Convinced of the absolute authority of God's Word and of the completeness of its teachings, brethren who gather in the Name of the Lord believe in the unity of the Church, formed on earth by the Holy Spirit, and embracing all the children of God. This unity is taught in the epistles of the apostle Paul, who presents it under the remarkable symbol of one body, that is, one living organism, formed of many members united in an unbreakable union (Rom, 12:4-8; 1 Cor. 10: 17; 12: 12; Eph.1:22, 23; 2: 16; 3: 1-7; 4: 1-16). The knowledge of this truth is one of the reasons why a number of Christians left all humanly organized denominations and all independent congregations, and the knowledge of this fact of the one body ever remains as one of the important reasons for their present stand.
Gathered in divers places around the Lord as members of His body, these brethren have not formed any ecclesiastical organization; they simply own what God Himself has instituted.
Each assembly has the responsibility to watch that the rights of the Lord are maintained such as they are revealed in all of God's Word. It is thus that according to Matt. 18:18-20, 1 Cor. 5:9-13, and 2 Cor. 2:5-11 discipline is exercised in dependence upon the Lord. Every child of God is received with joy for the breaking of bread, who desires to walk according to the order presented in the first epistle to the Corinthians, which gives precise regulations for the collective walk of Christians. He is received as a member of the body of Christ and not as a member of an assembly,
The brethren believe in the presence and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the Church, where every child of God is constituted a worshipper, and everyone of Christ's redeemed ones is clothed with the dignity of a priest (1 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 1:6). Accordingly the liberty of the Spirit is recognized by the brethren in the worship meetings which consist, properly speaking, of thanksgiving and praise. It is equally so also in the prayer meetings.
They who have any gifts of the Spirit (Rom. 12: 5-8; Eph.4:7, 11) exercise their gifts freely with due respect and submission one to the other. If a brother called of the Lord consecrates his life to the ministry of the Word (3 John 7), he goes out in his work with the approval of the brethren and with the fellowship of the assembly (Acts 13: 1-3; 14:26), without this suppressing in any way his personal responsibility to the Lord. He must walk by faith and remain subject, as also every other brother, to the discipline that the assembly is held responsible by the Lord to exercise.
The women according to the order of the Lord are silent in the meetings of the assembly (1 Cor. 14:34,35; Tim. 2:8-12).
There is in our country, and also elsewhere, a certain number of Christians who walk thus together in submission to these truths. These Christians in order to obey the Lord withdraw from all denominations established on other principles than those revealed in God's Word. Therefore they cannot consistently allow that those who are received for the breaking of bread in submission to the Lord and His word break bread in other places where these scriptural principles are not held.
Those participating at the same table express thereby their fellowship and oneness. This truth is especially brought out in 1 Cor. 10: 14-22, in connection with the Lord's table. Accordingly wherever the bread is broken each one who breaks bread is identified with all who break bread there, and with those doctrines and practices that are professed there. Thus if any at Corinth should partake of the sacrifices offered to an idol they would express thereby fellowship with devils (1 Cor. 10: 19-21). Wherever the rights of the Lord are not recognized and bowed to or the walk of Christians is not governed by a principle of submission to the authority of God's Word, the truth connected with the Lord's table is either misunderstood or rejected. There is without question in the memorial supper of our Lord another side of the truth-the personal remembrance of the Lord-that is doubtless very precious to every redeemed one. But according to God, the Lord's supper and the Lord's table are inseparably connected. In other words, the memorial supper of the Lord cannot be separated from the fact that those who participate together express thereby their fellowship together and their solidarity or oneness; for the bread that represents the personal body of the Lord is also the symbol of the oneness of this mystical body, the Church. Those who partake of that one bread are an expression of the unity of the Church as is also the bread itself, "For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread" (1 Cor. 10: 17).
Since we are the objects of the immense grace of God who daily bears with us, we ought ourselves also to show patience and forbearance toward our brethren. Nevertheless those who have been received to the breaking of bread are subject to the discipline the assembly is held responsible of the Lord to exercise. So if anyone expressing fellowship with the assembly in the breaking of bread, breaks bread elsewhere where the truth of the unity of the body and the authority of the Lord are not maintained in practice, he is inconsistent with the place he has in the assembly; whether knowingly or not, he has denied by such practice that place and compromised the testimony rendered to the truths regarding the assembly of God. If, after being warned and exhorted in love, such a one still perseveres in his course, he shows thereby a spirit of independence and self-will that cannot be tolerated if the truth connected with the Lord's table is to be maintained.
Without doubt everyone who has repented of his sins and believed-in his heart in the Lord Jesus is a child of God and a member of the body of Christ. Moreover there are certainly among those Christians from which we have separated some believers who are more godly and faithful in their personal walk than many among us, We willingly acknowledge this. So it is necessary to understand that the motives of our separation are purely of an ecclesiastical order: that is, we are responsible to Christ as head of His Church to gather in His name alone and maintain those principles of His Word given for the guidance of His Church, and keep ourselves clear from all church organizations that ignore or set aside those principles. If a believer continues to be mixed up with such an order of things, separation from that unscriptural church order necessarily entails ecclesiastical separation from such a believer; however, not as a believer, but because of the place he occupies in an unscriptural order of things from which we have in faithfulness to the Lord to walk apart.
If believers gather to break bread simply as members of the body of Christ and obey the instruction the Lord has given in the New Testament epistles, they will own all who do likewise and there will be a bond of existing fellowship between them. If it is otherwise it is because they are not walking in obedience to the same principles. To gather as an independent gathering is in practice a denial of the unity of the body of Christ.
The question is, Is the walk of the assemblies regulated by the Word of God, and their position of separation as assemblies the result of their obedience to the Lord or is it a position of their own taken in self-will? Certainly we do not boast of our obedience, but we have the conviction that the grace of the Lord has placed us in the true path where every, member of the body of Christ has, as such, his place.
The presence of the Lord Jesus, dead and resurrected, draws the children of God and gathers them by the power of His Holy Spirit. It is this that characterizes an assembly of God and gathers them by the power of His Holy Spirit. It is this that characterizes an assembly of God; for it is thus that we are gathered in the name of the Lord (Matt. 18: 20). To be thus gathered in His name implies necessarily. a recognition of His rights and submission to His authority and obedience to His Word. Now the assembly position and discipline that must be maintained, if we would have in reality the character of an assembly of God, are not incompatible with that love we owe to all the children of God. In fact true love, love according to God, must be measured by this divine standard: "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments" (1 John 5:2,3).
After giving this brief unfolding of these divine principles that we profess, we must confess with humiliation that our collective walk has not always been up to this level nor has our individual walk. Nevertheless, that is no reason to abandon the truth. To guard that good thing that has been committed to us, to hold firm that which we have received by the grace of God ought to be considered an immense privilege for our heart, as well as a grave responsibility for our conscience.
First Published by:
Grace & Truth
210 Chestnut Street
Danville, IL 61832