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THE UNITY THAT IS BEAUTIFUL, AND NOT MERELY DUTIFUL
Philippians 2 is a great chapter with an essential message.
Its vast panorama of dramatic scenery in spiritual things, the rock which is Christ, over whom the waters of splendour flourish as they become available to the citizens of the commonwealth of heaven, of which all Christians are registered members, their destinies registered in heaven (Philippians 3:20ff., I Peter 1:1-5): these things remain in the mind of the believer who loves the Lord and waits on His word.
In the form of God - WHAT but God is in THAT form! for there is no exterior which can mimic that interior, or replace it, hold or contain it - He did not esteem it a thing to be snatched at, to BE EQUAL with the Lord, declares the apostle Paul (and the Jews rightly saw just that, His words making perfectly clear claim to the fact that HE WAS HIMSELF THE LORD - John 8:58, 10:30ff., 5:19-23). Indeed, in that last quotation, He not merely claims that He DOES what His Father does, but does it in the SAME WAY, no novice or pretender, but with equal power and facility as the One who goings are from everlasting (Micah 5:1-3).
Moreover, He makes it clear it is the Father's will that HE be honoured JUST AS His Father is honoured (John 5:19ff.). If now there is ONE THING GOD DETESTS and abominates (Isaiah 42:10), ruinously mocks and utterly demolishes again and again, it is this, that ANYONE who is NOT GOD can act as if God! Will the finite, instituted by His power, become the God who made them, or be pretenders to infinity ? Isaiah is full of contempt and irony at such fiascoes of thought, pride of spirit and madness of mind (cf. Isaiah 41-48), and Jeremiah shows the pathos as well (Jeremiah 13:18ff.) as the madness (Jeremiah 10:11).
is NOT however at this realm that we principally are looking now; though
it is INTEGUMENTAL to our present interest, and basic to our concern.
The whirling world wants unity. Ah true! it kills a few million Cambodians, masses of exploited Kurds (are they not Kurds?), as if flies, allowing unlamented the children and young to be in the mountains pending the pleasures of the great; the Tutsis and Hutus exterminate; the Yugoslavs slaughter in the interests of this and that, so important; Chechnya really has to be subdued, so, perhaps regrettably, the liberty of joining becomes the lavish entreaties of bombs, bombs on bodies, waiting bodies, trapped bodies, in the city, and the world goes on after Tiananmen, Auschwitz and Siberian coolness. It is its way. That, it is the way it goes. That is how the matter is. This is its position, really.
Unity ? Oh yes, but of course, it is so, except only in principle. It cannot be expected ... a few million here, or there, but naturally!
'Church' unity, too, like that of the world, is to be for all. It is the work of the second dragon, who so agrees with the first, that he exalts him (Revelation 13:1, 11ff.). It may of course in practice embrace those with the three idols, Mary, Mass and Pope (cf. SMR pp. 1032ff.); or with another God, but at least he is ONE (Allah), even if he has no practical power to perform what is attributed to him, a difficulty shared by the lack of evidence that any one word of the Koran proceeded except from the mind of the prophet who voiced it (cf. SMR pp. 91, 829ff., 986-991): though the world does not like this to be said, for it has its ways, this world, as Christ indicated.
Indeed, His words were these concerning this world and its ruling force: "And now I have told you before it comes, so that when it does come to pass, you may believe. I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me" - John 14:29-30. Ending the course of His Messianic mission as Saviour, He goes on His self-humiliating way as garbage collector of the sins of the hearts of those who come to Him as He is (II Cor. 5:17-21, Isaiah 53:4-6, John 12:37-41)); for what He has, salvation in His covenant of grace, to the Cross and the resurrection, He dispenses freely (Isaiah 55:1ff., Matthew 12:8, Romans 6:23, 5:15, 3:23ff.). .
But the world, it does not like to be told. It prefers its neck. It knows the danger of false prophets. Christ is nice on the mantelpiece, or to be mimicked as in that other world conspiracy, Communism, which makes PEOPLE with the PEOPLE POWER to be the messiah, certain economic devices the sin, revolution the sacrifice (and it can be multitidinous), Marx the priest, his work the offering, Lenin the agent, and the bourgeois the scape-goat, carefully defining them so as to be meaningless, for in fact those of middle income posts are either saints or devils, grand philanthropists or mean minded miserables, talented lovers of God and man, sacrificial and steeped in justice and truth, or sheer monsters of depravity, or various other things, and altogether defy generalisation; for position in society and post in life, they are not the same.
