“When Ye Come Together”
Haggai’s Teaching Today
H. F. Norman
E. A. Toll
By A. McSHANE
1 Corinthians 11:17-34
Having considered the subjects of Fellowship (ch. 10:16-23) and Headship (ch. 11:1-16), we now propose to deal with the equallyimportant subject of Worship. As already pointed out in a formerpaper, the coming together of saints to remember the Lord in the breakingof bread, is the central topic of this portion of 1 Corinthians which dealswith local collective testimony. While it must be conceded that Scripturenever specifically states it to be a worship meeting, most will agree thatthis is pre-eminently what it is. The one occasion above all others when ourhearts respond with adoring gratitude to the love of Christ is when we aregathered at His table. Indeed, our nearest experiences of Heaven uponearth have been when assembled thus. Anything that contributes to themaking of these heavenly times more precious ought, therefore, to bevaluable. Experience shows that if saints are kept in a worshipful conditionmany other matters will require less attention.
The fact that Paul had received a SPECIAL COMMUNICATION concerning this ordinance, at once stamps it with great importance. Hisbeing absent from its institution by the Lord left him at a disadvantagecompared with the other apostles. When his baptism was in question,Ananias commanded him to have it done, but no such human channelconveyed to him the details of the Supper. “I have received of the Lord”are words which clearly imply that he had his information from Him bydirect revelation. When an assembly meets to carry out this ordinance,therefore, it does so in fulfilment of the Lord’s own instructions, andunless there is a legitimate reason in the sight of God, no one in fellowshipshould be absent from His table. Those who allow trifling matters to keepthem away evince the coldness of their hearts, or the absence of life intheir souls.
It is important that the remembrance meeting should be preserved from all traces of SOCIAL DISTINCTION. At Corinth, the rich had dividedfrom the poor and had brought about conditions under which it becameimpossible to remember the Lord. “Have ye not houses to eat and drinkin?” is the question put to those who showed no regard for their needybrethren. Home matters and assembly matters should be kept far apart.Many things which are lawful at home ought to have no place in churchlife, and those who introduce them cause endless trouble amongst thesaints. For example, some Christians feel free to have music in their homes,but this liberty is no licence for introducing it into the assembly. Othersare happy about playing with children at home, but amusing or entertainingchildren is no part of an assembly’s responsibility. It is to be feared thatsome assemblies go to excess in the sums of the Lord’s money they spendupon social work amongst the young. Of these and many other mattersintroduced into some assemblies as normal activities, the same questionapplies—“Have ye not houses” in which to do such and such? “or despiseye the church of God?”
The SOLEMN INAUGURATION of the Supper by our Lord in the upper room was in bold contrast to the revelry and lightness in the Corinthianassembly. On that memorable night His mind and heart must have been filled with thoughts of His approaching sufferings and death. Even with their limited knowledge of what was involved, those few disciples, liketheir Master, felt the seriousness of the situation. Should not each subsequentcelebration of the Supper, therefore, be characterised by a similar sobriety,and the emblems be partaken under, as it were, the very shadow of thecross? What can be more out of place at the Lord’s table than worldlydisplay and fleshly ostentation ?
The SIMPLE CELEBRATION outlined in these verses, as in the Gospels, is also in striking contrast to the elaborate ritual associated with the Supperin many religious quarters. In such places its sublime simplicity hasdisappeared uader a cloud of ceremony, copied from heathen and Jewishpractices. No reference is here or elsewhere in Scripture made to anyoneofficiating. No particular individual is blamed for the disorders at Corinth,nor is anyone asked to take charge and see that all is put right, as wouldhave been done had there been a presiding minister. It is indeed well thatthe incidental details of the meeting have not been filled in, for it wouldhave resulted in spiritual exercise disappearing and stereotyped formalitytaking its place.
