Outlining the Book of Revelation
Gleanings from Philippians
Reception into a Local Assembly
By Wm. Bunting.
A SPIRITUAL SEED
IT is true, of course, that Abraham has a spiritual seed. It is comprised of all born again souls, as many New Testament passages teach. This fact, however, does not at all exclude from promised blessing the natural seed of the Patriarchs, and it seems amazing that A-Millennialists imagine that it does and that therefore there is no future for the nation of Israel. It is obvious surely that when promise of the Land and of a numerous posterity was made to Abraham, the term “seed” referred to his physical lineage.
ISRAEL’S MARVELLOUS PRESERVATION
From other considerations it must also appear perfectly obvious to unbiased minds to-day that God has a future for Israel. How otherwise can we explain the marvellous preservation of the Jewish people? These people were driven mercilessly from their native land in the year 70 a.d.. Since then hatred, injustice, abuse, banishments, confiscations, starvation, violence, torture, burnings, hangings, massacres, and the concentration camps and gas chambers of central Europe have been their unhappy lot. They have wandered, unloved and unwanted, over the face of the earth for 1900 years. No other nation has ever suffered so much or for so long a time. In our own generation we have witnessed six million of them “carted off to furnaces, like unwanted rubbish”. How true it is that
- “The wild, dove hath her nest, the fox his cave,
- Mankind their country, Israel hut the grave”!
Yet with tremendous odds against them, the Jewish people have survived—“spared by the indiscriminating hand of time, like a column left standing amid the wreck of worlds and the ruins of nature” (Michael Beers). Their continued existence is a miracle, and why should this be if there is no future for their nation?
Not only so, but throughout these centuries of intense sufferings the Jews have never lost their love for Palestine. In the darkest recesses of the Ghetto their motto ever has been, “Next year in Jerusalem”. Other peoples carried into captivity have intermingled and intermarried with their captors, and have in a generation or two been absorbed and assimilated by them. The Jews, however, have defied this natural tendency. They have maintained their separateness. Though numbering only a few millions at most, they have never lost their identity as a distinct nation. “To, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not he reckoned among the nations” (Num. 23. 9). How are we to understand the amazing fulfilment of this ancient prophecy if there is no future for Israel?
Think again of how they have increased numerically. It is reckoned that in the first century of this era there were about five million Jews. As a result of their many persecutions down the years, however, only some one million remained at the beginning of the seventeenth century. Yet when World War Two broke out that number had increased to eighteen million, and Jews were to be found in the front rank in commerce, science, art, philosophy and politics. Why deny that God’s hand has been upon these people? What is the purpose of it if there is to be no future for Israel?
Above all, think of their having again attained the status of Statehood in their own beloved land. At one time this seemed quite impossible, for the Turks ruled Palestine tenaciously for 1,200 years prior to the first World War. Sir Robert Anderson, who firmly believed that the Jews must eventually return to their homeland, confessed that in his day it “seemed still a chimera of sanguine fanatics.” Yet the seemingly impossible has taken place. Since May, 1948, Israel has been in Palestine as a free, sovereign, independent State. Surely “this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes.” It is, in the words of Leon Uris, “the story of the greatest miracle of our times, an event unparalleled in the history of mankind: the rebirth of a nation which had been dispersed for 2,000 years.” The wonder of the miracle, however does not end here. On the very day after this small nation of only 700,000 souls had declared its independence, the surrounding Arab countries, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, the combined population of which numbered 40,000,000, opened hostilities upon the infant State. Not only did the Israeli troops beat off their invaders, but they greatly extended their frontiers, and when a general armistice was arranged were permitted to retain the territory which they had taken.
Since then Jews have returned to the new State from over seventy countries of the world and now the ever increasing population of Israel stands at well over 2,000,000. This is the greatest movement of God’s ancient people to Palestine since the time of Joshua.
