OUR last paper concluded by asking what should be our attitude towards the various sects of Christendom. Should it be Amalgamation or Separation? That the popular trend in many quarters is to the former of these cannot be doubted.
Plausible arguments which give licence to set aside principles once regarded as basic to assembly life are not wanting today. Indeed, for many years a worldly form of teaching has, like leaven, been spreading its baneful influence amongst God's people in certain parts of the world. There need now be no doubt at all as to the design of its propagators. It is plainly to bring assemblies more into line with the religious world, so as to shun the offence of the cross, and it is coming increasingly into the open and is assuming a more defiant attitude than ever before.
Once this teaching gains a footing in any assembly, the inevitable consequence is the adoption of a more liberal view of things. Then follow a process of slackening-up in such matters as Reception and Discipline, a broadening of the circle of fellowship, and a tolerance of practices formerly condemned. All of this issues in the weakening of assembly testimony. Oh that saints everywhere could be awakened to the grim intrigue of Satan! “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”
When God brought Israel into Canaan, it was that, as a separated people, they might be His witness to the surrounding nations. Instead, however, they “ mingled themselves with the nations, and learned their works” (Psalm 106:35), and the fruit of the teaching referred to is that Israel's history is being repeated in the experience of many an assembly to-day. For is there not clearly in evidence this two-fold departure from God—the co-operating with the religious world, and consequently, the copying of its ways? Let us first deal with the latter of these evils. If the denominations are not being copied by some assemblies, how account for their innovations? From whence come the choir, the musical accompaniment. the orchestra, the sports tournaments and the Sales of Work? Why the elaborate, expensive buildings? By all means let us have clean, well kept, respectable halls, worthy of our Lord’s Name, to which we may invite the unsaved. Why, however, are some so desirous to have grand edifices, and why must the simple name, “Gospel Hall,” be replaced by “— Chapel.” or ‘‘—Tabernacle,” only to be a little more fashionable and in step with what is around us? Does this desire not spring from pride? and if honest, must we not confess that in the majority of cases we experienced more of God’s presence and blessing when we met in more humble buildings?
Again, are not modern Bible Schools which some professed assemblies support, a mere imitation of the Theological Colleges in which the clergy are educated? Where in Scripture do we find any sanction for these? We suggest that their very existence is a distinct sign of a strong leaning towards clerisy, and a disregard of the Spirit’s way of calling and training His servants.
What shall we say regarding the modern system of engaging speakers and controlling ministry at Conferences? Booking-up months in advance has now become a regular feature in some assemblies. An esteemed brother recently said from the platform that if God were to send a Paul to certain assemblies to-day, he would find himself shut out from all opportunity of delivering the Lord’s message. Is not this a serious matter? Further, does it not often happen that the evangelist must confine his meetings to a pre-arranged period to keep his appointment with some other assembly? Too frequently, we fear, Gospel efforts are terminated just when the Spirit's work in sinners' hearts seems to be coming to fruition. We have known brethren to conclude most promising work, against the expressed wishes of the saints, to open-up in another place as advertised, only to meet with utter disappointment there through lack of interest. Surely it is better to be the Lord's free servant, than the slave of a diary. As for the closed platform, the speakers for which are in many cases arranged months ahead, it is a denial of the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit. Whose sole right it is to control ministry, and no amount of reasoning, however cogent, can justify it. It is opposed to the whole tenor of Apostolic teaching and practice (read, in particular, 1 Cor. 14 for principles which govern ministry), and is a return to the very condition from which brethren in the early part of the last century separated themselves in order to conform to the New Testament pattern. Moreover, it is a restriction upon conscientious servants of the Lord who wish to be Spirit-led in the exercise of their ministry, and also a serious loss to the saints, since by it ministry which troubles the conscience can tactfully be excluded by unspiritual leaders. We are convinced that this whole system of long-term engagements and of human arrangement and control in the domain where the Spirit of God should be free to operate according to His sovereign will, is but an imitation of the methods of the religious world, and is one of the main causes of lack of power and blessing which we at present mourn. It is true, of course, that at times the privilege of the open platform is abused, and God’s people have to sit under profitless ministry. This is to be deplored, since in addition to being a waste of valuable time, the testimony is thereby brought into disrepute. The remedy, however, is not to take control into our own hands by appointing speakers. This is a mere human expedient, and why remedy one evil by introducing another? The true remedy is that indicated in Tit. 1:11—“whose mouths must be stopped”—a principle which is applicable in all cases of unprofitable ministry.
