James Taylor Sr – Everything in Christendom is my Responsibility, from Rome Down

We are in the midst of a Christendom divided into a thousand fragments, in some of which, most, alas! Christ is dishonoured.  It is not that one wishes to speak against any, but everything in Christendom is my responsibility, from Rome down.  

 

James Taylor

Sometimes as we move along, we think of our meetings as…everything being orderly – right hymns chosen, right words used in the giving of thanks, and so forth, and we almost assume that we belong to a system of things by ourselves that God can own.  But that is an entire mistake.  We are in circumstances that are most humiliating, and we cannot get out of them.  We are in the midst of a Christendom divided into a thousand fragments, in some of which, most, alas! Christ is dishonoured.  It is not that one wishes to speak against any, but everything in Christendom is my responsibility, from Rome down.  

 

Can I get out of it?  I cannot.  I may get out of it in spirit, as we see here, (2 Samuel 15) by ascending…But how ascend?  With tears and head covered, and barefoot…Was not God delighted with (David)?  He was…He was acting suitably, humbly; he was owning things as they were, but he was finding an outlet.  What is the outlet?  The outlet is in heaven… It was spiritual power in secret; spiritual power in the full acknowledgement of the position. 

 

(James Taylor Sr. NS 28 pp 170-171)

 



Golden Nuggets are published by Saville Street Distribution, Venture, Princes Esplanade, Walton on the Naze, CO14 8QD  UK 

 

What is the Heavenly Vision or Call of the Church?

Recently a brother wrote to me needing to answer the following question:
What is the heavenly vision or call of the church?   People I speak to want to know what is the purpose of the church?  I have spent a lot of time reading and thinking about this question, but what is the best approach or angle to take when answering?  I believe it’s a very important question that I should be able to answer when I’m asked.
This question affects a lot of things. What should be our focus as a local church? The gospel, soup kitchens, ending poverty (social gospel), trying to change culture, etc.

My answer: The true Church – and what it is in the Sight of Men

I have been giving more thought to this question.  We need to see what the church is in the sight of Christ – which is the true Church – and what it is in the sight of men – a religion here.
Before starting, Christians must realise that their calling is a heavenly one.  ‘Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus’ (Heb 3:1).
The Greek word ἐκκλησίᾳ /ekklēsia/Strong 1577 .  The word implies people called out from the world and to God, the outcome being the Church or assembly comprised of all believers formed into one by the Holy Spirit. It is viewed as the body of Christ and also the habitation of God.  In a more general sense. it meant simply assembly – e.g. calling together for a civil function.  Incidentally, the English word ‘church’ or German ‘Kirche’ comes from the Greek word κυριακός/kyriakos/Strong 2960, ‘belonging to the Lord’ (kyrios), the French ‘église’ from ‘ekklēsia’.  The Hebrew word ‘קָהָל/qahal/Strong H6951’ has a similar meaning.
We must recognise the direct role of the Spirit of God.  It has been said that the Holy Spirit ‘is here; but He has taken a lowly place, . . .and has been here on earth for over 1,900 years in that lowliness. He maintains what is due to God according to what God is in heaven; there is a perfect answer to that in the presence of the Spirit down here, and the Spirit is here in the assembly; and that brings out the greatness of the assembly’s place too, but nevertheless the assembly is never part of the Deity.’  and ‘The assembly is nearest to Deity in the whole realm. What is sovereign is seen in the assembly.’ [*]  That being the case what has the assembly to do with the things of this world?

The Church in the Sight of Christ

The church is a perfect vessel (for the want of a better word), formed exclusively of saints worked on by the Spirit of God, apart from sin.  It has been said that it is of heaven in origin and destiny.  It is here in the body of Christ and its hope is totally towards Jesus – as a bride is towards her bridegroom.  Her desire is to be with Him – and therefore has no part here.  But she does care for His interests here.  His interests are what is for Him, His glory and to worship the Father, and for the members of His body to point to Him.  The church’s view is God-ward, not man-ward.
Ministry is for those of the church universally (as there is only one church) – ‘we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness’. (Romans 12:5-7)
The fact that it is ‘called out’ is important.  If it is ‘called out’ it cannot be ‘part of’.  Over the centuries Christians have been called out of every other religious organisation – in the earliest days Judaism and paganism, later Catholicism, later nationally established churches, later clericalism, and more recently social liberalism, charismatic Christendom or systematic legalism.  Importantly, if we are called out of something, we cannot reform it.  It is in the attempt to reform the old lump that Christians have become unstuck.
2 Corinthians 6:14-17 makes this clear ‘Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?  And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.’
This brings me to:

The Church in the Sight of Man

This is something different, and different people will have different ideas.
1.     A group of disparate organisations with common central beliefs and many interpretations, grouped together loosely for example in the World Council of Churches – sometimes preaching the gospel.
2 A humanitarian force for good, seeking to make the world a better place, while preaching a gospel, but not always the gospel.
3.     A place of religious exhilaration and excitement with rousing music – usually with the gospel but this is sometimes distorted – or a liberal ‘inclusive’ community – no matter what the bible says.
4.     Beautiful buildings, ornate robes and trained choirs, with or without the gospel
5.     A system of contention and oppression, having a form of piety but denying the power of it.
Many Christians see their role and that of their ‘local church’ in terms of no 2 above, preaching the gospel, having a good church community engaged in the support of local and other needs.  But think of it – it is an earthly Christianity.  Whilst there are many genuine believers, sorry to say that in some places the gospel has been corrupted to salvation (if such a thought exists) through works and presenting Jesus just a Model.  This is hardly Christian. I see it differently, as should all true lovers of our Lord Jesus.

So where does that leave true Christians?

Christians should do good works – towards the Lord, towards each other and towards their fellow human beings.  They do this because they love their Lord and that is what He would have them to do.  They are not interested in politics – national politics, charity politics or church politics. They do what the Lord gives them to do:  However, they don’t do this as part of the Church, they do it as individuals.
Admittedly, Christians can work with others (informally or in registered charities) to humanitarian ends – the relief of poverty, helping those who are sick or mentally unstable, being of support to victims of crime or raising funds for such activities.  Some of those with whom they might co-operate with may not be believers – so this cannot be part of the Church activity.  Some might be shocked at the thought, but if it is the function of a church community, it might be a misguided one or not even a Christian one.  It is not a function of the body of Christ.
Of course, it is better if those who are working together have confidence in one another.  If they gather regularly from the same Christian assembly, they will no doubt know one another well and be able to work together better.  They may even use their meeting hall (what is a building anyway? – a person or a trust has provided a place for saints to gather)– but this is not the local assembly doing it, and should never be thought of as such,
I could go further, and this might be a bit difficult to grasp. When it comes to testimony the church’s service is heavenward, not earthward (indeed if we look at the testimony of the public church it is ruin and confusion).  Paul wrote ’in order that now to the principalities and authorities in the heavenlies might be made known through the assembly the all-various wisdom of God’ (Ephesians 3:10 Darby).  It follows that preaching the gospel, or teaching (indeed what I am doing now) comes into the individual service – the Lord commissioned His disciples to out individually.  As they did the church grew.
The church doesn’t preach; the church doesn’t teach.  Christians do both.
I trust this helps.  I am conscious that not all will agree totally with what I have written.  However I do believe sincerely that it is accordance with scripture (which is infallible), and also the teachings of that servant of God, John Nelson Darby (not infallible) please feel free to write your comments below (or email me directly if you prefer). sosthenes@adayofsmallthings.com  or my personal email.

