Menu•SiteMap | Ministry

Short Papers on the Church
Ministry by M. W. Biggs
– Part One

1. Its Formation
2. Its Different Aspects
3. The Body of Christ
- The House of God:
4.  Its Privileges
5.  Its Responsibility
6. The Candlestick
7. The City and the Bride
8. A Gathered Company
9. Christian Fellowship
10. The Lord's Supper
- Days of Departure:
11.  Individual Faithfulness
12.  Privileges
•   Next

From 'The Believers' Friend' 1916-17

M. W. Biggs, 1931

In the early 1900's Mr. Malcolm W. Biggs – 1875-1941 – of Enfield, England, served in the ministry of the word in the U.K., and his initials also often appear in readings with Mr. James Taylor.

Mr. Biggs took part in the consultations for the 1932 Revision of the Hymn Book; and wrote four fine hymns in the 1973 re-selection: 157 259 263 298.

He also wrote the following booklets:

These 'Short Papers on the Church' provide a sound introduction to the scriptural view of the assembly.


Page Top


It is a moment of no small interest when a believer first awakes to the fact that he is linked with every other Christian by an indissoluble bond, and that all believers together form one company.

The Holy Spirit of God has formed the link and is the source of the feelings which Christians rightly have in common one with another. The Holy Spirit has formed this one company.

It is our desire in this and subsequent papers, if God permit, to consider the subject of this remarkable association and to inquire what it is in itself and what are its characteristics.

We may look a little, first of all, at the formation of this company.

During His ministry on earth the Lord gathered round Him disciples, and we shall recall that, after His death and resurrection, He gave them instructions to tarry in Jerusalem till they should be baptised with the Holy Spirit whom He had promised to send. Acts 1: 4-5.

  • Shortly after this about one hundred and twenty disciples were together, and it was then that the Holy Spirit descended from heaven and formed this unique company, which is called in scripture the church of God.

  • Until then the disciples were but so many individuals, held together, surely, by the presence of Christ, and after His death by a common interest in their then rejected Master.

  • But by the coming of the Holy Spirit, consequent upon Jesus being glorified, John 7: 39, they were baptised by one Spirit into one body and were one company.

It was not till later that the truth relating to the presence of the Spirit was made known; but the church of God was formed then, and believers were constituted one body through the coming of the Holy Spirit. See 1 Corinthians 12: 13.

  • Hence we read in Acts 2: 47, A.V.,

    • "the Lord added to the church daily ..."

The doctrine of this, as we have said, was revealed later.

  • The apostle Paul was specially entrusted with this ministry, and in his first epistle to the Corinthians he formally states it, and develops the truth relating to the presence and operations of the Spirit of God. In chapter 12 we read,

    • "For also in the power of one Spirit we have all been baptised into one body", verse 13.

  • It does not say when this took place, but merely states the fact.

We shall be impressed at the outset, therefore, with the fact that the church of God is neither a voluntary nor a human association, but was formed by a divine Person – the Holy Spirit – indwelling each individual Christian and baptising all into one body.

  • If the church of God were a voluntary association, that is, one formed by Christians purely at their own desire or will, it would be optional to us whether we should form part of it or not.

  • It would be the outcome of the will of man, however well intended.

  • And again, a human association could only rise to the level of man, and would be regulated by human ideas and governed by human expedients. But the church of God is neither.

  • And, we may add, if we are believers, we form part of this company, not by our own act, but by God's.

  • Hence a believer cannot ignore his relation to other Christians, inasmuch as he is linked by divine will with every person who has received the Spirit of God and who thus is one of this august assembly – the church of God.

In Matthew 16: 18 the Lord referred to this company, and there it is we find the definite statement that He would build His church.

It was evidently, therefore, something entirely new when the Lord uttered these words.

  • There had been individuals from the beginning who had been marked by faith, as we learn from Hebrews 11. There had been God's earthly people Israel,

    • but the church of God was something new and distinct.

  • It was formed by the coming of the Holy Spirit consequent upon Jesus being glorified.

  • What a remarkable company, or assembly, this must be! The gates of hell are powerless and cannot prevail against it.

  • It is a company on earth, built by Christ, actually formed by the coming of the Holy Spirit from Christ in glory, and comprises every person who has received the gift of the Spirit.

We may note in the earlier chapters of the Acts of the Apostles how the church gradually emerges from Judaism;

    • that is, from the Jewish system of earthly religion, and from Jerusalem, in which and where it was found at its formation

  • – that is, found as to its actual circumstances, for it never formed part of Judaism.

  • No earthly centre could be recognised, for it lay in the Spirit of God, who was gathering universally to Christ.

We may trace how the bounds and limits of Jewish distinction were burst, and we recall Antioch as well as other places, and eventually Ephesus, as scenes of the Spirit's operations on earth.

The means God is pleased to use for the further formation, or extension, of the church we find alluded to in Ephesians 3: 6. We shall quote the verse:

    • "That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel", A.V.

  • Thus the two subjects, the "church" and the "gospel", are most intimately linked together.

  • We have frequently heard, alas! the one side of truth pressed to the exclusion of the other, but scripturally regarded they cannot be separated. See also Romans 16: 25.

Of course we refer to the formation of the church of God on earth and its existence here.

  • It was first so actually formed by the coming of the Holy Spirit, and, from that day to this, those who believe the gospel, and receive the gift of the Spirit, are brought into that company.

  • There is no such thing in scripture as 'joining a church' nor of joining the church of God, except by believing the gospel and hence receiving the Spirit of God.

  • Every believer forms part of the church of God. God has made each believer part of His church. He has set every one in the body as it has pleased Him. 1 Corinthians 12: 18.

  • It is not our doing, but His. And the church of God is one company, embracing, as we have said, every believer.

Let us be perfectly clear on this point, dear reader. Are we recognising any other company than the one formed by the presence of God the Holy Spirit?

  • Are we sanctioning any denial of the blessed fact that the church of God embraces every believer?

  • What an awful slight to the work of God, to the presence of God the Holy Spirit, if we are doing so! And hence, what incalculable loss to our souls!

"For also in the power of one Spirit we have all been baptised into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bondmen or free, and have all been given to drink of one Spirit", 1 Corinthians 12: 13.

Page Top   Article Top


In our last paper we considered the subject of the formation of the church of God.

There is that which is distinctive of the church of God, that which had not been true of any other company previously

    • but there are also other things true of the church of God as being that in which the continuity of God's ways is seen.

  • Thoughts of God are maintained in the church today which had been partially true of His people Israel, or even of the temple in Old Testament times.

The truth relating to the church of God, viewed in that aspect which is peculiar to it, is called the "mystery".

  • This was not revealed in Old Testament days, but was communicated by special revelation to the apostle Paul. Ephesians 3: 4-5.

The words of the Lord Jesus to the persecuting Saul of Tarsus first disclosed, or intimated, this "mystery", which had been kept secret since the world began.

  • Not 'Mine' but "Me" does the Lord call the suffering believers! Acts 9: 4. They were His body! The saints had been baptised by one Spirit into one body.

  • Christ speaks of those suffering ones as Himself. The Holy Spirit had come and had formed the body of Christ here.

  • This is peculiar to the church of God. It is the body of Christ!

There had been a "people" of God; there had been God's house; there had been priests; there had been the city of God's King;

  • but no other company of persons ever had been "Christ's body", 1 Corinthians 12: 27!

If God permit, we shall consider this view of the church in our next paper. In this it must suffice to say that the subject is referred to in the epistles of Ephesians, Colossians, 1 Corinthians and Romans.

In Ephesians we have the fullest development of the truth relating to the assembly. It is there seen as the subject of eternal counsel.

  • It is referred to as the body of Christ and hence as His fulness. Ephesians 1: 23.

In Colossians the church as the body of Christ is viewed as that which is qualified and capable for the display of Christ.

  • The fulness of the Head is available to the body. See Colossians 1: 27; Colossians 3: 9, etc.

The epistle to the Corinthians presents a more limited view of the body.

  • It is there seen as complete on earth at any given time, and Christians in any locality are characteristically the body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12.

The subject is introduced in the epistle to the Romans to show us our right position and responsibilities in the christian circle. Romans 12: 5.

  • Any idea of independency is ruled out of court.

This, then, is that which is distinctive of and peculiar to the church of God. Believers are "Christ's body". Wonderful fact!

But the church is also that in which the continuity of God's thoughts and ways is seen. Hence, while it is peculiarly the body of Christ,

  • it is also the house of God, it is addressed as being the candlestick or light-bearer, it descends from heaven as a city, and is seen, too, as the bride.

While the truth of the body of Christ was 'kept secret' it was no new thought to hear of the house of God, or of a temple, or priests, or even of a bride, or city.

  • These ideas are not peculiar to the church. They may be realised in a fuller and more wonderful way now; but the ideas are neither new nor peculiar to Christians.

There is a development, however, in the ways of God in bringing these truths out in Old Testament days.

  • We do not find any allusion to God dwelling among men till after He had figuratively redeemed His people Israel. Exodus 15. Nor is the temple spoken of till long after the children of Israel were in the promised land.

  • God dwelt in grace among His people in the wilderness in a tabernacle; the temple was His sanctuary in the days of Solomon's glory.

A desert was no place for a city. A city has foundations, and stability marks it. It is a centre. So we read in Psalm 122.

And at length the prophets speak of Israel under the figure of a bride – alas, an unfaithful one!

  • The Song of Solomon is the song of love of Zion's King, when the day of gladness will be known on earth by Jerusalem.

But the tabernacle constructed by Moses is nowhere to be seen today; the temple erected by Solomon has long since disappeared; Jerusalem, the city of the great King, has been laid in ruins more than once; and no gladness marks the day of Zion yet!

Is there, then, no dwelling-place for God? Are there no priests? Is there no temple, no city, no bride? Is there no witness for God today on earth?

    • Impossible! God cannot be defeated!

  • The church of God is here, the body of Christ! Every thought is to be maintained in the church. It is the house of God – Jew and Gentile are builded together for a habitation of God in the Spirit. Ephesians 2: 22.

The church grows into a holy temple in the Lord and is ever characterised by this fact,

    • "for the temple of God is holy, and such are ye", 1 Corinthians 3: 17.

  • It is the vessel of light, the candlestick; for to the church, not to Jews, we must turn if we are to find a testimony for God now. Revelation 2 and 3.

In a coming day the church will descend from heaven as a city, having the glory of God. Revelation 21: 10.

  • And, as the eternal day is introduced, she will be as a bride adorned for her husband. Revelation 21: 2.

What a remarkable company this must be! Able to display Christ, to enshrine the glory and presence of God and to approach Him who dwells among them, and to bear witness to the light in a world of darkness!

  • It will diffuse the light of the glory of God in a coming day and in eternity will ever abide in the love of Christ!

Reader, are you of this company, the church of God?

