quite a bit of time deciding what to read: I would like to have read the whole book!  There are some beautiful expressions in it such as,  ‘Have an outline of sound words’ (2 Timothy 1:13), and ‘cutting in a straight line the word of truth’(2 Timothy 2:15).  These scriptures motivate us to go in for what is precious.  The apostle is saying to Timothy, ‘Look, I am writing, not just to rekindle what is in you, but to encourage you to look forward’.   Chapter 2 is a wonderful springboard: when all in Asia had turned away from Paul, you have an example in Onesiphorus of someone who was not ashamed of his chain.  He said he ‘sought me out very diligently, and found me’(Ch 1:17).  Paul follows that with, ‘Thou therefore, my child, be strong in the grace which is in Christ Jesus.  Andthe things thou hast heard of me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, such as shall be competent to instruct others also’ (Ch 2:1-2).  Charles Coates says this scripture, ‘is not connected with gift but with fidelity  …. You are to cherish what is passed on to you, and to pass it on faithfully.  … That is the true apostolic succession.’ (CAC Outline of Colossians Volume 9 Page 252).   If it were ‘gift’, it would be limited to a few, but fidelity is open to all.

When we look at theconfusion and breakdown, we can no longer see the assembly in entirety: what we see is more the ‘great house’.  All believers are in the great house, and each of us is to be faithful to the Lord where we have been set.  There is, however, a way out of the confusion.

When I was young, the 1960’s[i]had just come to a close, and I used to cringe every time 2 Timothy 2 was referred to.  We had viewed it negatively, but it is actually very positive, because it shows the way out of the confusion – naming the name of the Lord, and calling on His name with those who do so with out of a pure heart.  ‘Pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace’ (v.22).  And Paul follows, ‘I testify before God and Christ Jesus, who is about to judge living and dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom, proclaim the word; be urgent in season and out of season, convict, rebuke, encourage, with all longsuffering and doctrine…do the work of an evangelist, fill up the full measure of thy ministry.’  (ch 4:1-2,5).  Maybe you will say, ‘I’m not an evangelist’.  Neither am I. But we can all do the work of an evangelist.

Paul then writes, ‘For I am already being poured out, and the time of my release is come’(v.6).  He is saying ‘Timothy, I commit these things to you as I pass off the scene. Be found among those who love His appearing’.

Beloved brethren, I set these things before the saints with a desire that we might be energised together, and get some of Paul’s burning zeal.  What was committed to faithful men, has come down to us.  Let us not fail in this, our day.  Let us hold fast what is precious and move forward in power, because ‘God has not given us a spirit of cowardice, but of power, and of love, and of wise discretion’ (ch. 1:7)

David M Crozier (Father of David Crozier):   What you say is both true and positive.  We have thought of 2 Timothy 2 as a code, but it is not code.  We have been occupied in recent times with rules and regulations: we do not want rules and regulations, but a greater appreciation of Christ.  The guidelines for the exercised soul are in this second epistle

Martin Cook: I like that.  We have the guidelines, to do what is right before God in simplicity and dependence

David Crozier (Son of David M Crozier):   The letter is written to an individual, to a company as, for example, the Corinthian epistles were.  In the breakdown, is it not for each individual to take up the truth in a spirit of wise discretion, and go forward in relationship with the Lord

Martin Cook: Thank you for pointing that out.  One said to me recently, each one of us should read 2 Timothy as if it was written to us personally.   Each one must take responsibility to fill out what was enjoined by the apostle.

David M Crozier:  We have been taught the individual comes first.  Then we find that there are other individuals with whom we can share things.  In this hall there are many individuals.  We have links with one another, personally, in the truth, and in Christ.   This is precious

Martin Cook:Christianity is worked out in fellowship with one another: ‘With those’(ch. 2:22).   In Matthew 18:20, the Lord came down to the smallest possible number –  two or three, but thank God full Christian fellowship can be enjoyed even in those conditions.

Grahame Smith:  It is interesting that Paul goes upstream to Timothy’s mother and grandmother.  We can look back on those who have gone before in the testimony.  There have been those who suffered, even martyred.  It is, said others have laboured and we have entered into their labours (see John 4:38).  We are to labour in unfeigned faith.  Can you say something as to ‘unfeigned faith’?

Martin Cook:  It means real faith, and we need it.   It is faith that counts the cost with the Lord.   I like what you say as to going upstream, because we can all go upstream. There were those who prayed over us when we were young.  My grandmother and my mother prayed for me.  I have no doubt that there are sisters here at this very time, praying in their spirits, that we might be kept in the truth.