Recent Website Additions

The Disappointments of Life – Golden Nugget
Follow Thou Me ‘Today if ye will hear His Voice’
The Church with No Name Sosthenes Letter
Dear Christian Friend
I really would like to get A Day of Small Things out to a wider audience.  Please feel free to pass this on – better still give me a name and email address and I will write to them and invite them to be on our emailing list.  Tell me if you want me to mention your name (and give any background that you feel would be of use in writing individually).
In our Lord’s service
Sosthenes
November 2018
[*] Quotations from the Ministry of James Taylor (1870-1953) Volume 36 page 409 and Volume 61 page 176

F E Raven – God never rebuilds what has failed but rather falls back on His promises

While many were claiming to have the Lord with them, I just longed for the experience through contrition and repentance, of being with Him in what He is doing currently.

Frederick Raven

The position that confronts each one of us now is what are we to do as involved in the sorrowful scattering and breakdown of a testimony we had so learned to value and love.  To find a way out of it, I cannot.  I am part of it and contributed to it.  But to find a way through it is my whole concern and that Christ may be my object and motive.  While not wishing to speak of myself, my experience found me quite alone and cut off from my brethren – my beloved wife and family…I had nothing.  But, thank God, in His sovereign mercy and exceeding grace I had Christ – my Lord and Saviour.  It is easy to say it, but it has to be proved that therein lies the precious inward secret that alone can make one superior to the most testing of circumstances.  It is just, “Thou remainest when all else is gone”…I then remembered that from the divine side there is no failure – the unity of the Spirit remains.  Does not F E Raven say that God never rebuilds what has failed but rather falls back on His promises?  While many were claiming to have the Lord with them, I just longed for the experience through contrition and repentance, of being with Him in what He is doing currently.

(Extracted from a letter by Brian Deck, NZ  1979)

Golden Nugget Number 19

Golden Nuggets are published by Saville Street Distribution, Venture, Princes Esplanade, Walton on the Naze, CO14 8QD  UK

Who can Preach the Gospel?

 

Preaching
John Nelson Darby

They that were Scattered Abroad went Everywhere, Preaching the Word  Acts 8:4.

Paul prayed ‘that the word of the Lord may have free course’(2 Thess 3:1).  All true Christians should pray for that too.  But alas, preaching is beset by human perverseness, especially in establishments of any sect or denomination where only appointed or ordained individuals are permitted to preach.  Scripture does not support ordination or authorisation – whichever word is used.  In a world under condemnation, there are sinners ready to perish.  Ordination and the distinction between laity and clergy (which includes so-called lay preachers) was not known in the early church – nor is it scriptural.

No human qualification should be needed in order to declare to them God’s remedy in love: that Jesus died for sinners.  Man has set up restrictions: the gospel which was ‘to be preached to every creature under heaven’(Col 1:23) has been bound and shackled.  Multitudes have been shut out from the springs of life for want of hearing a clear invitation which should have been upon the lips of all who have drunk of the living waters.  The Spirit of God has been grieved.

The questions are –

  1. Do those in appointed office have the Spirit of God?
  2. Can any member of the church of God with love for souls preach if the Lord gives them the ability and opportunity?
  3. Is any human sanction needful for their doing so?
  4. Are those who are not ordained, or otherwise appointed, disqualified from preaching?

As to Christians speaking in the church, the only restriction is, ‘Let your women keep silence in the churches’ (1 Cor 13:34).  Women have other blessed services.  Many godly women have spiritual gifts, and we read elsewhere the directions for their exercise (in the home, with their heads covered – see 1 Cor 11:5).  They were not to use them in the church, because that would be out of order.

The apostle says, ‘every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation’(v. 26).   So, if God has given some men the ability to speak, they were to speak in an orderly way in the power of the Holy Spirit:  not all at once or every day, but as God led them.  Because of the presence of the indwelling Spirit is in the church, it is built up, and God is worshipped  ‘in spirit and in truth’(John 4:24).

It is most mischievous to say that times have changed.  The Spirit of God does not break His own order by systematic rules.   Christ initially gave in his church apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers; ‘for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ, . . . speaking the truth in love, [that we] may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love’ (Eph 4:11-16) .  Some quote to justify ordination, ‘the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Tim 2:2).  But the thing committed here was the doctrine: it does not appear that they were ordained for the purpose.

Human prescription regulates everything in matters of religion, as in politics, commerce, education and most other aspects of life.  The result of this is that much has been lost in the public profession: the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge, for example.    If that is true, then the effectiveness of the word is further weakened by asserting that the Spirit of God is has left the Church.  This then raises the question: ‘What are we, and where are we – are we the church of God without the Spirit?’   If the Spirit is not there, all union between Christ and His members will have been cut off, and the promise, ‘I am with you always, even unto the end of the world’ (Matt 28:20) made of no effect.  It would no longer be the church.

But present-day disciples of Jesus know that He is with them in spite of public failure; and that He said, ‘For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them’ (Matt 18:20).  His Spirit is with them for instruction and blessing.

The question becomes more critical when we consider speaking outside of the church.  We read, ‘They that were scattered abroad, went everywhere preaching the word’ (Acts 8:4). – that was all except the apostles. ’The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord’ (Acts 11:21).  The idea of ordination had never occurred to them.  Paul preached without any other mission than the Lord’s glory and His word.  He preached everywhere including synagogues and encouraged others to do the same.  He said simply, ‘I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak’(2 Cor 4:13) .  Apollos too preached very effectively, and it is said that, when Paul would have sent him from Ephesus to Corinth, he would not go.  He was not ordained, and earlier knew only the baptism of John.  Aquila and Priscilla had‘expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly’ (Acts 18:26). [Note that we have here a woman performing a very vital and authoritative service in the right way.  She was as competent as any].

In the previous dispensation, much of the order was according to birth.  Nevertheless, there was a clear distinction according to position – priests, Levites, princes, Nethinim etc.  However, even in Jewish worship, far greater liberty was permitted than in the restricted systems of the present day. ‘Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on’ (Acts 13:15).   When Eldad and Medad prophesied by the Spirit in the camp, without coming to the door of the tabernacle, Moses said, ‘Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!’ (Num 11:29).

There is therefore ample evidence from Scripture to an impartial mind.  Appropriately gifted Christian men have the liberty and right to speak, in or out of the church, without needing any human authority.   This is the dispensation of the outpouring of the Spirit qualifying for speaking of Jesus all who can do so.  The assumption of priesthood by any person is wrong (save as all believers are priests).  Priesthood and kingship belong to Christ alone.

At Pentecost, 120 were assembled together and spoke as the Spirit gave them utterance (See Acts 2:4).  And Peter, standing up, explains to the Jews that they were not drunk, but it was what was spoken of by Joel, ‘I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: and on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy’ (Joel 2:29).  The Spirit was poured on people without distinction – men and women, young and old, rich and poor, even slaves.   Subsequent history has been to create classes according to social, academic, racial, financial and ecclesiastical status.  This has been a cause of the loss of power in Christendom.  And the consequence – unrestrained irregularities in the church.

There are, of course, other services such as pastoral care.   A good shepherd will go after the scattered sheep in order to present God’s glad tidings to them, and to help them further in their souls.  One significant advantage of God’s order is that all men and women are able to fulfil their part according to the gifts that God has given them.  Those who should be teachers, shepherds or evangelists should not be hindered due to the lack of official academic and theological qualifications. This ought to be obvious: God appoints the field of their operations, in order do the Lord’s work.   Persons should not be prevented by the spirit of Diotrephes in the system.   God’s manifold grace and the gifts that He has given to the church blend together in true harmony and love in the body of Christ.