  • If you are Christ's you are! If you have repented towards God and have had faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and have received the Holy Spirit, such is your happy portion. But only so. Nothing else avails.

  • No outward membership of a christian body, of a church, however ancient it may be, no participation in sacraments however regarded can give you a part in the body of Christ, the church of God.

  • There must be a living link with Christ. We receive the Spirit of God by the report of faith, Galatians 3: 2, and by

    • "one Spirit we have all been baptised into one body, whether Jews or Greeks", 1 Corinthians 12: 13.

Page Top   Article Top


It is not a little remarkable that what is peculiar to the church of God was not revealed to believers at the outset. In the early chapters of Acts we find no allusion, much less any teaching, relating to the body of Christ.

As we remarked in a previous paper, this truth was communicated by special revelation to the apostle Paul,

But we must not suppose that the body of Christ was not formed till then.

  • It was formed by the coming of the Holy Spirit – as we read in Acts 2 – but in the ways of God there was a development of the truth.

Things overlapped. There was the offer of the return of Christ to Israel, Acts 3: 20, and promises of earthly blessing would have been then fulfilled had they nationally repented of their act of crucifying the Lord.

But far otherwise was the case, and the stoning of Stephen was the evidence of the ratification of their sin. They sent a messenger, as it were, saying,

    • "We will not that this man should reign over us", Luke 19: 14.

  • Hence the distinctive teaching relating to the church (which occupies the place of Israel, as the "people of God") was not brought out till the fitting moment.

  • But when Israel confirmed their rejection of Christ, by the stoning of Stephen, then it was that God called this special vessel, Paul, to make known the "mystery".

We may observe that the church as the body of Christ is spoken of in different ways: –

  1. There is the complete and full idea as presented in Ephesians 1: 22-23:

    • "the assembly, which is his body, the fulness of him who fills all in all".

    Undoubtedly the view here embraces every believer from Pentecost to the coming of Christ.

    The church is seen as the fulness of Christ, and as associated with Him in His position, as set far above all principality, etc., and as Head over all things.

    It is interesting to recall that the first type of the church is that of Eve, and was given before sin entered the world, and hence illustrates the fact that the church was the subject of God's eternal counsel. This is very wonderful.

    Eve was not only "taken out" of Adam, but was brought to him as a suited companion. And the church derives its being from Christ, it is His body; but it is also viewed as the antitype of Eve – the suited companion of Christ.

    It is difficult to sever the truth of the body of Christ from the thought of the woman brought to the man. There is a difference, but the two ideas are very closely allied. See Genesis 2: 22-23; Ephesians 5: 28, 30.

    What a blessed place of exaltation the church thus has! It is associated with Christ in His place as Head over all things, and in this regard is said to be His fulness.

    Let us not forget, beloved reader, that this is our place, through grace.

  2. The church is also alluded to as formed here in time by the coming of the Holy Spirit and as extended by means of the gospel.

    Jews and Gentiles are made joint-heirs and a joint-body by the gospel. Ephesians 3: 6; 1 Corinthians 12: 13.

  3. The body of Christ is also presented to us as complete at any point in time. The "whole body", "all the body" is knit together. Christ is Head of the body, and from the Head all increase comes.

    It is now that to principalities and powers the manifold wisdom of God is made known by the church. Today, also, there is one body, one Spirit. Ephesians 4: 4, 16; also Colossians 2: 19.

  4. The local gathering of all Christians in one place also has the character of the body of Christ. The Corinthians were thus addressed.

    • "Ye are Christ's body", 1 Corinthians 12: 27.

    They were not the body of Christ in its entirety, but they had the character of the whole, and were to be a local expression of what was true of the body of Christ as a whole.

So that we may say the church as the body of Christ is seen:

  1. As the complement, or fulness of Christ, associated with Him in His position as Head over all things, and in its entirety embraces every believer from Pentecost to the coming of Christ;

  2. As actually formed on earth by the coming of the Holy Spirit and by the gospel;

  3. As complete on earth at any given time; and

  4. In each local assembly which has the character of the whole.

The prominent idea connected with the church as the body of Christ is that it may display Christ.

In human life a man is known through his body; and so, in a far more wonderful way, the body of Christ is for the display of Christ, for the practical setting forth of the moral features of Jesus.

We believe this applies to the church as the body of Christ in every aspect.

  • Surely as presented in Ephesians 1 as the fulness of Christ, it will set forth Christ in a perfect way.

  • And as formed here on earth it is called to exhibit the graces of Christ; as also is it in any locality.

This is very wonderful and equally exercising to our hearts. God's thought is that Christ should be morally continued here on earth in His own, in His body.

We must indeed feel how far short the church falls practically in this aspect. And it should cause real heart searching as to the smallness of the measure in which we have answered to God's mind in this matter.

The subject is a very large one and intensely interesting, and we hope the reader will seek the mind of God as to it and search Scripture in a far more detailed manner than we can develop in these short papers. We desire to stimulate a spirit of inquiry and exercise.

  • There are, however, two practical thoughts which I venture to suggest. We have merely begun the subject in so doing. And what we say we shall remember is applicable to the church, the body of Christ, at any time, as also in any locality.

    1. The Spirit of God has formed the body and unites every member.

      "For also in the power of one Spirit we have all been baptised into one body", 1 Corinthians 12: 13.

    2. "There is one body, and one Spirit", Ephesians 4: 4.

Individually as different persons we have a different spirit. But the fact of one Spirit having baptised us into one body makes unity a living reality –

    • the "unity of the Spirit", Ephesians 4: 3.

But we must remark that anything of the flesh will rob us of the enjoyment of this unity and of its practical realisation. It is the unity of the Spirit.

The union of Christendom may be sought after, so-called differences may be dropped as convenience may suggest. But this is a mere imitation of unity.

Unity can only be in the power of the Spirit of God and in accordance with what is of the Spirit. Let the Spirit of God have His place and unity will be realised by all who thus honour Him.

We feel this is very solemn. For it is clear from the setting of Scripture that unless we are in the practical recognition of what is formed on earth in the power of the Spirit, unless we are in the enjoyment and good of this unity, it is futile to speak of the Headship of Christ.

If we follow the way Scripture develops the truth, we shall observe that in Romans and Corinthians Christ is not presented as Head of the body. The lesson of unity must be learnt first. But in Colossians and Ephesians He is so presented.

Hence, as has so often been said, the truth taught in Romans forms the foundation in our souls and makes room for the further light of the church in Corinthians. And so, if we are practically recognising unity, we shall be led on to the wondrous fact that Christ is Head of His body.

Moreover, the body of Christ is the vessel for the activity of the Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12. Any restriction as to liberty which might prevent the manifestation and exercise of spiritual gift is dishonouring to the Spirit of God. The Spirit distributes as He will. He qualifies as well as calls the servant for the work of God. Acts 13: 2.

Man can neither appoint nor prevent, according to God, the ministry in Christianity. We are quite sure that the Emperor of Rome was not consulted as to the appointment of servants or as to the exercise of gift in the church in the days of the apostles! Nor had an apostle authority over the liberty of another servant. 1 Corinthians 16: 12.

There is no doubt that the labyrinth of present-day ecclesiastical machinery is a very serious slight to the Spirit of God!

Hence, recognising this unity and liberty in the power of the Spirit, we should regard each other as members of the body of Christ. As baptised into one body, every member is necessary, each one is comely, and we may care for all. 1 Corinthians 12. Oh! how slow we are to view each other thus.

But, as we have said, if we recognise what is formed on earth in the power of the Spirit, Christ as Head of the body will be practically available to us. This brings us to our second point.

  • Christ is Head of the body. It is from Him the body is derived and increases. All nourishment comes from the Head.

All fulness dwells in the Head, and the all-sufficient resources of the Head are available to the body. Ephesians 4: 15-16; Colossians 2.

    • Let us be "holding fast the head", Colossians 2: 19,

and we shall know and constantly prove the abundance of supply that is available.

Religiousness will fail, but not Christ! The fleshly mind will prove its own insufficiency, but there is always fulness in the Head.

Is it too late in the church's history to "hold the head"? Is it too late to be quite supported by Christ? Impossible! Colossians 2 is still true!

Today we may prove it if we will. But this needs faith. It needs a right state on our part. It is useless to speak of the Headship of Christ if we are practically denying the truth of that of which He is Head.

The incessant formation of councils, of committees of management; the arrangement of spiritual affairs by human wisdom and expediency may suit man's mind. But it is not faith.

Schism, contention and activity of the flesh grieves the Spirit and must necessarily rob us of the right state which is essential if we are to know Christ as Head.

    • "Ye are Christ's body", 1 Corinthians 12: 27, says the apostle.

Think of it! Christ's body on earth! Have you answered to this, dear reader? Every believer is a member of Christ's body.

Let us not say these truths only apply to the church 'invisible and universal'. Immense mistake!

The body of Christ is on earth today. It is in every locality where there are believers. It will be the vessel for the display of Christ in the day to come, and is called to display Him now.

Page Top   Article Top


The house of God, during the present time, is not a material building, but a spiritual one.

The first intimation we have of this building is in Matthew 16, where Christ tells Peter that He will build His church.

  • He assured Peter at the same time that he would be a part of it; he would be a stone built upon the Rock, the revelation of Christ, the Son of the living God.

Believers – those who have received the Spirit of God consequent upon faith in the Lord Jesus Christ – are God's house.

  • They are builded together for a habitation of God by the Spirit. They are a spiritual house composed of living stones. Ephesians 2: 22; 1 Peter 2: 5.

How far, far surpassing any mere lifeless, inanimate structure such a building must be! Every part is living, intelligent, and is capable of responding to the One who dwells therein.

  • Moreover, it is able also to set forth His character and to display the free-giving grace of a Saviour-God in a world full of darkness and sin.

These two aspects of the house of God are presented to us in Scripture.

  1. The first aspect may be termed the inward privileges of God's house;

  2. the second suggests what is outward, that is, the display on earth of the character of God.
  • We can only consider the first aspect in this paper.

In Old Testament days God was pleased to give a sign in evidence of His dwelling among His earthly people Israel.

  • The "cloud of glory", which was the symbol of His presence, filled the tabernacle, and, later on, the temple.

  • And it is refreshing to note in such psalms as Psalm 27 the experience and joys of one who pierced through the outward symbols and enjoyed the very presence and beheld the beauty of Jehovah!

It would be a poor thing to conceive that today we are not so well off as Israel was in their day. Indeed, we are very much better off. Types have given place to realities, shadows to the substance foreshadowed.

God dwells in His house today, not in a symbolic way, but in reality. God, the Holy Spirit, has come from heaven and dwells in the assembly. See Acts 2. We feel this to be a point of the greatest moment.

Believers are the dwelling-place of God by the Spirit. No material building could possibly be this.

    • "The Most High dwells not in places made with hands", Acts 7: 48.

  • His dwelling-place today on earth is the church.