Daniel Roberts:  These four epistles, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon, are rightly called ‘pastoral epistles’.  Paul was acting as a shepherd, and do you think that the necessary service of the shepherd has been lacking in recent times?

Martin Cook:   I think that that is helpful.  In Philemon, we read of the problems that existed between two brothers, a master and a servant.   Paul helped to bring them together, taking responsibility when he said, ‘If he have wronged thee anything or owe anything to thee, put this to my account. I, Paul have written it with mine own hand; I will repay it’ (Philemon v.18-19).  We have to take responsibility when something like this arises.

David Crozier:  I agree with going upstream, but do you think Grahame, that we need to be discriminatory as well.  The Lord was very definite about those who made void the word of God by their traditional teaching (see Mark 7:13).  We need to receive the word and test it, like the Bereans, against scripture.  If it is right, we make it our own.

Grahame Smith:   It is important today to be fully persuaded.  We can tell the dear young people[ii]here, how much the Lord values those who are fully persuaded.  And it is really good, in a meeting like this, to look around at them and see in their faces that that they are fully persuaded.  They enjoy what is being said, and work out the truth in love together.

Martin Cook: You asked the question as to ‘unfeigned faith’.  Did you have something specific in mind?

Grahame Smith:   I think what you said about reality is very testing.   I find that it is so easy to say the right things, but God looks beyond what I say, He looks upon the heart.  He values reality.  Timothy would have been brought up in a household with unfeigned faith. Also, he had a good report with the brethren in Lystra and Iconium.  He was seen to be committed to the Lord and His interests: his faith and his living link with the Lord were evident.

Robert White:   Would ‘unfeigned faith’ link us with Christ directly?  It links us with another Man where He is.

Martin Cook:  It is very important we have a living link with another Man. The secret of the overcomer’s power is the link that he has with another Man in another world.[iii] It is not just something passing and transient.

Robert White:    Some of us have been close to persons who have failed us. We have gone on with them, but we found that we could go along them no longer.   It is a painful when these relationships break down, but the our link with the Blessed Man, never breaks breakdown.  That is ‘the life which is in Christ Jesus’ (2 Timothy 1:1).

Martin Cook:  I think many of us in this room share that experience. We have looked up to older brethren, but have had to leave them, sadly finding ourselves no longer in fellowship with them.  The Lord would encourage us to cultivate our links with Him.  ‘The life which is in Christ Jesus’ is a beautiful expression, and I would like more help about it.   I believe it is the promise of life, and God does not deliver promises that He cannot fulfil.  He has promised us a living link with a Man in the glory: He has done it, and this link is not going to break down.

Peter Mutton:  Would you say something as to the mental and emotional state that Timothy was in at this time?  It would seem as if Timothy was in a pretty depressive state at this point.  Paul addressed him as his child in Christ, reminding him of his bright beginnings.

Martin Cook:  Contemplating these Scriptures, that is something that has been on my spirit. The mental and emotional state is important – we recognise it, but we are not to be occupied with it.  As I said earlier, Paul was experiencing something that he had never known before. He had seen the early local assemblies established, spending three years ministering in Ephesus.  Paul told Timothy to remain there, to prevent strange doctrines from coming in.  But they came in, and Timothy would have come away thinking, ‘I’ve failed.  I have not been able to help the dear brethren in Ephesus’. Some of us feel like that as to recent matters[iv]. We have had to part company with many dear brethren: we have not been able to help them.

Peter Mutton:  The man whom Timothy looked up to was in prison, the assemblies were decimated, the ship was sinking: it was no surprise that he was disheartened.  I remember in 1970ithat my recourse was not the Lord, it was to novels, because the platform on which I stood had been knocked away.  When things break down, I can indulge the flesh, or I can turn to Christ.  Thank God, the Lord knows those that are His. How do we encourage one another, especially the young people, in these difficult times.iv

Martin Cook:  We are hurt: we are disappointed; we are suffering, and we are feeling things.  We are in reduced circumstances that we are not used to.  It is therefore important that we keep close to the Lord and to one another.

