Have these Things Always in Remembrance (2 Peter 1:15)

January 2019

Dear Christian Friends

I trust that you proved God’s mercies over the Christmas period (however you did, or did not, celebrate it), and hope that He will give you health and happiness in 2019, as you enjoy Christian fellowship.

As we start a new year, I thought it might be a good idea to remind one another of those things which motivated Darby and others in the early 1800’s, and their relevance to us now.

  1. A reminder that the Lord’s coming even closer now.  Paul wrote, ‘It is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.  The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light’ (Rom 13:11-12).  Paul was, I believe, looking forward to the rapture – the salvation of our bodies which will be changed.  As we look around we see the darkness of the world, getting even darker as God’s honoured relationships are discounted.  At the same time the public sphere is becoming more and more confused – in the UK, USA and in the Rome-backed EU, with oppressive regimes and wars elsewhere). The love of the many may have grown cold, but the light shines even brighter amongst Christians who have the hope of our Lord’s coming, and amongst those enduring persecution.

 

  1. A reminder that the calling of the church’s mission is heavenly.  It’s sad: so often we hear that striving to be better Christians we can make this world a better place.  We cannot; we never will.  Jesus said, ‘They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world’ (John 17:14), while Paul wrote, ‘For our conversation [or ‘commonwealth’ – Darby or ‘citizenship’ – NIV, ASV etc.] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself’ (Phil 3:21) .

 

  1. A reminder that Christians are called to be apart from religious organisations which are based on the principles of the world – human organisation with one person in charge of an assembly be it a pastor, vicar, priest or whatever, and human performances with beautiful music and liturgical rituals on one hand emotional excitement on the other, all pandering to the flesh.

 

So, what do we see?  Small Christian companies which are unattractive outwardly, and if we are honest somewhat struggling.  You ask  ‘How will they grow and spread, and what is the future?’  If the Lord’s coming is just round the corner, why be worried about the future?  Maybe our faith is being tested – meanwhile let’s just obey the Lord  – ‘This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you’ (John 15:12).  ‘By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another’ (John 13:35).

 

God’s blessings in 2019.

 

Sosthenes

 

 PS – A thought about Corinth

Thinking about the above, last week we had a meeting for ministry meeting and I was moved to give a word on what constitutes a good local assembly:

Not Corinth – Good numbers, gifted speakers but factions and politics

Not Ephesus – Absolutely correct teaching and well ordered – but no love

Just ’the poor of the flock’ – like Philadelphia – just a little power but as the city’s name implies – brotherly love

A brother followed speaking about Corinth and orderly meetings (1 Cor 14).  You could imagine a large hall: I guess they didn’t have seats, but a several (men and women?) speaking simultaneously  People gathered round the speaker they liked.

 

 

 

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.