W. J. Burrows, New Zealand
THE fears that the subject of Christian Fellowship, with its glorious privileges and weighty responsibilities, is but little known, and perhaps less understood, amongst us.
We are living in a day that is unique. Consequent upon the death and resurrection of Christ, beginning at Pentecost and going on until the personal return of Christ, the Holy Spirit is calling out a people for His Name. His very own, in a world where for the time being He claims nothing else. Such a gathered-out people are eternally linked to Christ and each other—in the divinely-given imagery of Pauline writings, members of the one body of which Christ is the Head and " every one members one of another " (Rom. 12. 5).
This is the distinctive feature of the divine purpose for the present day. In days prior to the Cross God had a people near to Himself who were known as Israel. When on their pilgrimage to a land of plenty and beauty, they would camp at various places en route. On such occasions the 12 tribes took their respective places around the Tabernacle, and doubtless 12 flags would flutter in the breeze, as they rallied to their standards (Num. 2. 1, 2).
Now, all is changed, God has but one Standard as the gathering Centre of His people, and that One is CHRIST. Moreover, the people of God cannot now be divided into tribes or sections. The New Testament declares " there is one body " (Eph. 4. 4), and we cannot accept more than one body except we find another head ! A head with numerous bodies is just as abnormal as a body with numerous heads! We must continually cheek up our spiritual geometry. It is more easy to think in straight severe lines, than in a clearly defined circle. Remember that the best way to make a circle is to start with a centre. and your centre must be Christ.
The very moment that you trusted Christ as Saviour you were " joined unto the Lord " (1 Cor. 6. 17) and you were also, by the one Spirit, " baptized into one body " (1 Cor. 12). This is the only membership found in N.T. Epistles.
Let us pause, and praise, as we think of this amazing display of the grace of God ! As a unit, we lived in unregenerate days. As a unit the Spirit of God dealt with us ; arresting, convicting, and bringing us to the happy day of conversion. Now we have lost our identity in association with Christ. The erstwhile " solitary " one now dwells in a family (sec Psa. 68. 6), becoming a fellow-citizen with the saints and of the household of God (Eph. 2. 19). Praise His Name !
These precious truths must find expression in our lives and ways. We cannot live like " a sparrow alone upon the housetop." The mind of God for His people is not isolation but association, it is a sign of spiritual sickness when a believer, under normal conditions, deliberately ploughs a lonely furrow. We are always suspicious of the Christian who " meets with himself." John declares, " We know that we have passed from death unto life, became we love the brethren " (1 John 3. 14).
Mr. J. T. Mawson tells of an incident that illustrates this truth. While travelling on the railway en route to Edinburgh, he noted a family, comprising father, mother and a healthy crowd of boys and girls, making preparation to change trains. As father dashed off to attend to numerous trunks and baggage in the luggage van, he gave instructions to his family, " Glue together," said he, " till I come back." The application is plain, and the point easily felt by tender heart and conscience. " Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity " (Psalm 133. 1). Therefore let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together (Heb. 10. 25). The new nature is naturally clannish and aims at spiritual cohesion with fellow-saints. Indeed we are mutually necessary to one another. Yet we have heard of a Christian who is reported to have said that he loved the Philippian Epistle " because there was no mention of the Church in it." Even if this were true (and it is doubtful) it reveals a state of spiritual affection akin to the interior of a refrigerator ! How does it look when placed alongside the illuminating comment upon the work of Christ as given in 1 Thess. 5. 10, " Who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him " ?
As to those with whom we should meet, the path is plain for any believer who in simplicity and faithfulness adheres to the Word of God. Where you find a company of Christians meeting on the lines of Acts 2. 41, 42, just there you should find your spiritual home. Fidelity to the Word of God will take you there and keep you there, while close spiritual contact with the Lord Jesus, who is the divine Centre of such a gathering, will make you to be both happy and useful in the circle of such a favoured people.
In the will of the Lord, we shall pursue our subject in the next issue. One feels that sufficient has been written above to " provoke unto love and good works."