There is a beautiful verse in the last chapter that is on my heart. ‘Take Mark, and bring him with thyself, for he is serviceable to me for ministry’ (ch. 4:11). Think of Mark: he had gone back from Perga of Pamphylia, and had not gone on with Paul to the work.   You might say, ‘he has failed’.  And a bit later, there arose very warm feeling between Paul and Barnabas, because Paul thought it not good to take with him one who had abandoned them (see Acts 15:38). Now in 2 Timothy, Mark here was a recovered man.  If you think about it, Timothy was Mark’s replacement and there could have been a little bit of rivalry or difficulty between them.  But Paul says, ‘Take Mark, and bring him with thyself. Come to me as brothers in the Lord, because Mark is profitable for me for ministry’.

 Honestly, if we are feeling downcast, or if we are feeling sorrowful, something which a brother reminded me of recently.   Another old brother gave in his last word in a ministry meeting.  He said, ‘If you look in you are disgusted; if you look round you are disappointed; if you look up you are delighted’.   Let us look up together and find that the site in heaven is glorious.  Beloved brethren, Stephen saw it, and it sustained him through martyrdom.  The apostle was living in the light of the life which was in Christ Jesus.  Paul is saying  ‘Timothy, ‘Lay hold of eternal life.’

David Crozier:    I was wondering what happened to Timothy after this?  Though Timothy was at a low point here, he didn’t give up, didn’t he?

Martin Cook:   No, Paul says ‘Use diligence to come before winter. (ch. 4:21).   Literally, if you look at the commentaries like Elicott (who says, ‘If he delayed, the season of the year would put off, perhaps hinder altogether, his voyage’). He was to come before winter storms closed the Mediterranean to shipping.  Brethren, I don’t think that things are going to get easier.  Let us strive earnestly in the good conflict of faith; let us seek the company of one another.  Timothy was coming back to Paul who says, ‘The cloak which I left behind me in Troas at Carpus’s, bring when thou comest, and the books, especially the parchments’(v. 13). These things were of value:  we might enquire as to what these things are. The books maybe the ministry; the parchments may be the scriptures.  The cloak was the measure of the man: ‘Fill up the full measure of thy ministry’ (v. 5).

Philip Mason:  I was thinking about Peter Mutton’s question.  Isn’t it part of the war that goes on within us – between the natural and the spiritual.  Paul reminded Timothy of that gift of God – faith.  He might have lost sight and the gain of it, but is reminded of what the Spirit was capable of.   The work of God does not become depressed.  Do you think that is what we need to remedy this condition?

 

Peter Mutton:  It is interesting that there is a physicality to it here.  Paul says, ‘I want to put my hands on you’.  There is something wonderful about the brother who goes out of his way to say, ‘You just need a bit of encouragement: we want you back to what you were’.

Some Critical Questions

 David M Crozier:

So as individuals:

  • What really is the basis of our walking together?
  • What do we look for?
  • Why do we walk with one another?
  • Why do we not walk with plenty of other bright Christians?

Martin Cook:   The basis of our Christian fellowship is the death of Christ; the bond of our fellowship is the Lord; the power is the Holy Spirit.  Others can help us.

David M Crozier:  We are not drawn towards one another because of natural affection for one another. There is something more permanent than that.

David Crozier: Every believer on the Lord Jesus who has the Holy Spirit, is a member of the body on the basis of the death of Christ.  However, we don’t enjoy the highest level of fellowship in the Lord’s supper with most.  I think that the questions that my father has asked are absolutely fundamental.  We need to explore them.

Martin Cook: I think what you say is important and fundamental.  Our link is with all believers who have the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.  They all form part of the body of Christ, and are in the fellowship of God’s Son.   We all partake of that one loaf: that speaks of the unity of the body.  We are not talking about physically eating the bread at the supper, but understanding what it is to have part in the body of Christ.

The breaking of bread is not the only expression of fellowship: it is the most intimate expression of fellowship.  We have to be wide in our affections.  If you walk down the street in Warrenpoint, you can enjoy fellowship with other believers. You can talk about the Lord, and His things, and that is fellowship.  You can have them to your home, and eat with them – these are all expressions of fellowship. But you should not put all expressions of fellowship on the same level as the breaking of bread, otherwise you only have fellowship with those that you break bread with, and that would be sectarian.

Paul Burton: We talk about ‘being in fellowship’ and ‘our fellowship’, and terms like that. The fellowship exists – that it is important.  We did not create it, nor did we recreate it, and if we tried to do so, physically or ecclesiastically, it would not be right.  The Lord has created

it:  our privilege and responsibility is to walk in the light of it.  In the simplest way of looking at it, it is formed of those who love Christ – believers who have received the Spirit. I know there are other considerations, but that is the ground of gathering of believers.  As to our part in the body, it is God’s sovereignty, and we have no part in that. We have all been baptised in the power of one Spirit into one body. (1 Corinthians 12:13)  Nobody receives anybody into the body; nobody excludes anybody – it is God’s matter. But when we come to practical fellowship, as we have in Corinthians , there is the side of responsibility. It is not for us that to make the rules; but to test everything, ‘Is it in accord with the death of Christ?’  It is for us, first individually, and then as we find others, to seek to be faithful to Christ in the power of the Spirit, to walk simply as believers.