In other connections also the same tendency to conform to sectarian ways is clearly in evidence. It is seen in sisters leaving their proper sphere (see 1 Cor. 14:34,35; 1 Tim. 2:9-15) and assuming a place of undue prominence. We see it in Gospel work. The old-time message which aimed at reaching the consciences of sinners and bringing them to repentance. is being substituted by the clever, eloquent, but lifeless sermonet. The mention of Hell is becoming increasingly unpopular. High pressure methods and mass evangelism have resulted in a crop of false professors which are a dead weight on many assemblies to-day.
Again, the Scriptures know nothing of societies or councils inaugurated to direct the Lord's servants. The only corporate authority recognised in the New Testament is the local church. No other body has any Scriptural sanction for commending a brother to the work of the Lord, for censuring him, or for withholding from him the practical fellowship of the saints. For any company of men to arrogate to themselves such authority is a high-handed denial of one of the fundamental principles to which assemblies profess to adhere. As regards the commending of full-time workers, it certainly is our conviction that far greater care should be exercised than is often the case to-day. We also suggest that there would be fewer misfits upon the field, if before going forth, workers made sure that they enjoyed the confidence not only of the elders of their own assembly, but of neighbouring churches as well (see Acts 16:1,2). Never, however, do the Scriptures contemplate the idea of a committee vested with authority to legislate in this or in kindred matters. Such an idea is another line-up with denominationalism.
Nor does the Word of God know anything of a Central Fund. It would have been easy, had it been the Lord's will, for the early saints to form such a fund, with its headquarters say in Jerusalem or Antioch, and administered by a committee of trustworthy brethren. Saints wishing to contribute financial help to the work could have donated to it their gifts, and out of it monetary assistance could have been remitted as regularly as possible to the Lord's servants. It is noteworthy, however, that though, humanly speaking, such an arrangement would have been an invaluable service in a day when it was so difficult to transmit money, no such fund is even hinted at in The Acts or Epistles. These Books leave us in no doubt at all regarding how God’s servants are to be supported. They look to Him directly for all they require, and nothing is more precious to Him, the faithful God, than their childlike trust. The Central Fund system militates against faith, reduces personal exercise, destroys fellowship, and savours strongly of the salary principle. That brethren should act merely as a channel of communication, by forwarding the spontaneous earmarked gifts of God’s people to those for whom they are intended, is an entirely different matter. This is not in any way inconsistent with Apostolic teaching, and is a most praiseworthy form of service. No Scriptural sanction, however, can be produced for a Central Fund. It is of human devising, and is in concord with that tendency to organise which is so characteristic of sectarianism. Can you fancy Paul, when his supplies were low, hoping that the next quarterly allowance would soon come to hand?
A girl of our acquaintance discovered through reading the Scriptures, shortly after getting saved, that, in the early days, baptism, in every instance, followed conversion. Eager to walk in the footsteps of the flock, she got baptised. This step brought upon her a storm of abuse from her own people, especially from her mother, which she patiently bore, knowing that it was for Christ and His truth she was suffering.
Continuing to read the Scriptures, she further saw that in New Testament times believers came together, by themselves, to remember the Lord in the breaking of bread, on the first day of the week. Still anxious to do the Lord’s will, as revealed to her, she approached the nearest Assembly, and was received into fellowship. This step greatly intensified the trouble at home, which now became almost unbearable.
A more severe test, however, awaited her. One day the family clergyman, with two of his church officers (who, by the way, were her uncles), came to the house, saying they wished to have a little talk with her touching this “new religion" which she had imbibed. The clergyman, acting as spokesman, told her that, by her father’s will there was a considerable sum of money coming to her, adding that the will stipulated that this money would become hers only on the condition that she would give up this “new religion” and return to the church of her forefathers. Otherwise she would be cut off with ONE SHILLING. “Now.” said he, “you can think it over, and let us know as soon as convenient what you mean to do.” Looking at him, she said, with her usual happy smile: “Oh, sir, I will not keep you waiting long for my answer. My mind is already made up on the matter,
‘My Father is rich in houses and lands.
