Assembly Truth

 •  30 min. read  •  grade level: 8
Instances of God's own interference inside the assembly; Himself -or by the Apostles.
1. Ananias and Sapphira, as in Achan of old and Judas, Acts 5
5. Peter going to Gentiles, Acts 11:2, 3-182And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him, (Acts 11:2)
3Saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them. 4But Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order unto them, saying, 5I was in the city of Joppa praying: and in a trance I saw a vision, A certain vessel descend, as it had been a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came even to me: 6Upon the which when I had fastened mine eyes, I considered, and saw fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. 7And I heard a voice saying unto me, Arise, Peter; slay and eat. 8But I said, Not so, Lord: for nothing common or unclean hath at any time entered into my mouth. 9But the voice answered me again from heaven, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. 10And this was done three times: and all were drawn up again into heaven. 11And, behold, immediately there were three men already come unto the house where I was, sent from Caesarea unto me. 12And the Spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered into the man's house: 13And he showed us how he had seen an angel in his house, which stood and said unto him, Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter; 14Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved. 15And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. 16Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. 17Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God? 18When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life. (Acts 11:3‑18)
6. Jews in Antioch, Acts 15:1-351And certain men which came down from Judea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. 2When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. 3And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren. 4And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. 5But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses. 6And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. 7And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. 8And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; 9And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they. 12Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them. 13And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: 14Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. 15And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, 16After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: 17That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. 18Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. 19Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: 20But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. 21For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day. 22Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren: 23And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia: 24Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: 25It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. 28For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; 29That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well. 30So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle: 31Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation. 32And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them. 33And after they had tarried there a space, they were let go in peace from the brethren unto the apostles. 34Notwithstanding it pleased Silas to abide there still. 35Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also. (Acts 15:1‑35).
8. Paul will go to Jerusalem, Acts 21:1-4, 10-401And it came to pass, that after we were gotten from them, and had launched, we came with a straight course unto Coos, and the day following unto Rhodes, and from thence unto Patara: 2And finding a ship sailing over unto Phenicia, we went aboard, and set forth. 3Now when we had discovered Cyprus, we left it on the left hand, and sailed into Syria, and landed at Tyre: for there the ship was to unlade her burden. 4And finding disciples, we tarried there seven days: who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem. (Acts 21:1‑4)
10And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judea a certain prophet, named Agabus. 11And when he was come unto us, he took Paul's girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles. 12And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem. 13Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. 14And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done. 15And after those days we took up our carriages, and went up to Jerusalem. 16There went with us also certain of the disciples of Caesarea, and brought with them one Mnason of Cyprus, an old disciple, with whom we should lodge. 17And when we were come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. 18And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present. 19And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry. 20And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law: 21And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs. 22What is it therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come. 23Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them; 24Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law. 25As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication. 26Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them. 27And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him, 28Crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place. 29(For they had seen before with him in the city Trophimus an Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.) 30And all the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shut. 31And as they went about to kill him, tidings came unto the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. 32Who immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down unto them: and when they saw the chief captain and the soldiers, they left beating of Paul. 33Then the chief captain came near, and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and demanded who he was, and what he had done. 34And some cried one thing, some another, among the multitude: and when he could not know the certainty for the tumult, he commanded him to be carried into the castle. 35And when he came upon the stairs, so it was, that he was borne of the soldiers for the violence of the people. 36For the multitude of the people followed after, crying, Away with him. 37And as Paul was to be led into the castle, he said unto the chief captain, May I speak unto thee? Who said, Canst thou speak Greek? 38Art not thou that Egyptian, which before these days madest an uproar, and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers? 39But Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city: and, I beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people. 40And when he had given him licence, Paul stood on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand unto the people. And when there was made a great silence, he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue, saying, (Acts 21:10‑40)
, and xxiii. 11, &c.
No. 1. Rom. 16:1717Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. (Romans 16:17): "Mark them which cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrines which you have learned; and avoid them."
