Friday, January 10, 2014

Spiritual Gathering Center (Part 7)

The Divine Leader
We desire now to dwell upon the important fact of the Lord being personally present in spirit in the midst of those thus gathered unto His Name, of the place which should be given Him as the leader of the Assembly, and of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Assembly.

"There am I in the midst"
These blessed words of the Savior guarantee without a doubt His personal presence to those gathered together by the Spirit unto His Name. This is not only a promise, but a living reality, as thousands have experienced who have acted in simple faith upon this promise and have gathered together unto His adorable Name alone. This precious promise is sufficient for faith. The presence of Jesus in the midst of the gathered Assembly is quite enough; He is all-sufficient.

Surely it naturally follows that if He, the blessed Savior and Head of the Church, is present in the midst, He is certainly there to direct and lead the Assembly and should rightly be given His place as the leader of the gathering and be depended upon as such. All eyes should be upon Him who has come to occupy the central place and every heart should be waiting upon Him to lead by the Holy Spirit. Let us not forget, also, that the One in the midst is Lord of all and the only one who has the right to exercise authority in the Assembly. "God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ" and "hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church" (Acts 2:36; Eph. 1: 22). Christ is Lord in the Assembly and should be owned as such and given His place as the only rightful leader and authority in the Church. Where He is owned as lord and leader, there will be subjection to Him and behavior consistent with His lordship; there will be rule and order according to the mind and will of God.

We would here quote the true and stirring words of C. H. Mackintosh: "If Jesus is in our midst, why should we think of setting up a human president? Why not unanimously and heartily allow Him to take the president's seat, and bow to Him in all things? Why set up human authority, in any shape or form, in the house of God? But this is done, and it is well to speak plainly about it. Man is set up in that which professes to be an Assembly of God. We see human authority exercised in that sphere in which divine authority alone should be acknowledged. It matters not, so far as the foundation principle is concerned, whether it be pope, parson, priest, or president. It is man set up in Christ's place. If Christ be in our midst, we can count on Him for everything. "Now in saying this, we anticipate a very probable objection. It may be said by the advocates of human authority, `How could an assembly ever get on without some human presidency? Would it not lead to all sorts of confusion? Would it not open the door for everyone to intrude himself upon the Assembly, quite irrespective of gift or qualification?'

"Our answer is a very simple one. Jesus is all-sufficient. We can trust Him to keep order in His house. We feel ourselves far safer in His gracious and powerful hands than in the hands of the most attractive human president. We have all spiritual gifts treasured up in Jesus. He is the fountain-head of all ministerial authority. He hath the seven stars (Rev. 1:16). Let us confide in Him, and the order of the Assembly will be as perfectly provided for as the salvation of our souls. We believe that the name of Jesus is, in very truth, all-sufficient, not only for personal salvation, but for all the exigencies of the Assembly-for worship, communion, ministry, discipline, government, everything. Having Him, we have all and abound.

"This is the real marrow and substance of our subject. Our one aim and object is to exalt the name of Jesus; and we believe He has been dishonored in that which calls itself His house. He has been dethroned, and man's authority has been set up.

Even in the Assembly of God at Corinth, where there was most grievous confusion and disorder, the inspired apostle never hints at such a thing as a human president, under any name whatsoever. `God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all the assemblies of the saints' (I Cor. 14:33). God was there to keep order. They were to look to Him, not to a man, under any name. To set up man to keep order in God's Assembly is sheer unbelief, and an open insult to the Divine Presence.

"Now, we have been often asked to adduce Scripture in proof of the idea of divine presidency in an assembly. We at once reply, `There am I'; and `God is the author.' On these two pillars, even had we no more, we can triumphantly build the glorious truth of divine presidency -a truth which must deliver all, who receive and hold it from God, from every system of man, call it by what name you please. It is, in our judgment, impossible to recognize Christ as the center and sovereign ruler in the Assembly, and continue to sanction the setting up of man." (The Assembly of God by C. H. M.).

Presence of the Holy Spirit
Not only is the Lord Jesus Christ present in the midst of His gathered disciples, but God the Holy Spirit is also there. We have spoken previously of the presence and work of the Holy Spirit in the Church and would now draw attention to this great truth in connection with our present subject. This new and special, personal presence of the Holy Spirit on earth indwelling the believer and the Church according to I Corinthians 6:19 and Ephesians 2:22, as a consequence of the great work of redemption and of the glorification of Christ in heaven, is one of the great foundation truths of this dispensation and a notable characteristic of Christianity. Yet the presence of this Divine Person in the Church is little thought of, recognized, or counted upon. The presence of the Spirit of God on earth has been ignored by Christendom and He has not been given His rightful place as leader and director in the Church. In fact, His presence is denied in practice by placing a man in the place of leadership and authority and thus setting aside the Holy Spirit.

