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MATTER OF TIME:
TIME FOR TRUTH AND TRUTH FOR TIME
1) The Lord's Supper and TIME
WHY is it that some insist that the Lord's Supper is refreshing ?
Is it because it is simply a symbol of the death, in bruised body and shed blood, of Christ ? and that visiting this reality in the prescribed fashion is itself encouraging, for it focusses the faith ?
Partly so, for many. However, there is more in it, in the field of time.
Thus the spirit of man is NOT limited to the speed of reactions, or the accelerations or otherwise of processes, in its capacity to move in time. The DESIGNER of the UNIVERSE has made certain processes of sun and moon, of significance for the estimate of the passing of time in life, chronologically relevant, useful for determining this aspect of vital reality for man. By such means, we can look back and forward with a degree of regularity, which heightens our operability, things being relatively ordered and secure. THAT, it is part of the design. It is no use using ANY process for such a purpose, for the simple reason that many processes are neither fully understood nor relevant. It is the same in any invention: SOME things are appointed to enable certain estimates - like the fuel gauge. NOT ALL things will do; but those appointed will do so, within the limits of the manufacturer's warranty, provided it holds.
HE however has ALSO made in the spirit of man the capacity, the facility, indeed the felicity that it can rove forward and backward with the aid of memory and understanding, seeing the sequences which time is merely to measure in one aspect, helping in ordering things, in their vital reality. Thus in the Lord's Supper, man's spirit may rove back to the agony of Gethsemane, the woes of betrayal, the drama of impetuous Peter's speed of reaction and confused withdrawal, the look of Christ at Peter and its result, the mother of Jesus and John in the divine appointment of another son for her, as Christ departed; and then move further back in the weight of the passion, to the Lord's Supper being instituted, knowing the strong cries and vehement with which the Lord (Hebrews 5:7) would seek His Father's face, as this aweful anti-healing, this ghastly and ghoulish personal involvement with sin, would draw near and come like a lightning dressed in tar, to strike the face of the Saviour, inundating Him in its morose and moribund defeats, as He bore it for all who would ever be His!
This time-transcending power of the spirit of man is truly remarkable, for it is by NO means limited to episode. It can dart to a point of drama, or immerse itself in an hour of empathy, shooting forward, lagging backward, considering, pondering with graphic insight, roving along the highways and perhaps the byways of time, of events, of scenario, of turbulence and peace, with a relish which is not stopped by traffic lights, or intruded upon by atomic clocks.
Hence in the Lord's Supper, this time-traffic is stilled, and spirit communes with history, and looks to the face of Him whose it was, and in so doing, makes relish and gives worship in the living and undulled splendour of the meritorious Messiah, Himself encompassed by planned disaster, and now benevolently encompassing disaster to sin for all who have Him as Lord, since His is the power to overcome both the disease and the death which follows. The spirit of man can then move to the resurrection, to the necessary and profound breach of death by innocence, of the prisons of hell by guiltlessness and of the power of decay by virtue, so that the sentence borne, the natural and uninhibited, unimpeded, irresistible power of God simply operates. It removes with felicity the power of the grave, and proceeds to draw the sting of death and to deliver those appointed to die, to endless life.
It is NOTHING to do with the physical positioning of the resurrected body of Christ, which is securely received with welcome UNTIL the time of regeneration of all things (Acts 3:19-21), which assuredly is NOT YET! It is in type INFINITELY FAR removed from the present, indeed! It awaits, for its manifestation, His resurgence as King, at the time appointed (Acts 1:7); and till that time, it is the power of the Spirit of God which operates (Acts 1:8), while the Son Himself has gone to prepare a place for His people (John 14).
Meanwhile, the low scurryings of nation and individual, of race and fraudulent religion continue on this globe, like termites in a wood-framed house; but as for HIS people, the words that He has spoken concerning His body and His sacrifice, these are SPIRIT and they are LIFE (John 6:51ff., 6:63). "What then, if, "He tellingly chided them, "you should see the Son of Man ascend to where He was before!" "It is the Spirit which gives life," He told the amazed disciples, considering His words on eating His sacrifice! It is hard to eat what is in heaven, except by faith!
Nor does He have two bodies (Hebrews 2, Romans 8) being in ALL points like us, except sin, as far as the fleshly envelope was concerned, so that He might indeed be the first of many BRETHREN; for both Christ and the sinner are all of one, being in one format: man for man, He, the just One (Acts 3:14) came, the just for the unjust (I Peter 3:18). God manifest in the flesh, yet without sin, He came for man.