There are two words, in our authorized New Testament, which are translated by the word divisions; the word here dichostasia, is, properly speaking, dividing or divisions; the other, schisms or rents. There might be any number of rents or splits in a skin or coat, without the skin or coat being divided in twain. Division, in contrast with unity of the Spirit, is what is looked at here by the Apostle. What lay at the root of these divisions shows the outrageous wickedness of the whole thing. "For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple." (v. 18.) Paul's command, as to such, is to " mark them... and avoid them," (in the New Translation " turn away from,") and English New Testament (Ram. iii., 12) renders the same word by " go out of the way of." The enormity of the sin is marked:-If any man, instead of " keeping the unity of the Spirit," (Eph. 4:33Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:3)) and "the one body and one Spirit," (v. 4) sins against it, to set aside. It is sin (not merely against a man's own self, or a brother, but sin) against God, and Christ, and the Spirit, and the assembly, by breaking, what God had made to be one, into two. What Paul warned against is clear; any energy or action which had as its aim the setting aside of this unity. But no mention is made of whence the evil had, or might come; whether from outside or from inside. The wicked mischief-makers are not named here as being inside; nor as to arise from inside (as in Acts 20:29-3329For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. 31Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. 32And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. 33I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel. (Acts 20:29‑33)). Nor was it likely, in the few weak ones at Rome, (chiefly individual believers who happened to be at Rome, &c.,) and the instruction of the letter being, too, of the most elementary kind possible, that they were from inside; the probability is all on the other side, as Paul found it there himself in the last of Acts. It was also from outside that Paul had himself had to meet the evil. See his letter to the Galatians; (see again and read Acts 15:1-51And certain men which came down from Judea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. 2When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. 3And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren. 4And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. 5But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses. (Acts 15:1‑5), and 22-31). But he had (Acts 20:29-3329For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. 31Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. 32And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. 33I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel. (Acts 20:29‑33)) to warn his beloved Ephesians of that same evil, in another, form.; it would appear from, among themselves, "Also of your 'own selves shall man arise, speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them." (See again. 2 Tim. 2:16-1816But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. 17And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymeneus and Philetus; 18Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some. (2 Timothy 2:16‑18)) " Hymenaeus and Philetus," &c.)
If (Rom. 16:1717Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. (Romans 16:17)) it had occurred inside an assembly anywhere, I do not see any difficulty; put outside of the assembly in any place, they are put out as wicked persons, and no longer looked upon as " Dear Brethren." " To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, saints as called," gives to the letter, in many ways, a peculiar interest. One thing is clear from it; viz., that an individual saint has to walk with God and please Him in every respect; and so gets the power of the assembly-truth as it is in God's mind. Saints nowadays forget this, too much. Each saint must be made of God and walk with Him; each sheep must be p sheep ere it is one in the flock.
No. 2. Divisions, properly so called, (see 1), that is dichostasia, and schism properly so called (schisma) (as in 1 Cor. 1:1010Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. (1 Corinthians 1:10)) are different things, as we shall see, if we attend to text and context.
" I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no (Greek) schisms among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment."
To divide into two that which was one, by means of the introduction of a new root or a new set of principles [as where the pure gospel of God’s grace in Christ had been received, to introduce " except ye be circumcised ye cannot be saved," which was done by a wicked enemy] is one thing; and, for various parties or sections to exist inside that which had been one, and still remained in its unity,-" the Church of God at Corinth " was quite another thing.
The Corinthians walked carelessly, and (it ought to be borne in mind, that) ere Paul wrote to them, God had been cutting off many of them for sin (1 Cor. 11:29-3229For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. 30For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. 31For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. 32But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. (1 Corinthians 11:29‑32)) even before Paul was moved to write to them and point out the evil among them, and try to stop its continuance and the continuance of the judgments of God. The supper was for the company; but each at it had to judge himself. (vv. 28, 29.) If there was evil, each was to judge himself; if he did not, the assembly was to judge the evil in judging the evildoer. If it did not, God would vindicate His own holy presence and chasten His children, lest they should be condemned with the world. Well, a trustworthy report reaches Paul, and (oh, the grace of our God!) He used their failures in particular as an occasion in which to give to all His children more light and truth. All is real; whether their standing as of God, or their failure in conduct, their inconsistency with that standing, or His grace in so dealing with them-all is real.
The first thing that Paul writes against is sects or parties, formed by schisms among them. They appear to have thought of the Church more as their Church; and of their own places and privileges in it, than as God's Church and habitation upon earth. And so God's servants in the house, which house they themselves were, were theirs also (chap. 3:21-23) as they also were God's; but they squabbled about these servants, and would have made them heads of schools (chap. 1:11, 12); men who were God's servants, and theirs, for Christ's sake. They boasted in what they had gotten-a Church, and would be masters in it. Paul boasted in Him who had gotten him, and set him for the Church universal. His servant; slave, and bondsman Paul would be, and serve Him in any humble, lowly service down here. In them, too, it went so far as that there were contentions. (v. 11.)