When the Lord gave the disciples the promise of the coming to earth of the Holy Spirit, He said the Spirit would teach them all things and guide them into all truth. He also spoke of Him as the Comforter, or "parakletos" (Greek), one called alongside to help and manage our affairs (John 14:26; 16:13). In I Corinthians 12 and 14 we find the Spirit of God as the author of the various operations, manifestations, and activities in the Assembly. "All these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will" (I Cor. 12:11). These Scriptures surely show that the Holy Spirit is in the Assembly to guide and lead and teach and has the sovereign right to use whomsoever He will as His mouthpiece for prayer, praise, or ministry.

Liberty of the Spirit
If we further consider I Corinthians 14, which is the special chapter on order in the Assembly, we see therein the fullest liberty given for any man to be used of the Spirit in the meetings of the Assembly. There is praying with the spirit, singing with the spirit, blessing with the spirit (a man's own spirit led of the Holy Spirit), giving of thanks, speaking with a tongue, prophesying, teaching, and giving out of a psalm or a doctrine by various ones.

Such expressions as "If any man speak," "ye may all prophesy," and similar ones (v. 5, 13, 27, 31), show that there was liberty for any brother, not under discipline, to take part in the Assembly as led of the Holy Spirit. This is the way the early Christians gathered together in the liberty of the Spirit and under the sovereign guidance of the Divine Spirit.

True, there may be an abuse of this liberty of the Spirit, as there was in the Corinthian Assembly, which this 14th chapter shows-too much activity, the flesh active in some. What then is the Assembly to do? Correct it by the Word of God, using the very instructions which the Spirit of God has given in this 14th chapter. This is the simple divine remedy.

But notice that in spite of the disorder which came into the Corinthian Assembly, they were not told to change this order of the liberty of the Spirit and to appoint one man as the minister in charge and the leader of the Assembly. The inspired apostle simply teaches them how to take part with profit and exhorts: "Let all things be done unto edifying," "ye may all prophecy one by one," and "Let all things be done decently and in order" (v. 26, 31, 40).

Now these instructions were not only for Corinth but for every Assembly in every place, as this epistle was addressed "Unto the Church of God which is at Corinth ... with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord" (I Cor. 1: 2). So these directions as to the liberty of the Spirit, etc., are binding upon believers in every place today as well as then. And still the churches of Christendom go on with their man-made arrangements and programs of worship, etc., in distinct opposition to what is laid down for us in Scripture.

Is the reader associated with such systems of men where the Holy Spirit is thus set aside and not given His rightful place as leader and ruler? If so, let him heed the Word and "come out from among them." Let him "go forth therefore unto him without the camp" (II Cor. 6:17; Heb. 13:13) and gather only unto the precious name of Jesus where He is in the midst and the Spirit is owned as the divine leader.

New Testament Assemblies
Throughout the book of Acts, which records the history of the Apostolic Church established by Christ, we ever find the Holy Spirit as the leader of the Assemblies of Christians in every place and using whomsoever He would as His mouthpiece. Never in this book or in any of the Epistles is there even the slightest mention or hint of any one person appointed as the pastor, minister, or priest in charge of an Assembly of Christians. There was apostolic authority and those associated with the apostle Paul, as Timothy and Titus, in the establishing of the Assemblies, and there were the gifts of pastors, teachers, evangelists, etc., but nowhere do we read in Scripture of one man set up to be the minister and director of an Assembly, for this would have been a usurpation of the place and authority of the Holy Spirit.

Notion of a Clergyman
This is strongly rooted in the hearts of the multitudes today, that is, the idea of a humanly appointed office, a class of men having the exclusive privilege of preaching, teaching, ministering communion, etc. A great teacher and man of piety has well spoken the following concerning this practice: "I believe the "Notion of a Clergyman' to be the sin against

the Holy Ghost in this dispensation. I am not talking of individuals wilfully committing it, but that the thing itself is such as regards this dispensation, and must result in its destruction. The substitution of something else for the power and presence of that holy, blessed, and blessing Spirit, (is the sin) by which this dispensation is characterized, and by which the unrenewedness of man, and the authority of man, holds the place which alone that blessed Spirit has power and title to fill, as that other Comforter which should abide for ever" (J. N. Darby). Solemn words but true.

In Conclusion--Let us rejoice in the blessed truth that God, the Holy Spirit, is truly present in the Assembly of even the two's and three's gathered to the precious name of Christ, that He is the active agent and power to act in man and to lead and guide the Assembly, and that the Lord Jesus Himself is in the midst. What more is needed? May we have simple faith to believe it, act upon it, and walk in submission of heart to the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

And is it not true, in view of all that has been before us from the Scriptures, that whatever does not own in practice the divine leadership of the Holy Spirit and maintain the liberty of the Spirit to use any member of the Assembly whom He wills cannot be owned as a true Assembly of God, Scripturally gathered?

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