One fact is made unmistakably plain in the passage, namely, that the primary purpose of our coming together is to remember the Lord andHis death. Whatever each one contributes should direct to this end.Whether it be the giving of thanks to God, the reading of a Scripture, orthe singing of a hymn, all should centre around the Person and work ofChrist. Thoughts of the Saviour rather than of salvation ought to fill ourhearts. Reference has already been made to another principle which is alsoclear in the passage, namely, that it is an occasion for thanksgiving. Thewords, “When He had given thanks” (ch. 11:24) and “the cup of blessingwhich we bless” (ch. 10 : 16), imply that gratitude and praise are keynotesof this meeting. There is great need in most assemblies to-day for brethrenwho can lift the saints into the conscious presence of God by pouring forthin His ear the fulness of their hearts. Often instead of this spirit of worshipit happens that some brother attempts to give thanks, but after a few wordsbegins to pray, as though he were in a prayer-meeting. In this, as in otherdealings with God, we must guard against “strange fire,” and see to it thatour hearts are in tune with our words.
There is in the Supper a SPECIFIC PROCLAMATION to the world of the Lord’s death, as well as a commemoration of His love to us. Hisrejecters would fain forget the foul deed of Calvary, but those whose heartshave been won to Him, in partaking of the symbols of His body and blood,silently preach to all onlookers the great fact that their Lord has died.They publicly and freely own that all they have, or hope to have, restsupon His finished work.
SELF-EXAMINATION is the necessary preparation for all who participate in the Lord’s Supper. This scrutiny of ourselves should be done prior to our coming to the table. The confession of sin and failure, the judgingof the flesh, and the chastening of the spirit are healthy exercises whichnot only make us fit to eat the emblems, but cause us to value all themore the perfections of the One we gather to remember. The Corinthianbelievers had neglected this matter, and had fallen under God’s judgmentas a result. Let us remember that He is still holy, and will not permit Hispeople to partake of the emblems as if they were eating a common meal.Some, alas, instead of examining themselves and eating the Supper, examineothers and stay away.
The three words, “till He come,” suggest that we eat and drink in SWEET ANTICIPATION of that future day of glory. The bread and winewill give place to Himself. The little meeting-room, with its few believers,will be exchanged for the countless multitudes and the Home above. Thoseprecious times at His table are foretastes of the meeting from which thesaints will never again depart to face the reproach of a cold and Christlessworld. Thus our eating is prospective as well as retrospective. Little wonderthat when the apostle has ended his remarks in these chapters upon the comingtogether of the local church, he proceeds in ch. 15 to speak of the brightmom of resurrection — the meeting in the air of all the redeemed. Tillthen may the Lord preserve us true to Himself and in fellowship with Hispeople, so that we may still enjoy a seat at His table.
- “Feast after feast thus comes and passes by,
- Yet passing, points to the glad feast above,
- Giving sweet foretaste of the festal joy,
- The Lamb’s great bridal feast of bliss and love.”
By Mr. HECTOR ALVES, Vancouver, Canada
“STRANGE FIRE” (Lev. 10: 1-3)
From the “strange woman” there emanates “strange doctrine”; this in turn begets “strange children.” When these “strange children” getinto the assembly we may be sure that “strange fire” will be offeredthe Lord. This is very solemn. At least three times we have mentionmade in the Scriptures of this awful act of Nadab and Abihu, with itssolemn consequences. We do well to take warning from it. In Psalm 93:5we read, “Holiness becometh thine house, O Lord, for ever.” The assemblyis the place where God’s honor dwelleth; but to-day we see things donein some assemblies that one would expect to find only in the systems aroundus, where they do not profess to try to rid themselves of “strange children,”but where the wheat and the tares are seen growing together. Even inmany of the so-called “churches” there is a reverence, at least outwardly,that one fails to find in some of our gatherings. Sobriety and the fear ofthe Lord, the atmosphere of heaven, these are things sadly lacking whenwe gather together on the Lord’s Day morning. The fact that we are inthe very presence of the Lord in our worship meeting is something thatseemingly is not entered into by many. New things are being introduced,patterns of “Damascus altars,” and forms and ceremonies that are altogetherforeign to the doctrine as we have been taught from the Scriptures, arefinding their way in amongst us. Some of these things might be spoken ofas “the offering of strange fire before the Lord.” Let us see to it that inspite of all these “strange things” that we see around us, we “continuesteadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine,” lest we through “strange doctrine,”and “strange children,” introduce “strange fire” into our gatherings. Tomeet the desires of the carnal and the world-minded, many things are beingbrought in that a few years ago would have been abhorred by us, and putdown as belonging to Babylon, and altogether alien to the pattern as givenus in the Word of God. Let us keep in the old paths, and beware that weoffer no “strange fire” before the Lord.