Mightily driven on account of sin (Luke 9:51, Isaiah 50:6-7), His triumphal target, and having taken the form of a man, and not something else, for such a purpose, He bore and broke it, so that He could secure for those who received Him, an eternal redemption (Hebrews 9:12ff.): as man dying, but with the eternal prerogatives of the wholly pure God, executing a breach birth from death (Acts 2:24,29-36, Revelation 1:18). So He died, to live, granting to believers among mankind, the victory; for to Him likewise it was given as man ONCE to die, and after that to come for those who look for Him, without sin to salvation, as Hebrews declares (Hebrews 2:12-15, 9:24-28). And this His coming again ? when ?
What THEN is the TIME! In Hebrews 9, written presumably decades after Christ's passion, this time was STILL FUTURE ("to those who eagerly wait for Him, He shall appear a second time (not a thousandth time!), apart from sin, for salvation" - 9:29). He SHALL appear, not IS appearing!
When the Lord returns, there occurs an event of lightning speed and flashing, of judgmental significance, of ultimate division of the human race (Matthew 24:27-51, 25:1-10), when fraud and spiritual turpitude will all be just that, and no longer grace the parlours of false churches, enhance the spiritual look of false shepherds or engrave themselves as jewellery on the breasts of false professors: then the body will be there. Indeed (Zechariah 14) on the Mount of Olives it will alight. His presence will not be a matter of notion of guesswork, when it is granted to Him to return! (Acts 1:7-11, Matthew 24:26-27). Not such is the coming of the Lord of glory!
On ALL of this the soul at the Lord's Supper may reflect, and on the marvel of fellowship permitted with the Lord Himself as the entrance of His slain body and shed blood is focussed for faith, so that the heart can talk freely to Him and the spirit commune without stain of guilt, in repentant delight at His balming presence (cf. Isaiah 59:1-2, 66:1-2). Small wonder then that this can be so refreshing, the Lord Himself blessing the act of non-mythical remembrance with His own tenderness (cf. Isaiah 32:17).
No, the Lord's Supper is nothing to do with the physical attributes of the bodily emplacement of the risen and bodily resurrected Christ; and it is something decidedly more than mere symbolic remembrance, though this is indeed CENTRAL. Because the matter is not one of physics, but of spirituality, godliness, virtue and strength given to the child of God, the heart, stirred by these symbols, is stimulated by what they convey, charged with grace in the obedience of so displaying and receiving them.
Thus the spirit enlivened by the scenes in this way evoked,
and the significance and blessings so provided, can soar to the beauty
of holiness in the presence of the Saviour, the sanctifier and the Son
of God. It is NOT at all that refreshing cannot otherwise be; it IS that
this is ONE way in which, obediently following the directions of the Lord,
neither adding to nor subtracting from His word, the whole soul can be
blessed and refreshed (I Cor. 11:24-25).
2) THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH AND TIME
There is a view and it regrettably is not uncommon, that one can be a Christian and worship God anywhere, with no aid, and everywhere, with no provisions, so that one need not actually go to a church as organised, authorised and ordered by Jesus Christ, who placed His name on the institution (cf. Ephesians 1:22-23, 2:19-22, Matthew 16, I Timothy 3:15). Set on the foundation of Christ (I Cor. 3:11), stabilised by His basis, it holds up the glory of the truth. True, many churches are astray, did stray and will stray; relevantly true, to be sure, there is to be a massive departure of many bodies wrongly using Christ's name as if churches. These may be of the type, 'synagogues of Satan', as Revelation pungently expresses this genre (Revelation 2:9, cf. II Thessalonians 2:7ff., cf. II Peter 2:1ff., I Timothy 3:1-6, II Timothy 4 etc.).
However there is NO MANDATE FOR THE DEMISSION OF THE CHURCH, for its dis-assemblage. The church does not lapse. On the contrary, its life is guaranteed (Matthew 16:18). Again, let it be freely acknowledged that the foulest abuses have been committed in the name of the Lord, by those who misuse its doctrine, corrupt its teachings and usurp Christ's own authority*1 (cf. The Shadow of a Mighty Rock pp. 1061-1065). Yet this does not countermand Christ. Even the gates of hell itself, the Saviour decreed, would not prevail against Christ's Church (Mt. 16:18). Founded on the Rock which is Christ (Matthew 16:18, Psalm 62:1-3, I Cor. 10:4), it is proof against dissolution. It cannot fail; for HE upholds it.
This, however, His Church, is not what contradicts Him, but what resounds from His word, and embraces Him (Psalm 2, John 21:18ff.), neither altering His physiognomy, nor defiling His word with plus or minus, like Pharisees and Sadducees respectively, and disrespectfully. Indeed, such antics can dismember what is the figment pretended as Christ, while a new Jesus is made, inoperative, idolatrous, a mental mirage, plagiarising the Prince and indicting the rebels who so seek to arrest His government (II Corinthians 11).