Nothing demonstrates the preference of man’s authority to the Lord’s more than the way in which the free and unrestrained proclamation of the gospel of God’s grace is discredited.  Those who should be preaching are obliged to modify their message and restrict their work, for fear they should be in breach of the authority which has placed them in their appointed position.  For example, an area of the country is destitute of the gospel, despite a lot of religious activity.  One in whose heart God has put the desire and whose mouth He has opened to speak of His love, goes and preaches there, and many souls previously in darkness are blessed.  The district is already full of men and women holding office in the various churches, but who are not shepherds and do not preach a sound gospel – replacing it with the fleshly excitement and emotional happiness of popular charismatics, or teaching doctrines which deny the deity of Christ, or telling souls that God’s love is such that they can attain salvation by their own works – or are just as the word to Sardis – dead.  What is the labourer to do in these circumstances? – Is leave souls at the mercy of these unsound church leaders, or is he to abandon them altogether?  There is no godly righteousness in either.  Faithfulness to Christ demands that he should preach to those who in need.  However, he is restricted in his activities by the systems (of whatever denomination) which have also sanctioned those appointees who harm poor souls.  The church hierarchy, even if formed of devout Christians, must recognise their officially sanctioned ministers and pastors and reject faithful men of God, working in the power and guidance of the Spirit of God, but who do not hold the appropriate office and qualifications[*].

So why does one take an ecclesiastical office – vicar in the Church of England, pastor or minister in the Baptists or Methodists etc.?  Because it is the only way to serve within the confines of the system.  One who habitually waits on the Lord is obligated to work in an organisation which is not regulated by the Lord’s headship.  The Master’s service can be undertaken in complete, unhindered dependence on the Spirit of God.  If service does not fulfil the Lord’s own time, place, and purpose, servants are what Paul calls busybodies (see2 Thess 3:11), whatever may be the apparent (defective) results of their labours.

One further observation: we ‘should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints’ (Jude v.3).  Look at the multitude of conflicting interests in the church – ‘wars and fightings’(James 4:1) amongst brethren.  So much spiritual and natural energy is spent on defending one human system against another.  Ask calmly: ‘For what are we contending?’  If the contention is for our own views or interests, or to support the system to which we owe allegiance, God cannot support us.  It is not for the things of Christ; it is not of His Spirit.

All this shows that these traditional opinions are worthless and deeply injurious to the glory of God unless based upon His word.  Let it be observed that the liberty of the believer is not the spirit of insubordination, but of entire subjection to the Spirit: not the spirit of enthusiasm, but of a sound mind – of a mind at one with God, which alone gives righteous judgment.  And let the people of God wait on Him for His guidance.  It is a time in which God is separating reality from mere outward form.  May God work abundantly fill His labourers with His spirit!  ‘The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest’(Matt 9:37-38).

 

Based on J N Darby: ‘Christian Liberty of Preaching and Teaching the Lord Jesus Christ’ – JND’s Collected Writings Vol 1 Ecclesiastical 1 page 68

 

 

[*]In modern times, there may be more lay preachers due to limitations of resources.  Packaged lectures, even with PowerPoint presentations, may be used to spread a word.  Such sermons, cannot be energised by st Spirit of God, meeting the needs of those who attend these preachings. [Sosthenes]

Know God or Know about God

Branch of Theology Darby’s Probable Position
Hermeneutics  – concerning the Biblical text Qualified-literal – Passages are literal,  figurative or symbolic, and recognised as such.   Also, that which relates to Israel and the law (OT) is distinct from that which applies to the church and grace (NT).
Soteriology – concerning salvation Classic evangelical – God-given faith in the blood.  Without the atoning work of Christ, man must bear the guilt of his sin and remain at a distance from God without knowledge of Him or of His love. More Calvinist than Arminian but claiming neither

Should there be an Introduction to a Little Basic Theology?

At a discussion about ‘A Day of Small Things’ with a few friends, the suggestion was made that there should be an introduction to a little basic theology.  This is a subject many like myself have steered clear of, even regarding the term as a dirty word, and for very good reason.

–  We read the scriptures, we have bible readings and other occasions, and we pray with a view to ‘knowing God’ and in an assembly setting it can be said that we are ‘taught of God’ and guided by the Holy Spirit.

– On the other hand, theology is the critical study of the nature of the divine.  It is taught as an academic discipline, typically in universities and seminaries. (Wikipedia) – Trying to mentally encompass the inscrutable God is futile, even profane!

However, there are times when we desire to help fellow Christians who have been subjected to a different system of teaching.  It is then useful to understand lines of thought, which we might feel are not fully in accord with, or a misinterpretation of scripture, even when they are held by seriously devout godly believers.

So recently I have been seeking to produce a short guide to some of the theological terms that we might encounter – not to make theologians of us, wasting time on ‘foolish and unlearned questions (2 Tim 2:23)’.  But it is useful to know what is meant, for example, by the difference between Calvinism (and its five points) and Arminianism, pre-, post- and a-millennial eschatology etc.  Through this we can see how we might relate to those from Baptist (Calvinist), Wesleyan/Methodist/Pentecostal (Arminian), and other backgrounds, and to be able to bring in what is positive in a meek way without giving offence.  We are exhorted: ‘In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth’  (2 Tim 2:25) – a scripture which follows the instruction as to separating from iniquity.

The Word

Love is of God, and every one that loves has been begotten of God, and knows God. He that loves not has not known God; for God is love. (1 John 4:7-8 Darby)

And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent(John 17:3)

That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings (Phil 3:10) 

Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me (John 5:39).

Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth(2 Tim 3:7)

Of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh. (Eccl 12:12)

 

A Call for Help

I am no theologian – I studied economics and statistics, not theology.  So I would like to invite several to review my draft when I have done my bit.  There are two or three persons I have already contacted, but if you feel you could help please let me know.

John Nelson Darby

Meanwhile, for a start, here is what might be written about Darby theology

 

Branch of Theology Darby’s Probable Position
Hermeneutics  – concerning the Biblical text Qualified-literal – Passages are literal,  figurative or symbolic, and recognised as such.   Also, that which relates to Israel and the law (OT) is distinct from that which applies to the church and grace (NT).
Soteriology – concerning salvation Classic evangelical – God-given faith in the blood.  Without the atoning work of Christ, man must bear the guilt of his sin and remain at a distance from God without knowledge of Him or of His love. More Calvinist than Arminian but claiming neither
Eschatology – concerning prophecy ‘The Father of Premillennial Dispensationalism’ – The pre-tribulation secret rapture with the Church returning with Christ at the start of the millennium
Ecclesiology – concerning the church and church form The true church is heavenly, unified and perfect – publicly it is in ruins – the call is to depart from iniquity and gather to the Lord’s name – without form, organisation or ordained leadership.
Christology – concerning the Person of Christ None! – How can the blessed Object of our worship be studied academically?

A Warning

This is no substitute for:
  • Reading, remembering the Holy Scriptures (see 2 Tim 3:15)
  • Knowing that your sins are forgiven and rejoicing in the Saviour (see 1 John 2:12)
  • Awaiting our Lord’s return with a heart aglow (see 2 Peter 1:19)
  • Enjoying a wonderful relationship with one another, with he Lord’s presence when two or three are gathered to His Name (see Matt 18:20)
  • Worshipping our great ‘God and Saviour Jesus Christ’ (Titus 2:13 Darby and others)
This is reality – not theology!

Your comments, please

God’s blessings for the holiday season

Your brother, Sosthenes

&

 

First to the Lord, and to us – Have we had it the Wrong Way Round?

Reading 2 Cor 8:5. ‘And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God’. , I ventured to suggest we have in the past put things the wrong way round. It came to me that we have been relying on all that good teaching, the meetings and our relationships with our brethren – and then we have attached the Lord to what we have set up. He has been gracious and supported us, but is He saying.

