THE strongest New Testament appeal for Christian separation from the world is found in 2 Cor. 6. This appeal opens with the exhortation, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers” (v. 14). The exhortation is then backed up by five questions in verses 14-16:
“What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?”
“What communion hath light with darkness?”
“What concord hath Christ with Belial?”
“What part hath he that believeth with an unbeliever?”
“What agreement hath the temple of God with idols?”
These questions suggest five respective yokes, all of an unequal nature, which are forbidden to the child of God. They are:
The commercial yoke.
The political yoke.
The social yoke.
The matrimonial yoke.
The religious yoke.
Based upon these we have Paul’s trenchant call for a walk of holy separation from the world : “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing” (v. 17).
That they should “COME OUT” from all ungodly association is ever God’s desire for His beloved people. To Abraham long ago He said, "GET THEE OUT of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house” (Gen. 12. 1). This was His word to the individual. In Isaiah 52. 11 we have His word to Israel His chosen nation : “Depart ye, depart ye, GO YE OUT from thence, touch no unclean thing; GO YE OUT of the midst of her (Babylon); be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord.” In a yet future day, subsequent to the Church’s rapture, He will say with “voice from heaven”, “COME OUT of her (mystical Babylon), my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins” (Rev. 18. 4); and here in our passage His message to the Church to-day is the same : “Wherefore COME OUT from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord.” Could anything be clearer or plainer? The words, says a writer in “Letters of Interest”, “admit of no concession whatever: they are absolute and abiding. They are not to be regarded as sentiment or theory, or frittered away by applying them to a limited circle. Their full force and authority ought to be felt, obeyed, enforced, and manifested everywhere.” The call is for uncompromising separation from the world in its every aspect.
With this verse it is interesting to compare Heb. 13, where the same word for “COME OUT” occurs. It is there translated “GO FORTH”—“ Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach” (v. 13). In the one passage we have the Divine command, and in the other faith’s response. In the one we separate from “THEM”, in the other we are drawn to “HIM”, our infinitely precious Lord Jesus Christ, Who has been before us throughout the Hebrew epistle, and Who has been seen to be so much “BETTER” than all others.
“Unto Thee the homeless Stranger—outside the camp,
Forth we hasten, fear no danger—outside the camp.
Thy reproach far richer treasure Than all Egypt's boasted pleasure;
Drawn by love that knows no measure Outside the camp.”
May we ever be satisfied with Him in the outside place, until within the veil we see Him face to face.
It was this great truth which led to the glorious Reformation four hundred years ago. Because of their determined protests against the wrongs and iniquities of Rome, made before the Diet of Spiers in 1529, the reformers became known as “Protestants”; and because of their separation from the harlot system of “the seven hills” they were nicknamed “THE COMERS-OUT.” Well, thank God for the comers-out, and may He multiply their number. It is important that we should be clear that it was God who divided Christendom in the sixteenth century. To-day, alas, man is trying to join what a holy God has divided. And it was God, too, Who brought many of us out from the unscriptural, modernistic systems of decadent Protestantism in more recent times. Then God forbid that we should ever attempt to unite what He has separated. To us the Apostle’s clarion call comes resounding down the ages—“COME OUT from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord.”
Let us beware, however, for 2 Cor. 6. 17, like many another passage of Scripture, has at times been taken out of its context and used in a manner which the inspiring Spirit never intended. The London party of Exclusives, for example, regard as unclean all persons, saved and unsaved, outside their little pretentious circle. They carry separation so far that they refuse to eat a common meal with such, even with their closest relatives, and quote this Scripture as their authority.
Another example has to do with the beginning of the so-called Needed Truth movement. In the seventies of the last century there was marked laxity in many British assemblies which were outside the Exclusive confederacy, and which, though they themselves have ever disowned sectarian names, are known to this day as Open Brethren. Saints who paid dearly for the truth greatly deplored this laxity.