His meaningless universe, thus conceived, starting from nowhere, yet means plenty, coming from nothing, and this must be seen, all of it, like the Roman Canonical Law, however self-contradictory; and it must be done, this Communist fiasco, for no good reason; for what is good to the silent and unspeakable universe!
Further, the moral-free globe is, by its word and law, in a universe made from no law, but very legal, this world is to be dominated by morals of those who insist at the point, this time, of the Siberian landscape rather than the scimitar, and of the bullet (changing the means but not the way from the Moslem procedures of the blatant past, and holy war present). It is YOUR DUTY, they declaim to their captives (kept from escape for so long by means such as the Berlin wall - not to keep out!), it is for you to make happen what must do so anyway; and you are a terrible enemy if you interfere with what needs no help from you, and what you cannot prevent, they insist to the unfaithful, before extinction from this world. Morals rate high where there are none, perhaps to make up for their absence.
For in it, moral free life goes on in a Puritanical appearance of morality, in a sad, fanatical system as tidily self-contradictory in ethics as in metaphysics, a monument to desire, while the new rulers make the aristocracy of the past look benevolent, by comparison (cf. SMR pp. 971-972), seizing for themselves their role, with the waters of the benevolent Black Sea (or Chinese equivalent), lapping at their privileged steps. So they rule who liberate ... from the life of the body itself so often, a sort of princely aid to suicide for the many who resist their irrationalities and their absurdities, their pomp and their emptiness.
these things must be unified, says the world (and our Lead
Us Not Into Educational Temptation! volume exhibits the precise
force with which this is being pushed, even in schools)! The son-free Allah
and the Trinity are to be united; the soul-free Communism with its yearnings
of the soul, is to be united likewise, with the agnostic and the saint.
Reason is to be united with non-reason; and the certainly, demonstrably
true, objectively (cf. That Magnificent Rock Ch.5, SMR Ch.3,
Arrows and Balms 7), is all to be one.
It is all to be one, says the United Nations, without a christ.
It is all obviously one, repeat the ecumenists of broad view. Of course,
say the narrators, nervous or trenchant; it is but one.
It is all one,
necessarily, says the militarist, for otherwise there is nothing
left for any, when we're over!
And one it is indeed, in earthly destiny for million upon million of those who suffer the sword and its various, perilous modern substitutes, in demonstration of the goodness of those who KNOW it is, and must be one for ever more, world preferably without end, if you don't mind asteroids, radio-activity and death. And after all, even that...
IS DUTIFUL UNITY. It is not really very nice. It does not exhibit a kindness
that appeals; a Saviour who can DO anything, or a touching heart to attract.
In mercy, it is dissolute, in vision it is derelict, in power it is dominatingly
impoverished, in reason it is fraudulent: in these things, strikingly like
a bully, now brash, now craven.
UNITY OF FROTH AND FORCE, IN DANCING LAYERS
IS CONTRASTED WITH
THE UNITY OF FAITH AND POWER,
IN SACRIFICIAL PREPARATION FOR HIM
WHOSE IT IS
It can have its unity, for it is delusion and force, force and delusion, dream and dance. It has no basis except in desire, and the desire is the deliquent desire of those who want to RUN what they did NOT MAKE! It is known as rebellion, and its endeavours to achieve unity in rebellion are doomed to a combination of force, farce and fiasco, along with cruelty and domineering cravings, pent up and released from time to time, as in Stalin, Mao, Hitler and to come, the Man of Sin, whom the Bible predicts (II Thess.2), when they REALLY GO INTERNATIONAL, and the Chunnel no more excludes the war-party from power.
But that! it is for but a little time, and the devil is quite frantic for the short time left for his exhibitions of vainglory, unfounded in truth, confounded in fact (Revelation 12:12): "Therefore rejoice, O Heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time."
MEANWHILE, however: "AND THEY OVERCAME HIM BY THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB, AND BY THE WORD OF THEIR TESTIMONY, AND THEY DID NOT LOVE THEIR LIVES TO THE DEATH." That is what precedes Rev. 12:12 above. In practical terms, it gives opportunity for heroism, necessity for fidelity and tests the unwary.
