Fundamentals of Fellowship
W. J. Burrows, New Zealand
It is most refreshing to read that excellent New Testament book 'The Acts of the Apostles'. To begin with, the best method of studying this inspired record of early Church history is that of reading the entire book at one sitting. This will give a very heart-warming, albeit humbling, impression of the life and testimony of the primitive Church. Primitive it certainly was, for the Acts introduces an entirely new beginning - the birthday of the Church - and the difficulties within and without by means of which the arch-enemy of truth sought to hinder its life and progress. Up to the time of our Lord's death there were gathered around Him various individual disciples who were attached to Him with varying degrees of faithfulness, but the Day of Pentecost brought them into an -
Entirely New Relationship
This relationship was not only with Him but with all that were His. He had left them and had taken His seat on high as the glorified Man, crowned with glory and honour; 'crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God', 2 Cor. 13. 4. The shameful cross was man's estimate of His worth. His present place on the throne of glory declares Him to be the Man whom God delighteth to honour. It is well to take our bearings from these outstanding facts, from these spiritual landmarks of the present dispensation. The Lord Jesus has been glorified in heaven and the Holy Spirit has descended to earth as recorded in Acts 2 for the specific purpose of forming the Church. Believers were no longer to be, as formerly, a mere collection of scattered units, but closely linked together as limb to limb in the human body in a living organism, henceforth referred to as 'the church, which is his body', Eph. I, 22, 23. The implications of these tremendous facts are immense and eternal. We desire to draw attention here to one feature of the life of the early Church which has been aptly called
The Togetherness of God's People
Our Lord prayed for such oneness in John 17, and it was poss-ibly the outstanding characteristic of the days immediately following Pentecost. Christians were together in preaching, Acts 2.14; in prayer, 3.1,4. 31; in praise, 16. 25; in testimony, 16. 31; and in breaking bread, 20. 7. The withering influences that make for isolation could not live in those days of first love. The unnamed cripple of chapter 3 is found in chapter 4 verse to standing with the apostles. After Saul, the erstwhile religious oppressor, had seen and heard the Lord, he was found with the disciples, 9. 27-28. Precious evidence, this, of the regenerating and unifying work of the Holy Spirit. There was indeed in those days a company which the believers regarded as their own, 4. 23. Ought we not to endeavour to capture more of this spirit of togetherness? We have everything to gain and nothing to lose in gathering with the people of God and 'striving together for the faith of the gospel'. We may reflect with thanksgiving upon the fact that there are today in our land, as in many lands, companies of believers endeavouring to manifest the New Testament principles and practices proper to a scriptural assembly. In all probability the young believers of these pages rejoice to be in association with such a company. Even though there is no room for boastful pretensions, to all such there comes, in these easy-going days, the challenge for
We should be satisfied with nothing less than warm-hearted loyalty to every phase of the assembly witness. Our strength is found, humanly speaking, in unity. Our lack of it is our weakness and our shame; 'Let the whole line advance', was the historic order that turned the tide at the battle of Waterloo. We must beware of the danger of divided interests. Many and varied are the avenues by which we may express our love to the Lord Jesus, and self-forgetting service for others. There will be no vacuum in a life of full consecration. Yet there is the ever present need for pulling together in the various activities of the assembly, which makes for the spiritual prosperity of the whole company. Habitual and inexcusable absence from the various assembly gatherings does not make for unity, rather the reverse. Let us beware of the poverty of a starved individualism, and indeed of any form of isolation which tends to weaken our appreciation of the community life of the assembly. The New Testament conception of the internal and external activities of a Christian assembly contemplates a pulling together and a pooling together in such a fashion as to make for the welfare of the whole, and for the praise of our God, whose Word declares: 'Behold, how good and how-pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!', Ps. 133.1.