They used their privilege of being of the house wrongly; to God's dishonor and their own; still their sin was inside the church; and general corruption within was not like splitting the church and making it into two, and doing so upon the principles of Satan, the world and the flesh. (Rom. 16:18-2018For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. 19For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil. 20And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen. (Romans 16:18‑20).) They tried to rise out of their place and be free in nature (fallen nature), instead of being only living stones built together by God, and they fell. Paul knew his own servant's place, just like his Master, and went on with his service, in which he got breaking enough for himself, but so became, through grace, fitted of God to help them out of their fallen state. For he clave to, and loved the lowly foundation (chap. 3:10-15) which lay at the basis of all-a foundation so wondrous that everyone who built upon it in reality would be saved; if they built with works not according to God's mind, their works would all be burnt up, but the soul would be saved yet so as by fire; if the works that were built were good according to God, the soul would receive a reward. Their fleshliness, factions, blindness, self-complacency, &c., occupy him to end of chap. iv. Evidently Paul was occupied in love, not wishing to punish, but to get their souls into the
Light of the grace and blessing which belonged to them. The perception of which, in contrast with their own practical walk and conduct, would have broken them down and restored their souls.
Then comes their unholiness, as making a faction against holiness and Paul, and sheltering an incestuous person. But Paul's treatment of the case throws much light upon what our conduct, if in the Spirit, should be under the circumstances, and what the points are which we ought to guard.
A sin of the flesh, and that too in a most abhorrent form-such as the heathen would not even have named-was the occasion of their being puffed up. (chap. 5:1, 2.)
Observe it. There was a door of escape from the censure; if any had been free from fellowship with the rest in evil, any poor weak one that had stood for holiness might have mourned before the Lord, in order that he that had done this deed might be taken away from among them. Instead of which they were puffed up. There were no (not even a few) Annas, not even one to sigh and to cry for the abomination (as in Ezek. 9 and 11.). None save Paul (v. 5) were awake to the enormity of the dishonor put on God; none pitied the soul that had sinned; none thought of Christ and the Spirit and the assembly. But, through mercy, Paul stood firm for holiness (v. 3) and for the unity of the Assembly, and for God's way of staying the plague in the assembly, and for saving the soul of the chief offender in the day of the Lord Jesus. None at Corinth had, in their weakness, identified themselves with God against the evil. Paul's alternative was a sad and solemn one, if they persisted in the evil. There, where the name of the Lord Jesus was owned and submitted to, was God's Assembly: they that were such would gather together and act with his servant, Paul, endued with the power of the Lord. A solemn alternative, if the worse came to the worst; but an alternative which Paul had authority and power to carry out, and God and Christ would sanction him in doing; viz., to test the assembly, and to act out God's mind together with those, that owned it and leave all the rest for God to deal with. Paul and John and Peter, &c., had the power requisite for the equally awful act of judgment in the form referred to (v. 5), the delivering, to Satan. The assembly has it not, though, acting with God, it is able, as we shall see presently, to act is similar cases to the one before us, But that responsibility and ability to use it rests with the assembly as such. The assembly, having exercised its mind, and everyone in it his, as to how far it has been compromised by and to past evil, and what the Lord would have it as a whole do with the unrepenting sinner in its midst, can, after every effort has been made to restore his conscience; shut him out of it, as a wicked person who will not repent; for the Holy Spirit is in the assembly, and we have His word; and even (in chap. 5:6, 7, 8) the word of His grace, for such a case of leaven. If the assembly as such, and conscience in all, have been appealed to, and all has been done in order to reclaim the erring one; yet without avail, the honor of God, and of Christ, and of the Holy Spirit demands, at the hands of the assembly, the exclusion of such a person from it. The assembly as such must sanction what has to be stated about the person, whether it be to the saints only, as it might be in. some cases, or before the world also, as in such a case of incest sanctioned at Corinth; but the dishonor must be removed from the name of God and His assembly. If the person is restored in soul, and really repentant, the assembly, but it only, can receive back. The action was always of the assembly as a whole, and not of a pastor or pastors, elder or elders. Besides, in enforcing holiness, we must remember that it is the assembly only receives, or excludes, or receives back again. And every caution and means should be taken to maintain this, for thus only every individual in the assembly is made to see his or her act and deed in the assembly's actings. Of course, in an assembly of the aged and infirm, and of others-it may be true of many an Anna-there may be those who, themselves not able to enter into a case from personal sickness or other reason, trust it all, with prayer and lively faith, to God. To a godly soul there is no difficulty, if God wills that I leave a matter with Him, in my doing so. It is the prayer of the hidden ones which often keeps up and restores strength in the assemblies. A few more Annas and Simeons, what a gift from the Lord would it be to us in our day! Had there been one Anna at Corinth, evil would not have gone to the length it did.
