In regard to the requests which have resulted from the statements made by R. McC. in the December number of Food for the Flock, and the letter addressed to R. McC. in the January number of Ministry in Focus, several matters demand serious consideration.
Humility of heart and a willingness to submit to the Word of God should be in greater evidence among us as the people of God. Pride of position frequently betrays a condition of spiritual poverty.
That there is a sad deterioration of assembly testimony in some areas is obvious. This should produce self-denial, prayer and a subjection to the Lordship of Christ rather than a spirit of aggrandizement and vain-glory.
Let us notice the general principles established in the New Testament relative to inter-assembly fellowship.
First: the idea of a circle or confederacy of assemblies formed by the adoption of a common man-made policy, or by a conformity to an accepted practice, is foreign to the teaching and to the examples presented in the New Testament. Did Philippi conform to the practice of Corinth? Thank God! No. In both policy and practice these churches are opposites. Did the church at Ephesus adopt the teaching accepted by the churches in Galatia? No. Yet, all were recognized by the Apostle Paul as churches of God. None were expelled from his affections; he sought to influence each for good.
Second: The basis of fellowship on any level is Christ, the life through Christ and the Lordship invested in Christ. The Apostle John wrote, probably to Ephesus, “about fellowship with the Father,” fellowship among the apostles which he calls “our fellowship,” and fellowship among the believers. This latter he intimates in the clause, “That ye may have fellowship with us.” See 1 John 1:3.
These aspects of fellowship are all based upon the manifestation of the Son of God in His first advent; He is both the primary cause and the ultimate objective of fellowship. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, “God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of (with) His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:9).
Third, to draw a distinction “our assembly” and “other meetings” is not only discourteous, it is unscriptural. Could anyone imagine the church of Ephesus, with all its high truth, speaking of the assembly where Diotrephes wrongly assumed authority to act dictatorily as some “other meeting?”
The apostles would not have tolerated the derogatory terms which are current among some who profess to gather in the Lord’s name in Christian simplicity. It was the sectarian attitude at Corinth that provoked the Apostle Paul to write: “What will ye? Shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?” (1 Cor. 4:21).
In spite of the sad departure of the saints from what they had been taught, Paul did not refuse to visit them. He yearned over the cold, carnal Christian who had been diverted from the simplicity that there is toward Christ. To the Galatians he wrote, “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you” (Gal. 4:19). To the Corinthians he explained, “Moreover, I call God for a record upon my soul, that to spare you I came not as yet unto Corinth. Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy; for by faith ye stand” (2 Cor. 1:23-24).
We cannot afford to evade the force of New Testament principles and examples, lest the charge be laid against us, “Ye are carnal;… and walk as men” (1 Cor. 3:3).