Of all this, much has been said, and we are today concerned rather with what is often just an individual feeling or desire: Leave the church! Cease any attendance! It frequently comes, this sliding, as a personal and subjectivistic slant. It is just something that people often WANT to do! Rather than organisational torpor and presumption, it appears more as a matter of individualistic éclat and flight from reality. Amazingly - but what is not in that category in the heresies of this earth! - it is asserted that the concept of the church with a MINIMUM OF TWO MALE ELDERS (I Timothy 2:9ff., Titus 2:1-7; cf. A Spiritual Potpourri Chs. 9-10)... is unnecessary. Just glide along how you will!
The CONCEPT! It is the word of the
Lord that it be so, so that things be "set
in order", as Paul expressly directs Titus
in the epistle to Titus (1:5).
Unnecessary ? Yes, but only if God is unnecessary; for the word of God is wholly opposed to it. Titus is told by Paul to ordain elders, plural, in EACH city where they had been. Obviously, some cities would have but one church. The mission outreach was small in numbers of workers. The time when Paul stayed was sometimes quite short. Thus if 'EVERY city' would have at least two elders, and churches were planned so that they had to be in order, then that appears the Biblical plan: two elders per church in any site. Indeed, in the case of Ephesus, there was evidently a large body of elders (Acts 20), to whom Paul spoke. We read: "He sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church."
In fact, it does not say "of the churches", but "of the church". The church is considered ONE entity in Ephesus, and it has "elders", who are then called, and labelled as "supervisors" (Acts 20:28) to whom the Spirit of God had given that function. The same "church" designation (in the singular) is used of Jerusalem, with its thousands of believers (Acts 15:4, 2:41,47). Independence is from man, not from God; and His is rather a molecular association, than an atomic mist! There is integrity, yes; but as far as may be, integration: to be sure, this is not with compromise as is popular, but with desire that does not cease. Good things are not made bad by their misuse; it is the misuse which is to be neglected, not the good thing!
Further, the church was to be obedient to the sound leading of the leaders (who 'watch over your souls'), we read in Hebrews 13:17. How can elders bear the burden of government, without those whom they are to attend, being present! How can any have their administration if they are not present to recognise it! How can you play football if you kick the ball against the back fence! What sort of a game is that ? Whatever it is, it is not football. So here: this is the way it is to be done, as laid down by Paul, master-builder in the church of the living God (I Corinthians 3). THIS is the structure of the New Testament church. It is like a body with MANY MEMBERS WITH DIFFERENT FUNCTIONS (Romans 12:4-9). Are we to minister with various gifts to one another, in absence, like a surgeon who does long-range surgery by telescope, in a fog!
THIS body is what the church is. Something else is not it. If you are hunted and your life is under threat, you may hide; but this is not the case in view. It is one where each Christian belongs to some church, organised, with elders, with many members, ministering one to another, in sincere love. It is one where there is specialisation and availability to all of the abilities of each. It is one where there is readiness for co-operation in it, and beyond it, in the body of Christ: and the Church IS as His body (Ephesians 1:22-23 cf. Isaiah 26:19, without the added words which some add, not present in the text!).
Now, however, another leap away from the church may be made. This time, the idea is manufactured that when the BIBLE became complete, then the situation of which Paul and Christ spoke would no longer apply. THEY said what was to be in the organised structure of the church, but they did not realise, or did not bother to incorporate the information in their instructions about the church, to qualify them in any way. Secretly, when the Bible canon was complete, by some magic the need to obey what you are told by the Lord somehow drops off in this matter, and you act quite differently. That is the view, it seems, of many.
Does it not however remind you of Luke 6:46, "Why do you call ME Lord, Lord, and not do the things that I say!" It is the person who DOES what He says who is compared by Christ, in that context, to the man who builds his house on a rock, which withstands storm. It is Christ who saves, but which Christ ? One whose commands you can pass by, supersede, superior to their meek requests! It is not in rebellion that one recognises one's Lord, but in obedience (John 14:21-23), and indeed, according to HIM, this is also how you show love to HIM. Without love, God is not near, for God IS love (I John 4:7ff.).
What then is this monstrous theory ? It is this: that somehow the completion of the canon of Holy Scriptures would annul, would end the rule of Scripture. The perfected body of doctrine being present, no more would you need the sober and godly, spiritually minded pastor described in Titus 1:6-10, and elsewhere, who must be apt "both to encourage with sound teaching and to convict those who speak against it". This is the way it has to be; this is the plan, the prescription, the order of battle, the battle plan, the strategic requirement of the Lord.