Dear Friends

 

First to the Lord, and to us

– Have we had it the Wrong Way Round?

If we desire to walk in the light of the assembly, we must always be mindful as to the One whose assembly it is.  I look over some of the things I have written over the past few years, even on ADOSS, and see how much I have been governed by a mind-set, structured in accordance with right scriptural teaching, but without the Lord Himself as my prime object.  What the Lord is looking for?  Soundness of teaching is important, but it is not the most important thing.  Being close to our Lord Jesus, and being true to Him, surely is.  Many true believers without the teaching have a much closer relationship with our Lord and Saviour than I do.

Paul teaching

A couple of weeks ago, I was writing to a brother, and the scripture came to mind in 2 Cor 8:5. ‘And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God’.   Interesting: ‘not as we hoped’.  Paul commended them for putting the Lord before them.  Paul would not have wanted them to be in a subservient position, so ‘to us’, I take to mean Paul’s teaching and the practical fellowship and service to the Lord.  That Saturday afternoon, a nearby gathering arranged a meeting for prayer to seek the Lord’s guidance, and I gave a short word, reading this scripture, and ventured to suggest we have in the past put things the wrong way round.  It came to me that we have been relying on all that good teaching, the meetings and our relationships with our brethren – and then we have attached the Lord to what we have set up.  He has been gracious and supported us, but is He saying ‘Put me first’

 

The Lord has given us an Opportunity.

It has been a very turbulent year amongst the Christians with whom we have been gathering.   I do not want to go into details, other than to say we concluded that the ground of their gathering was sectarian.  Many readers will be fully aware of what I am referring to.  Whereas we had been in an average-sized company my wife and I are now breaking bread with just one elderly sister.  Sadly, we felt we had to leave the gathering where we had been for 42 years and the brethren that we still love.  Having been found in the situation, we broke bread simply, in answer to our Lord’s request, based on two-or-three gathered together to the Lord’s Name, and seeking to call on the Lord out of a pure heart (Matthew 18:20 and 2 Timothy 2:22).

Next, were there others with whom we could share full Christian fellowship?  There are many gatherings nearby with sincere devoted lovers of the Lord Jesus, but are they gather on a sectarian basis, or are they run by human clerical organisation, or are they follow an open or independent path, not recognising the unity of the body.  We can share experiences with individuals there, but cannot have part with them collectively.   Thank God, we found three other gatherings, within an hour’s drive, with whom we can share full fellowship.  They may be small, and we are having to travel more, but we are learning to work things out in love, above all putting our Lord Jesus first.

As to the future, who knows?  God does of course, and it is for us to be with Him, and we are sure that Satan will attack.  In the early 1800’s, many believers in small gatherings were moved to leave the organised denominations, where clericalism and established form has impeded the operations of the Holy Spirit.  They did not know what the Lord was going to do, and that it would lead to a worldwide movement.  It was said at a recent meeting, ‘When we come to practical fellowship, it is not for us to make 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.  Then let us see where the Lord leads.’

It is not an easy path.  We have not been promised it.  But it is a blessed one – and the Lord’s coming is very, very near!

 

‘Today if ye will hear His Voice’

My wife and I with some who had been through similar experiences (and a few others) met in Northern Ireland in October.  I believe the Lord showed clearly in those meetings that there is ‘another way’.   Accordingly, I have taken on the exercise of publishing these and other meetings. Under the title, ‘Today if you will hear His Voice.  if you would like a to receive this by email to you please click on the heading below.   The first issue was distributed last month – on ‘Seven – what is Perfect, and what is Maintained in a Day of Reduction’: seven months, seven bullocks, seven loaves, seven baskets, seven lamps, seven stars, seven assemblies and seven overcomers (Word by Martin Cook).   Two more issues are in the works.

Click here:

An interesting observation

I don’t spend much time on social media, but going for a walk yesterday I sat down and logged into Twitter on my iPhone.  Correspondence between two brothers with whom I correspond came up:

The first sign that Moses did was to turn water into blood – judgment (see Exodus 7:20). The first sign that Jesus did was turn water into wine – grace (see John 2:10-11). ‘For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ’ (John 1:17).

And … 3,000 die at the giving of the law, the first Pentecost (see Exodus 32:28); 3,000 given new life at the giving of the Spirit, the second Pentecost (see Acts 2:41). ‘For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life’ (2 Cor 3:6).

God’s blessings and greetings in our Lord

Sosthenes

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Malcolm Biggs: Principles Relating to Christian Fellowship

INTRODUCTION

 

This booklet by Malcolm W. Biggs (1875-1941) was referred to, in some meetings in Northern Ireland, published in my ‘Today if ye will hear His Voice’ series (Not yet on-line).  Also referred to was a book by the same author ‘Fellowship, its Nature and Possibilities’.   Neither are available on-line.  The former is published by Kingston Bible Trust – 2015 Catalogue .

The latter is out of print, and unavailable through normal channels.

As neither of these publications are on line, I have digitised the shorter one, and it is beliv made available here.  I would value an offer of assistance to digitise the other.

 

PRINCIPLES RELATING TO CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP

 

If a path of a collective character pleasing to the Lord is to be taken by us, not only must the moral features consistent therewith be maintained—such as righteousness, holiness, faith and love—but the principles carried out in practice. It will be profitable, therefore, to consider some of these principles and note their practical application.

No believer has a right to regard himself purely as an individual. He has been called to the fellowship of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord; and if we seek to walk in the path pleasing to the Lord, the Christian’s path, it is imperative that we regard our relations one with another. We have been called into the great partnership of Christian fellowship.

The principles therefore, to which we shall first refer are those which govern Christian fellowship.  From 1 Corinthians 1:9, it is clear that all believers are called to the fellowship of God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Hence in 1 Corinthians 1:2 the epistle is addressed not only to the assembly which is at Corinth, but to ‘all that in every place call the name of Jesus Christ our Lord both all theirs and ours’.  Whether all have responded to, or answered to the responsibilities is another matter, but from the passage quoted it is evident that all believers are called to it

The fellowship being that of God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, the Lord Himself is the bond of our fellowship.  To us Christians there Is one Lord.   We must be true to his name. This is a matter of immense importance.   We must ever remember the necessity of confessing Christ as our Lord and owning His authority over every department of our lives. If the reader knows of anything of his own life, his personal conduct, habits, etc., business or domestic which does not please the Lord, let him judge himself, for until he does so it is useless, indeed damaging, for him to attempt to take up the question we are about to consider.  To discuss church questions when we know there is something in our lives individually that is not pleasing to the Lord, is damaging to a degree.  If we are to speak about ‘our Lord’, and His will for us, each of us must recognise Him as Lord, and do His will in our personal lives individually.  We cannot be right collectively, unless we are right individually; but in addition to our individual history with the Lord, we have a collective responsibility as forming part of the assembly which He loved and for which He gave Himself.  It is to this side of our spiritual exercises, obviously, that our inquiry applies.

 

TO US THERE IS ONE LORD

It is very evident that anyone whose life is moulded on the On the principles inculcated by the word of God, of obeying the Lord Jesus, will find little real companionship with those whose life is fashioned according to the world; the whole principle of life is different, and practically there will little or nothing in common.  The believer, however, is by no means to lead a life of isolation.  He may find himself very isolated from the mere worldling, from worldly-minded Christians also. They may separate him from their company; he may be despised and rejected, as was his Master before him.  But although isolated as to the world, the believer can say, as the Psalmist did, ‘I am a companion of all them that fear thee’ Psalm 119:63. It is here that fellowship comes in.