But God is sufficient for us, and His way is best.
In chap. 5:9 we read, referring to some letter which God has not seen fit to give us, " I wrote to you in an epistle not to company with fornicators," (not of this world, for then must ye needs go out of the world; but) " not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such a man, no, not to eat.... Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person." From the surface, or at the first sight, of this passage, " company with," " keeping company with," look as if what was meant was that outside intercourse which a man has with a worldly man in business of any kind. But this is set aside by the apostle's adding, " not of this world, for then ye must needs go out of the world."
Moreover the meaning and use of the word is much stronger than would express such casual, outside intercourse. It is a compound word made up of three words, SUN, together with; And, thoroughly; and MIGNUMI, mingled. The last (mignumi) is used (Matt. 27:3434They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink. (Matthew 27:34)) of the vinegar mingled with gall, given to our Lord on the cross; and again (Rev. 8:7; 15:27The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up. (Revelation 8:7)
2And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. (Revelation 15:2)
), fire mingled with blood, and a sea of glass mingled with fire; and again (Luke 13:11There were present at that season some that told him of the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. (Luke 13:1)), blood mingled with sacrifices; and its noun is used (John 19:3939And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. (John 19:39)), a mixture of myrrh and aloes. To me it seems that the compound word expresses that which we call " the intimacy of loving friends " more than aught else. But take it in its least forcible meaning. I deal with the man of the world, and have intercourse with him in business, without any question of how far his principles and morality are those of a Jew or of a heathen. L would like to confess Christ before him, and to be known in my principles and morality as not a man like those who have a name to live whilst they are dead, a mere man of Christendom, but a true living member of that body of which Christ is the glorified Head; but if any man is called a brother (a member of Christ Himself, and not only in the outside kingdom), and an immoral walk or ways are found to be his, confession and prayer and every effort to arouse his soul come in; and, if without success, I can at least break off all intimacy with him, and cease to take a meal with him The assembly, as such, will have to act for God, and itself, and for him, too; but, as an individual, if he be unholy, and I cannot reclaim him, I withdraw from him all voluntary companionship, and tell him I do so, and why. The assembly may be called to act, and may prevail to -restore him, and, if so, that would change my course as to him and me together. I must not act capriciously toward another, for my Lord's sake and my own as subject to Him But if a Christian in early days could not walk up to the standard of a Peter or a Paul, to his own satisfaction in the Spirit, a Christian in these latter times should still be aiming at that, trying to live to Christ, who wills that they that live should live unto Him. (2 Cor. 5:1515And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. (2 Corinthians 5:15).) And thus he cannot bring his walk down to what the walk of persons in the assembly may be, but has Christ Himself to seek, and what was according to the original standard. I have Often had to do this, but I told it not save to the one whom it affected. And I must say, painful as it was to do it, the Lord owned it remarkably.
I have been asked, does " Put out from among yourselves that wicked person " (the extreme act of the assembly) put him back into the world where he was before he professed to believe? I answer, " Yes " and " No." " Yes, and Satan is the god of the world." ":No, the man is not before God, my God, where he was before he professed to believe." If a Hebrew came to Christ, and gave up the bullock and the rams of the great day of atonement (types), and took to (the anti-type) Christ for atonement, and then turned his back on Christ, and went back to Judaism, " he had crucified for himself the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame." (Heb. 6:4-8; 10:26, 27, 294For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 6If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. 7For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: 8But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned. (Hebrews 6:4‑8)
26For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, 27But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. (Hebrews 10:26‑27)
29Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? (Hebrews 10:29)
.). Such an one had other things written about him by God in these passages, and the aspect was altogether different from " Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:3434Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. (Luke 23:34).) Preach the gospel, beginning at Jerusalem" (Luke 24:4747And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. (Luke 24:47); Acts 2:1414But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: (Acts 2:14), &G.), and their aspect is to be to me what it is to God. Take again Paul's word. If he had delivered anyone to Satan " for the destruction of the flesh that the spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord," the man is, in mine eyes, in a new position to what he was ere converted. If the sin was unto death of the body, and pronounced so by an apostle, I could not pray for that sin to be forgiven in this life. (1 John 5:1616If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. (1 John 5:16).)
