PART I: THE CHURCH
CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTORY
In matters of doctrine it is of vital importance that the authority
upon which we act shall be one on which we can unhesitatingly
rely. There are those who advocate that such authority is vested
in the Church. This at once introduces certain questions for our
consideration, namely, what the Church is, and what are its calling,
constitution and destiny. No claim to authority on the part of
any man, or company of men, can be admitted, till it is proved
to be well founded. We do not acquiesce in anyone's demands simply
because he puts them forward.
It is axiomatic that the Church is the possession of Christ.
if Christ were non-existent, there would be no Church. That there
is a Church at all rests upon the basic facts of His Incarnation,
His Atoning Death and His Resurrection, and upon the fulfillment
of His prophetic announcement, "I will build My Church."
Our knowledge of this statement by our Lord is derived from
the writings of the New Testament. These are indeed the chief
sources from which comes our knowledge of Christ Himself, of the
claims He made and the work He accomplished. This would involve,
were it necessary here, the accumulation of proofs that the contents
of the New Testament consist of authentic historical details and
teachings and Divinely inspired writings. The subject of the authenticity,
authority and inspiration of Scripture has been adequately dealt
with elsewhere and will not be taken up in these pages. Suffice
it to say that the evidence of Holy Scripture is of primary importance;
all other evidence can be only subsidiary to it. As to their validity,
the New Testament books were written by men who lived both in
the time and in the country in which Christ lived, by men who
wrote immediately for the generation that was born before Christ
died, and many of the writers had been witnesses of the events
they narrated. Where the writers had not personal experience of
some of the events they recorded they had ample means of verifying
the statements they made. All the evidence, external and internal,
establishes their veracity. The very contrast of the character
of these writings with that of non-canonical writings, both contemporaneous
and of subsequent periods, pays its telling tribute to their validity
and Divine authority and inspiration.
Of the four Gospels the Gospel of Matthew is the only one that
contains a direct statement made by Christ concerning His Church.
The same is true regarding a local church. But in each respect
all that is taught in the rest of the New Testament is consistent
with our Lord's statements, the whole forming a harmonious body
of doctrine relating to the subject. The establishment of the
claims of Holy Scripture and the Divine authority of its teachings
necessitate our adherence to it and our acceptance of that alone
which is in accordance with it. To follow any teaching contradictory
to the doctrines taught by Christ and His Apostles is to challenge
at once the accuracy of Holy Scripture and His prerogatives as
therein set forth.
We turn, then, to these writings to consider the nature and
constitution of the Church and the churches, and the character
and scope of the authority given by Christ for the promulgation
THE TERM EKKLESIA
In the New Testament the word ekk1esia (lit. "called out"),
apart from its application to an assembly of Greek citizens (Acts
19:39), and to a riotous mob (verses 32, 41), and to Israel (Acts
7:38), is used in two senses only, firstly, of the whole company
of the redeemed throughout the present era, the company of which
Christ said, "I will build My Church" (Matt. 16:18),
and which is further described as "the Church which is His
Body" (Eph. 1:22, 23); secondly, in the singular number,
of a company consisting exclusively of professed believers, with
reference to the place in which they are accustomed to meet together,
and in the plural with reference to a district. 
A SPIRITUAL ORGANISM
The truth relating to the Church, as formed by the incorporation
of believing Jews and Gentiles in one body, of which Christ is
the Head, is spoken of by Paul as a mystery (i.e., a truth to
be revealed to the saints in the Divinely appointed time) which
from all ages had been "hid in God" (Eph. 3:1-9), "kept
in silence through times eternal" (Rom. 16:25, R.V.).
While this great fact of its constituent parts as a living
spiritual organism was especially committed to that Apostle (Eph.
3:9), the first specific pronouncement concerning the Church was
made by Christ on the occasion of Peter's confession of Him as
"The Christ, the Son of the Living God" (Matt. 16:16).