We can only briefly consider a subject like this in these Short Papers. But a few ideas present themselves to us very plainly in Scripture.

  1. God's presence, and hence also His glory, are the great characteristics of His house, and therefore holiness essentially marks it. We under-stand by God's glory the expression of Himself.

    God dwelt in the tabernacle, as later in the temple, and God dwells in the assembly today. His glory filled the tabernacle, Exodus 40: 34, and afterwards it filled the temple, 2 Chronicles 7: 2; and

    • today His glory is enshrined in His house, the assembly. Not, let us again remark, in a symbolic way, as the cloud of glory was the emblem of His presence and glory, but in all its blessed reality.

    God has been revealed. His holiness, grace, mercy, righteousness have all been made known in exquisite harmony with what He is in His nature – love. In the cross all this was seen, and the church is founded on the blessed work of redemption. *

      * It is interesting to recall that the temple was erected on mount Moriah, the place where the sacrifice had been offered. The revelation of God in the cross is the moral foundation of the house of God.

    It need scarcely be said that if God's glory is that which marks His house, man's glory is excluded.

    • "Let no one boast in men", 1 Corinthians 3: 21.

    The glory of fallen man in all its forms was exposed at the cross. The wisdom of this world was proved foolishness there, and its strength as weakness.

    How very far the assembly has departed in practice from this essential truth. Monuments to men of mere ability and human genius are erected in so-called 'churches' or cathedrals, and the glory of man – such as he is! – is displayed in its varied forms.

    And if holiness marks God's house no unholiness can be allowed! Not only was this the "law of the house", but also "all its border round about is most holy", Ezekiel 43: 12.

    We could not be happy if this were otherwise. God's honour dwells in the habitation of His house, and we love it. Psalm 26: 8.

    How intensely holy the dwelling-place of God must be! The temple of God is holy, and if any man corrupt God's temple, him will God destroy. 1 Corinthians 3: 17. May we all realise the real character of God's house and its holiness!

  2. God's house is spiritual. In Old Testament times the dwelling-place of God was a material building. It was an erection visible to the human eye. Both the tabernacle and temple were such. But the church is a spiritual building, and God dwells there.

    The temple was a centre of earthly religion. Earthly priests ministered there and carnal ordinances existed. Under such a state of things it was becoming that God's house should be marked by earthly splendour.

    And we know that the temple was elaborately embellished with precious stones and gold, and nothing surely could be too glorious or costly, since the dwelling-place of God was of such a character – a material erection.

    But in Christianity all is changed. And we may add, not only is God's house spiritual, but all worship connected therewith must also be spiritual.

    • "God is a Spirit; and they who worship him must worship him in spirit and truth", John 4: 24.

    In the days of the tabernacle or temple there was a material kind of worship – a worship which man in the flesh could render. First-fruits of earth's harvests were presented, incense was constantly ascending, and musical instruments, too, were used as ordained by the sweet Psalmist of Israel. All that was worship of a material or fleshly * kind.

      * The word fleshly is not intended to refer to the baser elements of human nature, but to describe manís natural state as born of Adamís race.

    The house of God was a material building, hence the worship of God was on this level. But now all is different. All worship must be in spirit. That is, it is not the material offering of first-fruits and incense, etc., but spiritual in its nature, and by the Spirit of God.

    May we ask the reader if he has realised this momentous change?

    We see on all hands the abandoning of the true character of Christianity, and a return to the elements of a carnal and earthly religion. Buildings are called God's house; harvest festivals are quite common; worship is assisted by strains of music from a lifeless instrument! And in some quarters, indeed, we find men assuming the office of an earthly priesthood offering incense of a material kind.

    Let us be perfectly clear on this point. All this is a denial of the very character of real Christianity. It is a return to an earthly and carnal religion of a past dispensation under the name and cloak of Christianity. Hence, however well intended, it is a very serious disregard of God's expressed mind. It is really iniquity in God's holy things. It may be done in ignorance. We believe it is. But it is nevertheless iniquity. See Leviticus 5: 14-19.

  3. Praise and prayer mark God's house. Associated with the idea of God's house we find the subject of priesthood, and hence, also, as we have already suggested, the thoughts of access, intercession and praise.

    • "Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be constantly praising thee", Psalm 84: 4, the psalmist could say.

    And so, in New Testament words,

    • "yourselves also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ", 1 Peter 2: 5.

    Happy, blessed occupation! But let us again remark the spiritual nature of everything. The Holy Spirit is our alone power and capacity for worship. And, therefore, anything which grieves Him necessarily robs us of this precious privilege. Let us be watchful!

    And so also is it as to prayer. What a wondrous place of nearness is ours! We are privileged to make intercession for all. 1 Timothy 2: 1-4. God's house is a house of prayer. We shall allude to this in a later paper, if God permit.

In conclusion, we may note that God's house is of commanding interest. Psalm 122 beautifully sets this forth.

What gladness when we may "go up" to God's house – when we can leave our things, and in company with other Christians enter upon our proper spiritual privileges as forming God's house!

  • Depend upon it, we shall prosper spiritually if we are marked by this love for God's centre of interest. Verse 6.

We read of some whose interest waned as to God's house. They were busy with regard to their own houses and yet were content to see God's house lie waste. See Haggai 1.

  • No wonder there was no prosperity! But when God's interest became theirs how different everything was!

We have not been careful to note a distinction which the Spirit of God makes between the house of God and the temple of God.

  • In the Old Testament, as well as in the New, the idea of the temple is generally associated with the day of glory and display. The temple was seen in Solomon's day

    • and is viewed at present as growing; it is not complete. Ephesians 2: 21.

  • But it is equally true that the church has this character now. The Corinthians are addressed as God's temple. 1 Corinthians 3: 16.

  • Both temple and tabernacle were dwelling-places of God: both enshrined the glory of God and holiness marked each.

Let not unholiness rob us of our blessed portion! Let us not permit man's glory to intrude!

  • But with an ungrieved Spirit may we prove the blessedness of dwelling in God's house and be controlled by this commanding interest.

Page Top   Article Top


It is scarcely necessary to state that if there are many and blessed privileges known by believers as constituting the house of God, there are at the same time corresponding responsibilities.

The epistle which particularly deals with this side of the subject is 1 Timothy. The behaviour suited to the house of God is there dwelt upon.

  • It is doubtful if we shall answer to the responsibilities attaching to the house of God unless we enjoy something of the privileges.

  • And, on the other hand, if we do not answer to the responsibilities we shall become dull in our spiritual sensibilities and incapable of enjoying our privileges. Both sides must be maintained.

The conduct insisted upon in the first epistle addressed to Timothy supposes the doctrine and the privileges of the epistle to the Ephesians.

  • Ephesians gives us the inward spiritual relationships and privileges more particularly, while 1 Timothy insists upon the maintenance of right behaviour.

The apostle Paul, in writing to his trusted, but apparently young, servant, Timothy, gives certain instructions as to detail, and concludes these remarks by saying that he wrote thus that Timothy might know how one ought to behave oneself in the house of God. 1 Timothy 3: 15.

  • Hence we may rightly turn to such an epistle to learn what is the suitable behaviour to those who compose the house of God.

  1. The "end", or desideratum, of what is brought before us is

    • "love out of a pure heart and a good conscience and unfeigned faith", 1 Timothy 1: 5.

    • Moreover, Timothy is exhorted to maintain "faith, and a good conscience", verse 19.

    Some had swerved from this state of soul, even in the early days of Timothy's time, and consequently departure of a more serious kind followed.

    The standard by which all has to be judged today is the

    • "sound teaching, according to the glad tidings of the blessed God", verse 11.

    God has been revealed, and by this revelation and in the presence of God we answer to His mind and possess these essential qualities – love, a good conscience and faith.

    Love is the divine nature; a good conscience can only be kept as our conduct answers to what we know to be right; faith is that which gives the enjoyment of the light of the revelation of God. In our experience these qualities would possibly come in the reverse order.

    Faith is the light of revelation in the soul; conscience regulates conduct accordingly; and, our hearts being thus morally purified, we love God who first loved us.

    We may rest assured that these qualities are of immense importance. They are the foundation in the soul of all practical Christianity. They are the outcome of what is revealed to us by God and of His work in our souls, and are the moral basis of all right practice.

    We feel persuaded that all departure has its beginning in a defect in one or more of these moral qualities.

    Unless faith is in exercise, the soul is practically in darkness; if our consciences are not kept sensitive and good, we shall fail to answer to the light we have; love is the response in man to God.

    It is useless to consider anything further if these primary and essential elements are wanting.

  2. In the house of God His attitude towards man is set forth in a practical way. Those who form the dwelling place of God are exhorted to have a prayerful interest in men.

    Hence the love and grace of God, who is known as Saviour, are manifested. How can we pray for people we do not love? Our hearts will condemn us if we assume to do so. But in the enjoyment of God's love, our hearts are filled with love to men * and we pray for them.

      * See also Titus 3: 4, ďlove to manĒ, and footnote a.

    In the Philippian gaol the apostle and his companion were marked by prayer and praise! Acts 16: 25. Stephen prayed as his murderers battered him with stones! Acts 7: 59.

    We are exhorted to pray – to pray for all men; for in this way God's heart and attitude towards man will be manifested. He desires all to be saved. Do we? Are we concerned for every one – for all men?

    We stand between the living and the dead! The character of God is to be seen in us, for we are His house. A prayerful interest in man is the first manner in which this becomes evident.

    Moreover, Christ's position is declared. He is the Mediator. 1 Timothy 2: 5. We do not pray unintelligently. We are in the light of what has been accomplished. God and man have met in the Person of the Mediator. Presently the testimony will be of power; now it is of grace.

    But not only is prayer to mark God's house in a general way, it is especially to mark men. This is the proper position of man. Men are to be characterised by prayer, by dependence. Men like to be independent.

    But to be truly dependent on God is the most morally exalted position a man can possibly be in. Women are exhorted to be in due subjection and to be marked by good works.

  3. We next find the two offices in God's assembly alluded to, so that there might be godly care and order.

    The elder or "overseer" was one who exercised oversight and sought the spiritual good of those in the assembly. 1 Timothy 3: 1-7. It was a simple matter in early days to recognise the elders of an assembly, for the church was one.

    But it was evidently not the mind of God to continue these offices in a merely formal way. No elder was told to ordain other elders. Apostolic succession is merely a human idea. No such thing is suggested in Scripture, and it was never intended to exist in fact.

  4. Titus was to ordain elders as an apostolic delegate, Titus 1: 5, and the apostles themselves ordained them, Acts 14: 23.

    But why, then, are we given such detailed instructions in 1 Timothy and Titus? The reason is plain. We are told the characteristics so that we may recognise those who possess them and honour such; then, too, those who seek to take care of the assembly should be exercised that these qualities and traits may mark them.

    God knew that departure would come in almost at once, in the apostles' days, and hence gave the characteristics of those who would truly seek to take care of the church.