Instead of waiting upon the living God that He might restore His beloved people, however, some of these began to teach that their only remedy lay in “another coming out.” Thus a movement was started which in the course of time gained considerable ground. Those responsible for it soon became a recognised party. Whole assemblies in some cases supported it. Many of its adherents developed a Pharisaical conceit and a cold aloofness from all who did not subscribe to their pet line of teaching. In this way there grew up a circle of fellowship within a circle of fellowship, which clearly was not of God. Moreover, servants of God with blameless lives and sound in assembly principles, were cruelly victimized and shut out, because they would not conform to the orders of party leaders regarding their movements. This led ultimately to open schism which took place in 1889. A new federation of assemblies was then formed, and all who would not own its central authority were “cut off”, because as one leader said, “such assemblies were neither in nor of the Church of God.”
Now, it is written that “by their fruits ye shall know them”, and time has proved that Exclusivism and Needed Truthism are alike unscriptural, unworkable, and ruinous to the testimony. Their principle of federating assemblies has within it the seeds of successive divisions, for all companies will not agree with every decision by party leaders, and splits are therefore inevitable. Both parties are to-day a testimony to this fact, for they stand sadly divided, depleted numerically, and discredited in the judgment of unbiased spiritual observers. Indeed the recent division of the Exclusive group has been several times featured in the public Press. It has resulted in family estrangements, shattered homes, and broken hearts. In some cases the intense mental strain caused by the imposition of certain humanly-devised strictures has ended in suicide.
Yet, with all this sad, God-dishonouring history before us, there are, strange though it may seem, some in the assemblies with which we are by God’s grace associated, who today advocate “another coming out.” These brethren never seem to tire dwelling upon the weaknesses and failures of assembly testimony. Because of these they declare that we must “go out to a clean place.” In certain cases indeed Christians have been advised to be prepared to take their stand on the right side when “the coming out” occurs.
Now, let us examine this resurgence of Needed Truthism, for it could turn out to be more serious than we imagine. It is admitted that there is much over which we should mourn in our testimony : Is the remedy, however, another heartrending division? No, beloved brethren, it certainly is not, as a little reflection will show. Why should any consider it necessary to contemplate such a thing? Are we as assemblies not built upon the true foundation? Do we not gather in or unto our Lord’s worthy Name? Is He not in our midst? Have His servants not liberty to minister all that Scripture teaches, provided, of course, that the truth be given in a loving, tactful, balanced manner? Are assemblies not able to carry out godly scriptural discipline? And is not our God owning and abundantly blessing our feeble efforts in His service? If we are honest our answer in each case must surely be a decided affirmative. Then why talk of “another coming out”? Are those who speak thus quite sure that they themselves are all they should be? Again, if we were to make an exodus this very day, what would we be the better of it? Could we leave the sinful flesh behind us? If not, would we not soon defile the clean place, could we find one? Saints in the past who went out to build up a pure testimony, as they thought, were bitterly disappointed to find that some of the very evils, because of which they had separated from their dear brethren, began shortly to manifest themselves in their own midst, and would history not probably repeat itself?
It is clear therefore that whatever our need may be to-day, it certainly is not “another coming out.” To speak as though it were, can only breed discontent and unrest in simple souls, by causing them to feel that assemblies are “not half right”, as one brother expressed it. We regard all such talk as being foolish, childish, and mischievous. “To separate from a company of Christians who have any claim to be regarded as a ‘Church of God’ (see 1 Cor. 1. 1; 2 Thess. 2. 14)”, said the late John Ritchie, “is sin.” Rather, let us wait upon God that we may “strengthen the things that remain”. It is easier in certain circumstances to separate than to suffer, but if not in obedience to a direct and definite commandment from the Lord, such separation is contrary to the mind of God and will not have His blessing. We do not need “another coming out.” “To your tents, O Israel.”
(Next Issue, D.V.—Will There Be An Earthly Millennium?).