The Lord declared that the Father, and He alone, had revealed
this to him, and that on the foundation of that revelation Christ
Himself would build His Church,  and that the gates of Hades
would not prevail against it. The revelation conveys the great
foundation truths of the Person of Christ as such, His eternal
relation with the Father, and the fact of His resurrection; He
was "declared to be the Son of God with power, according
to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection of the dead"
(Rom. 1:4). Being eternally the Son of God He was declared to
be so in His resurrection. That He would be Himself the Builder
of His Church was essentially connected with His death and resurrection.
By these, too, He vanquished all that Hades stands for, the gates
representing the place where authority is exercised. He brought
to nought "him that had the power of death" (Heb. 2:14).
Upon Christ risen, victorious, life-giving, immutable, the Church
is established. "Other foundation can no man lay."
| There is an apparent exception
in the R.V. of Acts 9:31, where, while the Authorized Version
has "churches," the singular seems to point to a district;
but the reference is clearly to the church as it was in Jerusalem,
*0m which it had just been scattered, as recorded in 8:1. Again,
in Rom. 16:23, that Gaius was the host of "the whole church,"
most naturally and simply suggests that the assembly in Corinth
had been accustomed to meet in his house, where also Paul was
| If we grant that the words,
"Thou art Peter," represent the actual original, the
Lord was confirming a name which He had already given him (John
1:42), and was indicating the association of his character with
that of the truth of his confession. There is, however, considerable
ms. authority for the reading "thou hast said." In
the contracted form of the last word the lettering of the original
is the same, and the difference is simply one of spacing; thus
su ei ps is "thou art Peter," and su eips,
which stands for su eipas, is "thou hast said."
St. Augustine in his Latin version has "tu dixisti"
(thou hast said), and must have had ms. authority for this. St.
Jerome quotes the passage in one place as "su eipas."
Moreover on the occasion, as recorded in this very Gospel, when
Caiaphas questioned the Lord as to His being "the Christ,
the Son of God" (practically the same U40 as in Peter's
confession), He immediately answered, "Thou hast said"
A SPIRITUAL EDIFICE
Conspicuous among the facts relating to the Church as set forth
by Christ and His Apostles are its spiritual establishment and
its heavenly character and destiny. The Apostle Peter, continuing
the metaphor used by the Lord, and speaking of Christ Himself
as "a living Stone, rejected indeed of men, but with God
elect, precious," says of believers, "ye also, as living
stones, are built up a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood,
to offer up spiritual sacrifices" (I Peter 2:5). "All
the building, fitly framed together, groweth into a holy Temple
in the Lord" (a sanctuary, a spiritual holy of holies), believers
being "builded together for a habitation of God in the Spirit"
The Apostles did not establish an earthly system, an organization
of churches centralized in ecclesiastical headquarters. Such a
policy is significantly absent both from their methods and their
doctrine. What took place at Jerusalem, as recorded in Acts 15
provides no example of such a centre. The company which assembled
there has been called an apostolic council. Whatever was its nature,
no Apostle presided over it; Peter and other Apostles took part,
James summed up matters in a closing speech, and an epistle was
addressed in the name of the Apostles and elders, and delegates
were chosen by the whole local church together with them (verse
22). But this gathering was incidental and not intended as a precedent.
No other such assemblage is recorded in apostolic times. Nor did
the decision effect a settlement of the trouble. Peter himself
was afterwards found acting inconsistently with the decree (Gal.
A great missionary enterprise was initiated from Antioch, but
instead of taking place under the aegis of Jerusalem it was undertaken
in entire independence of the Apostles there, and own of their
delegates (Acts 13:1-3).
Events at Jerusalem, therefore, provide no support for the
establishment of a controlling centre for the organization of
churches. One will search in vain in the Acts and the Epistles
for even an intimation of the establishment of such an institution.