It is a very solemn thing to be put outside of the assembly of God, and ought to be thought of as such. Has God a habitation upon earth? and has anyone been excluded from it? I am sure distance and reserve towards him of the whole household which has put him outside as a wicked person, becomes each one who remains in it, who knows and honors that house and the God who dwells there; and such, too, is the path of love toward the man himself. My relationships are as much interfered with, the assembly having put him out, as if an apostle had; for an apostle was but a servant of the Church; and who could conceive such a thing as Paul finding Timothy or Titus walking as friends with a Hymenaeus or Alexander (1 Tim. 1:2020Of whom is Hymeneus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme. (1 Timothy 1:20)), or with Philetus? (2 Tim. 2:1717And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymeneus and Philetus; (2 Timothy 2:17), &c.) The very notion is incompatible with any truth about God, His house, the fellowship of the house with God, and with the servant whom God had 'used in such judgments.
But Paul did not put out this wicked person for our sakes, because God would have us to see how the assembly itself could act; and truly the apostle was glad to have it so, and felt bound not only by the assembly's act of exclusion, but by its act of reception again. It will not do to say, " But, then, they had signs close at hand, and there are none such now." For is it the presence of signs of power which is to rule in our minds? or the presence of the living God in His house, and His written word as our guide? But of this more hereafter.
Observe, it is not hidden evil within a man, but overt action, which shows that we do not discern and judge ourselves, which calls for correction outwardly.
In one place Paul names some in an assembly to which he wrote; they were discovered by him, but their outside conduct being fair, perhaps, they were not detected by others. What is within a man is all known to God, and if I do not count myself dead to it as sin in the flesh, but allow myself to act upon it, it is known to me if I am living with God; but as to a witness for Him before others, overt action has a more important place. The Lord knew all along who and what Judas was; the apostles did not; when the spirit of the man began to come out before men, the case was changed. So perhaps in Phil. 3:18, 1918(For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) (Philippians 3:18‑19).
No. 3. 1 Cor. 11:1717Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse. (1 Corinthians 11:17); The disorder at the table. In verse 18, divisions should be read schisms (as in chap. 1:10); then, too, apparently instead of its being one supper common to all, each took his own supper with him, and one (the poor man) was hungry, and another (the rich) drank too much. (vv. 20-22.)
The supper was given by the Lord Himself to Paul for us, by the Lord then in heaven. (vv. 23-26.) And observe it once again. The Lord having been offended there, death and sickness had been sent on men, because their spirit and conduct were not consistent with the discerning the Lord's body, even ere Paul wrote this letter.
2 Cor. 2:5-115But if any have caused grief, he hath not grieved me, but in part: that I may not overcharge you all. 6Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. 7So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. 8Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him. 9For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things. 10To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ; 11Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices. (2 Corinthians 2:5‑11) are to be noted. Paul had not acted in his power over the assembly (1 Cor. 5 and 2 Corinthians -5-11), but left the assembly (roused by him) to act; and they had found grace to judge themselves and the sin they had sanctioned, and to put out as a wicked person him that had done this. God's honor cared for, and evil judged, God acted with them. Overwhelming sorrow came upon the man, and Satan, ever watchful, tried to turn it to his own purpose. Had the man destroyed himself, it would-have been no wonder, Satan being at work. But God's end would not have been gained. Paul writes to the assembly, now, again: " My grief is past; your chastening of the man has broken him down, he is overwhelmed; receive him, and restore him; I beseech you confirm your love to him." Give (v. 9) proof of your obedience. If (v. 10) you forgive him, so do I: for what I forgave, it was for your sakes, in the person of Christ, that I forgave it. (v. 11.) He had forgiven something, perhaps what the man had done against himself, and he beseeches them to think of the man himself, and restore him.