Here is the unity composed of BELIEVERS IN THE TRINITY, whose is the power to create, to redeem and to regenerate, to control history and foretell it, to fulfil His promises and do what He says, and to do enough for a family which is unified in HIM. The power is His and He uses it (Ephesians 1:19, Acts 2:22-32, Ephesians 3:15, I Peter 2:5,9-10, Revelation 12:10; 19-21).
is not to murder those who do not believe, with scimitar or burning Roman
fire, or more recent butchery in Yugoslavia (SMR pp. 920,
It was to make an offering which He has made already, and it is to receive
it, as so made.
It is unite about the love with which it came, and in the mercy with which it was offered, to know it and to show it (Ephesians 3:15-21). It is absolutely exclusive of those who do not believe; and it is absolutely inclusive of those who do believe, who want and receive it.
It includes from ALL races (and not just in hope); from ALL income groups (and not just in some imaginary preference for social machinery or manipulation conveniently, as in Cambodia, where the deaths were directed to many who had leadership); from ALL capacities and qualifications of talent; from ALL history, and from ANY time, backwards or forwards. It includes those of vast brilliance and of but meagre capacity. It is not directed to form, but to faith; not to capacity, but to incapacity, to capacitate what is incapacitated, spiritually, to give life to the dead (Ephesians 2:1-1, 4:17ff.). But it does not FORCE the corpse to come alive. It does not MOULD the corpse for some better beatific mortuary. It receives those who come, and to them, it gives life (I John 5:11-12).
IT? But it is the Lord JESUS CHRIST who is the officer, the functionary, the judge, the Saviour, the exponent of power and the exhibitor of humiliation (John 5:19-22). It is to HIM that the benefit comes, from HIM that the grace was shown (John 1:11-17): HIS is the SACRIFICE and to HIM is the sovereignty. HE is personal, and His way is with persons who love Him.
This is that greater unity such that, over the heads of all the scheming substitutes with false theology (cf. SMR pp. 857ff., 864ff., Barbs, Arrows and Balms 30), false christs and perverted substitutes, unconscious compliments to His unique place as undefiled amongst all, and incapable of just criticism from any, of those both in false pseudo-Christian presumptions (cf. II Cor. 11), and false political assumptions (cf. Lead us Not into Educational Temptation!) . It is to be found in the hearts of those for whom He is the living Lord*1; in the word of God and from the living Word of God, who came to save, who comes to judge, on whom all things devolve.
It is NOT a unity to be achieved by COMPROMISE; though it will require CONCERN, and requires a reason from those who claim it. It is NOT a unity which is founded on FORCE, though there is power sufficient and to spare for its receivers, who relish the SOURCE more than the course, and serve out of love, not in desire, however muted, to possess this world, which passes away (Matthew 24:35).
is a UNITY in the WORD of GOD, in the CHRIST who is GOD MANIFEST, in the
sacrifice which redeems (Hebrews 9:12-10:14), made on the Cross, in Him
who made it and who rose to show the power of the Creator is also in the
Saviour (Romans 1:1-14), who with His Father is always allied, eternally
co-existent (John 17:1ff., 8:58); for God is not any isolate, but the very
founder from His own Being, of the whole concept of love, intimacy and
society, as well of the integrity of the individual, in the world of mankind.
THE UNITY WHICH REFRESHES
THIS is that unity which refreshes, because it is not achieved, but placed like the universe, into existence within the hearts of those who follow His word, and are founded on His redemption. It is refreshingly DIFFERENT, refreshingly DYNAMIC and refreshingly DESIRABLE. It gives what it says, says what it gives, and at that, still outdistances all in the reality, like that found when one visits a much publicised resort, only to find that strong as the words were, it is only when one SEES (John 3:3), that one realises the wonder of the thing.
is the will of God to bring ALL things into this, some by exclusion self-imposed
but sovereignly recognised and implemented; some by inclusion because coming
to Him, they are not cast out, and known by Him, they are received.
THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH
? Yes, the Church
Let us see some barbs, some arrows and some balm
in this focus of the divine grace, that governed by God,
that Church which HE has founded
may show the wonders of His name:
not mistaken for something else,
not merging with the world, the flesh or the devil,
but active in faith, true to the faith,
so that a vehicle of blessing be found, a living letter
with the mercy of God inscribed on its watermark.
1. Its Beauty
It is, without doubt, a beautiful
thing, the Christian Church, when it moves as designed, and that is in
Him as living Lord, giver of truth, whose word is written first in His
book, the Bible, and then in the hearts of those whose inscriptions are
those of the pen of truth from the Lord of life, on repentant hearts, now
new-formed in Him, whose they are. Thus Psalm 133 tells
us : "Behold how good and how pleasant it is
For brethren to dwell together in unity!