The idea of surpassing all that ? It is certainly audacious, if intended to relate at all to the Bible; but of course, it is wholly misguided, a nebulous, nugatory innovation, not to be found in the word of God at all. It is found only by adding the word "not" to the word of God, like the son who SAID he would go into the field, and then did NOT go, in the parable of Christ.
You do not use helicopters for picking grapes; you use your hands, for the things are delicate. You do not use your hands for listening to the word of God, you use your ears, and THEN ONLY your hands! THEY are to do what your ears find out... The word of God is not to be treated roughly; there was a superabundance of that at Calvary. It is to be received with felicity and agility; and DONE, just as it is!
But WHY ? WHY should this disobedience about the orders for the church, be added in complete contradiction of what IS written ?
IS HUMAN REASON TO CONDEMN
THE FOLLIES OF ROME'S TRADITIONALISTIC ADDITIONS TO THE BIBLE,
ONLY TO DO THE SAME, BUT DIFFERENTLY!
Is insistence to be made that the Bible be followed, in order that it be left! Are other people who fail other commands to be noted and then joined from another direction, with precisely the same thing: disobedience!
Yet WHERE does the command of Christ concerning the church (Matthew 18:17) find its authorised negation, its termination, its overthrow ? In Paul ? Quite the contrary. It is PAUL WHO INSISTS, as we see in the above array of verses, that the Church IS the body of Christ, 'the fulness of Him who fills all in all', and that it is built on 'the foundation of the prophets and apostles, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone'! (Ephesians 2:19ff.). The stones do not fly apart.
Does authority for dismissing the command of Christ, then, lie in Peter ?
Far from it. That apostle likewise INSISTS on JUST HOW elders are to behave, not as lords having dominion over your faith, but as examples, while Paul puts it, as helpers of your joy! (I Peter 5:3, II Cor. 1:24), and tells all how to behave as one spiritual building bringing praise to the Lord, each a stone conjoined to the others (I Peter 2).
Where then is this new licence to ignore Paul, 'master builder' in the church (I Cor. 3:10), who tells us in communion that we "show forth the Lord's death until He come" (I Cor. 11:26)? It is THAT which is the terminus of the present regime, not some invention about disobeying orders: WHEN HE COMES, things develop. The oven has by then long been warm; now the contents are openly removed (Matthew 24:29ff., Revelation 19!).
Has Communion, the Lord's Supper ceased then ? Has He come ? Is He back now ? Has this vast mourning of the arrested earth (Matthew 24:30) occurred ? Not, then, according to Matthew 24, where the precise point is made that we are NOT to believe those who say, 'He is in the desert' or in some room (as in the Mass), but that when HE comes to end this Age, THEN it will a lightning like event, from one end of the heavens to the other, while angels set about the gathering of the ... harvest of men. Matthew 28:20 is still the same: they are to go and preach and He with them in Spirit, and "I will be with you always, till the end of the Age."
And what are they to do ? PREACH ? yes, and TEACH, but teach what ? ideas they have generated in their own minds, precisely contrary to HIS ORDERS! Scarcely, for He is Lord, and if He wants to tell us, He has appointed the means, His mouth and the word of God. Thus THIS NEXT ORDER follows from THE LORD: "teaching them to obey ALL THINGS THAT I HAVE COMMANDED YOU" (blocks added). Not SOME!
Where then is the place to be found, allegedly so sure and the thing is certain, which shows that church is now not required as a place of service and worship ? Where but here, in the MIND of the person who ADDS to the word of God, what is not written, and SUBTRACTS from the word of God, what is written. That is where that new 'licence' may be found. That is precisely what is condemned in Scripture (Proverbs 30:6). That is the doctrine of men (Mark 7:7), the additions, precisely as with the Pharisees, whose doctrine Christ condemned so roundly. Those on the other hand, who are Christ's, "have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" (Galatians 5:24). Indeed, it is not merely addition, that it here at work; it is flat contradiction.
And where is this notion of any RELEVANCE AT ALL for this concept that the completed Bible means the deserted church, the neglected church, that Christ's practically operative 'body' as Paul calls it, no longer matters on this earth, because the Bible is written ? Are commands are to be ignored because they are complete! Is it not passing strange that the completion of what is written, should be deemed to nullify, to contradict what IS written! The idea is bizarre. It is certainly not to be followed by subjects of the Lord Jesus Christ!
Where then is this new authority to DISPENSE with the Bible in this matter, to be found ? Is it then in I Corinthians 13:9-12, which indicates most clearly, that there is a time when we are on earth and that in this time, we know only partly; but that there is another time coming, when we shall KNOW AS WE ARE KNOWN! When however is THAT time, in the word of God, that glorious time, the ultimate time, when time's pressures have no more has its bonds, and the spirit is free to fly without its doomed constraints! For this earth is indeed to pass away, and the regeneration of all things spoken of by Peter (Acts 3:19ff.) is indeed to come (as in II Peter 3, likewise). And this earth is to pass with heat and noise!