In “Israel in Prophecy”, Prof. John Walvoord, mentions a most interesting feature of modern Jerusalem. It is predicted in Jeremiah 31. 31-40 that when Israel returns to her land, part of Jerusalem will be built in an area which had formerly never been used for building purposes, and the boundaries of which are carefully defined. Now this is precisely the area which the city covers today, and it constitutes the fulfilment of a prophecy uttered twenty-five hundred years ago and never until now fulfilled (See pages 68 and 130).
In closing this paper we ask, ‘Who will be so foolish as to imagine that these events are the mere accidents of modern history?’ Surely a deep and spiritual significance attaches to them all. In the words of Isaac Ben-Zvi, second President of the State of Israel, “We are witnessing to-day the wondrous process of the joining of the tribes of Israel, bone to bone and flesh to flesh, the merging of them into one nation (“The Rebirth of the State of Israel”, by A. W. Kac, M.D.).
In view of these undeniable facts which provide such overwhelming evidence of the literal fulfilment of Divine prophecy relative to the natural seed of Abraham, we quite fail to see how any reasonable, spiritual mind can refuse to believe that other prophecies which predict a future for Israel will in due time also be fulfilled. A-Millennialists gain nothing by ignoring historical facts which are so plain to everyone else.
By S. Jardine, Belfast.
“THE DISPENSATION OF THE FULNESS OF THE TIMES”
Chapter 19—20. 10.
As we proceed with this fascinating section of the prophecy, special attention should be given to the recurrent phrase, “And I saw”, which will be found nine times from the appearance of Christ as King (19. 11), until the description of the eternal state (21. 8). These important visions are given in an orderly narrative before the Seer is transported, in thought, back again to view in greater detail the glory of the Church reigning with her Lord in His Kingdom (21. 9).
Look briefly at these special visions.
- John saw the King’s return with power to liquidate His many foes—19. 11-16.
- John saw the Messenger of Heaven solemnly inviting the fowls to participate in the results of Christ’s victory— 19. 17, 18, 21.
- John saw the marshalled forces of earth slain by the sword of Christ’s mouth while their political and religious Heads are cast, body, soul and spirit into the Lake of Fire— 19. 15, 19-21.
- John saw the removal to the abyss for a stated period of one thousand years of that subtle and powerful intelligence, Satan—20. 1-3.
- John saw three groups of believers who were to share the earthly rule of God’s Christ—20. 4-10.
- John saw the final Judgment Bar, the presence of which spells both the end of time and the former creation— 20. 11.
- John saw the vast multitude of the impenitent dead facing the sins of time in the light of the records of eternity —20. 12-15.
- John saw the final and eternal state of Heaven and Earth—21. 1.
- John saw the unspeakable felicity of the Bride of Christ, and the unspeakable portion and doom of the Christ-rejectors—21. 2-8.
Thus the sequence of events is outlined step by step until God’s great purpose has been achieved and Heaven and Earth are seen in perfect harmony and blessedness. The way is then clear for the Seer to be taken for a final tour of inspection, to get a detailed view of the City of God, the Bride of Christ, His Church.
We can now revert to the opening of the twentieth chapter to investigate more fully the fourth of these special visions. Here the greatest barrier to ideal World-empire is being removed. Here is the Personality responsible for the unleashing of deadly and destructive forces upon the human family.
The inoculation of unbelief in Eden was the precursor of every form of sin and iniquity amongst the sons of men. With the “catching-away” of the .Church there will be greater scope for Satan’s evil intelligence and God-hating malignity. Religion, politics and society will line up with the Arch-deceiver when it would almost seem he has reached the fulfilment of his diabolical ambition—the ousting of the Lord’s Anointed from the government of His world. At the very zenith of his seeming success he will be defeated by Michael and the armies of Heaven, and cast down from the Heavenlies, when it will be borne in upon him that “his time is short” (12. 12), which will fill him with wrath and venom and schemes of retaliation against the people of God (12. 13). Rut Calvary must be vindicated. Christ has entered upon His further task as the ‘Servant of Jehovah’, and “He shall not fail nor be discouraged till He have set judgment in the earth and the Isles shall wait for His law” (Isa. 42. 1-4). The great enemy of mankind here to be dealt with by our Lord is the chief and inspiring genius of the unholy trinity and we can read his character in his titles. “Dragon” conjures up cruelty and ferocity; “the Ancient Serpent”, the millenniums of craft and scheming that have been fouled by his slimy trail. As “the Devil” he is ever the slanderer of God and men, not fearing to call God in question (Gen. 3), nor to accuse to God’s face the best of His saints (Job. 1. 9, 10). His active aggression is certainly in view in his title “Satan”, meaning “adversary.”