He holdeth the wealth of the world in His hands.' ”
Then reaching out her hand she said: “I’ll take the shilling.” This was placed in her hand. She had received her fortune! And she had won a victory!
But the most severe test of all soon followed, when she was informed that she could no longer remain in the house. She must leave. Imagine what this must have meant to that dear girl—to be turned out of the home of her birth, to face a cold, cruel world; but, Abraham-like, she went out, not knowing whither she went.
But has God not said: “THEM THAT HONOUR ME I WILL HONOUR"! She had spent only a few days in the home of a Christian friend, when she received a message that one of her uncles, referred to above, had taken ill. and wanted her to nurse him. She went and nursed him through his short illness, until he died. Before he passed away, the other uncle also took ill and died after a very brief illness. Both of them bequeathed to her their property, so that in a short time after she had been turned out into the world homeless and penniless, she became the owner of two farms of land.
Was this not wonderful! In truth it pays to put God first. Our dear young friend never afterwards had any regrets that she did so. She has since gone to be with Himself, and certainly now has no regrets about the choice she made that day. Rather, she rejoices that she was counted worthy to suffer shame for His sake.
WHILE it is true that men are responsible for all their deeds, we must not on any account overlook the fact that what people do is often coloured by the influence of others. Few can truthfully claim to be free front the effects of environment and company. Scripture clearly indicates that inducement and persuasion play a big part in the lives of men.
Did not Paul realise that behind the defections both in Corinth and Galatia there was the influence of false teachers, and did not Barnabas fall a victim to the influence of Peter at Antioch (Gal. 2:13) In the Old Testament the Hebrew word "SUTH" although variously translated in our English Bible, has the meaning of "stir up." "persuade." or "goad on." A consideration of some of the more interesting passages where it occurs should put us on our guard against being carried away by influences which are not of God.
In I Sam. 26:19. when David was rebuking Saul for hunting him as a partridge, he makes allowance lor the fact that there must have been some impelling force behind Saul or he would not have persisted in persecuting an innocent man. "If the Lord hath stirred thee up against me," he said, “let Him accept an offering:but if they be the children of men, cursed be they before the Lord." It seems to have been characteristic of David to look behind the outward actions of men in search of the influences, whether Divine or human, which shaped their conduct Compare especially his words regarding Shimci:"so let him curse, because the Lord said unto him. Curse David." (2 Sam. 16:10). Would it not change our attitude toward those who persecute us if we but saw that the Lord had a good purpose in allowing them so to act. or that they are but puppets in the hands of others who stir them up to their evil work?
Deut 13:6. in which this word also occurs, reminds us that the danger of being stirred up to do evil could arise in the family circle, it a brother or relative were to turn to idolatry. It might easily spread to other members of the family who would be enticed to the same abomination. Who would deny that in God's spiritual family the same peril exists-that of a brother or a friend who has turned aside, leading other members away from the Lord'.’ Note the word “SECRETLY.” Most evil teaching is whispered privately before it is ventilated publicly. Those who must teach behind closed doors, or in private meetings, are a serious menace to the saints of God. Ships of honest traders are not ashamed of their colours, but pirates hide their identity. Many a promising young brother and sister has been turned aside bv secret poisonous tuition.
Both at the commencement of Ahab’s history (1 Kings 16:30) and almost at its close (1 Kings 21:25) he is stigmatised as incomparable amongst the kings of Israel for evil doing. In the latter passage, however, an important phrase is added which goes a long way to explain why he fell so deeply into sin - “WHOM JEZEBEL STIRRED UP." Much as we may resent the thought, it is true that most men are influenced either for good or ill by their partners in life. A consideration of this notable example might serve as a warning to both husbands and wives lest a similar calamity befall them.