“STRANGE FLESH” (Jude 7)
Last of all I would draw your attention to this word in Jude, “going after strange flesh.” It comes in connection with the “certain men whocrept in unawares.” So again we have the working of these “strangechildren.” If the offering of “strange fire” would speak of their activitiesin the assembly, then this going after “strange flesh” might speak of theiractivities in the world — worldliness. If there ever was a time when thewords of James 4 : 4 needed to be brought before us, it is to-day. “Yeadulterers and adultresses, know ye not that the friendship of the worldis enmity with God?” It is the “strange children” who in a special waylove the world and the things of the world. It is in their very nature to goafter things that are foreign to the Scriptures—“strange things”; feedingupon the world’s husks rather than upon the things of God. The exhortationto the true children of God is, “Love not the world, neither the things thatare in the world ; if any man love the world, the love of the Father is notin him” (1 John 2:15).
May the Lord help us then to beware of these “strange things — the “strange woman” from whom emanates “strange doctrine,” begetting “strangechildren,” who offer “strange fire,” and go after “strange flesh.” The virtuouswoman with her sound doctrine brings forth true children, who worship Godin the spirit and “adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.”
By Mr. H. F. NORMAN, Portsmouth
Without doubt the most wonderful event in the history of Israel, subsequent to their redemption from Egypt, was Jehovah’s announcement of His desire to dwell among them. It was not left to Moses, however, although a man to whom God had spoken “face to face, as aman speaketh unto his friend,” to elaborate the plan of this dwelling, anymore than it was left to David, “man after God’s heart” that he was, todesign the Temple, the house of more permanent character in a later day.The pattern down to its smallest detail was given by Him who was tooccupy the house. Not one contribution of human ingenuity or design waspermitted to the holiest of men in the fashion, the fittings, or the furnitureof the structure that was to be the habitation of a thrice-holy God. IndeedMoses was strictly enjoined, “look that thou make it after the pattern whichwas showed thee in the mount.” This he did, with the result that Jehovahdwelt in the midst of His people with attendant blessing and prosperity tothem. Thereafter we find their blessing and prosperity waxed and wanedaccording to their consciousness of the Lord’s presence and their attitudeto His house.
The teaching of Haggai in this respect is most relevant to conditions that obtain to-day in Christendom, and particularly amongst those companiesof the Lord’s people who have light on the glorious truth of the assembly.Solemn thought: the greater the light, the greater is our responsibility.The house of God now, of course, has a different character from what itonce had. God no longer dwells in “houses made with hands.” Thebpatterns of things in the heavens” have given way to the heavenly things themselves, and the house is now a spiritual building of spiritual materials (Eph. 2:19-22). Paul’s reason lor writing his first letter to Timothy was,bthat thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the houseof God, which is the assembly of the living God, the pillar and ground ofthe truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). Divine principles once established, hold goodand demand recognition for all time, and the same meticulous attention tothe pattern of the house in our day, as revealed in the New Testament is asnecessary a condition of blessing and spiritual prosperity as it was in apast economy.
God’s ways regarding the house in Haggai’s day are His ways (“He who changeth not”) in our day, despite the changed character of thedwelling.