Three symbols of divinely imposed authority will ensure that for one thousand years this great foe of God and man will have no access to those who inhabit the earth—a key, a chain and a seal. Satan will be absent from earth and present in the abyss during the reign of Christ. What a world it will be when on the one hand, Satan’s policies and cruelties will be banished, and on the other the benign and righteous ministries of our Lord will shed their blessings on every nation of this earth!
A-millennialists move heaven and earth to find a spiritualization of these “thousand years”, but it can only mean the period long fore-told when David’s greater Son will occupy the throne, “speaking peace unto the heathen and having dominion from sea to sea and from the river unto the ENDS OF THE EARTH” (Zechariah 9. 9-10; and Isaiah 9. 6-7).
Let Scripture speak for itself in this matter of “the Kingdom”, and let any reader of the following passages say when they have had a genuine and complete fulfilment: Isaiah 2. 2-4, “And it shall come to pass in the last days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall he established in the top of the mountains and shall be exalted above the hills and ALL NATIONS shall flow unto it . . . out of Zion shall go forth the law and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He shall judge among THE NATIONS and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (Compare Psalm 72).
Isaiah 11. 1-9: “A Rod out of the stem of Jesse . . . the .Spirit . . . upon Him, with righteousness shall He judge . . . the wolf also shall dwell with the lamb and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them . . . They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” See also Isa. 32. 1-18; 35; 60. 1-5; 62. 1-4; Daniel 2. 44 and Micah 5. 4. “HE shall be great unto the ENDS OF THE EARTH.”
From these prophecies it must be positively stated that a literal earthly kingdom is to be set up, that its King is the CHRIST, the anointed of Jehovah, that His throne is the Throne of David, that His capital is Jerusalem, that His sway will be universal, that His government will be just and impartial, that all nations will bow to His sovereignty, even though it be in isolated cases “a feigned obedience” (Psalm 18. 44). Further it is clear that earth’s curse will be removed, animals will lose their native ferocity and peace and prosperity will crown the lovely earth-scene, while the horrors and insanity of war in this “Golden Age” will be unknown.
“The knowledge of the Lord” diffused among the inhabitants of earth will complete that state of harmony which will be the materialising of God’s great plan, “that in the administration of the fulness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ both which are in Heaven and which are on earth, EVEN IN HIM” (Eph. 1. 10). “They shall not say, Know the Lord, for they shall know me from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord; for I will forgive”, etc. (Jer. 31. 34).
The problem of the ages will find a full and amicable solution in this new-world order. Only One is able to bring cosmos out of chaos and set to rights this disturbed and disrupted scene. Tis He who walked the waves of Galilee, who fed the multitudes, who healed the sick and raised the dead. He invaded the enemy’s territory and cast out the controlling demons. Finally He made reconciliation in His death on the cross, making possible the salvation and citizenship of the rebels who shall be His friends in that coming day. The mighty, magnetic, messianic Personality of our Lord Jesus Christ is God’s complete answer, and in the fulness of the times Heaven and earth together shall rejoice to see the Heading-up in perfect harmony of all things EVEN IN HIM. The earthly reign of Christ is manifestly first of all God’s vindication of our Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of Man, earth’s rejected King, and secondly it provides the pattern of the order and government that will characterise the Eternal State.
AN OUTLINE OF BIBLE TEACHING By Dr. J. W. McMillan, India.