John Purdy:   Is the Supper the rallying point? Paul himself said, I received from the Lord, and he didn’t hold back what he had received.

Martin Cook:   As to the expression of fellowship in the breaking of bread, J B Stoney said, that it is the right and title of every believer to have part, on the other hand there must be nothing sanctioned that is unsuitable to the Lord. (JBS Volume 1 pages 57-58)

Daniel Roberts:  We can take a point of doctrine, practice or judgment, and make that the basis of fellowship.   J N Darby said that we are not a voluntary association of believers, meeting together on the basis of a certain point ofdoctrine that we have espoused. (See JND French letter no 95)

Martin Cook:   Malcolm Biggs has some very helpful writings on Fellowship (Principles Relating to Christian Fellowship– Fundamental Truth Booklets No 6[v], and more fully in Fellowship, its Nature and Possibilities v).  I would commend these to the brethren.   He cites an example of what you are saying. He says that there is a company that maintains that baptism is the basis of fellowship.  You cannot have part in that church unless you have been baptised as a believer.  Baptism is, of course, fundamental to Christianity, and contrary to what some people say, we do not hold ‘infant baptism’ but ‘household baptism’.  All who are born into a Christian household are baptised in faith that they will come into these things for themselves.  In making adult baptism a condition of fellowship you create a sect.  This is an example of what you were saying: you bring in some creed or aspect of teaching, and say that this must be adhered to before you can have fellowship.

David M Crozier:  We made 2 Timothy 2 a creed.  That is where we fell down, didn’t we.

David Crozier:  Is it worth looking at the context of the scripture that we so often quote in  in 2 Tim 2.  We get, ‘But profane, vain babblings shun, for they will advance to greater impiety, and their word will spread as a gangrene; of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; men who as to the truth have gone astray, saying that the resurrection has taken place already; and overthrow the faith of some’(v 16-18).  The context is of two brothers from whom Paul had had to withdraw because of what they held and taught, undermining the very basis of the church, even of salvation and overthowing the faith of some.  They had to be left to the Lord.  We cannot say that they were not believers: they were certainly not acting as believers. Paul viewed what they were doing seriously, and he says, ‘You need to withdraw from persons like that’.

Martin Cook:  What you say is absolutely correct.  There were two persons there who were saying that the resurrection had taken place already.  Paul says, if there are persons like this, we cannot enjoy fellowship with them.

Jimmy Gray:  If we look at the Corinthian epistles and the carnal and worldly state that the Corinthians Christians were in, moral and fleshly things that we recognise in ourselves, Paul views the situation as recoverable and goes to great lengths to help them.

But the situation in 2 Timothy 2 is totally different.  The position could not be recovered.   The church publicly had turned away from Paul: there were things there which should never have been there.  Ministry was unable to correct it.   Now we have the great house where there are vessels to honour, and vessels to dishonour, and who are we to say who is which.  But our responsibility is to withdraw from iniquity, because there is so much in Christendom at large, with which we cannot have fellowship.

Martin Cook:  In Corinthians, you can see the difference between the iniquity and inconsistency.  There were things going on in Corinth which were not right, but they were not gross evil.  People were taking their own supper and eating judgment to themselves.  Paul says, ‘These things aren’t right’.   But when it comes to a person behaving characteristically and unrepentantly in an evil way, you cannot go on with them.  The wicked person must beremoved (see 1 Cor 5:13), in view of repentance and restoration.

Robert White:?   How do we recognise what is dishonouring to the Lord’s name?

Martin Cook:   That is a challenge.  As Jimmy Gray says, the situation that had arisen in 2 Timothy days was irrecoverable.  We are never going to get all believers together again, are we?   There are many dear believers here in Warrenpoint, who go to different churches and belong to different nominations.  We have to find a way in which we can gather simply, according to scripture, in dependence.  But I don’t think I’ve answered your question.

That they may be One

Ben Bodman: Should we not have in our hearts, the desire that all believers should be together. Otherwise we are negating what the Lord Jesus says five times in John 17 – that they may be one.  Whether we are able to, that is another matter.  But you have got to start off with the fact that in your heart, that this is the Lord’s desire. I must have that as my goal.

