Friday, January 10, 2014

Spiritual Gathering Center (Part 10)

Divine Authority
In previous pages we have touched somewhat upon this subject, but it is perhaps necessary to speak a little more in particular on this matter of authority in the Assembly. We have pointed out that the Lord Himself, who is exalted in heaven as head over all things, is present in the midst of even the companies of two or three gathered to His name, and thus is the only rightful leader and authority in the Church. But we do not only have the presence of the Lord and of the Holy Spirit in the Assembly as authority; we have also His written Word, the Holy Scriptures, as our guide and authority, wherein the mind and will of God as to all things is clearly revealed. The authority of God is expressed for us in His Word and it is ours to follow that inspired and authoritative Word and to act upon its precepts and injunctions. "Thus saith the Lord" is the divine authority for the Assembly of the living God and, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, is all-sufficient for any action required. 

In these days of creeds and church by-laws and rules, it is necessary to stress the fact that the Holy Scriptures are the all-sufficient guide and sole standard of authority for the Church. Since we have the inspired Word of God with complete instructions as to His mind and path for His people, what need have we of creeds and by-laws? Can man's words state truth more clearly than God's? Surely not. Nothing less than the whole Bible is sufficient for us and nothing more is needed. Also we have the Holy Spirit, the author of that Word, present with us to interpret it to us and to guide in applying it to present day difficulties and conditions. From Matthew 18:17-20, we learn that the Lord has also given authority to the Assembly gathered unto His name to exercise discipline and to bind and loose with heaven's ratification. "Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I, in the midst of them." Wherever they may be, the Lord is in their midst and gives His own weight of authority to the two or three gathered unto His name. Their acts are bound in heaven or loosed in heaven as the case may be. They are recognized there as binding and authoritative. This is the authority which the Lord has conferred upon His Assembly, the authority to act for Him in His name on earth. To quote the words of another: "What is the real power, the real source of authority, in discipline? The presence of Jesus: not simply that the discipline is the act of a voluntary society which excludes one of its members from its bosom, but that it is the act of an assembling according to God, assembled in the name of Jesus, and acting in His name and by His authority, to maintain the holiness which belongs to that name. The weight of an assembly's act is not from the individual voice or judgment of its members, but from the Lord's being in the midst of them when gathered together" (J. N. Darby).

No Absolute Authority
However, the Assembly is not infallible and therefore is liable to err in its judgments and actions. If it gets its eye off of the Lord it may act in the flesh and not in the Spirit and so miss the mind of the Lord in its midst. So it must ever be subject to the check of God's authority expressed in the Scriptures. The Lord has not given the Assembly unconditional and absolute authority to act independently of Himself or to set aside or go beyond His will as clearly expressed in His Word; the promise is, therefore, conditional. When He is waited upon and there is subjection in the Spirit to the written Word which casts its light upon facts and persons, He, who is there in the midst, will make good His gracious power, guide the meek in judgment, and teach them His way (Psa. 25:9). The words of Wm. Kelly on the foregoing subject are very opportune. We quote them here for our readers: "It was reserved for the anti-church to claim irrevocable authority along with immunity from error. Where difference exists among the faithful, it is folly to claim a character which attaches only to their agreement in the power of the Spirit. And the apostle disclaims what the Roman pontiff arrogates, that clave errant the decision binds. The inevitable effect, soon or late, will be destruction, not edification. It is not Christ, but human assumption, not to say presumption.

"Whether it be an individual's assumption or an assembly's, or whether as in one notable theory it be the chief along with that which represents the church as a whole, such a claim is fictitious and destructive of the Lord's glory. The promise is strictly conditional, not absolute; and never was there an apparent failure save when the condition was broken, and then in very faithfulness the Lord gave not His sanction. To be unconditionally true, there ought also to have been infallibility, which belongs not even to an apostle but to God alone. The meek will He guide in judgment, and the meek will He teach His way; and this now in the church by His own guaranteed presence and leading, though nothing seem harder to conceive where the several wills of so many would naturally act diversely. But He is there in the midst to make good His gracious power when truly waited on, with subjection in the Spirit to the written word which casts its divine light on facts and persons; that all without force or fraud may act as one in the fear of God, or those who dissent may be manifested in their self-will, whether they be few or many. "But the taking for granted that a given sentence is irrevocable, because it is the opinion of a majority or even of a whole assembly, in the face of facts which overthrow its truth or righteousness, is not only fanatical (I do not say illogical only) but wicked fighting against God. In such a case, humbling as it is, most humbling for an assembly to judge itself hasty and mistaken in pretending to the mind of the Lord, where it was only the illusive influence of prejudiced leaders or the weakness of the mass who prefer general quiet in floating with the stream at all cost, or both causes or others also, the only course at all pleasing to the Lord is, that the error when known be confessed and renounced as publicly as it was committed, being due to Him and to the church, as well as to the individuals or company, if there be such, more immediately concerned. To keep up appearances in deference to men, however respected, if mistaken and misleading, to give expression to high-sounding terms or to vague begging the question of truth and right, in order to cloak an evident miscarriage of justice, is unworthy of Christ or of His servants. This was far from the apostle who, as at the beginning of this epistle (Second Corinthians) he disclaimed lording it over the faith of the saints, at the end proves his sincere desire, even when grievously slighted, to avoid if possible sharp dealing with those who had afforded grave occasion, and to use the authority which the Lord gave him for building up and not for casting down." (II Cor. 13:10) . Notes on II Corinthians, pages 245-247. We shall not speak further here about discipline and the binding and loosing of the Assembly, as this will come before us when we consider the subject of discipline in the Church.

Seven Divine Things
We have previously dwelt upon this wonderful verse of Matthew 18:20, but while it is before us again in the above paragraphs we would like to point out a little more of the fulness of this golden verse of promise. It has often been said that there are seven divine things in this verse. They are as follows:

1. "Where ---------------- the divine place,

2. two or three the ------- divine number,

3. are gathered----------- the divine power, (gathered by the Holy Spirit)

4. together -------------- the divine unity,

5. unto my name--------- the divine name and gathering center,

6. there am I ------------ the divine Person and presence,

7 in the midst."----------- the divine center.

May our hearts be filled with the blessed fulness and sufficiency for us in this simple, yet magnificent promise of the Savior.

R.K. Campbell

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