Is it NOW! Does the Bible then go
before the Lord comes! Is that what teaching what He has commanded to the
end of the Age means ? NOT to the end of the Age!
Let the reader apply this personally. Let him/her answer the questions this issue raises.
Do YOU NOW know God AS you are known!
If so, what about showing us this remarkable ability, this profound comprehension,
making the apostle your little child (by comparison)! But HOW did Paul
know ? Do YOU know like that ? Was he not given both the inspiration of knowledge of things divine, and the word with which to express this, as he declares (I COrinthians 2:9-13)! Did he not bind the same (I Corinthians 14:37)! Is he, the apostle Paul, as a child in comparison with you in this knowledge ? for after all, he says this - "NOW... through a glass dimly, but THEN face to face. NOW I know in part, but THEN I shall know even as I am known." If it were NOW that time, that THEN, you would make Paul a child by comparison with your prowess! After all, NOW it is as a time of children; THEN it is for maturity and full knowledge (I Cor. 13:11-12).
Having spoken of this contrast between
childhood and adult life, Paul proceeds:"FOR
now we see as in a mirror dimly". THAT is
the point in the comparison in view. If you held that what is perfect has
come now (despite the fact this is still to come with the Lord's return),
what ignorance then do you then
present to God's face, as Paul's! His knowledge then is DIM, yours face to face! Further it was the
DEEP THINGS of God which were revealed to Paul and expressed in the word of God by him
(I Corinthians 2:10-11). Indeed, what ignorance does such a view present as the LORD'S; for "when that which is perfect is come", as it does in the regeneration of all things (Acts 3:19-21), you know as you are known. If it has come now, you do that now ? And does therefore God know so little of you, as you of Him! ...NOW. For THEN, they are correlatives! Heaven forbid, for nothing is hidden from HIS sight.
Contrast Psalm 139:17-18, which makes it clear that God's thoughts towards the Psalmist were more in number than the grains of sand! Do YOU know GOD like that! Do you know as you are known NOW! Of course not. And do you see Him NOW face to face! NOW we see as in a glass darkly, says Paul, THEN face to face. THAT is what is to happen when "that which is perfect" is come! That is the vast transformation in view. Does not Revelation 22:4 show that it is in the NEW JERUSALEM coming down from heaven, where there is no more sin, that we who believe in Him, see Him face to face! We dare not add to these things! nor can we pretend.
No, a new heaven and earth in which righteousness dwells IS TO COME! as Peter says. In II Peter 3:10-13 we find the earth and heavens will pass away with great noise, and we are looking for a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. No one has noticed this happening yet! The arrival of the complete Bible did NOT bring this in, nor in any place in the Bible did it so much as hint that this would be the case; but that rather nation would rise up against nation, and the latter days would come, and the day NO MAN KNEW, when the Lord would suddenly come like lightning. If any man knew, then it WOULD have been given to man to know, but that is NOT given to man as the Lord indicated (Acts 1), for these times the Father keeps in His own authority (Acts 1:7). It is ONLY THEN that the kingdom of God is so set up.
The present time is statedly one in which "you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth", and indeed, in the process, the Lord promised to be with His servants (Matthew 28:20) as they went, till the end of the Age. That presence of Christ is now for all, having come (Acts 2) and being in every Christian (Romans 8:8-9), as a birthright (I Corinthians 12:13, John 6:51ff.); for the abiding of the Lord comes with the reception of His substitutionary sacrifice, Lordship and authentic place as the everlasting Word of God, the Son of God, and only begotten, by faith according to His word. TILL HE COME, as Paul puts it in I Cor. 11, we show forth our remembrance of His death. WHEN HE COMES, it will not be a private affair (Matthew 24:26ff., 36ff.). It will take and leave - His go, others stay! It hasn't happened yet. It comes when the resurrection comes (I Corinthians 15:50-58). We are for now to be steadfast in the faith; but "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye" the Lord is to end the Age of His being WITH US, by His coming FOR US!
THAT is the teaching of the Bible.