8. The Head and the Body.
THE church at Jerusalem had a bitter enemy, a young man called Saul of Tarsus, who actively persecuted it. He was present and assisted at the martyrdom of Stephen by guarding the garments of those who stoned him to death. But God laid His hand upon Saul as he was travelling to Damascus to further his plans against the believers. He heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou ME?” (Acts 9. 4). Note the words carefully: it was not, “why are you persecuting My people or My followers?” but “why are you persecuting ME?” In that moment the Lord revealed to Saul the germ or first glimpse of the truth that he, as the Apostle Paul, was later to emphasise in his epistles, i.e. that the Church is a body, of which Christ Himself is the Head (1 Cor. 12. 12). As the Head controls the body, so does Christ the Church (Col. 2. 19).
This relationship is effected by the Holy Spirit, Who indwells the believer. And it is through the Holy Spirit that the Head of the Church gives differing gifts to its members (1 Cor. 12. 4). This word, “gift”, is used in two distinct, though related senses:
- A God-given ability to perform a particular service (1 Cor. 14. 31).
- A person possessing such an ability (Eph. 4. 11).
Gift is distinct from office: evangelists (those gifted in preaching the Gospel), teachers (those gifted in teaching the Word of God), and pastors (those gifted in caring for the believers) are all gifts. Apostles and prophets were foundation gifts, given at the beginning of the Church Age and no longer in evidence since the full revelation of the faith (Eph. 2. 20). Put elders and deacons are NEVER referred to as gifts, as their function depends on human recognition. The gift of pastoral care is a very useful one in an elder.
A local church is thus made up of people possessing various gifts, and the intention of the Head of the Church is that each one should use his or her gifts in accordance with His divine will for the benefit of the whole Church. Service in the assembly should be neither “one-man ministry”, with one man doing all, or practically all, the speaking, or “any-man ministry”, with everybody doing as he likes, but “every-man ministry”, with each member contributing his or her own particular share. Put these gifts must be used in accordance with the pattern laid down in God’s Word. It is vital that each member of an assembly seeks to prayerfully discover the gifts that he or she has received, and seek to develop and use them in the best possible way.
By J. K. Duff, Belfast.
HAVING directed the thoughts of the saints to the coming of the Lord, and the wonderful change that will take place, when our bodies, now subject to disease and decay, shall be transformed and fashioned like unto our Lord’s body of glory, Paul enjoins them to take a firm stand in the Lord. In 1 Cor. 15 where he unfolds the truth of the blessed hope more fully and at greater length, he likewise proceeds to exhort the brethren to be steadfast and unmoveable—stedfast as to their faith, and unmoveable with regard to their purpose to please and serve God. The injunction—“Stand fast in the Lord”—would doubtless embrace both these ideas. It is of
interest to compare Rev. 3. 11 where the command, “Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown”, follows the promise, “Behold, I come quickly.” Paul addresses the brethren here with great warmth of heart, twice in this verse calling them ‘beloved’, and referring to them as his joy and crown. When Paul, writing to the Thessalonians, calls them his joy and crown of rejoicing, he is evidently looking forward to the future, when they would all be in the presence of the Lord, but he is here thinking of his present joy and recompense in the faith and love of the Philippians. It was just because they were so dear to him, that he could not bear the thought of even two sisters being at variance, and beseeches each of them to be of the same mind in the Lord. He did not take sides with either in the dispute, but impartially pleads with both for oneness of mind. These women had with others laboured with him in the Gospel, not by public preaching, for this he teaches elsewhere to be contrary to God’s will (see 1 Tim. 2. 12), but by ministering to his material needs, and doing what they could to help on the work of the Lord. Paul, therefore, mindful of their godly and useful lives was desirous that they should be helped to resolve their differences. A fall out between two sisters may not have been looked upon by many as a very serious affair, but Paul with spiritual foresight could see the unity of the assembly imperilled, and that a little rift could culminate in open division.