2 Cor. 7:4-164Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my glorying of you: I am filled with comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation. 5For, when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears. 6Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus; 7And not by his coming only, but by the consolation wherewith he was comforted in you, when he told us your earnest desire, your mourning, your fervent mind toward me; so that I rejoiced the more. 8For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season. 9Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. 10For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. 11For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter. 12Wherefore, though I wrote unto you, I did it not for his cause that had done the wrong, nor for his cause that suffered wrong, but that our care for you in the sight of God might appear unto you. 13Therefore we were comforted in your comfort: yea, and exceedingly the more joyed we for the joy of Titus, because his spirit was refreshed by you all. 14For if I have boasted any thing to him of you, I am not ashamed; but as we spake all things to you in truth, even so our boasting, which I made before Titus, is found a truth. 15And his inward affection is more abundant toward you, whilst he remembereth the obedience of you all, how with fear and trembling ye received him. 16I rejoice therefore that I have confidence in you in all things. (2 Corinthians 7:4‑16) should be studied. What sort of a spirit becomes those who are forced to press God's judgment on others; and what is repentance after a godly sort? These are important questions for us.
In chap. 10:6, we find a reason for his pouring out, and among disorderly persons, the light he had about evil. It might form some of them unto obedience ere he came with a rod to revenge all disobedience, when their obedience was fulfilled; for edification and not destruction was in God's mind, and in his too (v. 8), and he would keep within the line God had measured to him (vv. 13-15.)
What happened in the Galatian churches would have been a cause for withdrawing oneself from another gospel, which is not another, unless God had, in mercy, sent Paul upon the matter to them.
No, 4, 2 Thess. 3:6-156Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. 7For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; 8Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought; but wrought with labor and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: 9Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. 10For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. 11For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. 12Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread. 13But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing. 14And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. 15Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. (2 Thessalonians 3:6‑15): "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition (doctrine handed down) which ye received of us." The doctrine here referred to was (v. 10), " If any, will not work, neither should he eat." And he adds on (v. 14), " If any obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed." Yet "count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother." (v. 15)
To be sure! A child in the nursery, or schoolroom, or in the family, must be trained to good habits (v. 10), and to submission to parental authority (v. 14); yet he does not lose his place of child, brother, &c., if, having been naughty, the rest of the children or school are told to withdraw or shrink from him, until he has confessed his fault. Suppose it were the rule:
No. 1. Meals to be eaten when lessons have been said; " and, if one child having snatched his meal before lessons were ended, a second child despised another order-No. 2. " Do not speak to a disobedient child," and would speak and play with it, and got a bad mark for so doing, and were put into a room by itself, no one would count either the one or the other to have lost its place in the family. Family, nursery, and schoolroom correction may have died out, since the world got into its dotage`; but in other days many a household of love and order witnessed such things, to the correction of evil in the little ones, but to the present prayerful grief of the nurse, governess, parents, &c.
Also, as it seems clear to me, that if Paul had sent Timothy to abide at Ephesus (chap. 1:3), Timothy, as a wan sent down to instruct, could not set about leaving the house or the table (as some that are unwise would have done). If there were any there who rejected his teaching, he might withdraw himself, refrain from such, but he was told to teach inside, and not to go or to put outside; so I have no such idea as that this is a case of excommunication, or putting outside of the house of God—no, but of correction inside the house of one who might have lost all but his place at the table. " To be sent to Coventry," that is, no one of your companions allowed to play with or speak to you- though you are not out off from the meal table-is a serious punishment to a child.
No. 5. Sundries: 1 Timothy is Paul's letter to Timothy about the maintenance of doctrine (chap. 1:3; 6:3-5); he is told as to those that are destitute of the truth-supposing that gain is godliness, &c. (v. 5)-" from such withdraw thyself." The words " from such withdraw thyself "are not in the better MSS. The word is aphistemi, " withdraw, depart from, refrain from." It would not alter the sense if inserted. And (v. 20) he is to avoid (turn aside from), ektrepomai, (the same word as in chap. 1:6, 15, is translated turned aside). Clearly a man sent down to instruct a family or a college would not set about either turning the children out or leaving the house himself. If there were any there who rejected his teaching he might withdraw himself from such." It was Paul who bade him bide there, even that he might charge some nut to teach other doctrines.
Again, 2 Tim. 2. 16: Timothy was to shun "vain babblings." Two had been led away through them to err (to miss the mark or go astray), saying that the resurrection was past, and overthrowing the faith of some. Then (v. 19) " depart from iniquity " is the word to everyone that names the name of Christ (or " the Lord " as the MSS.). This is addressed to us (each) also, as to Timothy.