"It is like
the precious oil upon the head,
Running down on the beard,
of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments.
It is like the dew of Hermon,
Descending jupon the mountains of Zion,
the LORD commanded the blessing -
Mount Hermon, in its lofty beauty, snow in its purity, oil in its soft and lubricating mellowness,a covering that moves lightly over surfaces, fragrant and good to experience: these are the images.
In fact, inquisition, lofty arrogance, ludicrous idolatry in claiming to be God Almighty on earth (cf. SMR pp., 915-916), pride and ambition, unfeeling heartlessness, dead professionalism, electric professionalism, lack-lustre performances in the line of duty: all this and much more has been wrought in the name of the Church.
How far removed from Him and His word is the grim caricature of the work of Christ, of which history has such a journey of grief, a litany of horror, as people have imagined that the kingdom of heaven can indeed be taken, not in irony, but in reality, by force! (cf. John 18:36) ... and then had the effrontery to use HIS name for their debased procedures. Fraud and deformity exist: but these are not the body 0f Christ, rather being the corpse of another Jesus who did not die to save.
The BEAUTY is found where the resurrected Christ lives (Col.1:27, II Cor. 3:18).
Symbolically, again, Jerusalem stood for this feature: "Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God will shine forth" - Psalm 50:2. There is a beauty which comes through the presence of the Lord, who breaks forth with a beauty which is conferred as He moves in the midst of His people, founded on His word and working in His will.
Again, symbolism comes into the picture as the Psalmist writes:
"Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King. God is known in her palaces for a refuge... According to Thy name, O God, so is Thy praise to the ends of the earth: Thy right hand is full of righteousness.. Walk about Zion, and go round about her: count its towers. Mark well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that you may tell it to the generation following. For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even to death."
In the next Psalm (49) we read of His redeeming even from that!
Here in Psalm 48, the language is succinct. This God who inhabits and who has sanctioned, authorised and moves within Zion, He, so made manifest, is our God (cf. I Kings 8:25-28). It is not something kept in heaven, or buried in the earth, as Paul (Romans 10:5ff.) quotes from the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 30:12-14).
It is HERE. God has said, He has come. In the Church the story is unfolded yet more. Here is the fulness of Him who fills all in all (Ephesians 1:23): here is the deposit of faith, the word of the Lord, the place where He will show His power. Here ? Where ? Wherever two or three meet in His name (Matthew 18:20), wherever they love one another in the word, in the truth and obey Him, wherever He is and is served in truth in His New Covenant, there is Zion, there is the Church.
Wherever with this, there is the humble and the contrite heart, there God draws near, to the humble who serve Him (Psalm 51, Isaiah 66:2).
It is not always so with those who use the NAME of the Christian church.
However, past the social ambitions, the professional pit-stops and the devilish cunning which so often uses the name of the Christian Church, but none of its implements, form or reality, there is and has been a beautiful thing, the Christian Church itself.
As to those who for envy, in pride, in simplicity of folly who have abused this name, what of that ? Indeed, never have so many for so long abused such a thing - except it be the word of the living God, His Son or the depths of His mercy - but it is still there. The Church is that redeemed by His blood; it is His and He made it; it is from Him, and He formed it. So great is His impact, that even where faith is absent, in the interstices of heart and conscience, most frequently the sentiment remains. In one case in the U.S., a vast denomination after being long in the thrall of weakness, suddenly arises to declare that there is now an irresolvable contradiction in its midst: there are those who believe in some unfolding faith in whatever it is to be, with Christ a sort of springboard back there somewhere or other; and those who believe in one deposit of faith, one faith once for all delivered, and who keep to it!
That? It is like someone submerged for ten years, coming up to say that it is rather difficult down there, and really, some other form of swimming should be followed! This is NOT to condone the folly of being submerged like that, but to dwell on the mercy which is so active in man, the creation of God, that seemingly impossible responses arise like cork to the surface. Nor is it to suggest that there is no tragedy; merely that tragedies of often almost comic proportions in their wildness or wiliness, though they demean the agents, do not destroy the church.