Such a present Age, then, is NOT in I Corinthians 13, which speaks of the time when we KNOW as we are KNOWN, which assuredly is not yet. Indeed, even if the Bible were the topic being discussed in I Cor. 13, and not the basic need of love till the time when God is clearly seen, face to face as in paradise (Rev. 22:4) which comes when the city has no more need of sun, for the Lamb is the Light (Rev. 21:23): it still would not fit. Even if this were the topic in the context of I Cor.13, and not the matter of direct vision of God and love in the interim, it is still taught that the time WHEN we know as we are known is NOT before paradise. It is when we are there and "there is no more curse" that this occurs. THAT city has no cursed presence in it whatever. That is what is taught in the word of God. The resurrection is not past as Hymenaeus and Philetus taught (II Timothy 2:13), for this being justly condemned by the apostle. This AGE is in progress, not complete.
Indeed, it is not the completed canon of scripture, but unconcealed directness in seeing God which is presented as the way when "that which is perfect is come". Prophecies in fact will be completed and replaced with total knowledge (I Cor. 13:8) WHEN THAT WHICH IS PERFECT HAS INDEED COME. That assuredly has not come yet. How then is that which is perfect, that which is NOT perfect... How is the category of the perfect to be present when in exceedingly much, it is still absent! How can you limit the Holy One of Israel by such additions to scripture, limiting it to some preference when, for its part, it makes no limit at all! The day when that which is perfect without limitation is come, is clear throughout all scripture; and it is at the resurrection and what follows in waves of judgment in due course, in the "regeneration of all things" (Acts 3:19-22). It is moreover till that time, it is declared, that Christ is gladly received into heaven as His place of abode!
The scriptures, Peter tells us, these shine UNTIL the light of PERFECT DAY (I Peter 1:19). For how long are you to study the prophecies, a light in a dark place ? Until the day dawns, says Peter. You are NOT to disregard them NOW, however, for they are the word of God, by which, every word, man is to live (Matthew 4:4), as Christ declared. Thus that DAY is not yet. The PERFECT day is not yet. Thus this is not a way to countermand Christ, Paul and Peter. You cannot do this by threshing about with I Cor. 13. It contradicts nothing but the idea that you NOW see God, face to face. THAT is not what the apostle Paul found (Philippians 3:13). It was still future, as future as comprehensive knowledge.
In SUM: That which is perfect, therefore, is not relevant, in this one matter of the complete canon; for the point is differently HERE defined in the Bible, in other terms and in other respects. We dare not ADD to the Bible, or even limit it, in order to impose our own desires or thoughts! Yet even if it were the Bible which was in view in I Cor. 13, and not as in context, love awaiting the full vision of God, it is not here to the contextual point again ; for the TIME when we know as we are known is not before paradise, when there are to be found the "spirits of just men made perfect" (Hebrews 12:23).
Scripture does not contradict scripture, and our imaginations are not that to which the Lord will bow. WHAT HE HAS SAID is what we are to do. HE HAS SAID THIS. It is NOT contradicted in any place, but in the heart of the non-conformist to Christ. NOT to conform to a State religion is one thing; not to conform to Christ is another. This is the exact opposite of the work of the Spirit of God as in II Corinthians 3:18.
But when is THAT new age, new time, to be ? It is when He who has promised completes this, "Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven" - Hebrews 12:26. There is to be a removal "of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain."
This is the target; it is not yet.
It is ONLY when we know as we are known, that we find the new liberties and post-pilgrimage joy when our works follow us and all is fulfilled, in the glade of gladness, in heaven, that we see Him face to face. There is a categorical difference between NOW and THEN! It is not a matter of small increases. It is like childhood and adulthood: a vast change. THIS is what I Cor. 13 SAYS! We who are parents especially know that THIS is what especially we want our children to KNOW, what we have said: not some 'interpretation' which circumvents our direct statements! For now, the Master builder of the church (one of those so authorised - I Cor. 3:10) ORDERS what is to be done, and neither invention nor contention will alter it (cf. I Cor. 14:37). It is a commandment of the Lord. It is not rescinded. Nowhere is it declared abrogated or annulled.
Nor is it wise so to denude the
established authority of Christ's body, the church. Nor is it just so to
deprive it of your services, nor meek to dispense with its blessings. Is
the arm to dissociate from the
body ? What then is this! It is purely and simply dislocation, what in the World War I would be called a
S.I.W., a self-inflicted wound, which some gave themselves rather than remain in the horrors and anguish of the war.
There are difficulties in the church from time to time; it is only when there is NO church which does not demonstrably contradict the word of God, that you could be alone. Is this so ? Has the promise of God then failed ? Can it be demonstrated that all churches on this earth refuse the word of God and actively rebel against it ? We know of one, and many know of others. It is not so.
There is no excuse. By faith we must find the solution to the directive, knowing the Lord is with us in such a case. Nor is it some mere assemblage unorganised, like bones tossed together in a charnel house, a death camp. It is a living body, says Paul, organised with special members, some with one thing, some with another, in rapport, and with governing authority IN the word, FOR Christ as authorised by the Lord.