So again, from those that had the form of piety, but denied the power of it (chap. 3:5); he was to turn himself aside. Compare with Rom. 1:29-3129Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: (Romans 1:29‑31), and you will see that the evil to be turned aside from was as bad as that among the heathen; only it was intensified by being in the place, and under the pretense of light.
Titus was left at Crete to set in order things which remained, and to place elders in every city. " As I appointed thee " gives to him the authority of one carrying on Paul's work so far. (Chap. 3:10.) " A heretic," after having twice admonished, he was to reject (or have done with) knowing that such an one is perverted, being self-condemned.
Defectiveness of doctrine does not make it to be heresy, nor is all error heresy. What constitutes heresy is, it is the fruit of " human mind and will having been at work in connection with doctrine." The word heresy means " a choice " (from " to choose "). If the evil is present in an upright mind, get the thing once clearly before his mind and he will be set free. If a second time the mind turns back to it, there is reason to fear that there is want of ingenuousness, his having turned away from it before (after the admonitions) condemns him, if he turns back to it. For he had admitted that the root out of which his doctrine flowed was a bad one. His will had been at work. Its reappearing looks as if he had changed his doctrine without giving up the root of it. "Reject, or pass by such;" that is, do not sanction with your authority, which is from Paul, any such as teachers.
Observe, this is a final departure, upon the ground of never having had real connection with " us." But Paul, in the case of Hymenaeus, Philetus, &c., speaks as though they may have had real connection with Christ, and so might be saved in the end, yet so as by fire; but that they were withdrawn from the church militant, as having been untrue, traitorous to their Master in the war, and had not repented thereof.
2 John 7-117For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. 8Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. 9Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. 10If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: 11For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds. (2 John 7‑11). A deceiver goes forth, not confessing Christ coming in flesh. He is a deceiver and antichrist, and is no more to be received by a Christian than a Mohammedan would be. He wants to pass himself off as a Christian teacher! Do not know him, or say, " How do you do," to him. How senselessly stupid, more so far than would be a religionist of any other name, is the Christian who accredits and lends his sanction, in any way, to one of whom John says, " He is a false teacher, a deceiver, an antichrist."
In Rev. 22:1111He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. (Revelation 22:11), the righteous and the holy are called to separate themselves from the unjust and filthy; and afterward those that meet God's mind go into the city; and they that have not met His mind are shut out forever.
P.S. The living energy, the wisdom and love and care for God in His assembly, for it under Him, and for all in it-by God the Holy Spirit, as filling and acting in and through each apostle, must be seen in action in the Word itself. I have taken a few fragments out, to enable me the better to study the detail of directions either to the assembly or to the man of God, in it. But they must be seen in their connections with the life and heart, mind and soul, of an apostle, for all their beauty to appear.
Remark this: Through the mercy and grace of God the principle of every evil which has ever come out against Christ and His church, since Pentecost, was allowed of God. to germinate and bud while there were yet apostles on earth, in., order that we, led by God, might see the fuller development of the evil in aftertimes and various places in our own circumstances, and also the judgment of the Holy Spirit, through the apostles, upon that particular evil, now fully opened near us, though then, perhaps; showing itself only in germ.
Take dislocated fragments, and you unavoidably get away from the mind and, power of the Spirit of God, on the one hand; and, on the other hand; from all the human affections of the apostles as to what is good.
God's word gives to me, in the histories of men from the commencement; a mirror of what is in my own heart as to sin. It is Scripture which is the book of experience to the simple saint.
Those experiences I cannot exhaust in my tiny life, nor find around, me all the evil which is in contrast with God. The word. is so full that, as I judge; no evil caw appear which; is not found traced out in some history or other, for, my instruction May my soul, in the secret of God's presence, learn the seeds of evil so as to judge them and to avoid the development of them. If there be self. discernment in, God's presence, and self judgment by us, there need to be no broken bones or rebukes from the assembly, or chastening from the Lard. Judge all when you are inside the veil with God and Christ.
The whole scope and range of the new name of God (as revealed in " Father, Son, and Holy Spirit ") is the question in the assembly; and this as revealed in and through the Son of man, and wrought out from Him, by the Holy Spirit, in living apostles. God that Himself made and makes the assembly, is Himself the keeper of it; though allowing man, world, and flesh and Satan to discover themselves, the meanwhile, in and by outward connection with it; while they that walk humbly before Him are preserved and kept.
The above is an extract from a larger manuscript.