The acknowledgment that Jesus Christ is Lord is one of the great essentials of the testimony of an Assembly. As a preliminary to the instruction in 1 Cor. 12: 4 to 31, concerning the spiritual ministries and constitution of an Assembly the Apostle declares that any acknowledgment that Jesus is Lord is due to the operation of the Holy Spirit; “no man can say, Jesus is Lord, but in (or by) the Spirit of God”(ver. 3, R.V.). By Him alone the significance of the title is realised. This implies that all the believers who form the local company profess to own the authority of Christ both over their individual lives and over the gathering as a whole.
It is significant, too, that in the preceding chapter which deals with the subject of those occasions upon which they assemble and the purposes for which they do so, special stress is laid upon the Lordship of Christ. “The Head of every man is Christ”(ver. 3). The woman is to have a covering on her head as “a sign of authority” that is to say His authority (ver. 10, R.V.). The mutual relationship is “in the Lord” (ver. 11). The Supper is “the Lord’s Supper” (ver. 20).
The instruction the Apostle received concerning this ordinance was from “the Lord” and its institution was by “the Lord Jesus” (ver. 23). The actual partaking is a proclamation of “the Lord’s Death” (ver. 26). The bread and the cup are the bread and cup “of the Lord” (ver. 27). To partake unworthily is to be “guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.” “When we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord” (ver. 32).
This constant use of the title throughout the passage is obviously purposive. It enforces the claims of His authority over the entire Assembly. To submit to the traditions, precepts and doctrines of men is to reject the rights, prerogatives and rule of Christ. “Why,” says the Apostle, “do ye subject yourselves to ordinances … .after the precepts and doctrines of men?” (Col. 2. 20-22). To do so is not “holding the Head” (ver. 19). It is a refusal to accept and act upon His Word.
Where Christ is really owned as Lord in the midst, the worship of the gathered company will be led by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, whose prerogative it is so to guide. Neither will His leading be quenched by human arrangements nor will it be stultified by the interference of anyone who acts according to the impulse of his own will or natural inclination.
The title “Lord” given to Him rests upon His resurrection and His living power: “God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2, 36). Christ “died and lived again, that He might be Lord”(Rom. 14. 9, R.V.; see also 10. 9). As such He looks for obedience: “And why call ye Me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6.46). He gives a very solemn warning against a merely outward form of religion and even against certain apparently effective activity. He makes known that not all those who call Him Lord will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, but those who do the will of His Father, and that in the coming day the fact of public testimony in His Name and the accomplishment of mighty works in His Name, will be no guarantee of His recognition or acceptance (Matt. 7, 21-23).
How very important therefore that we conform, not to the arrangements and traditions of men, but to the Word of God, “the Scriptures of truth.”
Where true recognition of Christ as Lord thus exists, the authority of Whom it is ever the purpose of the Holy Spirit to establish among believers, it will by His power produce and maintain that unity which glorifies Him. They will seek to keep “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Disputes, quarrels, rivalry, jealousy, self-aggrandisement and divisions are each a direct denial that Jesus Christ is Lord. For submission to the guidance and will of the Holy Spirit and the consequent maintenance of unity, all believers should constantly watch and pray.
The only Scriptural unity is that derived from the Word of God and ministered by the Spirit of God, producing the fruit of the Spirit in conformity to the character of Christ, “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, temperance (i.e. self-control). Against such there is no law” (Gal. 5. 22-23). Only when Christ is really Lord of each heart and life, and therefore of the whole Assembly, can this fruit be produced.
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