CHRIST’S associates in the administration of the world Kingdom come into view in three clearly defined companies. First, there are those who are given thrones and joint-authority with the King. These no doubt are the “armies” which accompanied Him from Heaven, fitly arrayed in white garments (Rev. 19. 14). The promises of the New Testament identify these throne-sitters. “The saints” including those at Corinth “will judge the world” (1 Cor. 6. 2). Again, “If we endure we shall also reign with Him” (2 Tim. 2. 12). Each follower of his rejected Lord to-day is being trained, by reproach from men and loyalty to the Master, to fill a seat of administration in this coming Kingdom. The “faithful” in the few things will be set over the many (Matt. 25. 21-23). The crowns of the glorified have thus the dual meaning of recompense and authority. The parable of the pounds (Luke 19. 11-27) envisages what is here declared—“and judgment was given unto them.” While their Master was gone to obtain a Kingdom His bond-servants were entrusted with His monies
and commanded to trade with them till He would return. With what joy and satisfaction does the genuine servant hear the commendation of the King—“Well done” and the promotion to power that follows—“Be thou over ten cities”, and ‘‘Be thou over five” ! What incentives to love and loyalty, to glorify our absent Lord to-day, and in the fast approaching day have a part in His government of the nations!
The second company are described as “the souls of them who had been beheaded for the witness of Jesus and for the Word of God”, which links with the language and facts of Rev. 6. 9. The martyrs of the early part of the great Tribulation are now at the end of their waiting, and the answer to their cry is given in the fulness of joy attendant upon living and reigning with Christ.
A further band of loyalists, whose love and devotion to the Lord Jesus were tried and proven in the second half of “the week”, that is during the reign and viscious antagonism of the Roman Prince and Anti-Christ, completes the picture. The terse statement, “they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years”, embodies facts of tremendous significance. They have been made to share the resurrection-life of the Conqueror of death and been fitted for the highest form of statesmanship.
The Spirit of Truth defines “Resurrection” very clearly for us. It is not, as some would advocate, a synonym for the reception of new spiritual life : it is a raising of bodies from their places of interment (John 5. 28). The distinction between regeneration and resurrection can be learnt from that context (John 5. 25-28). There is, says Christ, a resurrection of the just which is unto life; there is a resurrection of the unjust which is unto judgment (John 5. 29; Luke 14. 14). In both cases bodies that have seen corruption will be raised and reanimated by the return of the departed personality (Acts 24. 15).
Here in Revelation 20 we have language that completely debars the notion of a “General Resurrection.” “The Resurrection—the First” (literally) v. 5, will be finalised when these three companies of Christ’s joint-administrators have been caused, each in their own order, to share Christ’s triumph over death, the grave and Hades (1 Cor. 15. 20-25, 54-57). Christ Himself initiates this order of resurrection, believers at the rapture participate in it, and saints of the second and third companies of Rev. 20. 4 will be the final ranks. Carefully compare 1 Cor. 15. 23; Rev. 19. 14 and Rev 20. 4.
Thus to speak of general resurrection is to contradict the statements of this passage which indicates the VICTORY-RESURRECTION of the JUST as coming one thousand years before the ‘resurrection unto judgment’ of the UNJUST. The participants in “the Resurrection—the First”, because of the quality of this quickening, have three special favours. They enjoy a special benediction, “Blessed and holy is he who has a portion in the first resurrection.” The blessedness and holiness must be because of their relationship to Him who is the “First fruits.” In the second place, they have an assured immunity from the second death. This too relates to the resurrection-life of Christ in which we shall finally be found, being both judicially and inherently beyond the authority of the second death. Their third favour is that their order of resurrection fits them for “Holy Orders” of the truest kind, “they shall be Priests”; and for “Royal Honours”, “they shall reign with Him.” One can sense the harmony, the peace, the pure joy that shall attend the Prince of Peace and every rank of citizenship in that golden age. “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose . . . they shall see the glory of the Lord and the excellency of our God” (Isaiah 35. 1-2).
