Amid our responsibilities toward those with whom we are immediately associated, we are prone to forget that we have responsibilities in a larger sphere, from which we cannot escape if we would, even toward every child of God, every member of the body of Christ.
It is wholesome to be reminded of this, and of the truth so plainly taught in the New Testament, that all believers, however scattered or divided they may be on earth, are absolutely one in Christ, and “members one of another.”
It is treason against the head wittingly to disown a single member of the body. It is an insult to the Father wittingly to disown a single child in the family.
Language often betrays deeper currents of thought and feeling than it is intended to convey. The application of such a term as “the body” to a denomination, such as “the Independent body,” or “the Baptist body,” indicates how completely the truth of the oneness of the body of Christ has passed out of sight and out of mind. Equally so does the application of the term “the brethren “to any smaller fraternity than all who by regeneration of the Holy Spirit are born into the family and made sons of God. There are what may be called “counter truths” in Scripture. That is, truths that may, to a superficial glance, appear antagonistic or conflicting, but which in reality are like the two sides of an arch, designed to form, from their very opposition, mutual support, each to the other.
It is most sorrowful and disastrous when such “counter truths “are set forth in such a way as to weaken or neutralise each other. And yet so foolish are we, so one-sided in our tendencies, that nothing is more common.
For example, who has not heard the responsibility of each believer toward all saints so taught as to leave the impression that there is something essentially incompatible between love to all saints and faithfulness to the entire truth of God? Or, again, how often has the truth as to the condition of the individual heart and conscience before God been urged in such a way as to leave the impression that there was something essentially antagonistic to this in that line of truth which pertains to the house of God, to the saints as gathered together unto the name of the Lord!
Our object is to show the Divine harmony that exists between all the truths of the Scripture, and that the glory of God is concerned in our holding and practising, not one-sided truth, but each and every truth in its own place and proportion.
There are two passages which touch upon our responsibilities toward “all saints”—one in Eph. 1:15, “Love unto all the saints”; the other, Eph. 6:18, “Prayer for all…saints.”
It is an impossibility to love all saints unless we see them as they are in the purpose of God and on the heart of Christ. No other love is Divine. Much that passes for love is like honey in the offering; it is essentially natural, not spiritual. It is largely the outcome of similarity of disposition and of mind, and it lasts only until circumstances arise which bring out dissimilarity of mind and disposition.
On the other hand, there is much that passes for love which lacks that element so forcibly expressed in Eph.6:24, “All that love our Lord Jesus Christ in incorruption.” There is a spurious love that is maintained only at the surrender of truth. It is remarkable how in the two latter epistles of John, which doubtless have special bearing upon “the last days,” the two are so closely intertwined. No opposing of truth to love or love to truth is here. As in the perfect Example, “grace and truth “were perfectly combined, so in the mind and teaching which is of the Spirit of God it is “whom I love in the truth”; and He who presses the command “that we love one another” has “no greater joy” than to hear that His children “walk in truth.” To “walk in the truth” is to “walk in the light,” and in this path alone can fellowship be maintained with the Father and the Son and with fellow-saints.
However narrow the path may appear, and the more evil the day, the narrower it must become, yet there is nothing in the most implicit obedience at all incompatible with the claims of love. “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments” (1 John 5:2).
The love that has “no greater joy “than to hear of those dear to it walking in the truth will desire and seek for all saints no lower blessing than to be brought into and maintained in the same path. Love will seek the deliverance of all saints from the bondage of error.
Darkness and error imply bondage, just as light and truth imply liberty.
The Psalmist could cry, “O, send out Thy light and Thy truth,” knowing that thus would he be led to the altar of God, to the holy hill of Jehovah’s dwelling-place. That was the meeting-place for Jehovah and His people, and there would the godly meet with each other as all together went up to the Lord to worship.
Even so now, love, as in the case of Epaphras, will labour fervently in prayer for all saints, desiring for them all that they may “stand perfect and complete in all the will of God” (Col. 4:12).
Love will stand aloof from all that is not of God, bearing testimony for the truth, just in order that the consciences of saints who are entangled in human devices may be exercised. It is thus that love seeks their deliverance.