    The deacon, or minister, was to be occupied with the temporal cares of those in the assembly. 1 Timothy 3: 8-13. Deacons are first alluded to in Acts 6.

    It is very interesting to note the comprehensive character of these two offices. They were not "gifts", but offices of a purely local nature. The one sought the spiritual good, and the other ministered to the temporal needs of those in the assembly.*

      * It must be carefully observed, that while an elder had the oversight of an assembly, he in no sense assumed a distinctive priestly position. To have done so would have been to have committed the sin of Korah, Numbers 16 – a servant assuming priesthood. Has not this been done? How can any servant, however gifted, assume to arrange or conduct worship? It is a slight on Christ, the great Priest over Godís house.

    May God give every one who seeks to serve Him in either of these ways to see that he possesses the qualifications, and may we all be more ready to recognise such and render them honour.

After giving these instructions the apostle states the object of his epistle. 1 Timothy 3: 15. It was that Timothy might know how to behave in God's house.

It is thus evident that the first three chapters give to us the formal outline of that which should mark the house of God. The church is the pillar and base of the truth. It is to be the practical witness to the truth, to that which came out in Christ.

  1. Chapter 1 brought before us the moral qualities necessary to all who compose God's house;

  2. in chapter 2 we have the attitude of God as Saviour set forth in the saints;

  3. and chapter 3 gives us what should mark those in the offices which existed (in normal circumstances) for the well-being of an assembly.

'Mysteries' were usually associated with temples and shrines in heathen Ephesus.

  • But the "mystery of piety", 1 Timothy 3: 16, was that which was enshrined in God's house. "God has been manifested", etc.

  • We do not understand this to refer to what is essential to Deity. Such, in fact, has not been manifested and still remains inscrutable.

  • What is here referred to and stated is the mystery of piety, or godliness. That is what is of God revealed in a Man here on earth and having its answer in glory.

We shall not be surprised to find that Satan was determined to corrupt, if he could not destroy, such a witness to what is according to God.

  • The Spirit of God expressly taught that departure would take place, and such has come to pass.

But what is to be the reply to this departure? Controversy? Dogma? No! Only that which was to have been the abiding testimony – godliness.

  • That which is according to God, maintained in our lives here, is an unanswerable reply and a standing rebuke to all departure. Theological disputes have not the living character about them that is possessed by a life bearing the traits of Christ!

Details of a practical kind are referred to, but the key word of all is piety.

  • Oh! for piety – practical, living, daily Christianity.

  • A slave can beautify his pathway in this manner, and none of us have a calling quite like that today.

  • We can, we ought, all to show piety. The name of God and His doctrine are at stake.

  • Men of the world are after money. Self, in some way or other, is the ruling influence.

  • The believer is called to godliness, and godliness, with contentment, is great gain. Christ is his power, and the life of Jesus that which is to be seen in him daily.

Page Top   Article Top


Very allied to the truths relating to the responsibility of the house of God are those which refer to the church of God as the candlestick or light-bearer.

It is in no sense the object of the writer of this paper to expound these two chapters in Revelation. All that is desired is to draw attention to the fact that the church is thus presented there and to consider a few practical thoughts in this connection.

The Lord Jesus said to His disciples in view of His rejection,

    • "Ye are the light of the world", Matthew 5: 14.

  • And He Himself indeed had occupied this position. He said so, as we may read in John 8: 12.

  • But Jesus was going to be rejected. The pure and heavenly light which ever shone in Him was to be extinguished as far as the malice of man and Satan's power could do so. It was indeed to vanish as far as Jesus Himself was concerned. He was going back to heaven and the world would see Him no more.

  • But the power of man and Satan combined are no match against the power of God. And it was God's will to continue the light which had been exhibited in Jesus. The disciples, who afterwards became the church, had the privilege of being the "light of the world".

The seven golden candlesticks are the seven churches, we are told.

  • The idea suggested by the number seven is completeness, or perfection, and therefore we gather that the church is presented in its entirety under the figure here employed.

  • And the church is set in this position to exhibit the light which was seen in Christ. It is not that she is to shine with her own light, as if she were the source of it, but with the light of Christ.

  • Just as the moon reflects the light of the sun in the night time, when that greater orb is hidden from our view, so the church is to reflect the light of Christ during the night of His rejection. And it is only as the church enjoys the light of Christ that she herself is luminous.

  • What an honour to confer upon any company! What could be a greater privilege than to be the continuity of the light of Christ?

The light has not been extinguished, for Christ has His own here. The Spirit of Christ has produced Christ-likeness in those who belong to Christ. And through the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ the light which shone in Jesus is maintained in His own.

Blessed privilege to be for Christ here! May it be ours to shine more brightly!

But although, through the power of the Spirit of God, the light which shone in Jesus will ever be maintained, yet,

    • as a corporate and responsible witness to the truth, the church as a whole has very seriously failed.

  • We cannot read Revelation 2 and 3 without seeing this. The Lord is there seen as scrutinising that which is the responsible vessel of light and His eyes of flame detect departure.

We need scarcely remark that everything committed to man's responsibility ends in failure. And it is not long before the failure begins.

    • Adam quickly lost Eden.

      Noah soon failed to govern himself.

      Israel speedily departed out of the way and made the golden calf.

  • And so we might cite case after case. Failure is always found with responsibility whenever man is concerned.

  • Christ, blessed be His name! is the grand exception. He stands alone!

The failure does not commence with overt signs; the heart is the beginning of the trouble.

  • The works, the labour, the patience and the intolerance of evil seen in Ephesus speak of outward order and a zeal for christian propriety; but the heart was dull, and out of the heart proceed the issues of life.

  • "First love", Revelation 2: 4, had waned. Objects other than Christ engaged the heart so that He had not the place of ruling supremacy.

Now let us observe that this was so quite early in the church's history.

  • We believe that in the addresses to the seven churches of Asia we have a prophetic view of the history of the decline of the church from the days of the apostles.

  • The declension as it began is set forth in the address to Ephesus, and it culminates in Thyatira, Sardis and Laodicea. That which should have exhibited the pure light is rebuked by Christ because of failure.

  • The Lord ever abides the same, and His position in the midst of the seven candlesticks necessitates that He must notice departure. What a solemn reflection this is!

Satan at first tried to put out the light altogether by opposition. Persecution fell upon the followers of the despised Nazarene. But this could not be done.

  • The persecution was rather used by the Lord, who permitted it as discipline, and many saints were encouraged by the words,

    • "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give to thee the crown of life", Revelation 2: 10.

Extermination proving impossible, the adversary resorted to corruption.

  • This, alas! did succeed only too well, as far as the church as the collective witness to the light was concerned. Where opposition failed, flattery and corruption gained the victory.

History tells us how Christianity began with a despised and persecuted company.

  • But its followers became popular and worldly, and the profession of Christianity was embraced by emperors and the world.

  • Hence that which bears the name of Christianity today is not what existed at the beginning at all, but is a mixture of heathenism and Judaism with the form and name of Christianity attached.

But has the light gone then? Has God been defeated? If the church as a whole has failed to shed forth the light of Christ, is there no witness now?

  • Impossible! Although the corporate testimony of the church has been corrupted, God has always had His witnesses on earth.

Individuals in the church have been these witnesses. Hence it is we read of the various promises to those who overcome. This is very encouraging.

  • If the whole church is corrupt there is no reason, dear reader, why you and I may not shine as brightly as ever.

Let us be quite clear as to this. From the very beginning of the departure, individuals have been God's witnesses.

  • It cannot be doubted that the church as a whole has entirely failed to answer to God's mind as the light-bearer.

  • There has never been a wholly true collective witness to the light on the part of the whole church since the earliest days.

  • All testimony depends upon individual faithfulness after the failure of the church as a corporate witness.

  • The responsibility of the whole company remains and God is slow to judge, as we may learn from Revelation 2: 21.

  • And, indeed, the testimony itself remains the same;* it is corporate in its character. But we reach this testimony individually and it is dependent practically upon individual faithfulness.

      * Let the reader seek grace to hold the balance of truth carefully! Godís testimony has not changed and it implies unity. We cannot restore the testimony as it existed in the beginning; but individually we must seek grace to walk according to that which is proper to the whole church of God.

To be a true witness and to really shine as a light for Christ it is necessary to overcome amidst all the failure which exists in that which bears the name of Christianity – failure which has resulted from that first departure, "thou hast left thy first love".

  • May the Lord keep our hearts! It is there the trouble always begins. Outward order may be maintained, a true ecclesiastical position rigorously held; but where is the heart? To Ephesus the solemn word comes, "thou hast left thy first love".

It is no wonder that at the end the Lord has to knock at the door from outside. Revelation 3: 20.

  • We are not surprised that wickedness like Jezebel's is seen, that doctrine like Balaam's is held, that deathlike formality and cold profession, like that portrayed in Sardis, marks the church.

  • All is the outcome of first love waning; all departure begins at the heart!

Presently the Lord will spue the false witness out of His mouth. Revelation 3: 16.

  • An insipid lukewarmness marks everything. And along with this there is a religious pride which can boast of riches and feel need of nothing. Oh! what a condition for the church to have come to. The Lord says it. He sees it so. It must be true. He cannot lie!

We wish again to remind the reader that we are considering the church as seen in the outward profession of Christ's name.

  • The Lord will soon take His blood-bought people home, and then He will judge the mere profession of His name. There is no wonder at the need to overcome!

We should have been surprised that all could have become what it has, had not the Lord told us beforehand.

  • It would be bold indeed to claim that that which bears the name of Christianity is really setting forth in practice and character that which Jesus exhibited!

  • The church as a whole, as a corporate responsible witness has failed to express the character of Christ and shine for Him. One may with real sincerity inquire, Where are the true followers of the rejected Son of man?

May God give both reader and writer to seek to be such and to be living witnesses to the light which God will maintain to the end in spite of all the failure of man!

Page Top   Article Top


It is refreshing to look beyond the time of man's brief sojourn here, with its responsibilities and failures, and glance into the period when God will display all that is according to His mind, all that is secured in Christ.

To do this with reference to our own individual career and soul history is encouraging; and it is especially cheering to every one who loves the church of God to do so with regard to the assembly itself, the assembly which Christ will present to Himself without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing.

The object of this paper is to direct the heart to that blessed time, and, indeed, beyond or thence-forward to the fixed and unalterable blessedness of eternity.

The Lord Jesus prayed – as we read in John 17 – that there might be a testimony on the part of believers that the world might believe that the Father had sent Him. We believe that prayer has been answered.

But the Lord also prayed that His own might be "perfected into one", and that the world might know that the Father had sent Him and loved them as Christ was loved. John 17: 23.

  • This prayer has not yet been answered. The request awaits fulfilment. It will be answered in the age to come.

The church of God as the candlestick, or light-bearer, is the responsible vessel to display the light here while Christ is absent. That it has failed to do this faithfully we have already seen.

