Jesus in the Midst or the Communion of Saints

 •  12 min. read  •  grade level: 9
Brethren,
Suffer a word of exhortation! The Lord has a controversy with us! At the very moment when we are calling ourselves “The Brethren,” and speaking of our origin, progress and testimony, the Lord is shaking us to our very center. I am afraid many of us have no higher thought, corporately, than that we belong to the Brethren, who began fifty years ago, and when we compare such a thought with Scripture we cannot find it, except as 1 Cor. 1 shows it to be, a wretched sectarian thought — human wisdom which needs to be judged by the cross. In our conversation together we talk lightly of the sectarian name, Plymouth Brethren, put upon us, and soon, I am afraid, we shall go further and accept it, as a matter of little consequence—it is only a name! Suffice it to say that 1 Cor. 1 utterly condemns it; it strikes at the root of the fundamentals of Christianity, and is a copy of the human wisdom of the Greek philosophers (see chaps. 1 and 2 of 1st Corinthians). It strikes at the root of the true nature of the Church as shown forth in ch. 3. Of God are ye in Christ Jesus, who of Him is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption (1 Cor. 1:3030But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: (1 Corinthians 1:30)). We do not belong to a teacher or a company of teachers, however blessed, but we belong to the Temple of God, and the Holy Spirit of God dwells in it. We are not “The Brethren” (called Plymouth Brethren by sectarians and the world in reproach) who had their origin fifty years ago; but we are “Brethren” amongst the many brethren of God’s large family which existed before; who, by God’s grace, have been delivered from the Church’s Babylonish captivity of many years, and have returned to the original ground of the Assembly being seated in heavenly places in Christ, to confess the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ as the source of unity, the God and Father of the whole family of God scattered or gathered (Eph. 1:1-181Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus: 2Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. 3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. 7In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; 8Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; 9Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: 10That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: 11In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: 12That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. 13In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 14Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. 15Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, 16Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; 17That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: 18The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, (Ephesians 1:1‑18)); to confess Christ as the Head of His body (Eph. 1:19-23; 2:1-1819And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, 20Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, 21Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: 22And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 23Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. (Ephesians 1:19‑23)
1And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. 4But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: 7That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. 8For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. 11Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; 12That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: 13But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. 14For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; 16And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 17And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. 18For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. (Ephesians 2:1‑18)
); and to confess the Holy Ghost as the Builder and Inhabitant of the house of God (Eph. 2:19-2219Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 22In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19‑22)). Our origin is not of teachers, however blessed and owned of God, who were used mightily of Him fifty years ago to revive truths long buried amidst the rubbish of the professing Church, but of the God who called Peter, Andrew and John by His sovereign grace (John 1); who delivered Christ up to death for our offences, and raised Him for our justification (Rom. 4:2525Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. (Romans 4:25)); and who afterwards called Saul of Tarsus from the glory, delivered him out of the Jewish and Gentile world which had rejected Christ, and sent him forth from the glory as one united to Christ, to bear witness of His glory and of the union of the saints with Him as His body and bride. Our position is not in a body that had its origin fifty years ago, but in the Christ who, after telling Mary the new relationship formed in the words,
came unto the midst of His assembled brethren, and breathed the peace upon them which He had made for them when He died on the cross, and of which He gave a proof to them in His wounded hands and side. We are in the Christ who breathed peace the second time upon them, as the Son sent from the Father, breathing into them His own life of resurrection, thus connecting them with Himself a the risen Head of the new creation. We are in the Christ who, after this, ascended up on High as man, and sent down the Holy Ghost, as the promise of the Father, to dwell in them. So that now the new fully established family of God could each, individually and mutually cry “Abba, Father!” (John 20:19-2219Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. 20And when he had so said, he showed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. 21Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. 22And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: (John 20:19‑22); Acts 1:44And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. (Acts 1:4)).
At the same time the Holy Ghost baptized them all into one body, and builded them together to be His habitation on earth. Such is our origin, such is our position! To this family, and to this body, and to this house alone do we belong, and to this we are called to bear testimony as well as to the One who is the God and Father of it. Oh, noble origin! oh, high descent! Brethren, forget it not; let no man take your crown!
The progress of the Church of God I trust you know well. I need not dwell on it. It spread wonderfully, but, alas! as it spread it declined. Zealous about putting away evil, alas! it left its first love, and the candlestick was threatened to be removed. The evil, stayed for awhile by persecution, broke out afresh in the Church getting joined to the world, by the hired leaders of Christendom. An evil system then sprang up in the very midst of the House of God, teaching idolatry — Babylonish captivity spread over the Church. The truth of the real unity of the body of Christ, and the coming of the Lord was lost, and all was midnight darkness. The cry of the Reformation sounded and there was a partial coming out, but again lapsing into a name to live and moral death reigning over the profession. Then the Holy and True One’s voice was heard, and a remnant of the sheep followed, and returned to Christ alone. But, brethren, remember, it was a remnant coming back, and not the whole. We are “brethren,” a returned remnant come back to Christ, but not “the brethren,” much less “Plymouth Brethren,” as a new body. Such has been the sad history of “the brethren” and of the house of God. And remember that there is a sad future before the House of God. Laodicean lukewarmness is to follow, and to run on parallel with, Philadelphian trueheartedness to Christ, till He comes. What is the great distinguishing mark between the two circles? It is thus with Philadelphians; Christ is all, and His Word; with Laodiceans, “the brethren” are all, as they say,
There is such a thing as an ugly corporate I, which needs judging by 1 Cor. 1, as well as the individual I, the old man of Romans.