Even where uncontrolled folly moves into the seminaries, as often happens, very often indeed, despite them or in the body beyond them, the moral rectitude of Christ burns undimmed, being self-attesting; where callow conventions come to compete with the rugged beauty of the Rock, His majesty is still in splendour built. Defile in mockery, or strive for mastery in ambition, whatever the downfall of some visible 'church', yet the testimony, the word and the power remain on other lights, in other structures, like some wonderful torch never failing, always passed on (cf. II Timothy 1:8-13, 2:2).
Always there is the faith, whether in this or that location: and so it was in the Middle Ages seen in the Waldensians, whom the papacy persecuted as if they were a genuine plague, sending troops into the mountains like a primordial Hussein after the Kurds, fleeing with their children into the snowy hills.
2. ITS FOUNDATION.
I Cor. 3:10-11 makes it clear, that this is Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2 shows the whole ambit of prophets and apostles (Acts 1) to be participants, with Christ the cornerstone. Christ is given to be "the head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him who fills all in all" (Ephesians 1:23).
The word of the Lord, in other words, conjoined as is most fitting (I Peter 1:8-12), to the Lord of the word, is the immovable basis, and all is built on that Lord who has spoken, and sent and come and been crucified and is risen, and who will return.
3. ITS HEART -
is based on that God, who alone is Lord and Creator and Redeemer, who is God and there is no other (Isaiah 44;6-8, 43:10, 45:18ff.), and He is love (I John 4:7-10). Thus all sovereignty is a loving sovereignty, and all rejection is despite and not through any lack in divine love, which is inconceivable and a flat contradiction in terms (cf. Colossians 1:18-23, I Timothy 2:1-3).
4. Its LORD
is again, Jesus Christ, no mere historical figure, though it is His glory that He became such, but Lord of all who comforted His people by becoming one of them, yet without sin, and with the fulness of the Godhead dwelling in Him in bodily form (Col.2). That fulness includes His being uncreated (increate), unmanipulable, eternal, omniscient and without limit to His depth and counsel. WHY, He asks in Luke 6, do you call me Lord, Lord and not do the things that I say!
It IS ludicrous to live like that, but love covers a multitude of sins, and short of rebellion, there is always scope for growth in sensitivity, understanding, knowledge of His word, depth of acquaintance with His Person, and hence for longsuffering within His word and glory, the one member of His body toward the other.
5. ITS PARODIES
Here we must look at the clowning and the cloning which has been so unsuccessful as you would imagine, when it is a work of GOD which is being tampered with, through spiritual madness or the mists of deluded spirits.
Thus the Christian Church is:
A) NOT STAID TRADITIONALISM, worshipping the magnificence of its own formulations.
B) NOT ADVENTURISTIC NOVELTIES, clean cut from the changeless vine, ready to shrivel; but rather is it a matter of alert vitality IN the unchanging word, with the unchanging Lord in life and patience at the helm.
C) NOT SENSATIONALISTIC ABUSE OF POWER, but a contrite place where the power of God is present and ample for His will and work.
D) NOT DISBELIEF IN HIS POWER, A "FORM OF GODLINESS WITHOUT ITS POWER" as II Timothy 3 has it, in prescribing what will be near the end, predicting the distortion, abortion and folly to come.
E) NOT A MATTER
OF MISUSING HIS POWER, THE POWER OF GOD, AS IF IT WERE A POWER TOOL TO
BE DEPLOYED FOR YOUR PRIVATE OR SOCIAL PURPOSES, AT WILL.
6. ITS PRACTICES AND WAYS
a well-founded body, resting on Christ, in which there is
an abiding activity for the purposes of the Lord
following the word of the Lord
to the glory of the Lord
so that as John 14:13 tells us, the Father may be glorified in the Son.
Let us ponder some of its ways.
IN LOVE, it moves with restraint and realism, rejoicing as Paul says in I Cor. 13, in the truth, alert with sympathy, watchful to exhortation... (Hebrews 3:13).
In healing of the body, there is a sure option, but not a presumptuous base for braggadocio: healing gifts are given selectively in time and place for the purposes of the Lord. One of the greatest healing ministries outside the New Testament was that of Elsie Salmon in the forties and fifties of this century, and one of her main emphases was this: it was FOR Christ, FROM Christ and did not replace His word, His gospel, or in any way channel from Him or His work, but was an episode of His mercy within His worship, wrought at His pleasure. (See SMR pp. 339 ff..)
IN GROWTH, it moves forward in grace and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, the living saviour (II Peter 3:18), concerned for that superabundant development which Peter shows so beautifully in II Peter 1.