The thousand years are manifestly to be a period of testing, as well as of vindication, and we may add, of anticipation. The vindication will be that of “the SON OF MAN.” Our worthy Lord, being exalted in the scene where He was put to shame and death, and displaying the rule of God which “His own” refused Him (John 1. 10-12), is an absolutely necessary element in Christ’s earthly reign (Mark 8. 38). He will produce that ideal presented in the pattern prayer, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN” (Matt. 6. 10). This perfect order of government will impose upon human nature its ultimate, its final test. One can imagine the greatly depleted population on the earth after “the Tribulation” and at the inception of “the Kingdom”, and then with the passing of the centuries, its multiplied numbers. The children of the Saved Nations will be born in sin, needing personal faith in the Messiah-Redeemer, and then as now there will be the innate disobedience of human nature, which alas! in many of these will refuse to bow to the claims of redeeming love, and at the same time acknowledging the external rights of the King. The only discernible difference between sinners of that period and ours is that of favour and responsibility, and when the millennium expires the Sovereign Lord will release Satan for a short season, and he will find a ready following amongst such unregenerates.
Satan’s incarceration in the Abyss will have no reformative power just as the multiple blessings of the Kingdom will have no spiritual influence on its unsaved citizens. Such will gravitate to their own wicked level when given a lead by the released Deceiver. Here is the last rebellion by members of the human family against God and His Christ. Gog and Magog are mentioned it would seem as the symbols of human hatred against everything that is of God. The Gog and Magog of Ezekiel 38 and 39 are manifestly literal, standing for both the leader (gog) and the land (magog) of Russia. The inspiration of that earlier anti-god movement was also Satanic, and had the same end in view as this final one. Our chapter would show that the geographical location of the Ezekiel prediction does not obtain, as the mention of the four quarters of the earth makes clear. This vast army is drawn from all parts of the globe and is dealt with in summary fashion by the act of God. “Fire fell from Heaven and devoured them.” Satan’s final fall will now be affected. He will join his erstwhile confederates, the Beast and the False Prophet, in the unending torments of the Lake of Fire.
EVERY Christian should be a member of a local assembly. Faith, Baptism, and Reception into the local church is God’s order.
Reception. Who should be received into the assembly?
A new believer who desires to be baptised and received into fellowship should be examined by the elders, and if they are satisfied that he is truly believing and free from moral error, he can be received.
A believer who has been in fellowship in another scripturally constituted assembly should bring with him a letter of commendation (Rom. 16. 1, 2; 2 Cor. 3. 1) from the elders of the assembly with which he has previously been associated.
A believer who has been associated with a group of Christians who do not gather in the way shown in the New Testament should be interviewed by the elders, and if it is found that he is free from moral or doctrinal error he may be received. It is usually wise to discourage such people from taking an active part in the assembly until the elders are assured that they have been freed from any unscriptural ideas that they may have acquired in their previous associations.
Fellowship. Fellowship means a “sharing together” in the privileges and responsibilities of the assembly.
All the believers should seek to be present at as many meetings of the assembly as possible, and all the brethren should be exercised to take some part in the meetings of the assembly, in accordance with the gifts that they have received (1 Cor. 14. 26).
All the believers should seek to live their individual and family lives in a way that will bring honour to the Lord and will thus not bring the assembly into disrepute (Col. 1. 10).
All the believers should seek to co-operate with each other in spreading the message of the Gospel (1 Thess. 1. 8).
All the believers should contribute towards the expenses of the assembly in accordance with their means (1 Cor. 16. 2). The Old Testament believers were expected to give at least 10% of their income: surely we should not give less.
All the believers should seek to maintain the unity of the assembly, and should avoid the formation of cliques and parties in the church (Phil. 1. 27).
All the believers should be zealous in maintaining the purity of the assembly. If they know definitely that another believer is guilty of open sin, they should proceed as directed in Matthew 18. 15-20.
Excommunication. If a believer is guilty of gross moral sin— unchastity, idolatry, covetousness, drunkenness, reviling, or extortions (see 1 Cor. 5. 1-13) he must be put out of fellowship as a “wicked person”. If any believer falls into doctrinal error, teaching anything contrary to the plain teaching of the Scriptures, he must be excluded from the assembly (2 John 10), and should not be permitted to enter a believer’s house. Until such time as those excommunicated show evidence of real repentance they must be cut off from social intercourse with those in the assembly: but when the elders are satisfied that there is genuine repentance, they can be welcomed back into the assembly.