The people of God then were experiencing lean times, times of poverty and want, with a marked absence of those good things they should havebeen enjoying (ch. 1:6,10,11). At the very time—-the Feast of Tabernacles(ch. 2:1) — when they ought to have been bringing “their tithes into thestorehouse,” filling the oil vats and the winepress, there was, alas, no fruitfor their labours, no reward for their toil. “They looked for much, and loit came to little.” The Lord Himself, anticipating the query in their hearts,asks “Why?” in order Himself to give the answer, “Because of Mine housethat is waste and ye run every man to his house” (ch. 1:9). We havestated in this verse a divine principle that gives a lucid explanation ofspiritual conditions to-day. How often do we hear lamented the lack ofblessing! Few souls are saved ; there is a dearth of the Spirit’s power andactivity — “We look for much, and lo it come to little.” Clearly this isbecause of the house that lieth waste, while we run each to our own houses.When the assembly, God’s highest thought and chief interest on earthbecomes ours also, when we regard the local assembly of the saints in itsright place in our affections and lives, then, and only then, shall we seespiritual blessing and prosperity. The assembly is intended by the Lordto be the centre of our activities and interests, where we gather as a privilegedcompany to His Name and Person. When it occupies a large place in ouraffections, our “own houses,” earthly interests, pursuits and pleasures,legitimate as they may seem, being subordinated to its interests, true revivalwill be experienced. Alas, in most cases to-day, “all seek their own andnot the things of Jesus Christ.” Let us earnestly “consider our ways” andseek to be conformed to our great Exemplar Himself, who could say. “Thezeal of Thy house hath eaten me up.” There is much zealous activityto-day, but often it is “zeal not according to knowledge,” and correspondsto “putting our wages into a bag with holes.” True spiritual zeal is consistent with Scripture and finds its expression and object in the house, theassembly, and in its upbuilding.
We may see the place God’s house of a future day will have in His thoughts and purposes when from ch. 2:6,7 we learn that He will shakemightily the whole universe in order to fill it with glory. Such a final shakingis yet to come, and come it will, in connection with the apocalypticcataclysms. Such is the unparalleled dignity and infinite greatness of thatsphere of Divine manifestation and government — God’s house. Would toGod that in these days of declension we might all be in the line of Histhoughts concerning the assembly. His present dwelling-place, and havethat interest in it, appreciation of it, and desire to build it. as fellow-labourerswith Him, that “God will take pleasure in it and be glorified.” As soonas we take the ground of hearkening to the Lord, as did the people in Haggai 1:12, there will be the glad response from His heart—“I am with you.”
Clearly the key to spiritual blessing and prosperity for us is our practical recognition of the character and purpose of the assembly. In Ezekiel’s day,when the nation was departing from the pathway of obedience, God’s wayto their conscience was, not by reminding His people of their redemption,of past blessings, or of present position, but by instructing the prophet tobShow the house to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of theiriniquities, and let them measure the pattern” (Ezek. 43:10). Oh, that therewere to-day more “shewing of the house” by faithful men — men withdeep convictions of the place it occupies in the Divine plan, purpose andaffection, and the place it should also occupy in our hearts. Then assuredlyour association with the Lord will be that “we take sweet counsel together,and walk unto the house of God in company.”
By Mr. JIM RONALD, Portage la Prairie
In the person of Jonathan (1 Sam. 18:3) we have a beautiful picture of the young Christian. He is moved first by a realisation of what had taken place, then by a yielding in affection to Him to Whom he owes his very all.
Consider what had happened. In chapter 17 Jonathan’s only outlook was death. Israel’s forty days of testing ended with the evening’s cry,bGive me a man.” What could Jonathan do? Surely the point of extremityhad been reached. Then almost from the unknown, God’s man appeared.He was despised and rejected, yet undismayed. “Was it not laid upon me?”(J.N.D.) we hear him say. Without recounting the details, we know whatfollowed. “The Lord wrought a great salvation for all Israel” (ch. 19:5).and in celebrating the victory the women sang, “Saul hath slain his thousands,and David his ten thousands” (ch. 18:7).