In the following respects the influence of Jezebel can very plainly be seen in the life of Ahab. Firstly, she was a Zidonian. and as such worshipped Baal. Through her influence Ahab not only became a worshipper of Baal himself, but introduced this form of idolatry into Israel. Secondly, she stirred him up to persecute God’s prophets, and had not the Lord hidden them they would have been exterminated. Thirdly, Elijah, the greatest prophet of that day. had to leave the land and go to the Gentiles for safety. And fourthly, and worst of all. she persuaded him to kill Naboth in order to possess his vineyard. It is to be feared that many of the troubles due to wrong being introduced amongst the assemblies by unreasonable leaders, are the result of "stirring up" at home. Opinions are sometimes pressed in oversight meetings which are but the echo of voices not permitted to be present. Far be it from us to suggest that all wives have an evil influence upon their husbands, yet it would be wise for them, in case the least harm might be done, to leave off meddling in assembly matters for which they have no responsibility.
We have been considering how Ahab had been influenced by his wicked wife, but in 2 Chron. 18:2 we see that he himself had an influence upon another king — Jehoshaphat. The account of the unequal yoke between these two kings is painful reading, and ought to be a loud voice to our hearts. Jehoshaphat seems to have made the first move toward this affinity, and like most who take this course, he likely could have put up a fair show of arguments to support his action. Was not Ahab an Israelite, one of the chosen people, and was it not better to show a united front against the surrounding nations and enemies? No doubt he would admit that Ahab's way of worship differed from his. but still, there was no point in pressing convictions too far. lest the peace should be disturbed. These are the plausible arguments usually advanced by the champions of this line of things. The prophet Jehu, however. leaves us in no doubt as to how God looked at this alliance, for his message was. “Shouldest thou help the ungodly and love them that hate the Lord?” (2 Chron. 19:2).
We are not surprised that this fellowship between these two kings produced its crop of evils. Ahab persuaded or "stirred up” Jehoshaphat to go with him to fight the Syrians at Ramoth-Gilead. and as the result of that campaign the King of Israel lost his life. The saddest part of the story, however, is that Jehoshaphat acquiesced in Ahab’s persecution of the prophet Micaiah. although he was fully conscious that this man had spoken the mind of God. It was a case of either offending Ahab or despising the meek, but faithful servant of the Lord, and like most in similar circumstances, he chose the line of least resistance. He went further still by trying to assist Ahab in his efforts to prevent the prophet’s words being fulfilled. Indeed he almost lost his own life in so doing, and would have done so. had not the Lord “moved" or “stirred up” the Syrians to depart from him. While Ahab “moved" him to fight, it was great grace for the Lord to “move” the enemy for his deliverance. We need not think that joining affinity with professed believers, who hate the Lord’s ways and his faithful servants, will result either in our own blessing or their good. Better far to walk in separation unto Himself and let lawless men fight their own battles.
The last example of influence that had serious results, which we wish to consider, is the case of David numbering the people. We are expressly told in 1 Chron. 21:1 that Satan “provoked" or “stirred” him to do it. That arch-enemy of God and man is the instigator of many an evil deed, and undoubtedly his influence is far more prevalent than most of us are aware. Seventy thousand slain on that occasion was the tragic outcome of a godly ruler, and an old man at that, yielding to the impulse of the Devil. Even a carnal man like Joab could detect something wrong with the King’s decree, but he was unable to remedy the matter. Although David learned his mistake and owned his guilt, afterwards he must have realised the need for being watchful, lest the enemy should gain another victory.
If we look again at these eases of kings who were “stirred up" or "persuaded,” we shall doubtless see that they were to a great extent willing to be influenced by the forces which acted upon them. Did not Saul desire to persecute David, and were not all who helped him in this evil work appreciated for so doing? Did it not suit Jehoshaphat to join with Ahab, since by so doing his son obtained an Israelitish princess for his bride? And must we not also agree that David’s numbering of the people arose from a spark of pride in his heart at the thought of their might and power—a spark which Satan soon fanned into a flame.
Before we end this subject, we must point out another danger which deserves equal attention, namely, that of blaming others for being influenced when in reality they are acting before the Lord. For example, Jeremiah was accused of being "stirred up” by Baruch to surrender Jerusalem to the Chaldeans, whereas the truth of the matter was that he was directed by the Lord in what he was advocating. Often ministry that is unpalatable is rejected under the plea that the speaker was “stirred up” by someone else to give it. Unless we have unmistakable evidence that this is so, let us beware lest we blunt the edge of faithful words by suggesting they are the product of evil influence.