  • Testimony is dependent upon the faithfulness of individuals* and to answer to the mind of Christ we must "overcome" in the midst of that which professedly bears His name. Thus only can we shine for Him.

      * A path of collective privilege is still possible, but this is quite another subject, and also the testimony itself is not altered in character.

The church of God as the city – the holy city, Jerusalem – is that in which the light of God's glory will be seen in a coming day. It will be central to a world of righteousness and joy in which all that is of Christ will be displayed.

  • The church as the light-bearer ought to shed forth the light today: as the city it will do so in a coming day.

We shall not attempt to prove that the holy city is a figure of the church. Many a time has this been done. We shall content ourselves by drawing a few practical lessons from the description of the city in Revelation 21.

  1. The prophet-apostle John sees, in vision, the holy city descending from heaven, having the glory of God. The vision refers to a future time when judgment will have fallen on apostate Christendom and the false witness will have been rejected by the Lord, as He so plainly said in Revelation 3: 16. It is a solemn reflection that this is the end towards which professed Christianity is hastening.

    The present world, too – that is, the world system – will have been brought to nothing, and earth itself will have been cleansed from the defilement of sin by the judgment of God.

    Then it is that the church, the holy city, descends from heaven and comes with Christ to reign over the earth.

    We need not remark that before this could take place the Lord will call His own to be with Him. The Bridegroom will come and take home His bride. 1 Thessalonians 4: 15 and John 14 are two passages which clearly refer to this blessed fact. The immediate hope of the church is the coming of Christ to take her to be with Himself.

    Today it is a time of fasting for the believer, for the Bridegroom has been taken away. Luke 5: 34-35. But His word assures us He is coming again. What joy unspeakable it will be when we see His blessed face!

    Revelation 21 is after this; in fact, the first eight verses refer to eternity, verse 9 commences a detailed description of God's holy city.

    First, then, the city is heavenly. It comes down from the place to which it belongs. It is to be feared that we forget that we are a heavenly people and that our interests are heavenly. We do not say that they ought to be, but that they are heavenly, for this is the way scripture speaks. Philippians 3: 20.

    How slow we are to realise this and to take up our own proper interests! The church, that is, the company comprising all believers today, is a heavenly company – heavenly in its calling and character. We are not of the world, and presently Christ will come and take us to be with Himself in heaven.

    It is saddening to a degree to observe how eagerly the political and other interests of this world are pursued by those whose interests are really heavenly, and who at any moment may be taken to heaven by Christ. How deadening, too, is earthly-mindedness! The apostle wept as he spoke of some who were characterised as "minding earthly things".

    The church is to be taken to heaven, thence to return with Him when He comes again to reign over this earth, where He is at present rejected. And God is forming us now, forming our souls, with a view to our fulfilling our part as the holy city, which comes down from heaven and will be the centre of interest and influence in that day. It descends from heaven and bears a heavenly influence.

  2. The next feature we may notice is that the city has the glory of God.

    By glory we understand the expression of excellence. God has been revealed. His holiness, mercy, grace and righteousness, as well as His nature, love, have been declared in Christ.

    God's excellence has been expressed, and, in the passage we are considering, what came out in Jesus is seen characterising the holy city. It shines with light which is derived not from any improvement of fallen man, but from the glory of God. Christ is its light!

    The light will be pure and unalloyed then. There will be no sin to darken, no will of man to pervert the clear shining of God's glory through this chosen vessel, the church.

    This glory is enshrined in the church today. "Ye are the temple of God", says the apostle in 1 Corinthians 3: 16, and in God's temple every whit utters His glory. We should bear that character now.

  3. Flowing from this, and dependent upon it, we read that there is no need of any natural light.

    The greatest natural light is eclipsed by that glory which is above the brightness of the sun. It was this glory, this light, which arrested Saul of Tarsus, and thenceforth Paul, the "bondman of Jesus Christ", Romans 1: 1, is superior to the need of any earthly light, light of mere human intelligence and learning.

    In the epistle to Colossians the apostle seeks to place believers in the advantage of this superiority now. The imaginations of the natural mind, the searchings of philosophy, the fleshly efforts of a legal soul, are viewed as not only an uncertain light, and therefore worse than useless, and they are a slight on Christ, they draw away from Him. All fulness dwells in Him. He is the Head, as we have before remarked, and, if only we are in touch with Him, all earthly light grows dim.

    This will be so actually with the church in the day of glory. The glory of God lightens it, and the Lamb is the vessel through which every ray of that glory is given.

  4. We must not overlook that nought that defiles can enter the holy city.

    Great details are given as to the walls of the city, and their height and foundations are carefully noted. And although the gates of the city are always open, all entrance therein is guarded. It is the holy city. God is there! And nothing that defiles can enter.

    It is not merely that it may not, it cannot enter. It is not possible for defilement to be there. What a clear, untainted atmosphere this is! Our renewed souls long to dwell in such a place and to breathe such air!

    The city is heavenly, it has the glory of God, it is superior to all natural light and it is secure from evil!

    'O bright and blessed scenes,
    Where sin can never come;
    Whose sight our longing spirit weans
    From earth, where yet we roam', Hymn 64.

    We noticed a verse in 2 Chronicles lately. It reads: "And he set the door-keepers at the gates of the house of Jehovah, that no one unclean in anything should enter in", chapter 23: 19. Are not good door-keepers needed today? Have they always been watchful at the gates? We fear not, alas!

    But in the time we are considering the church will be without spot. It will be a 'glorious church'. And no evil will be therein. What an influence, what a power, such a heavenly company will be.

    We believe the church will impress the character – which she herself will derive from Christ – upon all who walk in the glorious light which she will shed abroad.

    Let us see beyond the mere figure used here, otherwise we may become material in our thoughts.

    Every soul saved from Pentecost to the Rapture will go to make up this glorious assembly. The influence will be a spiritual or moral influence. The traits of Jesus will have been reproduced in us.

    The precious stones, the beauty and the elegance of the holy city are being formed today. The Spirit of God is forming Christ in the souls of those who have believed the gospel. The work is steadily going on and is a divine work. It is not visible yet, but in the day of glory all will be manifested.

It is difficult to conceive the wonderful place the church will occupy in the world to come, the coming day of glory,

    • unless we see that it is the reproduction of what is of Christ, the fruit of the work of the Holy Spirit.

  • It will be the medium of heavenly influence over the earth. God's throne will be there. Christ will be there. His presence will be enjoyed and His character expressed.

    • "They shall see his face; and his name is on their foreheads", Revelation 22: 4.

Page Top   Article Top


In our papers we have sought to meditate upon the church in some of the aspects in which it is presented in Scripture, as also to consider its formation and what it is peculiarly, namely, the body of Christ.

The church of God may evidently be regarded in three ways:

  1. As actually existent on earth, whether universally or locally, and, as thus, embracing every believer, whether on the whole earth or in a locality.

  2. As a gathered company, that is, as a number of believers meeting together. It is thus presented in 1 Corinthians 11-14.

  3. In what is proper to it in its spiritual privileges.

It is clear that these are very distinct views of the same company of persons. For example, the earlier part of 1 Corinthians – with the exception of chapter 5 – considers the saints in the first light.

  • It is addressed to the "assembly of God which is in Corinth", at the same time linking them with every other believer.

  • But they are not viewed as "assembled", or come together, until chapter 11. Going to law, marriage, going to a feast, if invited, could not apply to the church as assembled.

  • But our whole conduct must be regulated by what is abidingly true of us. We are always God's assembly, we have always to be true to the character of God's temple.

  • Hence the corrective nature of the earlier chapters of the epistle, so that the conduct of each individual might be regulated by what is the calling of the whole christian company.

In chapters 11-14, however, the church, or assembly, that is, the Christians in the locality, are considered as "come together". We need only read the chapters to see this. We shall develop this later, if God will.

But it is also to be observed that believers are entitled to enjoy privileges of a peculiarly spiritual character.

  • The epistle of 1 Corinthians does not allude to this side of the subject, but, as another has fittingly remarked, views the church as 'the assembly in the wilderness – a separate and self-judged people in the world where Christ died'.

  • Other parts of Scripture relate to this spiritual ground which we have the privilege to enter upon.

There is no doubt that the enjoyment of these spiritual privileges would greatly colour the order and utterance of all in the assembly as a gathered company.

  • But the ground or region is distinct, and it would be quite possible for a believer to be in the gathered company and yet not enjoy the spiritual privileges to which the assembly is entitled.

We desire to consider the subject of the church as "come together" in this paper.

  • But we wish it to be fully recognised that spiritual privileges of the assembly are open to us on such occasions in an especial way.

  • Happy, indeed, if in our souls we pass from the region of what is outward to what is spiritual and so take up spiritual ground.

The subject of the Lord's supper will come before us in another paper, if God permit, but we feel it to be necessary to state that the Lord's supper is referred to as introducing the section of the epistle which views the saints as "assembled".

  • It is the Supper which calls us together. We "come together" to break bread.

Viewing the assembly in the light in which we have noticed it is presented in 1 Corinthians 11-14, we may observe:

  1. That the church is the body of Christ and hence is the vessel of the activity of the Holy Spirit.

  2. That "love", divine love, is to be the spring of every thought, act and feeling of all in the assembly.

  3. That "understanding", or intelligence, regulates all, that the church may be edified.

  1. In 1 Corinthians 12 the human body is referred to as a figure of the body of Christ, and attention is drawn to details with emphasis, clearness and simplicity which is striking to a degree.

    Have we learnt the lesson God intended to teach us through this illustration? The prominent idea of the chapter is the manifestation of the Spirit's activities, and the "body" is introduced because it is there we find these activities.

    Let us remember that the chapter primarily views the church as gathered together. And as thus "come together" it is recognised as the "body of Christ", and the Spirit of God distributes gift to whomsoever He will in such a company.

    We are amazed that Christians can so limit the Spirit's operations and manifestations that in certain circles of believers one member of the body can be selected as the only channel for the Spirit's activities, appointing a pastor or recognised minister or – more serious still – a priest.

    It may be the most intelligent member, as the eye is to the body. But it is only one member, and who can imagine the eye doing the work of the ear or nose, not to say hands or feet?

    The "body" is not one member, but many. And the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit are in the body, not in one member only, however valuable the member may be.

    We feel that such a slight to the Holy Spirit must grieve Him and be very displeasing to the Lord; and the writer would earnestly ask every one who reads these lines if he is sanctioning, by his presence or patronage, any system or human organisation which so grievously ignores the presence of the Holy Spirit and His sovereignty to distribute to whomsoever He will.

    It may be replied that there is opportunity for other members of the body of Christ to act in their individual service for the Lord, but one is appointed for the sake of order. But whose order is it? Clearly not scriptural order.

    And then the chapter before us is not dealing with the subject of individual service, but alludes to the church as gathered or "come together".