Jonathan saw and heard it all, and he was profoundly moved. “The soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved himas his own soul” (ch. 18:1). That love must express itself in action. Sobeloved Jonathan stripped himself and handed all as a thank-offering tothe one to whom he owed so much — robe, garments, sword, bow, and girdle.David had stripped himself for Jonathan (ch. 17 : 39), now Jonathan stripshimself for David. David’s weapons had been five smooth stones; nowJonathan presents to him five handsome gifts.
Dear reader, has not this a voice for us ? We, by faith, have seen One “stripping Himself of the insignia of His Majesty” (Phil. 2:7, Lightfoot)for our sakes. What is our response? Surely
- “Love so amazing, so divine,
- Demands my heart, my life, my all.”
So Paul must have felt, for in the next chapter (Phil. 3:7,8) he strips himself out of devotion to his adorable Lord. “What things,” he says, “weregain to me. those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I countall things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus myLord : for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count thembut dung, that I may win Christ.”
Now, let us return in thought to Jonathan. Is there not a spiritual significance in each gift he laid at David’s feet ? The robe is that of royaltyanother is owned as king. The garments speak of righteousness. ComparePhil. 3:9, “Not having mine own righteousness … but the righteousnesswhich is of God by faith.” The sword suggests conflict. The handingover of this weapon which had fought so valiantly in the cause of theman in the flesh (ch. 13:3,4) is the token of full surrender. The bow —used from ancient times to satisfy fleshly desires (Gen. 27:3) — must go,too. While the girdle — symbol of strength — is also yielded up. What achange all of this meant to Jonathan! And, O Christian, what a transformation true devotion to our heavenly David will mean to thee!
In the subsequent chapters of 1 Sam., Jonathan’s love for David arose still higher. He confessed him before others (eh. 19:4); he “delightedmuch in David” (ch. 19:2); he expressed a willingness to do “whatsoeverhe desired” (ch. 20:4); he was much displeased when shame was doneto David (ch. 20:34); and “went to him into the wood, and strengthenedhis hand in God” (ch. 23:16).
It seemed indeed that there was no length to which Jonathan’s love for David would not lead him, and in all this what important spiritual lessonsthe exercised Christian may learn ! Yet, as a matter of fact, this devotedsoul failed to go all the way with David. In chap. 20:42 “Jonathan wentinto the city”; in chap. 23:18 “David abode in the wood, and Jonathanwent to his house.” This makes sad reading, when one recalls Jonathan’searlier devotion. Saul’s son preferred the popularity of “the city” and thecomfort of “his house” to the reproach and shame of being associated withthe anointed, but rejected, king of God’s choice. The fellowship of David’ssuffering Jonathan did not share, consequently when the reigning time camehe was absent. “If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him” (2 Tim. 2:12).That Jonathan sincerely desired to share in David’s rule we know from hisown words (ch. 23 : 17). His turning aside from the path of reproach,however, led to his taking again the sword in the cause of the wrong man,and in the battle which ensued Jonathan fell mortally wounded (ch. 31:2).Poor Jonathan! Is he not a picture of many a Christian? He who haddesired to head the list of those who ruled under royal David (“I shall benext unto thee,” ch. 23:17), headed, alas, the list of those who fell fightingfor David’s enemy — Saul (ch. 31:2). What a sad end for such a lovelycharacter ! The popularity of the city, the comfort of his home, and theinfluence of natural ties proved to be too great a temptation for the devotedJonathan. He went a long distance, but not the whole way, with David.bIf any man come to Me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife,and children, and brethren and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannotbe My disciple” (Luke 14:26).
WHAT IT IS, AND HOW IT IS TO BE RECOGNISED
By Mr. E. A. TOLL, Newport, Mon.
What, then, are the distinctive features of true spirituality? How can the really Christ-like person be recognised? For, while these are not convertible terms, it must be acknowledged that a believer cannot be said to be spiritual who does not display the moral features ofhis Lord, even as a believer who is not spiritual cannot be said to beChrist-like.