HE things that the Spirit of God speaks of as “strange” are such that we the Lord's people are to avoid and shun. The force of the word “strange,” as used in the passages we shall consider, does not bear the thought of being strange in the sense of lack of intimacy, but rather as being alien or foreign to the character of God, and they should be treated as such by His children.
THE STRANGE WOMAN (Prov. 2:16-21)
The book of Proverbs is preeminently practical; some of its key words are found in the first four verses :—“Wisdom,” “Instruction.” “Understanding," “Justice." “Judgment,” “Equity,” "Prudence," “Knowledge,” and "Discretion.” How lacking these things are amongst us! Among the many teachings in this book, a good deal is said about the virtuous woman and the strange woman. The character of the former
is set forth at great length in the last chapter of the book. There we have the words of King Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him. It is generally conceded that Lemuel was his mother’s name for Solomon. If this be so, it is of great interest to note what she. whose life had been marred by a dark blot, has to say to her son the king. The repeated, “what.” in verse two would convey the thought of “What shall I say to you my son?” Then in verses ten to thirty-one the subject is “the virtuous woman.” Now, I have sometimes thought of the virtuous woman here, as a type of the Church. A number of women in the Old Testament set forth the Church in type in one way or another. In Eve. as one taken from the side of Adam—part of himself—we have a beautiful
picture of Christ and the Church. Then in Rebekah, the bride won by the servant for Isaac, we have a picture of the Holy Spirit taking out from among the Gentiles a people for His Name. In Rachel, we see one who
was the fruit of Jacob's toils; the Church is the fruit of the work of Calvary. Joseph's Egyptian bride was one who, although a Gentile, was in closer relationship to him than his brethren, and shared with him in his exaltation. Each of these women sets forth some truth relative to the Church; and so with the virtuous woman in the book of Proverbs.
But who is this strange woman of whom we get glimpses again and again in the book of Proverbs? Does she speak of anything besides lewdness and impurity The primary meaning is quite clear, but it seems to me there is another meaning that can be taken from the many warnings concerning her. As the virtuous woman might bring before us some aspects of the true Church, so in a secondary sense, it seems evident that we have in this character the false thing that eventually will be headed up in Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots and abominations. As there are women who set forth in type the right thing, so there are those who set forth the wrong thing. These latter we find in the woman with the leaven in Matt. 13; the woman Jezebel in the message to the church at Thyatira; and the woman on the scarlet colored beast in Rev. 17. The strange woman comes very much to the front in the book of the Revelation during the period immediately following the rapture of the Church; there all is quite clear concerning her; and she is seen in her true colour.
So this strange woman would speak of the denominations of the world —the sects of men. The whole system is governed by the wicked one - the god of this age. How sad when God’s children, in any way, get associated or linked up with such a thing. Yet there are some who do, and likely will till the end; for it is written in the book of Revelation, “Come out of her. My people, that ye be not partakers of her sins.” Only the Word of God in the heart, and practical godliness in the life, can preserve us from her ways. We learn in this book of Proverbs of her many wicked devices, all very attractive to the one who is “void of understanding”; but truly it can be said, “Her house inclineth unto death, and her paths unto the dead" (Prov. 2:18). There are many to-day, because of a low spiritual condition of things, who are going the “way of her house.” Once they were in the "house of God.” which is "the pillar and ground of the truth,” but apparently they did not want that, so “they went out from us.” May the Lord deliver us from this strange woman and her ways.
THE LORD JESUS declared that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh”: Jehovah-Elohim said long ago, “None shall appear before Me empty.” It is what the heart contains that gives pleasure to God. It should be a matter of concern to each of us that there be no narrowness, no restriction in us, which would prevent the heart from being filled with God and His ways.
The expression, “narrow-mindedness,” is a common enough saying on the lips of worldly men. But it is regrettable to hear, at times, the appellation used and bandied about by Christians; and in such a derogatory manner as to make it apparent that they have never turned to the Scriptures to verify whether their application of the term is correct or not. The Lord requires that our “speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt”—“sound (healthy) speech, that cannot be condemned.” It would be a healthy practice to limit our manner of expression to precise Scriptural terms. We would certainly say less, but mean more.
