THERE IS NOT ONLY A GATHERING unto Him which is the hope and salvation of sinners, there is a gathering unto Him which is the privilege and responsibility of believers. The first, as we have seen, is connected with His death, the second arises from His resurrection; the first is the grand subject of the Gospels, the second is the great theme of the Epistles. More than six hundred times in the Gospels our Lord is represented as ‘Jesus’ but when we come to the Epistles, with but few exceptions, He is no longer just ‘Jesus’, in the Epistles He is the ‘Lord Jesus’. In the Gospels at the institution of the memorial Supper we are told that ‘Jesus took bread’, while in a parallel passage in the Epistles we read that ‘the Lord Jesus … took bread’. This is characteristic of the Epistles, in the Epistles Jesus Christ is Lord. But why Jesus in the one and the Lord Jesus in the other? The answer is to be found in the resurrection. Between the Gospels and the Epistles we not only have His death; between these two we have His resurrection, and the resurrection means ‘that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye crucified, both Lord and Christ’. This same Jesus of the crucifixion has become the Lord Jesus, or Christ Jesus the Lord, in His resurrection.
From this it will be seen that there are implications in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus of the utmost importance to believers; ‘Unto Him shall the gathering of the people be’, not only in His death, but in His resurrection. Here there must be no picking and choosing, the truth connected with both is equally binding. We must, as believers, be gathered to Christ risen; in other words we must be brought into the truth of a living, exalted Lord. Many believers remain in the twilight of Christian experience, they stop at the Gospels and do not get into the glorious sunshine of the Epistles where Jesus Christ is Lord. The Epistles set forth the Lordship of Christ as a basic doctrine for believers. He is not only our Saviour, He is our Lord and Master, and we arc His servants. Indeed, this is the characteristic definition of believers in the New Testament, they are constantly said to be servants, or, as the original word is, ‘bond-slaves’. A bond-slave is one who has been bought by, and bound to another for his own possession. Such a one is the Christian, he has been bought by, and belongs to the Lord Jesus. A bond-servant owns nothing, has nothing, and is nothing apart from his master; and as true bond-servants we should desire to have nothing, to be nothing, and to accomplish nothing apart from the Lord Jesus. In what sense should we be bond-slaves? We should be bond-slaves to His service. In Bible times a slave bought in the open market was subject to the indispensable condition that he must be ready for his master’s service day or night. This is no less true of the believer, he has been purchased for service. The Bible is full of this truth, and the key-note is set right back in the book of Exodus when God said to Pharaoh, ‘Let my people go, that they may serve me’. We Christians have been ‘let go’ from a worse than Egyptian bondage, and God is expecting from each one of us a response of faithful service. In the words of the apostle Paul, ‘Ye serve the Lord Christ’. What dignity, privilege and honour God has heaped upon us! We should be bond-slaves 10 His will. This is closely connected with the foregoing. Of what value will our service be if it is not according to His will? We can be sadly wanting here. All so-called Christian service is not necessarily the Lord’s service. It is possible to think that we arc doing the Lord’s service when in reality we are making a great mistake. It is not enough to work for the Lord, we must work with the Lord; we must do the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way. We have no choice about this; in this matter of Christian service we must be subject to the Lord’s will. A slave knows no will but the will of his master, his master’s will dominates and motivates all his activities. To do his master’s will, to obey his master’s wishes, is the chief end and purpose of his life.
So, too, with the Christian; the Lord Jesus has claims upon us above all others, He has bought us with His blood, bought us for a specific purpose, and we fall short of that purpose if we do not give Him complete and absolute obedience. A slave cannot please himself where he shall go or what he shall do – no more can we. Anything that is done in the spirit of self-choosing or self-pleasing is a violation of the Lord’s sovereignty, and a denial of His authority. If our Christian activities are to be well-pleasing to God, they must be brought into the obedience of Christ. In the bond-servant’s life there should be no other will but His. How important, therefore it is that we should understand what the will of the Lord is! Nor are we left to grope in darkness, for in His Word He has made known unto us ‘the mystery of His will’.
From this it follows that we should be bond-slaves to His Word. For the slave his master’s word is law, and the words of the Lord Jesus are no less important to believers. We have His Word, and for us His Word is law. In things pertaining to God we have but one authority, the Scriptures; in all matters connected with Christian doctrine and practice we have but one final court of appeal, the Scriptures. This means that as bond-servants of the Lord Jesus Christ, we must be constantly subject to His Word. We are men and women under authority, and for all our Christian activity we must have a ‘Thus saith the Lord.’ This is especially true of our church activity. We are thinking of the Lordship of Christ, and with this the truth of the Church is most intimately connected; in the Church or Assembly of God it reaches its highest and holiest meaning. The Church is not a religious organization, it is a divine institution of which Jesus Christ is Lord. Here His rights must be maintained, and His authority must be supreme; it has been formed on earth by the Holy Spirit for this very purpose. All of which emphasizes the importance of our seeing to it that our church life is built along the lines of God’s Word. All Christians are in some kind of church fellowship, but not all Christians are in fellowship with those who meet according to the Scriptures. Instead of being guided by the Scriptures, many simply do that which is right in their own eyes; they join this church or that church without any serious consideration of its principles and practice. Having no Scriptural convictions they drift here and there like ships without rudders. The fact is, we have no right to please ourselves how we meet or with whom we meet in church fellowship. We are the Lord’s bondmen, and in this matter we must have no plan but His, and no pattern but that which is set forth in the Scriptures. (To be continued)