The first thing it seems necessary to say is that true spirituality can be produced only by the Holy Spirit. The “spiritual” ones of Gal. 6:1 aresurely those who “walk in the Spirit” according to Gal. 5:18; that is tosay, they take every step of their course “in”— in subjection to — in dependence upon — in the enabling power of — the Holy Spirit. They acknowledgethat they “crucified the flesh (the whole, not part of it) with its affectionsand lusts” (Gal. 5:24), and live consistently with this by seeking to gratifyonly Spirit-created desires and aspirations, and to express only Spirit-formedemotions.
They apprehend that “the flesh (every part of it) cannot please God,” and that “the mind of the flesh (in the believer as well as in the unbeliever—and whether educated or cultured or not) is enmity against God”(Rom. 8:7) and they therefore seek the mind of the Spirit about everything—their own private affairs as well as those of the assembly, and vice-versa.
They accept the verdict of the Lord Jesus that “the flesh (in any of its forms and phases) profiteth nothing” (John 6 : 63), and in agreement with the Apostle Paul have “no confidence in the flesh” (Phil. 3:3), beingdetermined like him, even as God is determined, that “no flesh (noble orignoble, refined or coarse, sweet or sour, efficient or inefficient, trained oruntrained, wise or unwise, musical or unmusical) shall glory in His presence.”They, therefore, give no place to mere human competence — natural oracquired — in themselves or others — but count upon the wisdom andsufficiency of God, Who choses to use the foolish, weak, base and despisedthings of the world to the securing of His own glory (1 Cor. 1:28,29).
From this it follows that a believer cannot be spiritual in parts and on occasions. If he is not spiritual in everything he is not spiritual in anything.If he is not spiritual all the time he is not spiritual at any time. This is notto say that he will never err or fail, but it does mean that he cannot declineto be governed by the Spirit in one part of his life and then enjoy Hisguidance and enabling in another. The believer who refuses to conducthis business in subjection to the Holy Spirit cannot be spiritual in “the workof the Lord.” The believer who does not behave spiritually on a bus or ina shop or at home cannot be spiritual in the assembly. This is why a brothermust “conduct his own house well” before being entrusted by the Lordwith the care of “the assembly of God.” It is also true that if he is notspiritual in the assembly he will not be spiritual in any sphere. It meansthat if any part of his life is characterised by unspirituality, then he himselfis not spiritual, and however much he may at times conform outwardlyto the ways of the spiritual man. he is not to be regarded as spiritual. Thethorns on the bush are evidence that the grape-like produce is not the fruitof the vine. Subjected to this test, is it any wonder there is so little evidence of spirituality in assembly activities to-day? How can those who are ready to accept (or even seek) and occupy positions of worldly honour and influence,or engage in political activities be expected to be spiritual in the assembly?How can believers in business partnerships with unbelievers, or in otherpositions in which they are “unequally yoked,” be relied upon to actspiritually as to the assembly? How can a person who is ready to resortto every device short of actual dishonesty (if he stops at that), in orderto advance his business interests, be expected to have spiritual ideas as tothe business of the Lord? How can the believer whose home bears everymark of self-indulgence — not to say fleshly gratification — and whosepersonal appearance evidences self-esteem and ostentation in the style andexpensiveness of his or her dress and the wearing of gold and jewellery —be looked to for spiritual guidance in the work of the Lord? How canthe golf-playing, cricket-loving, football-enthusiastic, and even boxing-interested brother, or the one who enjoys the wireless and television, becapable of sound spiritual judgment in any matter, although the writer issadly aware that by many to-day these and kindred features are not regardedas marks of unspirituality at all?
Let it not be thought that the writer is seeking to impose rules of conduct upon the saints. We simply ask, “Are these things the result of ‘walkingin the Spirit’? Do they flow out of being ‘filled with the Spirit’ ” ? Andyet all such things can and do go hand-in-hand with the pleasant smileand kindly word and hearty handshake, as well as with great zeal and muchactivity in what purports to be the work of the Lord.