Apart from such matters as the supply, by churches in a district,
of the needs of poor saints in another region, the only bond binding
churches together was spiritual, that of a common life in Christ
and the indwelling of the same Holy Spirit. There was no such
thing as external unity by way of federation, affiliation or amalgamation,
either of churches in any given locality or of all the churches
together. Apostolic testimony is, indeed, against the organization
of churches into an ecclesiastical system. There is no such phrase
in Scripture as "The Church on earth," nor is there
anything in the Scriptures to justify such an idea (see p. 57).
The only Head of the Church is Christ, and at His hands provision
is made for the spiritual needs of each local church. The Church,
consisting of all who are joined to Him, the Head, is "visible"
as an entity to God alone. In contrast to it there stand out to
the eyes of the world ecclesiastical systems, but these include
the real and the false. As systems, they are the product of departure
from the design of the Divine Founder and Builder and of human
interference with the operation of the Spirit of God.
The view has been promulgated that certain decrees of church
councils, and potentates, in centuries subsequent to apostolic
times, were either developments from apostolic teachings or such
additions as were necessary to meet the circumstances of later
times. That the accretions were developments is contrary to facts,
and that additions were designed or needful is contradictory to
the testimony of Christ and His Apostles.
The following pages show something of the departure from the
instructions and commandments laid down for the churches by the
Lord and His Apostles, and the radical difference between what
was established in apostate Christendom and the doctrines of the
faith "once for all delivered to the saints." The rise
of ecclesiastical systems produced a state of things in the churches
which, so far from being developments of the faith, were utterly
opposed to it. Such a departure was, after all, the fulfillment
of what Christ and His Apostles had foretold, that false teachers
would arise, speaking perverse things.
In these later times the Spirit of God has been operating in
the hearts of thousands of His people, causing them to return
to apostolic teaching.
CHAPTER TWO: THE CHURCH AND THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
The Lord's statement to the Apostle Peter, that upon the rock
foundation of the truth of his confession, as embodied in His
own Person, He would build His Church and the gates of Hades should
not prevail against it, was followed by the promise, "I will
give unto thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and whatsoever
thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever
thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matt.
16:19). It is important to observe the distinction made by the
Lord between the Church and the Kingdom of Heaven. To identify
the two gives rise to much confusion.
"The Kingdom of Heaven" describes Heaven as the place
from which authority proceeds, while the earth is the sphere in
which it is exercised. Heaven is God's Throne, the Seat of Divine
Government (Ps. 11:4; 103:19; Matt. 5:34; Acts 7:49). When the
One who exercises the authority is the predominant thought, the
phrase used is "the Kingdom of God," &~ phrase which
also extends beyond all the various ages of time with their dispensational
"The Heavens" have always ruled (Dan. 4:32). Inasmuch,
too, as the Kingdom of Heaven assumed a special phase with the
testimony of Christ in the days of His flesh, obviously the Kingdom
of Heaven preceded the formation of the Church. While yet the
inception of the Church was future Christ denounced the Pharisees
for shutting up the Kingdom of Heaven against men: "Ye enter
not in yourselves," He said, "neither offer ye them
that are entering in to enter" (Matt. 23:13). That alone
would be sufficient to show that there is a distinction. They
were not hindering men from entering the Church, as it did not
In saying to Peter, "I will give unto thee the keys of
the Kingdom of Heaven," He was at once differentiating between
the Kingdom and the Church, of which He had just spoken. The keys
are symbolic of authority and of the power to give admission to
something. In this case the admission was not to the Church. Peter
did not open the door into the Church either when He preached
to the Jews on the Day of Pentecost or when he preached to Gentiles
in the house of Cornelius. If the preaching of the gospel is the
opening of the door into the Church, then all who engage in preaching
are openers of the door. Moreover, the Lord's commission to preach
the gospel was given to all the Apostles, as recorded in Matthew
28:19. While, on the one hand, He was about to build His Church,
which would consist of true believers only, His disposition of
the affairs of the Kingdom of Heaven, of which He handed Peter
the keys, was quite another matter; it had to do initially with
the nation of Israel, in the midst of which the powers of the
Kingdom had already been exercised, though it was not limited
ISRAEL AND THE KINGDOM
Whereas there is no mention of the Church in Christ's previous
discourses, He had constantly spoken of the Kingdom of Heaven,
as also had His herald John the Baptist in his special mission
to Israel. Each had given the nation the message, "Repent
ye; for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand" (Matt. 3:2 and
4:17), clearly a reference to the fact of Christ's presence in
the nation. The Kingdom had been one of the Lord's chief topics
in His discourses.