    Do you know of such a gathering together, dear reader? I do not refer to coming to hear a sermon, but a gathering together of believers, of the members of the body of Christ as such. If not, I beseech you to seek the Lord's mind as to this passage and adjust your own conduct with reference thereto.

    By one Spirit we have been baptised into one body, and by that same Spirit gifts are given according to His will. There must be liberty in any gathering of Christians for gift to develop and manifest itself through any member of the body, and the Spirit of God must be left free to use whomsoever He may please.

    If we make restrictions they will only be human, and hence a slight on the wisdom and sovereignty of God, the Holy Spirit – a very solemn thing!

  2. Love is to be the spring of every act in the church of God as "come together"; indeed, we may say at all times, but our chapters primarily refer to the church "in assembly".

    What a simple yet searching portrayal of love – divine love – this is! "Charity" has a cold meaning nowadays, and does not at all convey the force of the word used here. It is love as in the heart of God, as expressed in Jesus; love in its reality – love divine! It is that which we are to add to brotherly love; it is the bond of perfectness.

    God is love. Without love all else is nothing. The most eloquent orator, or the most tutored tongue, is but a tinkling cymbal. Without it the greatest acts of devotedness and self-sacrifice are unprofitable, the greatest mind and the most cultured intellect are nothing. Let us ponder the passage soberly. We quote the verses at length:

    "If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And if I shall dole out all my goods in food, and if I deliver up my body that I may be burned, but have not love, I profit nothing".

    The next verses give us love's traits, what is positive:

    "Love has long patience, is kind; love is not emulous of others; love is not insolent and rash, is not puffed up, does not behave in an unseemly manner, does not seek what is its own, is not quickly provoked, does not impute evil, does not rejoice at iniquity but rejoices with the truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails".

    Oh! how our hearts are bowed as we consider love's traits. Jesus was the perfect expression of love. Love is of God. Its source is not found in the human heart, but in God's. To know love and to act in love we must know God and the manifestation of His love to us.

    Does love mark us, dear fellow believer? What an intensely solemn chapter this is! Our every act, our every thought in the assembly, if to be of service and acceptable to God, must be in love; no self-seeking; no vaunting oneself; no rejoicing in iniquity, for "hereby know we that we love the children of God when we love God and do his commandments".

    All else will fail. All else will end. Love is the divine nature, for only as born of God can we love after this sort. The kindest and most amiable of human dispositions is nothing here. Love is of God. The church has received this divine life, and our measure and stature in God's assembly is the measure in which we give place to that life which we have received in the power of the Spirit.

    How this would settle the many difficulties which, alas! arise in the midst of God's people. How often it would prevent them ever arising. Our state is so frequently an evidence of how little we have been thinking and acting in love. Love never fails.

  3. All activity in the assembly is to be regulated by understanding. We are to be sober. We fear this is overlooked sometimes. We again remark that the assembly is regarded as a gathered company in these chapters. 1 Corinthians 11-14. Verses 23, 26, 34, 35 of chapter 14 put this quite beyond question. The object before each must be the edification of all.

    Apparently the Corinthians were making overmuch of the sign gifts – tongues, for instance, and were exercising them to the exaltation of man, and not to edification. The apostle corrects this error and points out that the gift of prophecy was rather to be coveted. By prophecy we are not necessarily to understand the foretelling of future events, but the announcing the mind of God for the present moment. He who prophesied spoke to "edification, and encouragement and consolation".

    "Tongues" were for a sign to unbelievers, and in the assembly the apostle would rather speak five words intelligently than ten thousand words otherwise. We do well to note this. Edification should be before us. And for this, those present must understand what is said. How can "the other" in the gathered company say, "Amen", if I speak inaudibly and they cannot hear what I say? How can simple souls follow if my expressions are difficult and involved? And how can ministry be for edification which is not understood? Let us face these questions, and remember that it is not sufficient to give thanks. Well, "the other" must be edified. 1 Corinthians 14: 17.

We may note that there are five things for which there must be liberty in the assembly gathered together:

  1. "I will pray with the spirit, but I will pray also with the understanding", verse 15;

  2. "I will sing";

  3. "if thou blessest", (or give thanks);

  4. "that I may instruct others"; and

  5. we may add, "let two or three prophets speak", and "ye can all prophesy", verses 29, 31.

So we find praying, singing, giving thanks, teaching and prophesying – all to be in the spirit and with understanding. And let it be remarked that these activities are not to be restricted to any particular member, for we read, "ye can all prophesy".

We would again ask the reader, does he enjoy this happy liberty? Of course, we presume all pray silently, but this is publicly in the gathered company of believers – the assembly of God.

  • We cannot regard any gathering together of Christians as answering to the mind of God unless there is this liberty for any to take part in due godly order. Women are expressly forbidden to speak in the assembly.

We have already remarked that the chapters before us do not refer to the higher spiritual privileges proper to the assembly in which, surely, "sisters" as well as "brothers" are entitled to participate.

  • 1 Corinthians relates to the order in the church of God on earth. This surely is not everything, but it cannot be disregarded, for to do so must grieve the Spirit who has given such detailed instructions for our guidance.

  • And if the Spirit is grieved we are quite unable to enjoy the blessed privileges of the assembly in its proper spiritual ground.

May God graciously exercise our hearts so that we may seek to answer to His mind in these things, and doing so not rest content with merely outward order, however necessary it may be, but in the power of an ungrieved Spirit pass from the region of what is outward to the proper spiritual ground of the assembly.


In 1 Corinthians 10 we have three classes, or companies, of people brought before us, which are distinguished the one from the other religiously. They are Jews, Gentiles, and the church of God.

  1. The Jews, as we well know, were God's earthly people. At the beginning of their history as a nation Israel was delivered from Egyptian slavery, and at length they were established as a kingdom under the reign of David in the land of Canaan.

    For their wickedness and idolatry when in that land Israel was taken captive into Assyria, and Judah to Babylon; but in His mercy God brought back a remnant of Judah from Babylon in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah.

    The fervour which at first marked this Jewish remnant soon abated, however, and a cold, lifeless, though fanatic religiousness settled upon the once favoured people.

    But all through their history they had had the great distinction of having the oracles of God: they were the custodians of the written word.

    Commands had been given by God through Moses as to sacrifice as well as to moral law, and a system of earthly religion existed, however much it became neglected and perverted in practice.

  2. The Gentiles were nations other than Israel. They were characteristically idolatrous.

    They, too, had a system of religion, differing according to their national god. But the systems were idolatrous, and we are shown the secret of the power of idolatry in this chapter which tells us that the Gentiles sacrificed to "demons, and not to God", verse 20.

    Behind the idol, influencing men's minds by dark and debased superstition, was a demon. Satan used idolatry to satisfy man's religious cravings and keep him away from God. Gentile sacrifices were idolatrous.

  3. We have seen, in a previous paper, that after the birth, the death and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus – indeed, after Jesus had been glorified – another class of persons existed.

    The church of God was formed by the coming of the Holy Spirit. The church was not a nation, but was a company "called out", as the word "church" implies – called out from all nations, called into "one body".

    This company, or class of people, was also distinguished religiously and by their sacrifice. Not an oft repeated one, as Jewish sacrifices had been, but a sacrifice once offered – Christ's sacrifice of Himself upon the cross.

We have gone into these distinctions in some detail in order to make clear the idea of fellowship.

  • The Jewish system had its sacrifice and its altar. And a person who partook of the sacrifices was identified with the altar on which it was offered. It suggested a Jewish bond of a religious kind – the commonwealth of Israel.

  • A Gentile, who ate of meat which had been offered in sacrifice to an idol, was associated thus with idolatry. It was an idolatrous bond and the idolater was identified with his idol sacrifice.

  • In 1 Corinthians 10 the apostle applies this principle to Christianity, and shows that it equally existed there and in a more emphatic way.

The sacrifice of Christ was once offered and would never be repeated. It stood alone as a complete remedy for man's ruin, an abundant answer to the question of sin.

But while there was not, and could not be, a repetition of this sacrifice, the Lord Jesus had instituted a supper on the night of His betrayal for a remembrance of Himself.

  • And the bread and the cup of this supper symbolised His body given and His blood shed and were, indeed, a memorial of Himself in death.

The bread was only bread and remained such, and the cup of wine remained what it actually was; but they were the communion of His death.

The Lord had requested His own to remember Him by partaking of this supper. But in so doing believers necessarily identified themselves with His death, of which the supper was the repeated memorial.

  • If we read the chapter we shall see that the apostle insists most strongly on this fact of identification and association.

An Israelite by his altar and sacrifice professed the true worship of Jehovah, and hence, also, the denial of all idolatrous worship. Idolatry and the worship of the one God, Jehovah, were mutually destructive of each other.

    • And the offerer was identified with his altar.

  • The sacrifice of Christ had abolished the need of the repeated sacrifices of the Mosaic law. They were but types to the Christian, for whom Christ was the great Antitype.

The Christian had no altar of a material kind. But he had a fellowship and was a participator, in common with every other Christian, in christian privileges, of which the death of Christ was the foundation.

  • And in partaking of the memorials of Christ's death he avowedly identified himself with this fellowship.

  • It was Christian fellowship, in contrast to what was associated with the Jewish altar or idol temples.

The Corinthians were in the midst of idolatry, and therefore we have details in chapter 10 which are too plain to need remark.

    • "The earth is the Lord's", verse 26.

  • Nothing that denied that could be allowed.

But this is not all. The question of fellowship does not only apply to eating in an idol temple, or to the outward forms of idolatry. It touches everything.

It is very evident that the person, whether Jew, Gentile or Christian, was always, professedly, in communion with that with which he was identified.

  • He was not only so while offering or eating his sacrifice, but always so. A few hours or days is of no account in a matter of this kind.

  • The Jew was always to be true to the one God.

  • A Gentile's idol abidingly marked the idolater.

  • A Christian, too, was always professedly in christian fellowship and was always to be true to it.

Let us be perfectly clear on this. The very thought of communion or fellowship is contrary to any limitation.

  • If we are Christians we are professedly in christian fellowship and we are at all times to be true to this fact.

It will be noticed that the bread and the cup are both used to teach us the bearing of this communion. The Lord's Supper is evidently supposed to have been taken, and the participators are called to recognise that to which they have committed themselves.

The bread is not referred to first as in the Supper, but the cup, as it symbolises that which is the basis of all communion.* The cup is the communion of the blood of Christ.

    * This is not stated as being the only reason why this order is adopted in 1 Corinthians 10. Many other reasons might be added.

The believer, in partaking of this cup, avowed his interest in the death of Christ and identified himself with it.

  • The death of Jesus became his altar, his place of communion. It had procured for him every blessing.

  • It was the ground of his being in the light as God is. 1 John 1. It gave him liberty of access into the holiest of all – the immediate presence of God.