Once more he calls upon them to rejoice in the Lord, and then requests them to let their moderation be known to all men. The word ‘moderation’, is rendered in the R.V., ‘forbearance’, and in R.V. margin, ‘gentleness’. Others give its meaning as, ‘yieldingness’, and cite as an example of this grace, the case of Isaac in Genesis 26, digging a well and when the herdmen of Gerar strove for it, letting them have it, and digging another, and when they claimed it also, instead of standing up for his rights, removing hence and digging yet another well. If that is what the word connotes it is interesting to equate it with ‘stand fast’ in verse 1, and learn that when it is a question of principle we should stand firm and not flinch, because the glory of Christ is involved, but when it is merely a personal matter we should be willing to yield our rights. If Isaac illustrates the latter, then Shammah, one of David’s mighty men, who stood in the midst of a parcel of ground full of lentils, and defended it, and slew the Philistines, exemplifies the former (see 2 Sam. 23. 11-12). The fact that the Lord is at hand should help us to adopt this attitude, whether we take these words to mean that the Lord’s coming is imminent, or that He is near to help us, as both things are blessedly true.
Perhaps the Apostle had been thinking of the Sermon on the Mount, since the exhortation in verse 6, “Be anxious for nothing” (R.V.), accords with our Lord’s teaching in Matt. 6. 25-34. Note v. 25 R.V. there : “Be not anxious . . .”; v. 27 : “Which of you by being anxious . . ?”; v. 28 : “Why are you anxious . . ?”; v. 31 : “Be not therefore anxious . . .”; and v. 34 : “Be not therefore anxious . . .” It will be observed that our Lord details the things that cause anxiety, viz : Our life, our person, our food, our raiment, and our future, and while showing that worry won’t help, assures us that our Father knows our needs and that He will provide. So Paul writes, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God,” and the promise is that “the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”.
- “Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
- Oh what needless pain we hear,
- All because we do not carry
- Everything to God in prayer”
Regarding the matter of prayer, it is important to collate the various references and see how one passage of Scripture supplements another. In Matt. 7. 7 our Lord says : “Ask and it shall be given you,” but Paul by the Spirit writes to the Philippians, “let your requests be made known unto God, and the peace of God . . . shall keep (as with a military garrison) your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” He implies that God may not immediately answer our prayers. In His wise purposes there may be a period of delay, but in the time intervening He will guard our hearts with His peace. That means that the calm serene peace that God Himself enjoys (for He who rules the Universe, and knows the end from the beginning, is unperturbed by circumstances or events), will possess and guard our hearts and minds. This is the perfect peace, promised in Isaiah 26. 3 to him whose mind is stayed on Jehovah, enabling him to enjoy calmness and assurance in the time of perplexity and uncertainty.
In verse 8 the Apostle stresses the importance of keeping our minds occupied with the things that are good and praiseworthy: “think on these things”; while in verse 9 he writes, “the things which ye both learned, and received and heard
and saw in me, these things do.” Paul’s doctrine and practice were all of a piece, and so it should be with every believer. If our thinking is right, our acting will be right also, hence the importance of keeping our minds engaged with the things that are pure and holy. Then the God of peace will be with us, He will make His Presence real to us day by day. As one has aptly remarked : “He who prays has the peace of God, but he who practises Christian virtues has the God of peace.” In the section of the chapter comprising verses 10 to 20, Paul acknowledges very warmly the gift the saints had sent to him by the hand of Epaphroditus, referred to in chapter 2. Their loving thought for him had occasioned him great joy. Lying as he was just then in a Roman prison, bereft of every comfort, the coming of Epaphroditus such a long and trying journey, with the “things” sent by the Philippians, was a refreshing draught. This gift was a token of their love and care for him, it was also a practical proof of their fellowship in the Gospel. But it was more, it was “an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God.” So all true Christian giving is first of all, the offering of a sacrifice to the Lord, and then the cause of thanksgiving to God on the part of the receiver. Paul had learned in whatsoever state he was, therein to be content, he had learned the secret both to be filled, and to be hungry, both to abound and to be in want. He could “do all things in Christ that strengthened him,” yet he appreciated the action of these beloved saints in having fellowship with his afflictions, commending them for the different times they had communicated with him, from the beginning of the Gospel, when he departed from Macedonia. They were the only assembly that had fellowship with him in the matter of giving and receiving, and he would have them know how much he esteemed their generous action. Not that he desired a gift, but rather fruit that would increase to their account. He was thinking of the Judgment Seat of Christ, when the Christian’s life and service will be reviewed, when we shall be called to give an account of our stewardship, and if approved, receive the commendation of the Lord. The Apostle desired the Philippians to live in view of the world to come, and laying up treasure in heaven, to have a full reward in ‘that day’, assuring them that in the meantime his God would supply their every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Then with salutation, greeting and benediction, he brings to a close this letter, so fraught with encouragement, instruction and comfort, not only to the assembly at Philippi, but to every assembly now, gathered in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
By Harold Butcher, London.