The nation of Israel, though professing allegiance to God,
had shared in the general rebellion of mankind (cp. Isa. 1:2,
4). The King had at length Himself come into their midst, but
they had refused to recognize Him, and, at the time when Christ
spoke of the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, the Jews were just
about to reject Him absolutely. For this they were eventually
to be "cast away," until a time of restoration, an event
still future (Rom. 11:15,25). In spite of this, to Peter was to
be committed the proclamation of a great amnesty to the nation,
and thereafter the gospel was to be carried by him and others
t6 the Gentiles.
On the Day of Pentecost, after explaining the circumstances
of the sending of the Holy Spirit, and addressing his hearers
as "men of Israel" (Acts 2:22), and "brethren"
(verse 29), i.e., as his fellow nationals, the Apostle proclaimed
the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus of Nazareth, whom they
had crucified by "the hand of lawless men." "All
the house of Israel" were to know assuredly that God had
"made Him both Lord and Christ" (verse 36). In, his
subsequent message to the nation he says, "The God of Abraham,
and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified
His Servant Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied" (3:13).
Yet, upon the condition of their repentance, their sins would
be blotted out, "seasons of refreshing" would come from
the presence of the Lord, and He would send the Christ (verses
Here, then, was a proclamation to the nation, "the house
of Israel," and in this and his further testimony the Lord
fulfilled His word to the Apostle, that to him He would give the
"keys of the Kingdom of Heaven." In other words, besides
the new fact that the Church, the Body of Christ, began to be
formed at Pentecost, the Apostle Peter, in offering terms to Israel,
was dealing administratively with the affairs of the Kingdom of
Heaven; not that he was the first to do so (that is not involved
in the Lord's word that He would give Him the keys), for the authority
of the Kingdom had already been operating, but that he fulfilled
a special function in regard to it.
.While members of the Church, the Body of Christ, are thereby
in the Kingdom, yet, as we have seen, the Kingdom was preached
as the Kingdom of Heaven before the Church began, and will be
proclaimed on earth after the Church is complete and is removed
from earth to its heavenly destiny at the Rapture.
THE KINGDOM OF GOD
The Kingdom of God is the sphere in which God's rule is acknowledged.
It is said to be "in mystery" (Mark 4:11), that is,
it does not come within the natural powers of observation.' The
Lord said, "The Kingdom of God cometh not with observation"
 (margin, "with outward show") (Luke 17:20). The
reign of God on earth today is not that of an earthly kingdom
(though His Almighty power controls the affairs of kingdoms),
but is the reign of His will over the unseen movements of the
inner man. Submission to His will involves faith in Christ, and
this brings regeneration, or the new birth, of which our Lord
spoke to Nicodemus. Then it is that we become children of God,
being born of the Spirit, and thereupon we receive eternal life
and are justified in His sight, becoming accepted in Christ. Without
the new birth all other conformity is vain. The Kingdom of Heaven,
as Scripture portrays it, makes all attempt to gain temporal power
entirely inconsistent with its objects. Those who would reign
as kings to day must reign without the Apostles (see I Cor. 4:8,
where Paul deprecates the attempt to reign now, and expresses
an ardent longing for the appointed future time for doing so).