There is no part between him that believeth and an unbeliever; but there is a very great deal in common, and a very real and vital bond between all believers, and if our lives are what they should be in practice, we shall find real companionship in those that do the will of God.  The One we obey is the One they obey ; and obedience to that one Lord will blend our lives together.  Not only does each individual believer know Jesus as Lord, but as together in the same path of obedience to His will we can say, ‘Jesus Christ our Lord’. To us there is ‘to us there is … one Lord, Jesus Christ,(1 Cor 8:6).  The fact of every believer owning the same Lord, establishes a bond between them.  We are called into the Fellowship of God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. We must be true to this bond and His fellowship.  Fellowship is only practically realised as we recognise in our conduct and in our associations what is in keeping with the Lord’s name.

Hence, before fellowship becomes realisable the believer must be true to the name of the Lord not only in his personal conduct, but in all his associations.  It is important to see that we may be defiled by our associations as well as by actual conduct.  Numbers 19:22, makes this very clear : ‘And whatever the unclean person toucheth shall be unclean; and the soul that toucheth it shall be unclean until even  See also Lev 13 & 14 and Hag 2:11-14  This same principle of defilement by association is seen in the New Testament: see Gal 5:9, 1 Cor 5:6-7, 2 John v.10-11.

If a believer’s personal conduct is inconsistent with the name of the Lord, who is the Holy and the True—he is by that very fact morally, or spiritually, unclean.  It is not always seen, however, that if others associate with such a one, that is to say, if he ‘touches’ them, or they ‘touch’ him, they also unclean.   Further, if a believer, whose personal conduct may be otherwise consistent, identifies himself with those who are associating with the unclean person, he also becomes unclean This fact is very exercising and sobering.  We may have opportunity again to refer to this important matter.

Each of us is to own the Lord and be consistent with His name in every sphere of our lives.  If we own Him thus, fellowship ceases to be a mere term, and becomes a practical reality.  Clearly, if things are otherwise, and man does what is right in his own eyes, fellowship is impossible.  One Lord is to control all.  What is consistent with His name is to be recognised by each of us.  So only can the expression, ‘To us There is one Lord (1 Cor 8:6), have vital meaning.

 

THE COMMUNION OF THE BLOOD OF CHRIST

Christian fellowship is also the fellowship of Christ’s death, the communion of the blood of Christ, of which the Lord’s supper is the repeated expression, and to which we commit ourselves by partaking of the Supper, by drinking of that one cup.

As an Israelite who ate of the sacrifices was professedly in communion with the altar of Jehovah, so a believer who partakes of the Lord’s supper avows his communion, or fellowship, with the death of Christ.  Nothing inconsistent with the death of Christ can ever be allowed.  Christ in His death has become our altar—the basis of fellowship for all believers—at once severing us Judaism, or that which answers to it today; that is, any system of worship of a material or formal kind, and from idolatry, whether in its past or present-day forms.  How really exclusive Christian fellowship is!  The more we consider the communion of the death of Christ, the more we shall see how necessarily it shuts out all that is of the world, religious or profane

We may well speak of the cup as ‘the cup of blessing which we bless’, but we must remember equally that it is the communion of the blood of Christ.  If we are partakers of the benefit secured by the death of Christ, we must be true to that which that death witnesses, and to which we are committed. The death of Christ forbids any link with the world.  This is involved in our baptism.  It is again forced upon our attention, as we partake of the Lord’s supper.  He who is a friend of the world is an enemy of God. To be one with the world would be virtually to deny the death of Christ of which the blood of Christ ” is the witness. The cup of blessing is the communion of the blood of Christ.  How great the blessing secured thereby!  How great the love expressed therein!  It was a love that gave up all for us, so that endless and measureless blessing might be ours.  We are sharers together in that cup of blessing; we must together, as one, refuse the world.  Any worldliness would provoke the Lord to jealousy.  His love is so great He can have no rival, no idol in our hearts.  We must not allow another to share our hearts with Christ. To do this after committing ourselves to such a bond of fellowship, would provoke Him to jealousy, and we should find ourselves, typically speaking, under the curse (See Numbers 5).  here is a suggestion of this type in 1 Corinthians 10:22 and 16:22. Worldliness among God’s people is very serious

The world has a religious form as well as a profane one.  Judaism has its present-day features in much that is current in the professed circles of Christianity.  ‘Sodom and Egypt’ are typical of the profane world; ‘where also our Lord was crucified speaks of the religious world. See (Revelation 11:8).  Worldliness is most seductive when it wears religious clothing. Idolatry is most deceptive when linked with a feast to the Lord. (See Exodus 32:4,5).  May the Lord keep us clear of such unholy associations, ever remembering that by the Lord’s s upper we are professedly in the ‘communion of the blood of Christ’.

 

THE COMMUNION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

‘The communion of the Holy Spirit is a remarkable expression ; it is found in Corinthians 13:14.  We have been baptised by one Spirit into one body.  We may have occasion to develop this side of our subject a little later on.  Here we may remark that, since the Holy Spirit is the power of Christian fellowship, anything of the world or the flesh, anything in the way of mere human arrangements in the assembly of God, or maintenance of merely social links one with another, must necessarily greatly hinder the fellowship.  It need scarcely be remarked that the setting aside practically of the liberty of Spirit described in 1 Corinthians 12-14 by appointment of a minister, or any attempt to arrange the service or of God, must greatly grieve the Holy Spirit and thus hinder and prevent what is normal to our collective experience. Moreover, in the measure in which we in our assembly life, friendships on basis of what is merely natural, links of social kind, etc., in that measure fellowship is hindered, yea, it is impossible.

Our links as Christians are not in the flesh or according to what we are naturally, socially, nationally or racially, but according to what we are ‘in (the) Spirit.’  Here we have a power, the Holy Spirit, that binds us all together, that gives us spiritual tastes in common one with another, spiritual sensibilities and perception.  And in the measure in which we recognise what is of the Spirit in a practical way, we shall prove what is ‘the communion of the Holy Spirit’. Many practical considerations flow from these facts.  May we not each ask himself the questions:

  • Am I minding the things of the Spirit?
  • Am I walking in the Spirit?
  • Am I endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit?

To do these things we must, surely, refuse the flesh in its many subtle forms, and make room for the Holy Spirit and for what is spiritual. To the Corinthians the apostle had to write, ‘I could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal (1 Cor 3:1).  Were he writing to us now would he have to say the same thing?  Are there not schools of thought?  Are there not some Christians who are definitely boasting in following the ideas propounded by some Christian leader of so-called thought?  Let abandon those fleshly habits, dear reader, and seek only to be led by the Spirit, and thus answer to the beautiful type of Rebecca of whom it is written, ‘the servant [a type of the Holy Spirit] took Rebecca, and went his way’ (Gen 24:61)

To summarise, then, what has been before us: the Lord is the bond of Christian fellowship, the death of Christ is the basis thereof, and the Holy Spirit is the power of this fellowship, making it subjectively real.

Now it is obvious that the character of Christian fellowship being such, it must of necessity be universal in its bearing.

 

THE UNIVERSAL CHARACTER OF CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP

The universal character of fellowship is a fact of wide and practical bearing.  Whether in Europe, Asia, Africa, America or Australasia, the fellowship is one, and wherever we are we must be true to it.  Conduct suitable to it in one place, is suitable to it in any other place; and what is unsuitable to it in one place is unsuitable to it in any other.  Locality can make no difference in a matter of this kind, for the considerations are moral, and therefore universal, in their application.  Let us ever remember this fact.