But the death of Christ also bore witness to the fact of His rejection here, that His life had been taken from the earth. It was a Saviour who had been crucified who was brought before the soul in the Supper.

  • Moreover, it spoke also of God's judgment of sin, and told how not only offences were put away, but the offender – man in his fallen, sinful state – judicially removed before God's eye.

What lessons – indeed, deep, spiritual lessons – come before our souls as we meditate upon the meaning of the communion of the blood of Christ. We fear to limit it by what we might suggest.

  • To drink the cup is the avowal of common participation in all that the death of Jesus means –

    • the sharing in the blessed results,

    • the identification with the place of reproach,

    • and the recognition of the total removal of all that we are as of Adam's race.
  • Such a communion must surely have a very far-reaching bearing. It must apply to everything; it must be a touchstone for our souls at all times.

But the bread, or loaf, is likewise full of teaching. While the broken bread refers to Christ's body given for us on the cross, the one loaf unbroken has a striking allusion to the church itself – the body of Christ.

    • We read: "we, being many, are one loaf, one body; for we all partake of that one loaf", 1 Corinthians 10: 17.

  • It was after the Lord had broken the loaf that He gave it to His disciples and said,

    • "This is my body which is given for you", Luke 22: 19.

  • But the "one loaf" unbroken refers to the church – the one body. It is this fellowship, this common participation of all Christians as one body, which is referred to.

  • This being so, it must be evident that the act of taking the Supper is neither individual nor isolated, but can only be carried out in the recognition of the communion of the body of Christ.

    • "We, being many, are one loaf, one body", says the apostle.

  • Though there may be many persons, or more correctly members of the body, our act of partaking of that one loaf confesses a unity which abidingly exists.

  • A person cannot partake otherwise, for the bread which we break is the communion of the body of Christ. We fear this has been very much overlooked.

The thought of fellowship and the partaking of the Supper are indissolubly linked together, and we can only regard as unintelligent many ideas which are about today which refer to the Lord's supper as a purely isolated and individual act.

  • It is just the reverse. It is not isolated, for it avows that the person is abidingly in the communion of the death of Christ; nor is it individual, for we, being many, are "one body".

  • We may have occasion to refer to this point again when considering the subject of the Lord's supper itself. It must suffice here to remark that the act of taking the Supper commits the participator to christian fellowship.

  • He is to be true to this always. He is false if he denies in his practice at any time what he professes in his communion.

  • If he avers a unity to exist in partaking of the "one loaf", he cannot honestly deny this unity at other times. It is abidingly true.

How solemn and searching this is. But how lightly taken up, alas! I fear that in many circles of professed Christians the idea of christian fellowship is wholly unknown. What losers they are!

  • We must all feel, I am sure, how poorly we answer to our privileges and responsibilities in this respect. But it is a great thing to have our faces turned in this direction, and, if failure exists, let us own it.

  • There is all the difference possible between stumbling while endeavouring to walk up a hill, and quietly and contentedly walking down it.

The violation and practical denial of christian fellowship is held up today as becoming. We state it with a deep sense of shame.

  • The world, which the apostle Paul could speak of as having been crucified to him and he to it, is indulged in, and the indulgence upheld.

  • Human sects are supported, and hence the practical denial of the unity of the body of Christ.

Reader, do you seek to be true to Christian fellowship? It is very holy: it is very real. May the Lord graciously help us to be so for His Name's sake.

Page Top   Article Top


The thought of the Lord's supper and the necessarily allied question of 'fellowship' are inseparably linked with the consideration of the subject of the assembly as "come together", 1 Corinthians 11: 17,

There are two ordinances in Christianity – baptism and the Lord's supper.

  • Baptism is individual and initial – that is, it relates to a soul individually with regard to his position on earth, and introduces him to what is nominally Christian. It has nothing to do with the assembly as the "body of Christ".

  • The Lord's supper is not an individual matter, nor is it initial. It is a constantly repeated ordinance of Christianity. Moreover the assembly has been specially given the privilege of this precious remembrance of Christ.

  1. Partaking of the Lord's supper is primarily an act of responsive love. It is meaningless apart from this, whatever the symbols of the Supper themselves may set forth.

    Christ has loved the church and has given Himself for it, Ephesians 5: 25, and in partaking of the Supper we respond to His love, remembering Him who so loved us and died for us.

    The Lord's request to His own on the night of His betrayal – and, indeed, since by special communication through the apostle Paul to the assembly, 1 Corinthians 11 – is an appeal to the affections of the whole church.

    It is to be feared that many of the Lord's people have overlooked this appeal. Endeavouring, it may be, to avoid superstition and ritualistic tendencies, they have forgotten the distinct request of the Lord, "this do … in remembrance of me".

    We do not speak of it as a command, such as the Mosaic law contained; it is more, it is a request of love! And nothing can be more simple, or more precious, than this remembrance of the Lord Jesus Christ by those who love Him.

  2. We may remark, secondly, that it is necessary that believers should "come together" to partake of this feast. In a previous paper we have referred to the Lord's supper thus. Let us develop this thought a little.

    It is particularly precious that the Lord should have linked the "coming together" of the assembly with the remembrance of Himself. It is characteristically an act of fellowship.

    We do not break bread by ourselves individually, but as in communion with one another. It is the normal calling together of the whole assembly in a place; and we "come together" in response to that call.

    And what a call it is! How strongly it appeals to every heart that loves Christ and desires to answer to His request! How loudly it calls to every ready and attentive ear! It is a call of love to love and can only be rightly answered by love.

    And in coming together to respond to His love by partaking of the Supper, we are made increasingly and deeply conscious of how great His love is to all His own, and hence we love Him and we love each other. How could it be otherwise if we are real?

    What an atmosphere to be called to! Each leaving his own individual circle, we are called by the remembrance of Himself into a circle of love – divine love, expressed and responded to.

In keeping with this we may remark that the Lord's love expressed in the Supper is rather as that which He has shown to the church than as that known to us individually.

  • Of course it is the same precious love; but to fully appreciate the beauty of this memorial, we must take into our thoughts the especial and peculiar love that Christ has for the church.

  • It is true that we can each say, He "has loved me and given himself for me", Galatians 2: 20; but as gathered together, called by His request to remember Himself, it is His love to the church which is so strikingly before us. We are 'together collectively'.

It is instructive to note that the question of fellowship is introduced in the epistle to the Corinthians before the subject of the Supper is dealt with.

  • We feel this is of the greatest moment; for it is necessary to be true to christian fellowship if we are to answer to the Lord's mind in partaking of the Supper.

It is in no sense an individual act. Its very nature is opposed to the idea.

  • It is a privilege which can only be enjoyed as accounting ourselves members of the body of Christ – in the light, indeed, of the whole church of God.

  • I ask the reader's serious consideration of this point. If we cannot answer to the call of the Lord through the Supper and "come together" in the light of the church of God as members of the body of Christ, we cannot rightly partake of the Supper at all.

The "one loaf" speaks of "one body", 1 Corinthians 10: 16-17.

  • We may add that there cannot, therefore, scripturally be two companies of believers breaking bread in one locality unless in communion with one another.

  • The two loaves would be a denial of each other. There is only one body of Christ, and hence there can be only one loaf.

  • If as to fact there are two companies, and hence two loaves, we must have brought this about, and it is a very serious thing, for one of them is meaningless, if not a mockery.

We, being many, are one loaf, one body, says scripture. What a blessed unity. The one loaf represents every member of the body of Christ.

  • Oh! that they all heard the appeal, "This do". No less than the whole company is called, for the Supper is the normal occasion for the calling together of the church of God.

Taking the Supper is an act of fellowship. The failure of the present day is great, but let us not lose sight of the true nature of the Lord's supper.

We hope to consider the subject of collective privileges in a future paper; but let it be clearly understood that

    • if such privileges are past, then the privilege of the Lord's supper is past, for it is a collective privilege and not an individual one.

  • If we assume to partake of the Supper individually it is our own supper and not the Lord's. 1 Corinthians 11: 21.

It is to be feared that the enemy would rob souls of the beauty and simplicity of this feast, or lead them to ignore it. It is primarily an act of responsive love; it is necessarily an act of fellowship.

Perhaps we need scarcely add that it is not a sacrament – that is, it is not a means by which the participator receives anything through the mere partaking – 'a means of grace', as it is sometimes called.

  • To partake of the Supper rightly, the person must already be a member of the body of Christ; he must be a true believer, indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

  • It is quite contrary to Scripture to speak of the Supper as that by which we receive life or grace from the Lord.

  • It is not a question of receiving, but of answering to love already known. We remember Christ.

Needless to say it is not a sacrifice. Alas! that the enemy should have so deceived souls. Christ's sacrifice stands alone, making all other sacrifices for sin impossible, or a denial of His perfect one.

  • And, too, it cannot in any sense be repeated, not in efficacy even the memorial of it: we commemorate what has been done and done once for all.

  • Moreover, the bread and the cup remain just what they materially are – no change takes place in them, nor is there anything else but bread and wine there.

  • It is the very simplicity of the feast that adds to its sweet character. We "eat this bread, and drink the cup" in remembrance of the Lord and thus show His death till He come.

We recall that long after Moses had made the serpent of brass it became an occasion of idolatry. Hezekiah observed this and destroyed it, calling it a piece of brass. 2 Kings 18: 4.

  • We believe Satan would do the same, indeed has done the same in some instances, with the simple feast of the Lord's supper. He is attracting attention to it and placing it between souls and the Lord.

  • Alas! he has succeeded in making it an object of worship. We need not wonder if the Lord calls this sort of thing the "depths of Satan", Revelation 2: 24.

May the Lord revive in our souls the sense of His deep, deep love and adjust our thoughts and give each one of us greater intelligence and right ideas as to His supper.

  • What an immense privilege it is! If rightly understood, and spiritually apprehended, it is, as it were, a doorway through which we may pass from what is material to what is spiritual – into, indeed, the proper spiritual privileges of the assembly.

The Lord's supper answers in this respect to the type of crossing the Jordan. See Joshua 3. The reader will recall that the twelve stones were set up in Jordan and a like number erected on the banks in the land of Canaan.

  • In like manner in spirit we may pass from what is merely outward and be led by Christ into the wondrous and blessed privileges of the assembly – blessings which are wholly spiritual and which can only be known in the power of the Spirit and in association with Christ.

Page Top   Article Top


We have heard it remarked by many, with regard to their soul's history and experiences, that until they took the first step which God had shown them they did not see the second.

It is my desire in this paper to draw attention to two phases of christian experience which may be known today, and, we may add, which have ever been possible from the early days of the church's history on earth.

Since the departure, which came in during the days of the apostles, the path of faithfulness has been very individual in character. We have sought to develop this in an earlier paper. Evil men and seducers wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.

    • "Continue thou", 2 Timothy 3: 14, A.V.

  • has been the word to every heart desiring to be true to Christ from the days of Timothy to the present time.

