There are hundreds of societies, clubs, unions and associations usually having one special purpose. In many of them a Christian would be quite out of place; others, from a natural standpoint are quite good, and fulfil a useful function in modern life. The less we have to do even with these, however, the better it will be for our Christian life and for the assembly to which we belong. This latter consideration is very important indeed because the assembly consists of individual Christians and the contribution that each born-again member is able to make to its corporate life will to a great extent determine its success or failure. After all, we have only so much time, so much energy, and so much money to spend – so much and no more. If we are wise we will wish to use the little we have to the very best advantage and not to dissipate it in a variety of directions. The converts of Acts 2 found out very quickly the best fellowship.
No organisation of men, no matter what their purpose, can compare to the glorious fellowship of the people of God. It has the best leader. Affiliations of men do not forget to advertise the fact if they have a member of the Royal Family or a peer of the realm as their president, even though his membership is often only nominal. The Church of God, the fellowship which started at Pentecost, has Jesus Christ (Who is King of kings and Lord of lords), as its Head and He is not merely a figure head, but takes the deepest interest in the youngest and humblest member.
Earthly clubs are bound together by rules and generally rely on one point of contact only, it may be work, hobby, or politics; some special interest holds the members together though they may have nothing else in common. They are like apples in a barrel, kept together by outward bonds. The members of the fellowship of Acts 2, however, were kept together by quite a different principle (more like apples on a tree, united, supported and developed by one common life), which embraced every interest – they “had all things common.” (v. 44). This is a superior fellowship or union in every way. In it you meet the very best people, the aristocracy of heaven. One of the greatest blessings in the lives of most Christians is the fellowship of God’s people. Despite failure to reach the ideal and despite what detractors say, there is more love among Christians than anywhere else on earth. Every Christian can testify to untold acts of love and kindness received from their fellows. We receive tremendous spiritual help too, in fellowship with our fellows, “iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.”
Then, too, earthly fellowship will cease. Ours is an eternal union, its members will never die out, its purposes and work have a beginning here but who knows what glorious service the Church will render to her Lord in the ages to come?
So far we have seen something of the greatness of this fellowship, and the advantages it confers on its members. There is of course, another side to the question. Any earthly club would collapse if its members failed to support it. The great Church of Christ will go on whether we play our part or not, but if the local assembly is to fulfil its functions, it will only be as each individual member shoulders his responsibility toward it. If we think of the church as a body we shall easily see each member’s responsibility. A body can only function properly if each member is healthy and active, playing its proper part as directed by the head. If, instead of this, a number of activities divide up our time, thoughts, and money, we shall really not be very effective anywhere.
There are many societies formed for Christian purposes. What about these? We have no desire to belittle the magnificent work often done by devoted souls or to pass our puny judgment on what God is pleased to use. There is no doubt some organisations fulfil useful purposes but even if God uses them because of the conditions into which the Church has drifted, it is still our responsibility to ascertain the mind of the Lord for us and to give our whole hearts to the fulfilling of His purposes. This much can be said – the New Testament nowhere contemplates such organisations. The ideal is – “One Body” – in Acts 2, “all that believed were together” (v. 44) – not divided in their interests. Societies formed for carrying out some special object or bringing into prominence some particular phase of truth find no place in the New Testament which recognises only one divinely chosen instrument for the carrying out of God’s purposes – the local church. These societies often overlap the testimony of the assembly and where this is the case there can be no doubt that the work could be done more efficiently and economically and the truth could be taught more effectively by the scripturally constituted assembly if each member were as zealous as the early converts. Christian service today presents genuine problems to many earnest souls among us – is it too much to suggest that many of these problems could be solved if we all continued steadfastly “in fellowship”? The result in those days was that “the Lord added to them day by day those that were being saved” (v. 47, R.V.).
In the next issue, “Breaking of Bread.”
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