Moreover, the same principle has its application to persons.  If anyone is suitable or fellowship in one locality, he is obviously suitable for it in any other locality.  Hence, in the early days of the assembly, letters of commendation were customary, which enabled a believer going from one place to another to be received suitably by those into whose district he might going.  See 2 Cor 3:1, Rom 16:1, Acts 18:27. Similarly, if the conduct or associations of anyone are such that he is rendered unfit for fellowship in one place, he is unfit for it in any other place.  If we seek to be true to Christian fellowship, we must always and everywhere recognise this principle.  How often it is, and has been, overlooked by believers.  To do so is to deny the character of fellowship.

The principle applies equally to actions of a collective nature.  If evil exist in one locality, unless dealt with according to God, those in any other locality acknowledging bonds of fellowship with those allowing such evil are identified therewith and are responsible as to the matter, as being involved in the evil by association.  Any discipline that might be necessary as to dealing with evil, would have to be exercised in the locality in which it is, as the apostle shows in 1 Corinthians 5; but nevertheless, the acknowledgment of the bonds of fellowship carries with it all that fellowship implies, which is complete association, and, let us remember, association with evil defiles.

Moreover, fellowship being universal, nothing relating thereto can have a purely local character or effect.  This fact entirely forbids anything in the nature of an independent or local fellowship.  Hence, in like manner this principle necessitates that the action of any one gathering walking consistently with Christian fellowship involves every other gathering acknowledging the bonds of fellowship therewith; and similarly, if a gathering refuse to judge evil in their midst, this involves in its guilt those in fellowship with it.  No action can be purely local in its character or effect.

We would ask the thoughtful reader to consider how seriously these principles have been overlooked or ignored by many Christians, however unwittingly.  It is not uncommon to find believers meeting together in a place to take the Lord’s supper and maintaining that their fellowship is purely local, and that they are an independent local company of Christians. This is, in practice, to deny the very fellowship professedly expressed in their assumed action of taking the Supper.  The Supper cannot rightly be taken apart from recognising the fact of ‘one body’ being here on earth, and nothing is clearer than the apostle’s words in the 1 Corinthians 10:17, ’Because we, being many, are one loaf, one body; for we all partake of that one loaf’.  This ‘we’ is what may termed the Christian ‘we’, that is to say it embraces the universal ‘one body’ of all believers, the one fellowship of which is normally expressed in taking the Lord’s supper.  To attempt to take the Lord’s supper and at the same time profess to be an independent local company, is to deny the first principle of Christian fellowship; for Christian fellowship is universal.  It may be replied, however,’ But we are in fellowship with all Christians!’  Yet this, surely, cannot really meant.  Do such mean to that they are in fellowship with every professing Christian, whatever his conduct or associations, be he immoral or a blasphemer or in fellowship with such, or be he linked with some antichristian, or religious system, which they who so speak would denounce as wrong?  If so, this is evil indeed!  It is true that all Christians are called to Christian fellowship, the fellowship of God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, and we should be true to this fellowship, as we have already seen.  But are all Christians true to it?  If not we cannot say we are in fellowship with them.  Were the Corinthians in fellowship with the man whom they were told to remove from among themselves?  Clearly not.  They had to cut their links of fellowship and not even to eat with the incestuous person.  No, dear reader, fellowship means partnership, and this involves identification, and for any to be identified with evil means that they are evil too.

Now that the assembly, so far as its outward profession is concerned, is in confusion, and all manner of evil exists in the sphere of Christian profession, it becomes increasingly necessary to adhere to divine principles. we are to take a path of a collective character, the Christian’s path in days of difficulty, we must recognise the principles governing Christian fellowship; we must also constantly remind ourselves that, as believers on our Lord Jesus, we are not merely so many individuals.

 

THERE IS ONE BODY

However separate from evil and from evil associations we each must be individually, since we have received the Holy Spirit, we are vitally linked with all believers on earth; ‘We all have been baptised by one Spirit into one body (1 Cor 12:13).  Therefore, in addition to the principles already considered as governing Christian fellowship, we must also consider the principles governing the assembly as ‘one body’.

The fact of assembly being one body has both a local and a universal application. Though local assemblies are recognised, Scripture makes it abundantly plain that the assembly is one universally.  Those who composed local assemblies, as having been baptised with all other believers by ‘one Spirit’, made but ‘one body’; though the local assembly was to have the character of Christ’s body as we may see farther on.

Whatever breakdown may have taken place in the public profession of Christianity, the assembly Of God, as already remarked, has in no way ceased or changed in its vital existence and character.  The apostle addresses Christians thus in 1 Corinthians 1.  Let the reader pay attention to this epistle.  The manner of address shows that although the epistle was written to the particular assembly in Corinth, its bearing was universal.  Hence we find such expressions as, ‘so ordain I in all churches (1 Cor 7:17). ‘We have no such custom, neither the churches of God (ch. 11:16), and again, ‘as in all churches of the saints’ (ch. 14:33).

Moreover, the manner in which the apostle addressed the assembly in Corinth also shows it was identified, or associated with ‘all that in every place upon the name Of Jesus Christ our Lord,’ (1 Cor 1:2)  who, indeed, was Lord both to them and to all other believers; for to us, Christians, there is but one Lord

 

THE BODY ONE UNIVERSALLY

Other scriptures show equally that the assembly as ‘one body’ is considered as one whole existing on earth at any given time. Ephesians 4:4 tells us that there is ‘one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling’. For there to be the hope of our calling, the one body must be here. Ephesians 4:15-16 again speaks of the assembly as the ‘whole body’ increasing and growing, Christ being the Head. To increase and grow the body must be here. Then again in Colossians 3:15 we read that ‘we are called in one body’.  From the nature of the exhortations given in these passages, it is clear that they could not possibly apply to us when we are in heaven; they refer to us here and speak about what has been brought about on earth.   Jew and Gentile have been formed into one body, which clearly refers to what has taken place on earth; and this is confirmed by exhortation in Ephesians 4:3-4, to maintain the unity of the Spirit, because ‘There and one Spirit, even as ye have been called in one hope of your calling.

1 Corinthians 12:13, however, very emphatically asserts this unity as existing on earth, having been brought about by all believers having been baptised by ‘one Spirit’. The ‘we’ of verse 13 is clearly a universal ‘we’, and include every believer on earth, since all have been baptised by ‘one Spirit’. Whereas the ‘ye’ of verse 27, refers to those in Corinthian assembly. ‘Now ye are Christ’s body, and members in particular. Let the reader carefully note this fact : the assembly is one body on earth at this present time: one body universally. Fellowship is one, and the assembly is one: ‘one body’.

 

LOCAL ASSEMBLIES

Yet we must equally observe that local assemblies existed.   We have seen this to be so in Corinth. Those who composed each local assembly were not only ‘one body’ with all other believers on earth, as we have already seen, but local assembly which they composed was to have the character of the whole; characteristically it was ‘Christ’s body’, as seen  from 1 Corinthians 12:27.  Notice the change of pronoun: ‘we all’ (verse 13), ‘ye’ in verse 27.

The writer of the of book of Acts refers to many such local assemblies as having been established by Barnabas and the apostle Paul, chapters 14:23, and 16:5, as well as those previously existing in Judea, ch. 9:31. These local assemblies, however, were not independent bodies, but were bound together by the common bond of Christian fellowship, and by the fact that all believers had been baptised by ‘one Spirit into one body’;hence, as remarked, the ‘we’ of 1 Corinthians 12:13, is undoubtedly a universal ‘we’.  The local assemblies were to have the features of the whole.  ‘Now ye are Christ’s body, and members in particular(verse 27).