THE Scripture portions having bearing on this subject may be classified as follows :—
- Those of direct reference.
- Those relating to excommunication and subsequent restoration.
- Those relating to the presence, in an assembly, of the false or ungodly.
References to relevant Scripture portions are here set down in that order.
- Acts 2. 41, 42; 5. 13; 9. 26-28; 11. 26; 15. 4; 18. 27; 21. 17; Rom. 14 1; 15 7; 16. 1, 2; 2 Cor. 3. 1; Phil. 2. 29; Col. 4. 10; 2 John 9-11—(He who must not be received into the house must certainly not be received into an assembly). 3 John 8-10.
- 1 Cor. 5. 11-13 with 2 Cor. 2. 6-8; Titus 3. 10, 11.
- Acts 20. 29; Gal. 2. 4; 2 Peter 2. 1; Jude 4; Rev. 2. 14, 15.
THE BLESSEDNESS OF RECEPTION
Reception into a local assembly should be a very blessed thing. The Scriptures indicate the accompaniment, manner and object of such reception.
- Acts 15. 4; 18. 27 and 21. 17 and Philippians 2. 29 refer to gladness in connection with reception. Gladness should be the accompaniment.
- Romans 16. 2 teaches that reception should be done in a manner worthy of saints. Those who receive ought to do so with Christian grace. Grace should be the manner.
- Romans 15. 7 teaches that reception should be unto the glory of God. The Glory of God should be the object.
Two dangers to be recognised and guarded against are legality on the one hand and laxity on the other. In actual practice most cases present no problem, but the remaining cases require loving watchfulness and fair, consistent treatment in the fear of God. Whereas man-made rules are to be disregarded, precautions based upon the Scriptures are appropriate. The things of God must be respected as such. Grace is called for, but let us not mistake carelessness for grace.
RECEPTION IS INTO THE LOCAL ASSEMBLY
It is very important to recognise that the person received by an assembly thereby becomes part of that assembly and his are the privileges and responsibilities of that assembly. Reception to the breaking of bread has no Scriptural authority. Breaking of bread is one of the privileges shared by those received into the local company. These truths give clear indication of the course to be adopted in the case of a person who wishes to break bread but has no wish to be identified with the assembly.
LETTERS OF COMMENDATION
The practice of sending letters of commendation has Scriptural authority. Such a letter introduces the person going from one assembly to another, whether temporarily or permanently. The letter should be dated and will lose its value with the passage of time. Whereas there is the possibility that a false letter will be produced, those accepting such a letter cannot be charged with the negligence of which those are guilty who receive all and sundry in the absence of a letter of commendation.
Persons coming from another assembly without a letter of commendation should be asked to obtain such a letter. The case of a person unable to obtain a letter of commendation requires inquiry to establish, as far as possible, whether or not the applicant fulfils the three necessary conditions.
THE THREE CONDITIONS
1. The New Birth.
An unsaved person is, of course, unqualified for reception.