Martin Cook:  I used to wrestle with what you say as to John 17.   I thought that the Lord’s prayer had not being answered, as I looked at the breakdown in Christendom.  But the Lord’s prayer hasbeen answered in the one body here.  ‘That they may be one’: they areone.  There is a common bond that unites all believers and that cannot be broken in upon. We need to hold to that.

Jimmy Gray:  Thinking of the expression, ‘That they may be one, as we are one’(John 17:22), the line of the hymn helps meOne in thought, in plan and purpose,

He the Father, Thou the Son.

       Little Flock 1962:  Hymn 117 v 3

There is a oneness between the Father and the Son, that we are called to share in.  God is working in many places, and in many hearts, there must be a oneness in His work.   When the scripture says, ‘The Lord knows those that are His’(2 Tim 2:19), He can look upon the spiritual and moral oneness that is secured in the souls of all believers – something that we cannot see.  Looking historically at Israel, when the kingdom divided it remained divided, and God’s word to Rehaboam (Solomon’s son) was, ‘This thing is from me” (1 Kings 12:24).  Now in our dispensation, there is a certain governmental consequence that has come upon Christendom.  We have to accept it, and recognising the breakdown, be thankful that the firm foundation stands.

Ian Purdy:  It is the collective that has broken down.  That does not stop us linking in love with individuals.

 

The Unity of the Faith

 

Ben Bodman:  There is a unity which cannot be broken, and which will always exist – the unity of the Spirit. There is also a unity that needs a bit of effort to work at: the unity of the faith.   And, as Ian said, that is what we are challenged on: as we disagree, how we can work on that unity, while still retaining the unity of the spirit?

Martin Cook:  it is a real challenge: it is a constant exercise is diligence to use ‘diligence to keep the unity of th Spirit in the uniting bond of peace’ (Ephesians 4:3).

Jimmy Gray:  It is important to carry every believer in our hearts and affections.  How we do  this practically, has its limitations.  We have to accept things.

David M Crozier:  In relation to what Grahame has been saying, do you think it is important not to think that we have arrived at the final solution.  We should never claim to be setting up what the church should be.  We should simply desire that we provide conditions proper to the assembly.

Ian Purdy:  The first thing that unbelievers should be able to take account of in a company of believers is that they have love amongst themselves.  ‘By this shall all know that ye are disciples of mine, if ye have love amongst yourselves’  (John 13:35).  This does not mean that we don’t have any difficulties, or disagreements – love is seen in how we meet these difficulties. It is like a family: love that gets us through all the disagreements.  In love things are settled quickly, so you do not have long term problems.  Do you not think?

Martin Cook: I think so. Practically speaking, I don’t know how a married couple can get on together without a link with the Lord.  We work things out.  We have our differences, but as we call on the name of the Lord we own His authority, and things become adjusted

Connor Crozier:    We have been talking about other believers, but I wondered in our local companies whether we should do the work of an evangelist more. If we truly believe in what we are speaking about, and I believe that we do, and if our love for the Lord Jesus is so great, would we have less problems if we were more concerned about the work of the evangelism? Alan McSeveney gave a challenging ddress here.  He asked us if we cared that there are a lot of people not going to heaven.  The Lord is coming again, to rapture His saints, and it must be soon.

I wonder sometimes if our companies are places where we genuinely want to bring people, or do we want to keep ourselves to ourselves.  We often think, ‘What if this?’, or ‘What if that?’.  Are we leaving the work of the evangelist to other people?  If we were more evangelical, and in God’s goodness more from different backgrounds came, we would find that they brought many more problems and issues.  We would need help in working these out with such people.

Martin Cook: We need to start is on our knees.  I challenge myself as to how keen I really am to speak to others.  If I pray for the Lord to give me an opportunity to speak to a soul, He will give me the opportunity, and in some cases, I will find myself linking on with the work that the Lord is doing.   I find myself talking to some of my driving school pupils: some are ready for me to read the scriptures with them, or to speak to them, or possibly to pray with them, because God has been working.  May the Lord help us so that we can link on with what He is doing in another person.

The trouble is, if we are absolutely honest, we are scared.  If someone walks through the meeting room door, we feel that our comfort zone has been invaded.   It shouldn’t be like that: we should be ready to embrace those that the Lord sends us.  Is there the state amongst us that would allow the Lord to add to us?  We must be very humbled about the fact that we see so few additions.