It is to be regretted that a great number of believers are allowing the idea of independent assemblies.  It is difficult to conceive anything more contrary to the teaching of the epistles. We scarcely imagine the apostle Paul, who insists so strongly on the unity ofthe assembly as one body on earth in his epistles to the Colossians and the Ephesians, establishing local assemblies and teaching them that they were not

independent.  The assembly is not an aggregate of a number of independent bodies; It is not a confederation of a multitude of local assemblies; it is one whole, as Scripture most plainly asserts, ‘There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling (Eph 4:4).

 

LOCAL ADMINISTRATION

However, it is necessary to see that the administration of the assembly is not carried out universally; that is to say, by any central body or authority governing the whole, but is out in the several localities, bearing in mind that their actions have a universal effect, inasmuch as their bonds of fellowship are universal.

This being the case, it is necessary that we take up our places locally in the recognition of what we are as forming with all other Christians ‘one body’ universally.  In other words, we approach our local exercises from a universal standpoint.  As already remarked, it was God’s desire that the assembly should not be a universal organisation governed by some metropolitan centre such as Jerusalem was, or such as, alas, Rome assumes to be.  It was His will that though one universally, it should find characteristic local expression in whatever place believers might be.  It was to be truly catholic, that is ‘universal’ (for word ‘catholic’ means ‘universal’), a vital organism, ‘one body’ universally; yet to have administrative powers locally, which were to be exercised in the consideration of what was universal. Hence, as we have noticed, the address at the beginning of the epistle to the Corinthians is not ‘unto the church of God which is at Corinth with all that call upon the name Of Jesus Christ our Lord’, but ‘with all that in every place call the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  That is to say, there was the definite recognition of locality in regard of believers as constituting the assembly in the place in which they lived; yet they were not independent, for they were all bound together in the bonds of one universal fellowship, and by the fact that all believers form but ‘one body’ on earth.

The Lord has greatly helped of His beloved people, not only to recognise that dry are vitally linked with every believer on earth as forming with them one body, but to recognise equally their place locally, and to seek to carry out in their own localityprinciples which govern the assembly universally.

 

THE EFFECT OF ACTION OF ASSEMBLY CHARACTER

From the foregoing remarks it is evident that action of any one assembly in the early days of the Christian epoch would not have had a purely local bearing.  If the command of the Lord was carried out in Corinth it would necessarily have to regarded by all who in place called on the name of that Lord.  Moreover, the ‘body’ being one universally, those who composed the local assembly were part of the one whole; therefore, their action in carrying out administration in their locality; that is to say, the action of the local assembly, affected the whole, and had a universal bearing

This principle is of the utmost importance, but, it is to be feared, very much overlooked. If we would seek to walk in a path pleasing to the Lord in this day of difficulty, if we today seek to walk in the light that Scripture affords us regarding the assembly, and to depart from all that is contrary to divine principles, we must recognise, at least, that the assembly is one universally, ‘one body’.

The action of any local gathering of such who so walk, therefore cannot have only a local bearing.  If today an individual is under discipline as an evildoer, and is so judged by those who act in their locality in the light that Scripture affords regarding the assembly, so that he cannot be allowed to partake of the Lord’s with them, he cannot rightly be received anywhere else. For another gathering to receive him would be an act of independence, and a denial of Christian fellowship and of the fact that the assembly is one universally.  As another has said, ‘If a person is to be received in one place when he is rejected in another, it is evident there is an end to unity and common action.  The assembly being ‘one body’ universally, and fellowship being universal also, the action of any one gathering of believers walking in the light that Scripture affords regarding the assembly and acting on divine principles, involves all others who are also walking in the bonds of fellowship.

Similarly, if a gathering refuses to judge evil in its midst, it involves in its guilt those in the bonds of fellowship with it.  There is no warrant in Scripture for independent assemblies or purely local fellowship.  The assembly is one body universally.

It may be added here that owning these great spiritual realities and principles, would lead us to recognise that a believer is local in the place where he resides.  Hence if anyone were under discipline by an assembly and were, while in that state, to move into another locality, if or when the Lord graciously brings about recovery, his case would have to be dealt with by saints in the gathering in the locality in which he is at the time of his recovery. If he is living in Corinth, so to speak, he is local there; if in Colosse, he is local there.

All administration, whether of discipline or recovery, must be carried out locally.

  • ‘Now ye (Corinthians) are (the) body of Christ.’ (1 Cor 12:27)
  • ‘Do not ye judge them that are within?’ (1 Cor 5:12)
  • ‘Ye ought rather to forgive him.’ (2 Cor 2:7)

These passages put this question beyond controversy. The person is recovered in the place where he resides at the time of recovery.

In dealing with such a case, the few who desire to act according to principles proper to the assembly, would rightly get all the help they could from those who had to deal with the person when the discipline was exercised; they could in the Lord’s name call upon any one anywhere to give evidence to them; but clearly those in the locality Where the person resides would have the responsibility of handling the matter, and the Lord would support them in the discharge of their responsibility.   It is well that this fact should ever be remembered.  The present state of a person is only known in the place where he lives; and the Lord supports those in that place in discerning matters, for it is their responsibility.

M. W. BIGGS.

 

 

 

 

Christians Leaving their Comfort Zone

Abraham left his comfort zone:

 

Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee’.  ‘By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. … For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God’.  ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness’ (Gen 12:1Heb 11:8,10,  Rom 4:3)

 

Ruth left her comfort zone:

 

‘Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me. When she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her.  Naomi and Ruth Return to Bethlehem So they two went until they came to Bethlehem’. (Ruth 1:16-19)

 

Peter left his comfort zone: 

‘But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind wascontrary. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.

 

And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God’.  (Matt 14:24-33)

 

Our Comfort Zone 

 

We visited some brethren in Yorkshire in July.  They gave us a photocopy of an article entitled The Modern Smooth Cross    It spoke about a new comfortable type of Christianity,  pleasant, at peace with the world with an entertaining form of evangelism to go with it.  It contrasted this with the True Cross, the one about which the Lord said, ‘Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.   For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.  For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?’  (Mark 8:34-36).

 

Everything around has been designed to make us comfortable.  No doubt Ur was a comfortable city.  I was told that in many ways it was more advanced than Babylon 1400 years later.   We have become accustomed to a comfortable kind of Christianity – good meetings, good social relationships, and an ecclesiastical structure we can relate to, the church or meeting where we gather, rather than Christ, being the centre of our lives.  The church, to use the modern expression, has become ‘our comfort zone’.

 

The True Cross separates us from the principles of the world – including the religious world  It is the end of man according to the flesh, worldly, intellectual, religious, political, sectarian – whatever.   But we have to leave our comfort zone to take up the cross.

 

Darby and others did just that when they separated from the organised church in the early part of the nineteenth century.   They eschewed what was sectarian, seeing fellowship based on the one body – not a voluntary association.  When two or three gathered to the Lord’s name, His presence was real and experienced, and they were greatly blessed and added to.   They gathered in simplicity around the scriptures and found a Teacher in the Lord Himself and a Guide in the Holy Spirit.

 

Many are experiencing the same things now.  They have left thier ‘comfort zone’.  They meet in smallness and dependence, and pray that others they love might share thier joy.

 

Like Abraham, Ruth and Peter, we need to leave our ‘comfort zones’.  If we do, it is a step in faith – ‘But without faith it is impossible to please him [God]’ (Heb 11:6).   Of the future, if the Lord does not come, none of us knows.  We follow Jesus – ‘the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God’ (Heb 12:2) – yes, the true cross.

 

‘But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him’. (1 Cor 2:9)

 


With greetings in Christ’s blessed Name

Sosthenes

September 2017

 he old cross would have no truck with the world. For Adam’s proud flesh it meant the end of the journey. It carried into effect the sentence imposed by the law of Sinai. The new cross is not opposed to the human race; rather it is friendly pal, and if understood aright, it is the source of oceans of good clean fun and innocent enjoyment. It lets Adam live without interference.