The writer knew well a brother whose practice it was to stand at the door of the hall and shake hands with the saints as they left the meeting,always with a bright smile and pleasant (if spiritually empty) little word.But on a number of occasions that brother locked his wife and family(who were also in the assembly) out of the house all night and not infrequently went for weeks without speaking a word to any of them, except torail at them. Could that man, even though he was (and remained) “on theoversight” give spiritual guidance to the assembly? Must it not be manifestthat spirituality cannot be possessed or expressed by one who is characteristically and habitually displaying the flesh either in its fairer forms oruglier features? so that when the affairs of an assembly are in the handsof such they cannot be conducted in a spiritual way.
It is worthy of note that of the twenty-four times the apostle Paul employs the adjective “spiritual” (and he is the only New Testament writerwho uses the word at all, except for two instances by Peter), he uses itfifteen times in the first epistle to the assembly of God at Corinth. Outsidethat epistle he applies it to persons only once, and even then in connectionwith recovery to the assembly. Ch. 14 : 37 is specially significant as affordingboth an example and a test of true spirituality. The words are, “If any manthink himself to be … spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things thatI write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.” The import of thesewords is clear, viz. that the truly spiritual man — the man whose mind andheart and will are really under the government of the Holy Spirit — will,as soon as he knows them — acknowledge the contents of these chaptersto be “the commandments of the Lord” and set about obeying them. Hewill recognise the suitability and fitness of the regulation which thesechapters contain for the ordering of the assembly of God in which GodHimself is to be present (ch. 14:25) and the Holy Spirit Himself is sovereign to operate (ch. 12:11), and where love according to God is to pervade all (ch. 13). He will realise and own that any other principlesare entirely out of keeping with such wondrous conditions, and that tointroduce them is not only to violate “the Lord’s commandments,” butto prove oneself unspiritual.
It is not so very long since a leading brother in an assembly not miles from where this is being written declared publicly in the assembly that1 Cor. 14 has no application to-day, and that it is dangerous to suggestthat it applies even in principle. As far as the writer knows, that publicstatement has never been repudiated by the other leading men in theassembly or withdrawn by the brother who made it. By that statementalone the brother brands himself as unspiritual, although he can smilepleasantly, talk graciously, and show some interest in certain phases of whathe calls the work of the Lord.
Of course there are few who would be bold enough to make such an unequivocal public statement (at any rate while still presuming to remainin the assembly), but can it be denied that the Lord’s commandments of1 Cor. are more often honoured in the breach than in the observance?
The violations of these commandments are too various and too frequent, and oftentimes too deliberate and blatant, to need particularising here, andit would take up too much space and many of them have been alluded toin earlier issues of “Assembly Testimony.” But do those who contravenethese regulations for the assembly realise that this very fact stamps themas unspiritual? Gifted they may be, even as the Corinthians (1 Cor. 1:5-7),but like the Corinthians they are carnal (1 Cor. 3:1-3), for gift is noguarantee of, or substitute for, spirituality. Zeal and energy they mayhave, and a great desire to advance the work of the Lord, but those whostrive to do this along lines that are at variance with these “commandments”cannot escape a charge of carnality.
Then why are these matters treated with such indifference to-day? How light-heartedly (and in some cases almost defiantly) things are introducedinto the assembly which in no way conform to these commandments. Itis not long since it was said in an assembly, “We have so many thingsalready in the assembly for which there is no scriptural authority thatanother one will not matter.” How often, too, we hear such expressionsas, “Of course they don’t meet as we do,” as if it was not of the slightestconsequence whether these commandments are observed or not — as if itwere merely a matter of personal taste or opinion as to whether we arein an assembly of God or not. It is to be feared that even with some whoare in the assembly this is just what it is. so it is not to be wondered atthat they do not see the implications of much that goes on.
But the test remains. “They that are spiritual.” because they are spiritual, will instinctively approve the contents of 1 Cor. 11-14 as the only appropriateregulations for the gatherings of the assembly of God, and because theyare “the commandments of the Lord” will not seek excuses for evading ormodifying or circumventing them. On the contrary, the unspiritual willnot, because they cannot, even as they do not. conform to the teaching ofthese chapters. True it is that some may attempt, for tradition’s sake, orsome other such reason, to carry out these principles (for such is thearrogance of the flesh that it may well think itself equal even to this), butthey will surely fail, and presently even the attempt will be given up lasit is being given up) and new ideas more appropriate to the flesh will be tried. So the unspiritual will manifest themselves to be what they really are, for “they that are spiritual” cannot fail to approve the Lord’s commandments.