What, then, is “narrow-mindedness," and what is "broad-mindedness,” according to God’s word? The following principles are basic to our understanding this matter. God is ever ready to communicate to us; but a certain condition of soul is necessary. There must be a certain attitude of spirit to the One who seeks to communicate His “wisdom and intelligence” (Eph. 1:8. N.T.) to us—a wonderful thing! No wonder Paul prayed that the saints might be equal to it. It is one thing to see it, another to be equal to it. The secret of it is prayer. But, if this right spiritual attitude be lacking, there will be no reception. On the contrary, spiritual ignorance and leanness of soul will result.
Peter, Paul and John are particular examples of those to whom the Lord communicated wonderful things. You will notice that each was concerned with special conditions on his part; conditions which qualified them to receive Divine communications. Peter was “praying, and in an ecstasy” (Acts 11:5); Paul was also praying and in ecstasy (Acts 22:17); while John uses corresponding language and says that he “became in the Spirit on the Lord's day” (Rev. 1:10). We must not be afraid of the word “ecstasy” (A.V. “trance”). No doubt the communications granted them were of a special kind; nor need we doubt but that special circumstances surrounded them at the time. But the essential principle involved, and for us, is this: that if we are to be spiritually capable of receiving communications from God. if we are to have the light and power necessary for spiritual exercises in the assembly, and without, then we too must have prepared minds; minds that are in abstraction as far as worldly affairs are concerned; minds that are unaffected by natural and human influences, from self or others; minds that know no restrictions when it comes to dealing with acceptance of, and obedience to, the whole truth of God. Herein, beloved, is the key to Scriptural “broad-mindedness”—a quality which should characterise us all; and here, too, is the antidote to that “narrow-mindedness” which all should shun.
To the believers of the assembly in Corinth the Apostle writes: "Ye are not straitened (narrowed, pressed for room) in us,” or through what we teach you; "but ye are narrowed through your own Dowels (desires).” Yes, the assembly in Corinth, like some to-day. may have prided itself on having a reputation for "broad-mindedness." But, No, says the discerning Spirit through the Apostle, "ye are narrowed." Your enjoyment of heavenly things is meagre; your service for God is circumscribed and hindered, in spite of all your activities. You are paddling in the shallow, seashore pool, instead of enjoying the ocean of God’s full provision for His people.
Now what is the remedy, the "recompense in the same"? What are the compensation and change necessary? "Be ye also enlarged," "let YOUR heart also expand itself” (N.T.); be really "broad-minded" in the Divine sense. Come out into the ocean. Leave unholy associations of every possible kind and degree, be they commercial, political, social, domestic, or ecclesiastical. Worldly "broad-mindedness” admits such, and thus is God grieved and limited, and therefore do His people spiritually, yes, mentally and physically too, suffer, because they admit such unholy associations, which can only defile. Ecclesiastical evil is not the least of these. It is sad to see compromising tendencies to-day. and that is why the Lord is looking for "faithful men” who will stand foursquare for the truth themselves, and be competent to teach others to do the same (2 Tim. 2:2).
A refusal or negligence so to enlarge the heart as to throw it open to ALL the truth of God, by complete dissociation from all such unholy associations, is indeed "narrow-mindedness.” blameworthy narrow-mindedness, in the estimation of God. On the other hand, to admit all the truth of Scripture into our hearts and lives is indeed Scriptural broad-mindedness, the only kind acceptable to God. The less of unholy associations of any kind there are the more room is there in our hearts to receive and obey Divine communications. The Word of God knows nothing of dividing "the apostles’ doctrine” into "essentials and non-essentials,” "fundamental and non-fundamental," “matters of interpretation” and "marginal differences.” Such arbitrary treatment is unworthy regard of Divine revelation; as if there are some of the “all things I commanded you” of our Lord Jesus that do not matter! Such an attitude to Divine truth approaches the adding and taking away sins of Rev. 22:18-19.
