Obedience Before Power

Matthew 18:20; 1 Corinthians 5:12; 2 Corinthians 7:11; Ephesians 2:1; 1 Timothy 1:20; 2 Timothy 2:19-21
* * * You ask, Are the two last verses of 1 Cor. 5 practically applicable now to those gathered together separate from evil according to 2 Tim. 2:19-2219Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. 20But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honor, and some to dishonor. 21If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work. 22Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. (2 Timothy 2:19‑22)? And, Is it correct to refuse obedience until power come in? To the first I reply that the word of the Lord abides forever. Its authority never ceases, and obedience is always due to it. Power has nothing to do with this. Grace is needed to induce the heart to obey, but obedience is always due. The direction as to tongues has not lost its authority. Were there tongues it would apply. There are not, and there is nothing to apply it to. But its authority remains. This clears up at once the question as to 1 Cor. 5 "Put away from among yourselves that wicked person" has its own simple authority that nothing can take away. It applies to an assembly, including all saints professing to own the Lord everywhere (see address of the Epistle); and wherever a wicked person is found in an assembly, the case it applies to is there, and it is a simple matter of obedience. There are acts of power, as "I have judged to deliver to Satan." He does not say, Do you do it. He does it in all the solemnity of the assembled saints, but there is no command, but a personal act of power, as Paul says elsewhere, "Whom I have delivered unto Satan."
The declaration or exercise of a personal act of power has nothing to do with the abiding authority of a command. The power may not subsist; the command does. That it requires the help and grace of the Lord to act upon it, is no more than is true of every command in scripture. To apply the ruin of the visible assembly to sanction disobedience is a principle wholly unallowable. I cannot appoint elders. It is not a question of obedience but authority, and I have not the authority. The assembly had it not when Paul was there, nor can they assume it now. They had not power as an assembly to deliver to Satan then, they have not now; but they were bound to obey the command then, they are so now. Wherever two or three are really gathered together in Christ's name Christ is, and there is the within and the without. It is a clearing of the conscience of the assembly: "Ye have proved yourselves clear in this matter." Otherwise, the assembly would be the positive sanction, and by Christ's presence, of the association of Christ and sin; and it would be far better there should be no assembly at all than that. 2 Tim. 2 gives us the general principle of every one who calls himself a Christian, separating from iniquity, purging himself from false teachers, and walking with those who call upon the name of the Lord out of a pure heart. It is individual duty when evil has come in.
As to the second question, it is practically answered already. In bestowing power God is sovereign. When the word has spoken I am bound to obey. To refuse obedience to it is to disobey, to assume on my own will authority not to act till God chooses to do that which rests on His will.
Affectionately yours, dear brother.
Georgetown, British Guiana,
December 8th, 1868.