JN Darby Simplified – Am I Gathering to the Lord as a Member of the Body of Christ, or as a Member of a Sect?

In a brief article entitled ‘What is a Sect’ – Collected Writings Volume 14 (Ecclesiastical 3) p. 362, John Nelson Darby distinguishes those who gather to the Lord’s Name in the light of the One Body, and those who are members of a sect, or church, or ecclesiastical corporation. The latter is based on held opinions.

 

J N Darby

J N Darby – Sect or One Body

In a brief article entitled ‘What is a Sect’ – Collected Writings Volume 14 (Ecclesiastical 3) p. 362, John Nelson Darby distinguishes those who gather to the Lord’s Name in the light of the One Body, from those who are members of a sect, or church, or ecclesiastical corporation.  The latter is based on held opinions.

J N Darby – Sect or One Body

The Greek word for ‘sect’ is αἵρεσις/hairesis/Strong 139.  Strong says that the word signifies a strong, distinctive opinion and was used in the New Testament to differentiate parties (sects) in Judaism.  The term stresses the personal aspect of choice – Sadducees and Pharisees were such by choice  (See Acts 23:8).  In Acts 24:14, Christianity was described by some as a Jewish sect.  Of course, Paul did not own this.

Darby defines the word as signifying adherence to a doctrine or system of philosophy or religion.  It is used as describe Christians departing from the truth – ‘There shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies’ (2 Peter 2:1). ‘There must also be sects among you, that the approved may become manifest among you’ (1 Cor 11:19 DBY).  The Catholics assumed what they held to be ‘universal’, and censured all other believers by branding them as ‘sects’.

 

The Unity of the Body

The unity of the Church of Christ is seen in the Lord’s prayer in John 17 – ‘that they all may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me’ (v 21).  When the Holy Spirit came (see Acts 21 Cor. 12:13),  Christians became one in thought, word, and deed.  And in this there was testimony to the unity.  Satan spoilt that.  In the scriptures the Holy Spirit compares the church on the earth to the human body, Christ being the Head (see Col 1:18).  So if ‘one member suffer, all the members suffer with it’. (1 Cor 12:13).  We members of Christ’s body.

Divisive Sects

When Christians unite outside this of unity, around a particular opinion, their unity is not founded on the principle of the unity of the body.    They form an ecclesiastical corporation, and recognise each other as members of that corporation.  This constitutes a sect.  The communion service becomes an expression of the union of a church’s members.  When a corporation of Christians assumes a right to admit members to it, it forms a unity opposed to the unity of the body of Christ.  Being a member of a such a church is not according to scripture.

Of course, many pious Christians find themselves ignorantly in sectarian positions: they have never truly apprehended the unity of the body.  They believe they are in that position through the will of God.  But, in fact they are in a sect, a denial of the unity of the body of Christ (see 1 Cor 10:17).

 

Calling on the Lord’s Name

Darby said that his desire was to recognise all Christians as members of the body of Christ, and from an enlarged heart, ‘receive them, from an enlarged heart, even to the Supper, supposing that they are walking in holiness and truth, calling upon the name of the Lord out of a pure heart’ (see 2 Tim 2:19-22).  He would join with other brethren to take the Lord’s supper as members of nothing else but of the body of Christ, not as members of a church or sect.  Unfortunately though, he could not gather with all the children of God, because not all were walking according to the principle of this unity of the body of Christ.  They were sectarian.

Although the practical difficulties may appear great by reason of the state of the Church of God, the principle is very simple.  However, Christ is sufficient for all.  If we are content to be little in the eyes of men, things will not be so difficult.  We can cite Matt 18:20 – ‘For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them’.  This is a precious encouragement in these sad times of dispersion.  We are told ‘Youthful lusts flee, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace, with those that call upon the Lord out of a pure heart’ ( 2 Tim 2:22 DBY).  This directs us in the path of the Lord’s will, despite the confusion around us.

 

Based on J N Darby’s paper ‘What is a Sect’Collected Writings Volume 14 (Ecclesiastical 3) p. 362.

Summary by Sosthanes

May 2017

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Latitudinarianism

keep your feet in the narrow way, and your heart as large as you can. It is of no use trying to make fellowship if it is not real; you can’t shake oil and water together: they will soon separate again

 

I must apologise for the lack of activity on ADOSS during the past few weeks.  Many readers will know the reason for this.  I now have a backlog of articles and subjects, and a desire to catch up if the Lord allows me to.

Latitudinarianism is a word which has popped up recently among the Christians with whom I break bread. When I saw the word, I had to look it up in the dictionary.  Wikipedia[1] describes Latitudinarian as ‘a pejorative (contemptible) term applied to a group of 16th-century English theologians who believed in conforming to official Church of England practices but who felt that matters of doctrine, liturgical practice, and ecclesiastical organization were of relatively little importance’.  That is what they claimed.  However, Richard Hooker, one of the main 16th century latitudinarians taught[2]

  • Our conduct ought to be governed by scripture
  • Scripture shows how leadership should operate in the church
  • English Church is corrupted by Roman Catholic orders, rites etc.
  • A law which does not allow lay elders is corrupt
  • There should be no such position as a bishop

None of us should have any problems here.  There may be some things that this man held that we might not agree with now, but it seems as if the accusation was used by the church leadership to challenge anybody who did not accede implicitly to their authority.

 

I decided to look it up in J N Darby’s writings.  It is referred to extensively in one part of Darby’s long letter to James Kelley (1839), who criticised Darby’s schismatic action in leaving the Established Church.  Kelley accused Darby[3] of latitudinarianism because of his refusal to embrace an organised church into which one could be baptised, and the lack of outward unity in accepting persons from Anglican, Baptist and even Quaker backgrounds.

Mr Darby contested that from whatever background persons had come from, they should not be excluded if they accepted the gospel fully, and were desirous of leaving organised sectarian religion.  He quoted the scripture ‘Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing (Phil 3:15-16).

Darby then criticised the Established Church itself of latitudinarianism in its association with the world in relation to the then modern thinking.  He cited supporting atheism and infidelity in schools as well as the careless admission of many unconverted persons to communion.  We could add many other things to the list now.  At the same time, there were narrow sectarianism of rules and forms, persecuting persons who do not conform – accusing them of, yes, latitudinarianism.

What was needed was balance.  Elsewhere, I found a reading in Edinburgh, J N Darby on The Camp and the Body of Christ (Notes and Jottings p 37).

A person who was seeking fellowship should have the Spirit of Christ and be walking according to it.  There is liberty to meet outside of the recognised denominations (the worldly camp[4]).  For true Christian fellowship we need to lay hold of the fact that we have a heavenly calling, and cannot have part with clerical systems.

When we meet people we go as far as we can with them, but we cannot have part in their system.  If we meet a clergyman we converse with him as a Christian, not as a clergyman. In short, keep your feet in the narrow way, and your heart as large as you can.  It is of no use trying to make fellowship if it is not real; you can’t shake oil and water together: they will soon separate again.

I recommend your reading the whole note of the reading – it is not long.

Greetings in our Lord

Sosthenes

 

 

 

[1] See Wikipedia article on ‘Latitudinarian’

[2] Hooker – Of the Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie 1594

[3] The claims of the Church of England considered; being the close of a correspondence between the Rev. James Kelly, of Stillogan, Ireland, and J. N. Darby.  Collected Writings Vol 14 (Ecclesiastical 3) pp 176-242

[4] Technically the camp refers to Israel.  We can apply it to professing earthly Christendom.