  • And so gracious is the provision the Lord has made, and so explicit are His directions in the Scripture, that any one who desires to go in the right way need not go wrong.

    • "If any one desire to practise his will, he shall know concerning the doctrine", John 7: 17.

  • That is, if we desire to do His will we shall know what it is.

  • Possibly such an one may find himself very much isolated as far as the society of the mass of professed Christians is concerned. His pathway may be described as was the apostle's in his day,

    • "All deserted me", but "the Lord stood with me", 2 Timothy 4: 16-17.

  • But if this suffices him, his pathway will be a happy one indeed.

There is only one right path now as ever before; it lies in doing the will of God. True love is shown thereby.

    • For "Hereby we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments", 1 John 5: 2.

  • If most desert the ranks it is all the more reason why any who desire to be true should not do so.

But this demands a more detailed inquiry. We have said that the path of faithfulness has become very individual; indeed only thus is God's testimony maintained. Have we really grasped what this means?

  • The Lord will not support any attempt to reconstruct any organisation or society to be a corporate testimony – a kind of model of the whole, other than that incidentally produced by true individual faithfulness in returning to that which is proper to the whole church of God.

The church is still the body of Christ; it continues on earth in each locality where there are believers, whatever they may call themselves.

  • It also exists on earth as a whole – everywhere as one, one body. The house of God exists today. Believers are still a habitation of God through the Spirit.

But let us ask: Are believers practically answering to God's mind as to them in these respects? I am sure we must see that failure in practice has marked believers all along the line.

What then is our path? If we have been awakened to see our common failure, what is the next thing to do?

  • Is it to endeavour to start again? To make a model church? Is it to band together a section of believers on the pattern of the whole, to seek to reinstate what has corporately failed?

  • This has been done, I believe, many times, but it has only added to the confusion.

  • We may find many such bodies of believers varying according to their different light and spiritual intelligence.

  • But Scripture gives no directions to follow such a path. Reconstruction will not answer. It is a human endeavour to remedy things.

  • In reality it supposes that the church no longer exists. Because if it still exists there is no need to start anything else. Scripture is clear. We must cease to do evil. Individually we must be faithful.

I have had occasion to read some literature penned by one of whom better things might have been expected.

  • It was amazing to find that it was therein contended that to "depart from iniquity", 2 Timothy 2: 19, A.V., did not mean to depart from it as we might ordinarily understand the expression 'to depart'. It meant, so it was said, to depart from it only in the spirit of the individual.

  • It must be clear to any one familiar with Scripture that such an idea is very, very different to the principles laid down in God's word.

To "depart from iniquity" means not only to depart from the spirit of evil in ourselves, but also to depart from the practice of evil everywhere.

    • "Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men: avoid it, pass not by it; turn from it, and pass away", Proverbs 4: 14-15.

    • "Be not thou envious of evil men, neither desire to be with them", Proverbs 24: 1.

  • We need scarcely stay to prove this. But what has come before us recently makes such a remark really necessary.

  • To "depart" from evil means to judge it in ourselves, to disallow it in our ways and to go away from it wherever it may exist. It is to depart from it in the most entire sense.

To limit such an expression is to rob the passage of its force. No doubt this is what Satan wants to do.

  • And any system of teaching which is so characterised can only proceed from this awful source, however ignorant the agents may be that they are doing the enemy's work.

  • We need not marvel. 2 Corinthians 11: 13-15. We cannot be too careful in our ways!

The watchword for every faithful heart in the "last days" is "depart from iniquity". In himself first, most surely.

  • Let each one begin there. Nothing can be right anywhere else otherwise. Let each judge himself. In spirit and in practice each must do so.

  • And then, too, in our associations. How can any one depart from evil if he remains avowedly in identification with those who allow it? They may not think what they allow is evil; but if I see it to be evil I must depart from it. My conscience will be evil if I do not.

This is the first step. Cease to do evil! The Lord alone can lead us to take it. But if He has shown us so far, He waits for us to answer.

Is it asked, What shall we do then? The Lord will tell us. But if He has told us to do one thing, let us do it.

    • Abraham obeyed, "not knowing where he was going", Hebrews 11: 8.

  • This is faith. Shall we be misunderstood, condemned and blamed by the mass of believers? It may be so.

    • The apostle said, "all deserted me", but "the Lord stood with me".

  • This makes the path very simple but always exercising. It can only be trodden by faith.

We cannot link Christ's holy name with all the evil we find in the professing church.

  • And if His name cannot be linked with evil, our place is to depart from it, for we name His name.

But let us repeat – this needs faith. As much so as it did for Peter to go out of the ship and walk on the water to go to Jesus. No one can support us in such a path but Christ Himself.

    • "Let every one who names the name of the Lord withdraw from iniquity".

Our space has gone. We must reserve the consideration of the other side of our subject for our next paper.

May the Lord lead us to be individually faithful amidst all the failure of man.

Page Top   Article Top


In our last paper we considered the subject of individual faithfulness to the Lord, and we learnt that the first step incumbent upon every soul who desires to please the Lord in this day of departure is to "cease to do evil", Isaiah 1: 16. In this paper we desire to consider some of the privileges which are ours today.

The church in its responsibility as a whole has failed to answer to the Lord's mind. As a corporate witness it is not faithful in its testimony.

Nor is the remedy to be found in beginning anything fresh. Reconstruction is no remedy here.

  • Our wisdom is to recognise our common failure and seek God's mind and do His will in it all.

  • The path is one of individual faithfulness. We must not expect things to be as they were at the beginning. These are the "last days".

Then, is there an end of everything corporate or collective? Impossible!

  • If Elijah erects an altar among the ten idolatrous tribes of Israel, he builds it of twelve stones, not ten. 1 Kings 18: 31.

  • If Hezekiah sacrifices in the two comparatively orthodox tribes, his faith embraces all Israel and he offers accordingly, 2 Chronicles 29: 24.

  • And, in a similar faith, James addresses the twelve tribes, James 1: 1,

  • and Paul the apostle speaks of "our whole twelve tribes", Acts 26: 7.

  • Nothing short of the whole can satisfy faith.

And so in our day. Failure on man's part can in no way destroy what God has established on earth in the power of resurrection life by the Spirit.

There are already two sides of the truth relating to the church

  1. There is the responsible side, which is connected with man's faithfulness;

  2. and there is the privilege side, or that side which refers to the church as existing here on earth wholly in the power of the Spirit.

  • The real life of the church, her existence, is in the region of resurrection. I do not mean the future life, but the present life of the church here on earth.

  • It is a life, an existence, of which the Spirit of God is the whole power. The gates of hades cannot prevail against the church. Matthew 16: 18.

  • Failure marks man's side; the other side abides.

Moreover, inasmuch as all the proper privileges of the church and her real life lie in a resurrection sphere,

    • it is clear we can only enjoy these privileges and experience this life in the power of the Holy Spirit and as we are subject to Him.

  • But let us remember, it is open to us to do so. We may enjoy these things if we will.

  • And not only so, but Scripture has stated that, provided there is the right condition of soul, two or three together may prove this. Matthew 18: 20. We may walk in the light of what is proper to the whole.

Let us briefly consider some of the privileges which abide today in spite of all failure – privileges which are proper to the whole church of God.

  1. Fellowship abides. From the early days – when the apostle wrote to Timothy the second time – the outward bond of christian profession, the mere fact of being a Christian, was not that which constituted the bond of fellowship.

    • This was necessary, certainly, for "what part for a believer along with an unbeliever?", 2 Corinthians 6: 15, but it was not enough.

    The Lord was the bond; and faithfulness to the Lord was essential if there was to be practical fellowship.

    Hence, after the exhortation to depart from all that was inconsistent with His name, the apostle proceeds to exhort the man of God to follow certain moral qualities, positive good, and to follow these with all that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 2 Timothy 2: 19-22.

    Hence the Lord Himself is our bond. If we pursue this path we only revert to what is proper to every believer – any one may do so. Indeed, such qualities should mark all. If we are not doing so, the hindrance is wholly on our side.

    Fellowship thus becomes practically what it is in its real character – the common participation together of things proper to all.

  2. The Lord's supper abides. The request to remember the Lord has been given to the church, 1 Corinthians 11: 23-26), and the response to this request is a privilege proper to the whole church of God on earth.

    And only in the recognition of the whole church, the one body, is it possible to partake of the supper. The "we" who partake are characteristically "one body", 1 Corinthians 10: 17.

    No individual can be this by himself. It is a collective privilege still subsisting for the whole church. The body of Christ still abides.

    In a previous paper we have dwelt upon the necessity of "coming together" to respond to this request of love. Here we are considering the question of such a privilege still existing.

    The request is to remember Him "until he come", and such language surely intimates that the privilege is to abide.

    But it must be evident that to do this acceptably there must first be fellowship, for if anything supposes this, the Lord's supper does.

    It is not sufficient, let us repeat here also, for a person to be a believer. This most certainly is essential; he is not a member of the body otherwise; but the Lord is the bond, and there must be faithfulness to Him.

    If a believer continues in iniquity and I am told to depart from it, of necessity there is an end of practical fellowship between us.

    But in obeying the injunction of the Lord to depart from iniquity and follow righteousness, etc., the believer only reverts to a path open to any, a path proper to the whole. He returns to that holiness which should ever have marked the church.

    Hence, being in a position proper to the whole church of God, he may enjoy those privileges, in common with all in that path, which are theirs as members of Christ's body.

  3. The privilege of worship abides. While Scripture admits the individual, as such, worshipping, the thought of worship is usually associated with a collective idea. It is a spiritual privilege proper to the whole church.

    How blessed that such a privilege still remains! The Spirit of God is here. Christians are still a priestly house capable of approaching God and intelligently worshipping Him. But we can only enjoy these privileges as we comply with the conditions necessary.

    Moreover, the readers of 2 Timothy will be struck by the fact that a collective path is supposed to exist right on to the end, though no passage of Scripture so clearly indicates the intensely individual nature of the responsibility of the believer.

It must be borne in mind that no thought of God can fail, and the same power is available today as in any day of the church's history.

  • We fail, but that does not alter God's truth; and hence if only we are subject to the Lord and led by the Spirit, all that is proper to the church as a whole is available to us. And what a testimony this necessarily becomes.

  • By individually walking in faithfulness to the Lord and separation from all that is contrary to His name, even two or three become a testimony to the abiding character of all that lies in the power of the Spirit of God.

We have been reminded recently that 'there are no circumstances or difficulties in which saints may find themselves in this world where church principles cannot be applied or made to work.

The Lord give us to be faithful. He is coming soon!

  • The days are difficult, but there is no difficulty too great for Christ, nor for faith which rests upon Him.

  • Christ is in heaven, the Spirit of God is here, the written word abides; the church of God is here today – the body of Christ, the house of God.

  • We are well equipped, but faith is necessary, as it ever was. We cannot please God apart from it.

Page Top   Article Top