When hereafter God asserts His rule universally, then the Kingdom
will be in glory, and will be manifest to all (cp. Matt. 25:31-34;
2 Tim. 4:18). That is destined to be the ultimate phase of the
Kingdom of Heaven, an expression which often covers the same ground
as "the Kingdom of God," the two terms being frequently
interchangeable (cp. Matt. 19:23 with verse 24, and again with
Mark 10:23, 24; also Matt. 19:14 with Mark 10:14; and Matt. 13:11
with Luke 8:10). 
|  See an extended note
on the subject in Notes on I and 2 Thessalonians by C. F. Hogg
and the writer.
| The phrase "the Kingdom
of Heaven" is used only in the Gospel of Matthew in the
New Testament (in 2 Tim. 4:18, the phrase is "His heavenly
Kingdom"). That Gospel speaks of the Kingdom of God four
times. There is a distinction between what that Kingdom actually
is and what it resembles. In the parables in Matt. 13 the Lord
does not say, "the Kingdom of Heaven is so and so,"
but "the Kingdom of Heaven is like unto" (verses 24,
31, 33, 44, 45, 47), and again in the corresponding passage in
Mark, "So is the Kingdom of God as if..." (verse 26),
and "How shall we liken the Kingdom of God, or in what parable
shall we 80 it forth" (verse 30). Just as there is a radical
difference between wheat and tares, so there is all the difference
between .'sons of the Kingdom" and "sons of the evil
one' (Matt. 13:38). Both are to be found in the Kingdom, in its
mystery form, outwardly acknowledging the name of Christ. But
some yield either merely formal or even feigned obedience. This
will be so even in the Millennium, and with hearts unchanged
they Will rebel at the last (see Rev. 20:7-10). Only those can
enter into the Kingdom in reality and in its eternal blessedness
who are born again (John 3:5).
BINDING AND LOOSING
The promise with which the Lord immediately followed His word
to Peter about the keys, namely, "and whatsoever thou shalt
bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt
loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven," He subsequently
extended to all the disciples, as recorded in chapter 18:18. From
this it is obvious that, whatever is indicated thereby, it was
not, as a principle, to be confined exclusively to Peter. The
preceding context in the eighteenth chapter shows that the reference
there is to cases of discipline for maintaining the Lord's honour,
and the succeeding context shows that the power was to be shared
with two or three who would be gathered together in His Name.
He would Himself be in the midst of them. The passage in the sixteenth
chapter shows that the reference is, as we have seen, to administration
in the Kingdom of Heaven.
The Lord's words to Peter, therefore, do not in any wise imply
that this Apostle was to receive a primacy of jurisdiction in
the Church, or that he was to have supreme authority to teach
and govern under Christ. Both this, and the idea that Peter was
the rock foundation upon which the spiritual edifice of the Church
was to be built, are based upon ecclesiastical misconception and
find no support in the pages of Holy Scripture. Christ was neither
founding a monarchy in forming the Church, nor was He establishing
an individual to be a ruler over it.
Nor again can such superiority or authority be inferred from
the Lord's words to Peter, after His resurrection, "Feed
My lambs," "Feed (or tend) My sheep." What Christ
was doing, as recorded in John 21:15-17, was not the impartation
of ecclesiastical authority but a confirmation of Peter after
his restoration from his fall, and a preparation for his service.
There was no implication in the Lord's words that any specially
superior work of pastoral care was to be committed to him. The
care of the flock is a responsibility devolving upon all spiritual
shepherds; as the Apostle himself says when exhorting elders,
"Tend the flock of God which is among you, exercising the
oversight thereof, not of constraint, but willingly, according
unto God; nor yet for filthy lucre but of a ready mind; neither
as lording it over the charge allotted to you, but making yourselves
ensamples to the flock" (I Peter 5:2, 3, R.V.).
THINGS THAT DIFFER
To sum up, the Kingdom is not coterminous with the Church.