Is it then to be ignored!
Is the church of Jesus Christ, the Lord, to be so treated ? Is HE of whom it is His body to be so denied! Of course, but not in the end, by HIS people! for these, they serve Him, and obey Him, and it is not the Lord, Lord, great things we have done in your name, which counts (Matthew 7:21), but simply doing the will of God. Does then the Christian fail to do this ? Scarcely, for he who is born of God does not make a practice of sin (I John 3:9). He fails, but not by design; she falls, but not without being picked up.
Let us then put aside the sin which does so easily beset us, and make straight paths for our feet (Hebrews 12:1), and remember to "obey those who have the rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you." Complete ?
Not yet: for "Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen" - Hebrews 13:20-21. It is yet in LIFE, which is in view, to be performed. Earth is in part; heaven is in full. Life is still to be a process, as in II Peter 3:18. The faith is sure, and the gospel as it was already in Galatians 1:6-9; but the pilgrimage is far from over, and the Age has its last rigors before the Lord comes like lightning in His glory, for His people, resurrecting them (I Cor. 15:57ff.).
What then ? Can we not then drift with the stream ? with the streams of doctrine (against Ephesians 4:13-16), despite the warning of the apostle BOTH to avoid this and to take part with Christ as head, in "the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share" and "causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love."
But why obey ? What you obey is as in marriage: it is done in love, in obedience, in faithfulness; for neither in church nor in marriage nor in any other thing, are we to bypass, add to or go beyond the word of God. Why does the wife (within the word of God, not against it) obey ? why does the husband as equally ordered, sacrifice for the wife ? It is all by the word of God, and it is all by love. THE WORD OF GOD is the direction to the pastor, his authority, and the pastors' office is expressly to minister it, in the Lord, and to help all, as helpers of their joy.
The terminus of all this is noted
very directly and indeed direly: "So Christ
was once offered to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for
Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation." Wait
for it, it will surely come! Don't be perfect already, for that is mere
illusion (I John 1:7ff.). THAT which is perfect has surely NOT come! The
perfect knowledge when prophecy itself passes away, it is not yet (I Cor.
13:8). Light does not yet show it all in a direct fashion, removing the
need of scripture! The perfect has come when scripture itself like a mirror,
passes into the light, which shows it all direct. The way is clear, but
it must yet be travelled till He come! Let us not break ranks, and beat
the gun, starting illicitly on some unauthorised race! but with patience
let us run... in ranks as commanded, as coherent in parts joined together
in action, as a cathedral, yes, in worship (I Peter 2:5).
There, there is a cathedral of living stones, whose builder and architect is the Lord. Cathedral stones don't lie around: they are built together. And following the great saving transactions of the Lord, predicted in Hosea 13 (e.g. v. 14), does it not remind you of Hosea 14 ? There you see the intense beauty of a garden of the Lord, with many plants. Read it! Architect, He is also gardener of grace and promoter of life (cf. The Biblical Workman Ch.8 and above, Ch.8).
What an opportunity we all now have, not lacerated by the disloyalty and heresy of many, not soured by the follies of this world, not seeking only comfort, but rather DO as He commands by showing courage and patience, discernment and obedience in love, to SHOW the world the UNITY and the LOVE which is in the body of Christ, under the authority of HIS word (not that of philosophers re-writing the command DO into DON'T), SO THAT THE WORLD MIGHT BELIEVE! You love Christ ? THIS was part of His prayer (John 17:6,23).
It is apposite here to add from a new development in February 2000, in the Anglican Church in Australia, what may give encouragement in this setting, to many, and warning to others!
There is indeed much cause for care in the current ecclesiastical mine-fields. Satan has declared all out war on the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by confusion and profusion, deceitful doctrines of devils as Peter prophetically calls them, and numerous varieties as if at some super-market for spiritual nostrums and charms, there is effort to make people putty in the propagandist hands.
This is as foretold in II Peter 2 and 3, in II Timothy 3, in I Timothy 4, in Matthew 24:24 and elsewhere, such as II Thessalonians 2. It is all part of an approach to a climax, very like the last movements of a team to the top of Mt Everest. The pressure is on, the climax is near and the efforts are vast. Christ has landed, as it were, on the beachhead of Normandy, and the devil is not pleased, far less willing for the thing to spread. Hence he confuses the issue times without number, with sects and formerly sound churches falling away into the scrum and thump of pretension without piety, ceremonies without faith and churches without the authority of the Bible.