Connor Crozier:  It has been said to me that our local company is not to be a museum for good people: it is a hospital for the broken.  We can look around the room, and say we are a broken people.  Although 99% have been brought up in Christian households, can broken people, who do not even know the Lord, come into our meeting rooms and say, ‘These people love us regardless of our backgrounds’?

Ian Purdy:  Following your analogy, there are some hospitals that specialise in certain things. When I see somebody, I start to list the things that disqualify myself, and say that I am not really the right person.  But what we need to realise is that we belong to the hospital that has got the top Doctor. He has the answer to everything, and everybody.  We are in a hospital that can deal with every case because we have the Doctor that can meet every case.

Martin Cook:  That requires unfeigned faith.  Otherwise doubts are going to come in, aren’t they?  But you’re absolutely correct in what you say.Grahame Smith:  Do we see with the Samaritan (typically the Lord) in Luke 10: he came up to the man who fell into the hands of robbers, and had everything he needed to meet the condition.   There was the power to take him to the inn, (and we never read of him leaving it.) Paul had similar affection, didn’t he? In Acts 20:10he enfolded Eutychus in his arms.

Martin Cook:  Have I got the oil and the wine; have I got the beast?  But we do need to keep things in alance: remember Paul’s chain.  There is the reproach of the Christ.  So we don’t embark on campaigns of popular evangelism. We have the opportunity for as much evangelism as we have the capacity for. But, at the same time, we do have to accept that we are in a broken day. We are not going to revive a model church in Warrenpoint, or anywhere else.  We need to be exercised to identify with the work of God wherever it is, and seek to further it, because we never know how far it will go under the Lord’s hand.

I was walking down the road the other day, and I saw a young girl squatting down on her haunches talking to a chap who was just sitting on the street, and I thought to myself,  ‘Could I do that?’  I don’t know whether she was a believer or not, but she clearly had a desire to help that young man sitting there on the street.  Jason, you have some experience about that sort of work: how do we draw alongside souls and help them.  How do we open our doors and our hearts to people?

Jason Wain: I think it starts with desire.  If you don’t care, how is anything going to happen?  You’ve got to want to help persons, and if you do not have that desire, you can get it by asking for it.  Their coming into the room to hear the gospel and getting saved is one thing.  It is of course another thing for such to come into fellowship.

Martin Cook: If we are not really praying for the blessing of souls, we should be.   We should be praying for assembly minded believers to be walking through the door.  Do we pray that there may be households where we live, who are set for the pleasure of the Lord.   Let us be on our faces – ‘Lord we have failed to build up’.  There is a beautiful scripture in Isaiah 58:12, ‘Thou shalt be called, Repairer of the breaches, restorer of frequented paths’.  We need to start healing a few breaches, brethren. To do that we need to be on our knees.

Ian Purdy:   Does the work of evangelism come from care for souls?  But it starts with ourselves.  We can’t expect to evangelise other persons if we don’t care about one and another that are in fellowship to start with.

Martin Cook: Shepherding is vital.

 

Calling on the Lord out of Pure Heart

David M Crozier:  Can I bring you back to the scripture, ‘Calling on the Lord out of pure heart.’ What ws the purpose of that?

Martin Cook:  That is a real exercise.  I know what it is for my heart not to be pure.  As Peter Mutton said, we go to something natural, be it a book or whatever, some interest I have naturally, some pursuit, some lust or desire to satisfy my longing.  But I need to get before the Lord, and say, ‘Lord I own my weakness; I own my failure. Please help me to be here to be occupied with Thyself, and be engaged with others in the enjoyment of the truth’.

David M Crozier:   Should we not be single minded for the Lord Jesus in simplicity of heart.  This is not a complicated thing, but it is a real thing.

Paul Burton: We started with Paul’s exercise to rekindle.  As to love for souls, love for the gospel, love for one another, for the truth, love for Christ, how are we to rekindle?

Martin Cook:  Hasn’t it got to be predominately love for Christ?  All those other things are necessary, but what link do I really have with the Lord.  Am I close to Him

John Purdy:  I was thinking of the word that came to Jeremiah, ‘Thus saith Jehovah: I remember for thee the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land not sown’ (Jer 2:2). God never forgot those.

Martin Cook:  ‘I remember for thee’:  all of us can admit that we have had a brighter day.  We can say ‘Lord, I’m not what I should be.  I know I fail; I know things are difficult, but, Lord help me to set forward what is for Thy pleasure’.  We need to be rekindled in our affections.David M Crozier:   There is a verse somewhere, ‘For of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks’  (Matt 12:34).  Do you think that if our hearts are pure, it will be seen in our speech?