IN VISION, it has that magnificent facility to look upon the land which is very far off, and to behold by faith the king in his beauty (cf. Isaiah ch. 33, verses 5ff.,15ff.), sitting upon a rock, with all its weaponry secure, and its bread sure as the prophet shows. This is a blessing to sincerity under the governance of God.
Then there is the beauty of holiness, the peace beyond understanding, the depth of brotherly love ... and in all this there is some form.
IN SUPERVISION, it has a challenge to be chaste and lowly, but vigorous and faithful, both. There are easy tests at once.
Thus there are NO FEMALE ELDERS for the very simple reason that God has differentiated between male and female in His functional specifications, and has seen fit to relate this to historical performance. Actually, there is much weight in authority: it is not something to covet; and there is much wonder in counsel. Indeed, where love is, this authority specification is not onerous. Where SACRIFICIAL LOVE is, it is a delight. It is also a test. In fact, what if woman, by virtue of her specialised role in supplementing man, though fully his equal, is too readily subjected to governance, or too stridently seeking to avoid this aspect, and hence too unnatural in the role.
Obviously, it can be done; but there is risk in the church from it, in that Paul cites the Eden event. Thus woman's specialised wonders may be even more readily distortable IN THIS AREA than those of man, which, history shows, can be both atrocious and appalling enough.
On this, see A SPIRITUAL POTPOURRI, Chapters 10-11, The Significance of Specialisation, and The Dance of Life.
It is rather beautiful to commit to the church such a charge concerning elders, such delicacy being required, such tenderness; and such grossness being possible. Indeed, men have acted like untrained lions to their own fellows, and abuses innumerable have disported themselves in that false body which is ever aping the church, like some simpleton chimpanzee. It is, like the case of Eden itself, so simple a test. It is so easy to "throw it out" with the garbage, as some thing thrust into the church by - who was it again? God, I think. Yes, well you can't have it.(That is the frequent response.)
How wise is the counsel of the superficial and how glaring the hypocrisy so often found, and so soon overturned by Isaiah (8:20) -"To the law and the prophets: If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them."It is a fearful thing to fight with God, and fearfully easy when complacency has been neo-evangelically injected like some soporific till al spiritual conscience can be calmed to oblivion. 'Yes' becomes 'no', and 'no' is metamorphosed into 'yes'.
Thus you could not believe, or very nearly not, that Israel could be so splendidly stricken with folly as to have a CALF for their god, after the things the Lord did in Egypt, but they did. To revert to female elders in office, it is at least amusing that to do it one must first destroy gender absolutely by having woman the husband of one wife (Titus 1:5) who rules well his own house (I Tim.3:4); for, as Paul says, "if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?" (cf. I Tim. 5:17, 2:5, Acts 20:28). It is express, explicit, developed in fundamental principle and not at all dependent on some term or phrase, as if there were any doubt. But the detail of this theme is dealt with in A Spiritual Potpourri as above.
But eldership? When you actually study it in the Bible, how beautiful it should be, and often is. These functionaries are NOT lords over the inheritance of the LORD (anyone who is THE LORD can be lordly in the church, to others it is forbidden - Matthew 23:8-10, I Peter 5; but as for Him, His own humility which both exposes evil and performs good, it is like the refreshing cool breezes in Summer).
Now the Lord, He is so lordly that He died in the midst of cynically or corruptly comic ecclesiastics rather than let down the salvation He purchased for many. THAT is the sort of lordliness that counts. It is a priority in SERVICE, as Christ says in Matthew 20:28; for HE did not come to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many. WE cannot so ransom; but the spirit of this service will be in every elder ordained by the Lord. It is beautiful to behold.
Eldership ? that is as near as Pope can come.
But we are not to have grotesque bullies of any type, formal or functional,
let alone feeble functionaries ready to be propelled by mere popular favour, on the other side, people-pushed feathers ready to Aaronise some gold calf or other;
but rather does the Bible here prescribe under-shepherds
of eager joy
and a fearless willingness
to light the battles of the Lord
with faithful testimony,
clear courage and
ample knowledge, for an elder is not to be a novice,
a supervisor is no bait for Satan, to bring him down with pride (I Tim.3:6).
What then must an elder be ?