THIS text has been spoken of as the Bible in miniature, which is quite appropriate, as almost every fundamental doctrine in the New Testament is compressed into it. God Who is the source of our salvation is at the beginning of the verse; Christ Who has secured our salvation is in the centre of it. Eternal punishment from which Christ died to save us, and Eternal Life offered as a gift to the believing sinner, are also prominent in the text.
The writer will praise God for all Eternity for John 3. 16. Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, a land in which the Gospel has been faithfully preached, I was an unbeliever, even though a church member and a member of the choir. I emigrated to Canada in 1911 with the desire to make good in the world. While waiting to get into my own line of business, I took a job as conductor on the street cars in the city of Toronto. While making runs to the centre of the city, I had to pass a billboard about a dozen times a day. This board was not advertising the commodities of the day, but in large letters displayed the words : “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” The truth of the love of God for a sinner like me wrought conviction and repentance in my soul. Shortly after that experience of conviction I was moved to Hamilton. The first night I was in that city, after a young man had spoken to me about my soul, and explained to me the simple way of Salvation, I bowed before God in my room, and believed the love that God had toward me. There and then I received Christ as my personal Saviour, and had the assurance I would never perish, but that I was the happy possessor of everlasting life. For over forty years now I have had the joy of proclaiming the good news of salvation to sinners, and during a recent illness, the many letters received from those I had the pleasure of leading to Christ has been a real tonic to me. This wonderful verse brings before us the love of God in its four dimensions :
(1) THE BREADTH OF GOD’S LOVE.
The breadth of God’s love is manifest in the object to which it is extended. “For God so loved the world.” How marvellous that God should love the world of sinners lost and ruined by the fall—the world, whose mind is enmity against God, whose course is evil, whose heart is wicked, whose trend is sin-ward, and whose god is the devil!
Had our text said that God loved the angels, or even if it said that God loved the world in its unfallen state, we could understand it, but that God should love a world sunk in the darkness of sin, whose enmity culminated in the crucifixion of His blessed Son, is too vast to comprehend. Friend, you are included in that world that has rebelled against high Heaven, and you deserve the wrath of God. The wonder is that God yearns over you with love unspeakable, and if you believe the truth of John 3. 16 He will save you, and save you now.
(2) THE LENGTH OF GOD’S LOVE.
The length of God’s love is evident from the fact that He gave His only begotten Son, to die the shameful death of Calvary for us. In John 15. 13 we read, “Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends.” There you have the length to which human love will go. A mother has given her life for her children, and a father will lay down his life for his son, but “God commendeth His love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” Who can sound the depths of such a sentence as this—“He gave His only begotten Son”!
It is all the more amazing that God should send His Son into the world, when we remember that He Who knew the end from the beginning, knew that they would despise and reject the Lord Jesus, that they would pluck the hairs from His face and lay the scourge upon His back, and nail Him to a malefactor’s Cross, and cry, “Away with Him, away with Him : we will not have this Man to reign over us.” The Lord Jesus by His agony in Gethsemane’s Garden, and the shame and suffering of Golgotha, when He died, crushed beneath the load of the wrath and curse of God, fully expressed the length of God’s love to a lost world.
“ ’TIS THAT Man of Sorrows yonder,
Object of contempt beneath,
Yet in Heaven the highest wonder,
Teaches fully by His death, that God is Love.
“ Not for those who ever loved Him
Did the Lord of Glory die.
Pity to the wretched moved Him
Who that hears it will deny that God) is Love.”
How can we doubt the love of God that went the length of giving Heaven’s best for earth’s worst? The sacrifice of Christ on Calvary assures our hearts of God’s wondrous love for sinners.
(3) THE DEPTH OF GOD’S LOVE.
The depth of the love of God is expressed in the words “should not perish.” God in His mighty love_ desires that sinners should be saved from the penalty of their sins. Who can understand that word “perish”? In it we have the groans of the damned; the depths of misery and despair of the lost, the outer darkness of hell, the doom of the wicked; and in it we see the depths to which Christ in His love for sinners was willing to go, that He might save them from their righteous deserts.