Martin Cook:    I think you’re right.  ‘They recognised them that they were with Jesus. (Acts 4:1

Grahame Smith:   Does it start with the thought of purifying?  The Lord credits some in Sardis with not having defiled their garments. In this defiling world, it is a constant exercise to keep undefiled.  Paul speaks about purifying yourselves.  If I want to please the Man in the glory in my walk, I will shun defiling things.

 

Sound Teaching

Paul Batchelor: You read in Ch. 4:3For the time shall be when they will not bear sound teaching’. Can you help us as to what ‘sound teaching’ would be?

Martin Cook:I never thought that I would witness, men rising up amongst us, speaking perverted things (see Acts 20:30).   I feel very humbled by that.  As to sound teaching, Paul writes: ‘Have an outline of sound words, which words thou hast heard of me, in faith and love’ (2 Tim 1:13).   Let us hold primarily to the scriptures.  I know David (Crozier Jr), you are very keen that we must substantiate things by scripture. We have a wealth of teaching which is based on scripture, sound words that can build up and establish the Lord’s people. We need them and I would recommend them.  In 1934 Malcolm Biggs wrote to a younger brother (Stuart Price)[vi], who asked him for help as to what he should read.  He gave him a list of ministry, but he said, ‘Make JND’s Synopsis your daily companion. There is something about JND’s Synopsis which is unique: it will give you an outline of sound words.  It presents scripture in context, not all the truth, but the foundation of it.  

Paul Batchelor:  I was just wondering if it links with the verse which says, ‘Yet the firm foundation of God stands’ (ch. 2:19). The foundation is stable: it will stand, and nobody is going to shake that.

Martin Cook:  In the footnote to this verse, Darby says ‘Speculation as to what the foundation is, is futile’Note ‘a’(1961 edition).  It is absolutely firm and immovable, and it’s established in Christ in the Spirit.

 

What is iniquity?

 

David M Crozier:  Now what is iniquity?

Neil Smith:  Does it not mean ‘evil’, that and nothing other than that.

Martin Cook:   It is unrighteousness.  But in the sense in which we use it, it is also gross immoral or ecclesiastical error.   People at attach the name ‘iniquity’ to all sorts of things.  But that it is evil is important.

David Crozier:    Who of us can say we haven’t done something evil: we have all failed.

But is the iniquity attaching to vessels to dishonour, from which we have to withdraw, a characteristic matter?   Any one of us is capable of saying or doing something evil, but when it becomes characteristic of a person, and that person is unrepentant, is that when it becomes a matter for discipline?

Martin Cook:   You are quite right.   When the course of a person’s life is marked by unrepentant evil, tha is a matter for discipline.  The object of an appeal in Matthew 18:15-18is to gain a brother: if he repents, the matter is resolved.  The object of an assembly meeting is not to withdraw from somebody: it is to appeal to him or her in view of recovery.  There was an assembly meeting, at the beginning of the which they sang, ‘When I survey the wondrous cross’, (Little Flock 1962:  Hymn 272 v. 1), and the brother who they were appealing to broke down and he was completely restored.  The meeting itself actually never took place.  That hymn was enough.

Neil Smith:  So if something is not evil, you can’t link the word ‘iniquity’ with it?

Martin Cook:  It might be inconsistency: we all do things which are not right, but when you persistently go on a course which is dishonouring to the Lord and His testimony then it becomes more serious.

David Crozier: I need to be careful that I do not call something that troubles my conscience ‘iniquity’.   In 1 Corinthians, there are things which Paul points out and says, ‘These are not right.’ There are other things that Paul says, ‘Actually you can do these things, if you are minded to do them’.   You may be free to do something, and I may not be free to do it.  I must not take something that troubles my conscience, and force it on my brother, saying that is a matter of iniquity.  Is that going too far?

Martin Cook: No it is not.

 

I think what we are saying is that there is a difference between individual responsibility and conscience, and collective responsibility.  There are fundamental things which govern Christian fellowship: I am not talking about these.  But, for example, Paul cites the case of one brother eating meat, and the other a vegetarian (see Rom 14:2). This can never be a test for us walking together.   We have a very dear brother who comes along to our meetings in Folkestone.  I had a talk with him some time ago, and at the end we came to it that we didn’t completely agree on everything that we had discussed.  I said to him, ‘I trust I have not offended you.’ He locked his fingers together and said, ‘You and I are one in Christ: a small matter like this cannot come between us. Here are small things we don’t agree on, but that does not affect our link in Christ, our enjoyment of fellowship’.   That really warmed my heart.