The Apostle could humbly boast, "our mouth is open unto you. our heart is enlarged." He had never hesitated nor feared to "declare ... all the counsel of God.” One has no doubt what his answer would be to those who might request him, directly or by implication, that he “avoid controversial subjects." and thus be a party to a tacit understanding to suppress certain of the "all things” commanded by the risen Christ; Galatians 1:10 is enough. Assemblies, and especially overseers, in these days of compromise need to remember that so-called "unity" or "harmony” at the expense of truth, however plausibly justified, is merely tolerance of evil. Surely to preach Christ and His Gospel includes teaching all His commandments and emphasising the only Scriptural pattern of Christian gathering, worship and testimony, which forms part of them. It includes, too, withstanding all that has not the hallmark of His Word (Rev. 3:8). But it requires courage. It requires brethren and sisters of conviction. After all, Jude 3—“earnestly contend for the faith” —does mean something.
It was because his mouth was open to declare the whole counsel of God, withholding nothing, that Paul could claim an "enlarged heart." A broadminded Apostle indeed was he, because he admitted ALL the truth of God into head and heart, belief and practice, and not just some of it. People are most undiscerning to call conscientious believers "narrow-minded”; there is nothing narrow here, but vast. May we be thus enlarged, not only in the greatness of Christ, but in what He contains; the Ark is not empty.
Finally, the Apostle reminds them what will be the result of purity (purity itself is the result of true sanctification; and true sanctification the result of complete separation from all that is contrary to God’s Word). The result would be that God would take up His dwelling in truth in His temple in Corinth (I Cor. 3; 16-17). He would “dwell in them, and walk in them,” and that with a manifest relationship; not. like many to-day who alas force themselves to believe such a relationship, because they dare not deny Matt. 18:20 (compare Ex. 29:45, Lev. 26; 12). But. sad to say. as far as actual experience goes, they may know very little of such activity by the Head of the assembly.
“Wherefore come out,” and the command continues right to the end (Rev. 18:4); just as it was bound upon God’s people in days of testing long ago (Isa. 52:11). Dear brothers and sisters, fear not the nickname of the undiscerning if your narrow-mindedness excludes all unholy associations. Only then will you have the Father’s commendation for being “broad-minded.’’ possessing a heart so enlarged as to receive ALL the truth and ALL the commandments He has passed on to you. He will then in grace fulfil His seven encouraging promises of 2 Cor. 6:16-18, both in assembly and in individual life—blessed compensation indeed for any reproach borne for the sake of His precious truth down here. What would we have of the truth to pass on to others if it cost us nothing to hold it ourselves?
THE habit of strict veracity is of great importance to the Christian. He should study to be a man of genuine honesty and truthfulness in all his intercourse with the world and with fellow-believers. There is such a thing as misrepresentation—withholding part of the truth. To give part of a statement, and keep back the rest, may mislead the hearer, and be quite as much as the telling of a falsehood. To speak or act. so as to leave a false impression on others is to be guilty of “lying” according to the divine standard.
IF you hold daily communion with Him in your chamber, and He touches you and you touch Him. you will go through the world like a man who is continually encompassed in impregnable armour, and on your shield of faith Satan’s fiery darts of doubt will be quenched. A boy went into the battle and was found without a helmet. Someone said to him, “Your head is unprotected." “No it is not." he answered. “My mother laid her hands on it before I went to the battlefield, and besought God to be with me." If God’s hands are laid on your head, your head is helmeted; if God protects you no arrow from the devil’s bow can pierce your coat of mail.
Size of an assembly does not make true greatness: still less does wealth, or wit, or human skill of arrangement. Nothing makes an assembly divinely great, but its having GATHERED TO HIS NAME, and no poverty, or feebleness, or fewness, can prevent its being great if it be really thus gathered.
Our age is one of pleasure and luxury. The spirit of the world sweeps through and affects the Christian. There is a tendency to forsake simplicity of living, except under the compulsion of financial necessity. Going without things for the Lord’s sake is left to the missionaries. Our sense of stewardship is deplorably weak. A notice on the bulletin of an old country church read. “England spends four times as much annually on dog licenses as on foreign missions.” How many times more do Christians spend on indulgences than in paying their debts in the gospel?