As to that, see SMR Appendix D, and not later in this volume, Chapter 16. I Corinthians 2:9-13 tells us that both substance and words are supplied by the Spirit of God in the formulation of Scripture, which is paralleled in I Peter 1:10-12, II Peter 1:20, Matthew 5:19-20, where we find the smallest part of a letter and the smallest letter alike, in the law and the prophets, will be honoured and indeed fulfilled by God, as seen indeed in Isaiah 34:16, 59:21 and 8:19ff.. The Bible is the absolute criterion of doctrine and truth, in Christ, not because it is a book, but because it is as Isaiah puts it, "the book of the Lord". If we do not speak according to this word, he says, it is because there is not truth in us, no light.
That as seen so well in Harold Lindsell's Battle for the Bible and Bible in the Balance, has been the norm throughout history. It has of course, as with the Jews (cf. Isaiah 30:8ff.) been grossly misused, but its authority is as stated. Christ too was grossly abused, but is no less the Son of God for that; indeed, had He NOT been so abused, He would have been not deity, but devil; for fraud is no small thing in the magnificence of eternity and deity! (cf. Luke 24:24-25).
THAT is precisely what happens to the word of God, living or written, from the days of Noah (cf. Genesis 6:1-3)! It is precisely what is to ABOUND in this final phase of precisely predicted, patterned and characterised of history for our present Age, and it is, meek as a lamb in procedure, though bold as a lion in action, doing exactly as God foretold.
Thus many being offended by such falling, failing, indeed flailing churches is not to be surprised at. Indeed, Christ Himself said this: "Then false prophets will rise up and deceive many, and because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to al the nations, and then he the end will come" (Matthew 24:14).
Hence when the new Primate, or chief archbishop in the Anglican Church of Australia, indicates that he has a view of what the Bible calls sex "against nature" (Romans 1), which proceeds to characterise the former Anglican view as immature, and to make some sort of compromise by avoiding the term 'marriage' perhaps, for same-sex fornication (he does not use that term, but that is the substance, Biblically) and using some other nomenclature, like 'friendship', we are not entirely surprised. After all, this is the prophesied time when the sky, or perhaps more aptly, the pit, is the limit! (See concerning developments in Lutheranism, Stepping Out for Christ Ch. 4,; concerning Anglicanism, the same volume, Ch.5; concerning the World Council of Churches, Ch.1; concerning Rome, SMR pp. 1032-1088G.)
FRIENDSHIP, he thought, a better category than marriage for this sort of activity. How ? The Bible indicates it is a sure fire path to hell. Thus catamites and homosexuals are listed in I Corinthians 6:9 and their end is OUTSIDE THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. In I Timothy 1:10, we find them listed with perjurers and manslayers, as those for whom the law is apt, and fitting; as against all others who are, to use his words, against sound doctrine. Jude advises us that Sodom and Gomorrah, having given themselves over to sexual immorality, and in particular having "gone after strange flesh" (a synonym in the Bible for what Sodom has given its unillustrious name to, in 'sodomy'), are "set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire" (v.7). Eternal fire and friendship are an odd couple! You do not normally ask thieves to categorise and give a name to their sins; and sin in general does tend to make obtuse the judgment. Biblically, the sure way to hell is friendship, a relatively apt term! Eternal vengeance of fire is to be called in the wording of love, kindness and mutual concern!
Having ordained women priests (see A Spiritual Potpourri 10-11) in complete rebellion against what is written, the Primate proceeds down the path of novelty. This too is nothing surprising, Paul having made it clear that "itching ears", the desire for SOMETHING NEW would be a symptom specific to the Last Times (I Timothy 4:3). People so afflicted would get for themselves teachers to match, we read in Timothy here.
Maturity in the church, to use the Primate's term in this connection, is NOT going to be found by some study, unless it be that of the Bible, where "how to make moral judgments" is not hard: you believe what God, the Maker, says about HIS equipment. That is not so very hard! When you and God are equals, of course, perhaps there is room for negotiation. But any God who is your equal, or that of any church, does not have the privilege of existing. Luke 6:46 says it: "Why do you call Me Lord, Lord, and not do the things that I say!" These people, says Isaiah 29:13, "draw near Me with their mouths, and honour Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men."
If then, reader, you are offended
by these many fallings on the part of some larger churches in particular
(and cf. The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 3,
on the Uniting Church), do not be alarmed. It is all part of the disease
leading to the return of the Great Physician for His church which, though
left by many, and sought as a target by more, stands in the simple faith
of Christ as Lord and Saviour, His word as truth and His Cross such that
"God forbid that I should glory, except in
the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified
to me, and I to the world" (Galatians 6:14).
Stand firm and fast, find the church which keeps to the word of God and
keep loyally on with the work of the century, till Christ returns. This
is your place in the Lord. Serve where He commands.