Lowly in manner, yet capable of meeting the fiercest wolf, casting down imaginations (II Cor. 10:5, 11:1), ready to be slandered, but spiritually adept to continue without distraction, to be killed without falling, to be imprisoned without turning, to be confronted by authorities and to rely on the Lord who said:
"I will give you a mouth and a wisdom which all your adversaries will be able to confute or to resist" - Luke 21:15.
And this, it is not limited to elders, but it is in such things they do well to excel, as Paul tells Titus, and the people of Corinth.
Elders ? What
is there place ? Stability, knowledge and loving service, with sincerity
and zeal. Not inconstant, moved with every wind of doctrine are they (Ephesians
4:12-16); and indeed, this prescription is not for elders only, but especially
for them, since they are supervisors of the flock (Hebrews 13:9,17, Acts
7. ITS FUNCTION IN FAITH
The Christian Church IS A FUNCTION OF FAITH, A WORK OF GOD.
BY NO MEANS LIMITED TO ELDERSHIP IS MUCH OF THE ABOVE, BUT the christian church has need of LEADERS WHO WILL NOT SUBMIT, WHO WILL BE MADE CAREFULLY AWARE, CALLED OF GOD. Nor do the people make them their trust, but their function is such that they need to be trustworthy.
Ministers are a type of elder, specially gifted in doctrine and preaching of the word (I Timothy 5:17).
There is no sign of hierarchy, for all you are brethren (Matthew 23:8-10, Titus 1).
THERE IS THE PREACHING OF THE EVERLASTING GOSPEL, AND OF THE WORD OF GOD MORE GENERALLY, AND THE REACHING OF SOULS THROUGH IT, whether against headwinds, or with gently assisting breezes (I Tim. 4:12-15, II Tim. 1:13, 4:1-3).
THERE IS THE TEACHING LIKEWISE OF THE WORD OF GOD (II Tim. 3:16,2:12,15, 4:2), and it is done thoroughly (Acts 20:20-27).
THERE IS CARE FOR THOSE spiritually or MENTALLY AFFLICTED (I TIMOTHY 1:5-6, and see SMR Ch.4, part 1, pp. 333-396). There is concern for those afflicted in heart, in conscience, in spirit, in life, for those persecuted, those neglected, as slaves, as prisoners of conscience but especially of faith, in China or whatever place persecutes its people or its church; but especially for the household of faith (cf. Isaiah 58:5-12). As Paul says, Do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:10).
HENCE TOO THERE IS FELLOWSHIP, FOR ALL ARE FELLOWS, AND MEMBERS ONE OF ANOTHER (Romans 12:5), but this ONLY IN CHRIST (Romans 12:5) whose lordship operates as does the head over the body (Ephesians 4:15).
And what body is it which has two heads? Of a truth, it is a monster, and that is precisely what the pathological dominion of the flesh, of man over man in any parody of the church, produces, and such are its deeds: monstrous. Fellowship, it is predominantly with the Lord Himself (John 14:21-23, I John 1), in whom is there found that richness of texture and beauty of tone which He breeds in His own. Flowing from Him, it then abounds laterally, in the security of His presence and the grace of His abiding.
IS NOT A PRISON TO KEEP IN SOME TRADITIONALISTIC SYSTEM OF MAN, NOR IS
A BAND OF ADVENTURERES, NURTURERS OF NEO-NOVELTIES.
It abides in that steadfast and stable Lord who does not change, means what He says and says what He means, knowing the end from the beginning, and how He shall cause all things to end which are temporal, and all things which inherit eternity to be (Revelation 21-22).
Stable, in a scriptural atmosphere, a spiritually honest, honourable, pure and clean domain is that of the Christian church, of which Christ is living, resident Head, whose will is sought and whose word is honoured in all its depth and detail, not with intrusive pseudo-knowledgeability, but with integrity, His people open to its imprint, not malleable to mallets from without, however mighty they may appear in their bravado. It is a body willing
to act at the will of the Head, knowing He is the truth,
to function by faith,
to confront wolves and drive them away (without mistaking pomeranians for wolves, or sincere explorers of the word for Alsatians);
to wait (without letting the roof rot)
and wait on the Lord (without making it a formality, but a function more real than waiting for water to arrive from a distant spring, through long pipes, for the Lord does not approve haste)
to pray by faith for the moving of mountains blocking its mission,
to walk by faith, in the faith once for all delivered to the saints,
to walk in the Spirit, according to the words.
Ready to listen,
unafraid to speak,
it is a corps in communion with Christ,
with an ear for the needs and
a heart for the