(4) THE HEIGHTS OF GOD’S LOVE
“Everlasting life.” God will lift the sinner who believes in Christ from the depths of sin and shame, and impart to him Divine life. The everlasting life that God offers to sinners occupies a prominent place in the Gospel of John. Our blessed Lord says in John 6. 47, “Verily, verily I say unto you, he that believeth on Me hath everlasting life.” The way of life is made plain.
In the year 1829 a man was convicted of murder in the United States. He had robbed and killed a mailman, and for this he was sentenced to die. The President of the United States sought to show him leniency and a pardon was sent to him. He refused the pardon and insisted that they should hang him. An able body of lawyers met to consider his case, and their conclusion was that “A pardon is a piece of paper, the value of which depends upon the acceptance of it by the person implicated.” Wilson was punished because he refused the pardon. Friends, we plead with you, not to refuse the pardon offered by God. He loves you; Christ died for you. Believe on Him without delay and you will have everlasting life.
On April 15, 1912, the greatest ship ever built to that time, the 45,000 ton S. S. Titanic, on her way from Liverpool to New York on her maiden voyage, sank after colliding with an iceberg. She carried 1,635 men, women and children down into the sea with her.
In 1915, in Hamilton, Ont., a young Scotsman stood in a gathering of Christians and gave this testimony:
“I was on the Titanic when she struck the fateful iceberg. Not many minutes afterward I was drifting alone on a spar in that cold, black water. A wave brought John Harper of Glasgow, close to my side. He also was hanging on to a piece of the wreckage. He shouted at me: ‘Are ye saved, mon?’
“I told him: ‘No!’
“As he drifted away, he called out: ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved!’
“In a matter of short time the waves washed Harper toward me again, and again he asked me: ‘Are ye saved, mon?’
“Once more I confessed that I was not saved, and once more he called out: ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved’. Then he lost his hold on the spar and sank from view.
“Alone in the night, and with two miles of water beneath me, I believed, receiving Christ as my Saviour. I am John Harper’s last convert.”
John Harper (who was, by the way, sailing for America to assume the pastorship of the Moody Memorial Church, Chicago), like the Apostle Paul and Silas, whom he quoted, being dead yet speaketh : “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16. 31).
LET me ask you, are you sensible of the gravity of division? The assembly cannot be divided as a field. In a division the Head cannot go with both parts. The Lord goes with one side only—He cannot go with both. Then the issue is very solemn, and be assured, if the Lord be not with you, though you may preserve a fair character and an unblemished reputation, and though you may be blessed in the gospel, your light and knowledge of His mind is sure to wane. I have seen it over and over that even godly souls when they lose the presence of the Lord in their midst never receive any fresh light from Him. They are alive but dwarfs.
JOHN RUSKIN, the English artist-author, at the close of a lecture on war, delivered before the Royal Military college at Woolwich, England, addressed the ladies present, and after telling them that their praying was useless, and their church-going mere mockery of God, and that if every woman would, at the commencement of any war robe herself in mourning for human bloodshed, no war would last a week, he said :—
“And lastly, you women of England are all now shrieking with one voice—you and your clergymen together—because you hear of your Bibles being attacked. If you choose to obey your Bibles you will never care who attacks them. It is just because you never fulfil a single downright precept of the book that you are so careful of its credit; and just because you don’t care to obey its whole words that you are so particular about the letters of them. The Bible tells you to dress plainly—and you are mad for finery; the Bible tells you to have pity on the poor—and you crush them under your carriage-wheels; the Bible tells you to do judgment and justice; you do not know, nor care to know, so much as what the Bible word ‘justice’ means. Do but learn so much of God’s truth as that comes to; know what he means when He tells you to be just, and teach your sons that their bravery is but a fool’s boast, and that their deeds but a firebrand’s tossing, unless they are indeed just men, and perfect in the fear of God; and you will soon have no more war, unless it is indeed such as is willed of Him of whom, though Prince of peace, it is also written, ‘In righteousness doth He judge and make war’.”