In the days of David, captains, leaders, priests, and people all rejoiced as the ark was being brought back again after its long absence. Any Israelite acquainted with the law might have known, what David afterwards discovered, that “none ought to carry the ark of God but the Levites.”
Suppose that such an one had been there, how could he have joined in the singing and the dance? How could he have had fellowship in the pageantry of that day? Surely truth and love alike would have held him apart in the place of intercession rather than in the place of fellowship.
And is it not the same still? If eyes are opened to the truth as to gathering to the Name of the Lord, will love be found upholding that which practically opposes the truth, enslaves the saints, and separates by denominational barriers those who ought to be manifestly, as they are in the counsels of God, ONE?
If the truth is apprehended as to ministry in the Spirit, will love be found upholding a system which ignores all that God has taught on the subject in His Word?
If the truth as to gathering on the first day of the week to show the Lord’s death in the breaking of bread has been learned, will love ally itself with a system that forbids it, such as “the (so called) Salvation Army,” or that substitutes for the Divine order a human device such as a sacrament once in six months, once in three months, or once a month, which latter is as utterly without Divine precept or precedent as the rest?
If truth has taught the baptising of believers, will love consent to witness without protest such a perversion as the sprinkling of an infant?
Surely love will ever seek to lead into the truth those who are ignorant of it, and be jealous lest by word or act the claims of truth upon the conscience should be neutralised or diminished.
Nothing will go further as a quietus to an uneasy conscience than to see one who has learned and acted upon any truth consenting to waive it for a time, as though it were a matter of mere opinion or convenience.
Sometimes the grace and power, the love and unity of saints fifty or sixty years ago, who had emerged from sectarian thraldom, is descanted upon. Great must have been the influence on the consciences of others of their heavenly-minded conversation and their unworldly ways, and doubtless the lack of power now is largely due to the lack of personal grace and godliness.
But if it is supposed that the grace and love of those days meant a quiet acquiescence in what they saw to be not of God, the mistake may be easily discovered by reference to the tracts and pamphlets then published and circulated. The writings of those days were largely for the individual heart and conscience, but they were also largely for the exposing of existing errors—for the pulling down and the rooting up that must precede a planting or a building that God can bless.
Now-a-days there is a tendency to sow without breaking up the fallow ground, to plant without rooting out the error—to build without pulling down the structure that is not of God. Every kind of ministry is needed. There is need for the ploughing, the rooting up, the pulling down, as well as for the sowing, the watering, the building. There is need for the “son of thunder” as well as “the son of consolation”; and need, above all, for the heavenly grace and wisdom that makes room for all, instead of setting the one to neutralise or oppose the other.
The truth in practice will never be disassociated from the Cross in experience. And no small part of the offence of the Cross is to be misunderstood and separated from the company of those whose blessing alone is the object in view. There was One who uttered the sorrowful complaint, “For My love they are Mine enemies.”
If love had not borne an unflinching testimony to the truth, grace alone would have engendered no such open enmity. But truth and grace combined must either be yielded to or resisted. If yielded to, how sweet, how beautiful! If resisted, how bitter, how sad.
But whilst “love in the truth” will never countenance or condone that which is not of God, it will always seek to maintain intercourse with those who are the Lord’s, with a view to serving them in their highest interests.
There is a Pharisaic separation that totally ignores those who, being mixed up with the world in the various denominations of Christendom, are nevertheless one in life eternal, one in the anointing of the Spirit, one as members of the body of Christ, and sons in the family of God.
To have no eye or heart for those who “follow not with us,” albeit we, as the disciples of old, may indeed be following the Lord, is a sure indication that fellowship with the thoughts of God has been giving place to the sectarian spirit of the world. Thus the Spirit is grieved, blessing is hindered, and saints are repelled instead of being attracted.
Needless barriers may be raised by unwise, hard, and bitter speech. “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt”— “speaking the truth in love.”
A dread of defilement and contamination, almost amounting to superstition, sometimes hinders intercourse that might be blessed.
Much more might be done than is done in the way of inviting Christians to Bible readings, or to addresses calculated to help them on in the truth, and by circulating suitable books or tracts. All this may be done without compromise of any truth.
If Divine love were in lively exercise there would be more holy ingenuity displayed in reaching both saints and sinners with the Word of Life.