In the New Testament we get adequate instruction for the individual life of the Christian. In the same book we find guidance for family life. Many beloved brethren in Christ would agree with this, but when they come to the third area, church gathering, they say that the New Testament plan cannot work today. This amazes me. Why would the Holy Spirit fail to give us workable principles for church gathering? How can we say the guidance He gives is inadequate or positively wrong? What alternative source of guidance do we go by? Human wisdom, tradition, modern psychology? In what other areas have these succeeded in helping the Christian?
No, we can be sure that God the Holy Spirit will enable us to carry out in all humility the precepts of Scripture. Beside precepts there are precedents. The Lord does not put everything on the basis of a positive command. We should look for suggestions in Scripture. Love seeks all means of pleasing the Beloved. Following little suggestions from His Word might bring pleasure to His heart.
I am grateful to the Lord for a worthy contribution to this subject from the pen of Mr. James Gunn. Mr. Gunn brings to the Scriptures a keen mind and habits of careful writing. I commend this book to all who wish to know what the Scripture says in regard to church gathering.
R. Edward Harlow
The need for ministry concerning the basic teachings in the Word of God on the subject of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, was never more evident than it is in our day. News media use such terms and phrases as, “the church without God,” or “the death of God,” with equanimity and without any apparent concern for the effect of the implication of these terms on the spiritual welfare of the youth of the rising generation.
With this in mind, a number of interested folk from many parts of Metropolitan Toronto and nearby centres met to discuss the problem and to seek a solution, at least in part. Following a good deal of prayer and intercommunication, a decision was made to revive Bible Study Classes in a central place in Toronto. The intention was that these studies should be available to all Christians from any section of our population.
A central committee was formed at the meeting composed of seven capable brethren: Russell Took, Don Mills; Allan Ure, Leaside; Gordon Dale, Rexdale; William G. Miller, Islington; Arnold Mattice, Oshawa; Graham Swales, Midland; Norman Lemmer, Agincourt. This committee was asked to consider a list of subjects presented by members of the committee. They were to select what seemed to be the most suitable subject. Following this they were asked to suggest and contact a per- son to lead the Bible studies. They were also to arrange a suitable time and place for such studies.
The subject chosen was, “A consideration of The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Mr. James Gunn of Midland, Ontario, was asked to lead the Bible Class. For the sake of interest, it should be pointed out that Mr. Gunn was educated as an industrial chemist. He spent some two and one half years in this vocation before he went into full time service in the gospel and in the ministry of the Word of God. He spent approximately five years in Venezuela and since that time has been very active in this work over a large part of Canada, and to a lesser extent in the United States and Great Britain. He has served as a Director of Elim Homes for many years and as Editor of the magazine known as, “Food for the Flock.” He has published at least two books in addition to his long association with the magazine. It was felt, on this account, that he was eminently suited to lead the present group of studies.
The subject was considered in some detail, over twelve hourly sessions, each of which was followed by a one half hour discussion period. The Church in both its universal and local aspects was studied. The studies have to do primarily with the Church as presented by the supreme architect, the Lord Jesus Christ, in the service of Almighty God.
The classes were extremely well attended for over a period of several months during the winter and spring of 1966-67. Christians coming from all over Metropoli- tan Toronto, and in addition from many outside places up to distances of many miles.
This series of studies is presented herewith, in the anticipation that they will form a basis of truth concerning the Church, which should provide the young people of our day with a solid foundation on which to attain an understanding of this remarkable organism, consisting of folk who have accepted Christ as their Saviour and have gone on to acknowledge Him as Lord in the committal of their lives to Him.
W. J. Virgin
M.D., M.CH. (Orth.), F.R.C.S. (Ed.)
Peter was an old man far removed both by time and distance from the early scenes of his experiences with the Master as he sat in a room away in the city of Babylon dictating a letter to Silvanus, the letter we know as the First Epistle of Peter.
It may be that, as he dictated chapter two, the feet of the aged gentleman which so often grew weary now, seemed light and quick as in thought, with the little group of disciples he hurried along the roads which led northward through Palestine to the base of Mount Lebanon, the source of the river Jordan.
Once again in spirit he may have stood in the little community which in early days had been called Paneas, because of the shrine there to the heathen god Pan, which is better known to us by the name Caesarea Philippi.
It is possible that in thought he stood under the shadow of an idol shrine listening to those questions: “Whom do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” … “Whom say ye that I am?”
Those never-to-be-forgotten words probably rang again in his ears and heart: “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood (My bodily appearance) hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in Heaven… Thou art Peter (Petros, a stone), and upon this rock (Petra, a rock—thy confession of Me) I will build My Church.”
Yes, there was no doubt about it, the Lord Jesus Christ, as Son of Man and Son of God, claimed to be not only the one foundation of the Christian Church but the architect as well. Peter understood exactly what the Lord meant.
Looking back over thirty years, he rejoiced that they had been spent as a builder serving his Divine Master. He thought of the words of his beloved brother Paul, some of which were hard to be understood, and Peter then, as we do now, conceded the fact that to Paul the Lord had entrusted most of the detailed plan. Paul had established more local churches, raised more miniature buildings, replicas of the great spiritual edifice, than any of the other apostles. How carefully we should listen to his advice!
In writing to the Corinthians the Apostle Paul says, “According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is” (I Cor. 3:10-13).
All this, of course, suggests the Judgment Seat of Christ before which we shall all be made manifest. It is therefore imperative that all who build in the Church do so in view of the severity of the final test. A careful builder executes his work with a view to inspection; he follows meticulously every detail in the blue print; he does not insert his own ideas; he follows only the mind of the architect.
This volume is an attempt to direct attention to the purposes and principles related to the Church: its form, features, and functions as these are revealed in the New Testament. A perusal of each chapter and attention to each suggested biblical reference will be found rewarding.
The devout prayer of the author and his publisher is that unto God be glory in the Church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.