David M Crozier:  Some churches publish a ‘statement of faith’ on their websites.  We do not need one.  But I was reading one which acknowledged that all might not agree and there will be difference until the rapture.

Phil Hazell:  I was just thinking as to what you were saying as to a pure heart.   The word is singular: we can’t judge one another’s hearts.  I believe that we have tended to do that.

Martin Cook:   We cannot judge motives.  We don’t know what is in the heart and soul of a person, but a pure heart is a heart that loves Jesus, and loves His appearing.  I like the way Paul concludes, ‘For I am already being poured out, and the time of my release is come’  (v. 6).  There is a man here with a pure heart: he loves Jesus, and is longing, in the midst of all this confusion, to see the return of the Man who is going to put everything right publicly.  And he says, there’s a crown of righteousness for me (see v. 8), and for those who love His appearing.  We have been talking about what is unrighteous; let’s think about what is righteous for a moment.   Put simply righteousness is ‘doing what is right’.

 

The Judgment Seat and our Place in the Kingdom

It is very important that we see the difference between our calling in relation to the purpose of God and our conduct. ‘My place in the Father’s house is assured because it is according to divine purpose; my place in the Kingdom is according to my responsibility here in my walk and pathway’ (CAC Volume 10 page 237-238).  This is what the apostle is emphasising.   He is saying that we have a responsibility before the Lord to work things out in righteousness, because we are going to be answerable to Him as to the way we have conducted ourselves.  This isn’t to frighten us, because the believer will never face judgment. When we appear before the judgment seat of Christ our Saviour, we will receive His assessment of the way we have conducted ourselves. How have I represented Jesus in this scene?  How have I treated His people?  How have I conducted myself in relation to other believers?  These things are important, dear brethren, in the light of the return of Christ and the judgment seat.

Ben Bodman:  Paul is at the end of his life, he is about to leave the scene, but he hasn’t given up.  He said, ‘I have sent Tychicus to Ephesus’ (see 2 Timothy 4:12). You would say, ‘Paul, what’s the point of that.  You have just told us that all in Asia have turned away from you.  Ephesus is finished.  Paul would nt accept that: he looked to their being restored.

Martin Cook:  Even if the whole of Ephesus was not restored, the house of Onesiphorus or others may have been restored.

obert White:   The judgment seat of Christ held no terrors for Paul.  He had anticipated it here.

Martin Cook:  You are right.  I think we should speak more about the judgment seat.  It is the divine assessment of my responsible pathway here. If I had that more in mind, my walk would be more orderly, my love for Christ would be greater, and I would be more serviceable to the Master.   Do I really view the Lord Jesus Christ as my Master?  Am I really exercised to be here for Him?

This is an individual epistle, but it’s in view of what’s collective.  If we are to go on rightly together, we need be right with the Lord individually.  We work things out with Him first, and then with one another.

I trust that there is going to be something rekindled, especially with our younger ones.  We can comfort and encourage one another.  Let me say to you, ‘We love you; we pray for you, and we are very thankful to see you here today.  May the Lord bless you and encourage you.  Let us commit that which we have received to the Lord, for His blessing.

 

 

[i]Martin would have been referring to the period amongst the Taylorite Exclusive Brethren (now known as the PBCC), when James Taylor Jr was in the ascendency.  He enforced a legal separation from other believers even to the breakup of families, based on an extreme interpretation of 2 Timothy 2.  In 1970 there was a major division and thousands including Martin’s family, and that of the editor (then mid 20’s), were delivered from that system in God’s mercy.

 

[ii]Over 50% of those present were under 30.

 

[iii]The expression is well known, but the editor has not been able to find a source for it. If a reader can provide it, it would be appreciated.

 

[iv]Sadly, during the course of 2017, most of those gathering had had to leave the company that they would have been with for many years, if not all their lives. It is not the place to go into the reasons here.

 

[v]Available from Kingston Bible Trust – 2015 Catalogue

 

[vi]This was in an unpublished private letter from Malcolm W. Biggs (1875-1941) to G. H. Stuart. Price (1911-63) .  It is being reproduced here.

Edited by: Daniel Roberts, Strood, Kent  (daniel@adayofsmallthings.com)

Revised by Martin Cook and checked by others,  All scripture quotations are from the Darby translation

January 2018

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