Oh, then, let your testimony be simply Christ and His Word, leaving, nothing out, not neglecting Peter’s testimony about the rejected Jesus, now exalted, and going to sit on David’s throne, made Lord and Christ, in the meantime, giving salvation and remission of sins (see Acts. 2:30-38; 4:6-12; 5:30-32); and thus establishing the kingdom of heaven in its present shape; holding fast Paul’s testimony, as blessedly many of you do, proclaiming an opened heaven, the second man seated there, righteousness and the Spirit ministered from thence, and the Holy Ghost come down uniting believers to Christ in heaven, and to one another on earth, with the blessed hope of the return of the Son of God from heaven, the Bridegroom of His Church, to introduce her into the Father’s house before the judgments, and then to return with Him to reign over the restored earth. Brethren, let us not talk of our testimony, but proclaim it as the testimony of God, and we shall continue, to have the Holy and the True One’s smile. The love of the brethren, Philadelphia, will reign really in our midst, and towards all the scattered brethren; we shall continue to get the open door which no man can shut, and we shall be the only circle of people that, as a corporate thing, will escape the judg- ments. All other individual Christians will also; but Philadelphia only as a corporate body will cease to exist on the earth when the Lord Jesus Christ returns (see Rev. 3:1010Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. (Revelation 3:10)). Oh, then, hold fast the name of Christ; don’t let a false presumptuous name be put upon you. The beautiful name of Christ the Holy One and True is sufficient, who is not ashamed to call us “His brethren” — but remember! amongst many other scattered ones, as much, “brethren” as ourselves, though not manifesting it together. Again I say, suffer a word of exhortation, and may the faithful God lift up the light of His countenance who has called us unto the fellowship of His Son. Such is our origin, which, if we are a true witness, we shall bear witness to; such has been the progress of the Church to which we belong, and such is its testimony. But we are only “brethren” (amongst many others who are scattered) who have returned to Christ, to bear testimony to the grace that has called us back, and bears with the whole, and that will bring every brother, scattered or gathered, “the brethren,” to glory. A. P. C.
How often many of us have said, “I believe in communion of saints,” when we did not know we were saints, and thought it meant something hereafter in heaven. The Scriptures, however; have corrected our thoughts. We do not find fellowship or communion of saints in the Old Testament, nor in the Gospels. It begins after the ascension of Christ and the coming down of the Holy Ghost. The meaning of the word is shown us in Luke 5:1010And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. (Luke 5:10), when the Holy Spirit uses it to show that James and John were co-partners with Simon in the boat.
But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples.
And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side.
And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships.
And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.
And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?
And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?
And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?
Now it came to pass on a certain day, that he went into a ship with his disciples: and he said unto them, Let us go over unto the other side of the lake. And they launched forth.
But as they sailed he fell asleep: and there came down a storm of wind on the lake; and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy.
And they came to him, and awoke him, saying, Master, master, we perish. Then he arose, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased, and there was a calm.
And he said unto them, Where is your faith? And they being afraid wondered, saying one to another, What manner of man is this! for he commandeth even the winds and water, and they obey him.
In resurrection He gathers His brethren, and fifty days after He sends down the Holy Spirit to lead them into the fellowship to which all His redeemed ones are called by our faithful God — the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Cor. 2:99But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. (1 Corinthians 2:9).
Soon a great company profess His name, and speak “of the year of our Lord,” but the multitude is mixed, and many forsaking the doctrine of the apostles commence building a ship for themselves, to accomplish the voyage across the sea.
So we find “the early Fathers,” the successors to the Apostles, who add their own teachings to the Apostles’ doctrine. Their ship gets so bad that by and by new ships are built on “National Lines,” and some of their crews also bring in other doctrines, and ships are multiplied. Others become occupied with personal holiness, and inscribe on the flag of their ship, “To me to live is Holiness.”
An “Alliance” is formed to rejoice in this great flotilla, and an “Association” endeavors to make a mighty catamaran out of the whole.
Some, at length, through the Spirit’s leading, give up all the modern ships, and, gathering around Christ alone, they find the ship which was provided at the beginning, but had been lost sight of and neglected, and enjoy His presence in their midst — His path being the path of fellowship. These find themselves in rougher seas than when in their former ships, and the Master is apparently asleep. A portion of the crew, to avoid a big wave, raise the cry, let us drop the apostolic doctrine, “There is one body and one spirit,” and lowering a boat for independent companies of believers, away they go. Other big waves follow, and two other boats are lowered to the cry, “We separate from unrighteous judgments,” and they each pursue their own course; the remainder, trusting Christ in their midst ride over these stormy billows.
Now, some on the shores of Galilee, seeing boats lowered, say, let us build a new ship, “with Christ for center, and Jesus in the midst,” and let us sail out and pick up the boats. So they set themselves to this work. Another says; I cannot tell whether Jesus is in the ship or in one of the boats, but I know it is not right to build ships, so I shall cross over alone, trusting to His Word, that He will sup with me and I with Him.
We hear of only one ship arriving on the further shore, but no doubt, though the Master has been grieved with those who left His ship, He will gather all His own company around Him to be forever with their God.
Unbelief cries out loudest. The Master quietly reposes on His pillow. Let us wait like Him.
A beloved brother, now with the Lord, has warned the crew against painting the boat.