The applicant should be able to give clear testimony of God’s saving grace and of a present faith in the Lord Jesus. Some have said that this possession of LIFE is the sole condition of reception. Such would maintain that the assembly must receive all whom the Lord has received. This plausible platitude does not stand the test of the Scriptures, which would indicate two further conditions.
What is sufficient ground for excommunication is ipso facto sufficient ground for not receiving into local assembly fellowship. It should be clearly understood that excommunication is always with a view to genuine repentance and restoration. Until such time as this repentance is in evidence the person justifiably put away is unqualified for reception in any assembly.
2. The Godly Walk.
1 Corinthians 5. 9-13 clearly teaches that one not “of this world,” one named “brother” may yet be disqualified from assembly fellowship. We are not to mix with or even eat with one named “brother” who is a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner.
3. The Soundness in Fundamental Doctrine.
It is essential that the ‘comer’ should bring ‘the doctrine of Christ’, 2 John vv. 9-11.
The ascended Lord had against the church in Pergamos their having there those holding the doctrine of Balaam and those holding the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, Rev. 2. 14, 15. Such should never have been received, or, having been received, should have been excommunicated. The passage in 2 John shows what doctrine must be brought and the passage in Revelation 2 shows what doctrine must not be brought.
When an unbaptised believer seeks admission into a local assembly, the question of baptism should be raised. In the New Testament obedience to the gospel and obedience in the matter of baptism are not separated. They are so closely connected as to be regarded almost as one event.
However, it is not possible to stipulate that no unbaptised person will be received into the company of believers. Each case has to be judged on its own merits, care being exercised that impartiality is preserved. The person who on account of special circumstances does not take the step of baptism may yet have a heart submissive to the implications of baptism as set forth in Romans chapter 6. Such a person should not be refused.
THE PLACE FOR INSTRUCTION
So far as qualification for reception is concerned, a distinction
needs to be drawn between the desirable and the essential. In the absence of the essential, reception is properly withheld. In the absence of the desirable, specific teaching relative to reception and its implications is appropriate. The importance of not playing fast and loose with the things of God frequently needs to be stressed. Conviction and not convenience should direct us in all matters treated in the Scriptures, including the question of assembly fellowship. The person who enters a local assembly should take the step intelligently and have regard to the privileges and responsibilities of assembly fellowship.
- A stranger coming to the breaking of bread meeting without a letter of commendation should be welcomed with Christian grace, but not permitted to break bread. There is insufficient time for the inquiry necessary prior to reception.
- If true grace is shown, the sincere seeker after the right ways of the Lord will not be offended by being debarred from breaking of bread. A proper respect for the things of God will be exhibited and taught by such treatment.
- There should be no desire to exclude, but a strong desire to receive, providing the Scriptures raise no barrier.
- The visitor who is received is in the assembly for the duration of his visit. The privileges and responsibilities of the assembly are his for that period.
- Oh! the infinite perfection
- Of the Christ, the Son of God,
- Yet the utter dereliction
- Marking every step He trod.
- Oh! the depths of His compassion
- As ’midst sinful men He moved,
- Yet to scorn Him was the fashion,
- Tho’ so tenderly He loved.
- Hearken to His invitation,
- Lo! “Come unto Me and rest.”
- View the satisfied elation
- As they came and they were blessed.
- Yet they garbed Him in derision
- With a robe of purple dye,
- Came to that unjust decision,
- “Crucify Him, crucify!”
- Crowned with thorns and hanging bleeding,
- Nailed upon that shameful tree,
- Yet for sinners interceding,
- “Father, forgive them,” was His plea.
- John Glenville.
- “So they . . . made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone” Matt. 27. 66.
- “A stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation” Isaiah 28. 16.
- “A living stone” 1 Peter 2. 4.
- Man’s stone was ineffective, small;
- God’s Stone is greater far than all.
- Man’s worthless stone was rolled away;
- God’s precious Stone is sure for aye.
- Man’s paltry stone was ever dead;
- God’s Stone is CHRIST—THE LIVING HEAD
- (H. Butcher).