Drunkenness is a symptom of carnality, so is immorality, and of these all true believers will be ashamed. Departure from and disobedience to”the commandments of the Lord” in 1 Cor. 11-14 is likewise evidence ofcarnality. Why, then, are we not ashamed? Why do we not blush beforeour God that the flesh — the same evil flesh from which drunkenness andimmorality spring — is not only tolerated but encouraged and even gloried inin some assemblies to-day? True, it often has a pleasant smile, a heartylaugh, and gentlemanly manners; it is refined (sometimes) and even pious,but it is still the flesh — its wisdom, its foresight, its business acumen, itsplanning and organising capabilities, its academical achievements, itsoratorical abilities, its singing and musical accomplishments, not to say itspowers of entertainment. For just as Saul long ago spared the best ofAmalek and dared to excuse it on the plea that it was to be offered insacrifice to Jehovah, so the best of the flesh is spared to-day to aid thework of the Lord, or more truly, to carry it on. But how is it known to bethe flesh? Because it does not conform to the teaching of 1 Cor. 11-14.This one fact identifies it.
“They that are spiritual,” who think with God and act with God, and in dependence upon God (and this is the very essence of spirituality,1 Cor. 2:12-16, Gal. 6:1), will not, cannot, act at variance with, or apartfrom, the Word of God. This one feature identifies them and marks themalso as being like their Lord who “humbled Himself and became obedienteven unto death, and that the death of the cross,” and obedience, it shouldbe remembered, is not doing what I think will or should please God, butdoing what He has declared in His Word to be His will — and only that.
SOMETIME — SOMEWHERE
- Unanswered yet ? the prayer your lips have pleaded
- In agony of heart these many years ?
- Doth faith begin to fail — is faith departing ?
- And think you all in vain these falling tears?
- Say not the Father hath not heard your prayer,
- You shall have your desire sometime, somewhere.
- Unanswered yet ? Nay : Do not say ungranted;
- Perhaps your part is not yet wholly done —
- The work began when first your prayer was uttered,
- And God will finish what He has begun.
- If you will keep the incense burning
- His glory you shall see, sometime, somewhere.
- Unanswered yet? Faith cannot be unanswered;
- Her feet are firmly planted on the Rock.
- Amid the wildest storms she stands undaunted,
- Nor quails beneath the loudest thunder shock.
- She knows Omnipotence has heard her prayer,
- And cries, It shall be done—sometime, somewhere.
- There is something sweet in being pruned by a wounded hand; and oh! when we feel the drowsiness of our affections, our proneness to departfrom Him, and to be satisfied at a distance, have we not cause to be overhead and ears in love with trials ? That He should be so jealous of our friendships now, to enforce true happiness upon us in spite of ourselves,to drive us to His strength, and live upon His promises, and lay our headupon His breast.
- —Viscountess Powerscourt
THE DYING TESTIMONY OF “STANDFAST”
- “I see myself now at the end of the journey; my toilsome days are ended. I am now going to see that Head that was crowned with thorns,and that face that was spit upon for me. I have formerly lived by hearsayand faith; but now I go where I shall live by sight, and shall be with Himin whose company I delight myself. I have loved to hear my Lord spokenof; and wherever I have seen the print of His shoe in the earth there I have coveted to set my foot too. His Name has been sweeter to me thanall perfumes. His voice to me has been most sweet: and His countenanceI have more desired than they that have most desired the light of the sun.His Word I did use to gather for my food, and for antidotes against myfaintings. He has held me, and hath kept me from mine iniquities; yea,my steps hath He strengthened in the way.”
- —(Selected by Mr. W. E. EARL)