Holy angels, though they do not form part of the Church, are in
the Kingdom of God. The Psalmist, after saying "The Lord
hath established His Throne in the heavens; and His Kingdom ruleth
over all," calls at once upon His angels to praise Him. They
fulfil His commandments, "hearkening unto the voice of His
words"; they are "His ministers that do His pleasure"
(Ps. 103:19-21). In the present era the powers of the Kingdom
work in the hearts of men by means of the preaching of the gospel,
but neither the Kingdom of God nor the Church consists of a visible
external organization. Christ did not found and build up for Himself
a Kingdom upon earth, nor do we find any intimation in Scripture
that the Church is an earthly establishment.
When Christ, speaking of a trespass on the part of one brother
against another, and of the efforts that were to be made by means
of witnesses to remove the difficulty, said that if the erring
one refused to hear them the injured brother was to tell it to
the church (Matt. 18:17), obviously the reference was to a local
congregation. The Church, in the extended significance of the
word, is ruled out by the circumstances. The thought of the establishment
of a central ecclesiastical institution as a court of judicature
for the trying of such cases is as absent from that passage as
it is from the rest of the New Testament. The Church is never
looked upon, in the teaching of Scripture, as an earthly institution.
To conceive of it as the Kingdom of God is to confound things
concerning which Holy Scripture makes a difference. That Kingdom
is spiritual in its present phase. Its operations do not consist
in the punctilious observance of ordinances, in things external
and material, but in those which are spiritual and essential,
in righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost (Rom. 14:17).
CHAPTER THREE: THE BODY OF CHRIST
The truth relating to the Church as the Body, of which Christ
is the Head, was especially committed to the Apostle Paul, and
it was evidently with the design of unfolding it that he set out
to write the Epistle to the Ephesians. The teaching that occupies
the first twenty-one verses of the first chapter forms the basis
of the statement that God gave Christ to be "Head over all
things to the Church, which is His body, the fulness of Him that
filleth all in all."
An essential truth laid down in this first chapter, amplified
in the course of the Epistle, and conveyed in the symbolism of
the head and the body, is that the Church, instead of being an
earthly organization built up and established in the world, is
heavenly in its design, establishment and destiny. Its individual
members necessarily become incorporated into it in this life,
according as each one receives eternal life through faith in Christ
and is born of God. Each one then becomes part of the Body and
is inseparably united to the Head. At no period can all the believers
living in the world at any given time have constituted the Church.
They could not in that respect be spoken of as the Body of Christ
and yet that is an alternative designation of the Church. 
| A local church, meeting
in any particular place, is spoken of as a body in 1 Cor. 12:27,
but in a different aspect: "To the church in Corinth,"
the Apostle says, "Ye are (the) body of Christ" (the
definite article is absent in the original), but some of the
members, in that application of the word, are themselves part
of the head, being spoken of as an "eye," an "car"
(see verse 16). Accordingly the symbol is not applied in that
passage in the same way as in Ephesians, where Christ is the
Head of the whole Church, the Body.
THE SCRIPTURE VIEW OF THE CHURCH
Even at the time of Pentecost those who believed comprised
only a small fraction of the whole Church, and if they, or all
the truly regenerate in the world at the present time, or at any
other time, were the Church, then that of which He is the Head
(and there is no other) would be a body maimed and marred and
lacking most of its parts. In the early part of the present era
most of the Church had not come into being; in the closing part
of the era most of the Church has, or will have, departed this
life, such, while stiff part of the Body, being present with the
Lord. The whole will not be completed till the gospel has fulfilled
its object. After its number is complete, the Lord will "descend
from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and
with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first;
then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them
be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air"
(I Thess. 4:16, 17, R.V.). The Church win then have its full membership
as the Body of Christ, and only of that company can the term "the
Church" be rightly used, apart from its application to a
Many apply the term "the Church" to all those in
the world who profess the faith. But such a view of the Church
is not borne out by the teaching of Christ and His Apostles.'
Believers  are formed into local churches here, each being
a separate spiritual temple of God, according to the Divine plan;
as the Apostle says to the church at Corinth, "Ye are a temple
of God, and the Spirit of God dwelleth in you" (I Cor. 3:16,
R.V.). But the churches were not externally organized into an
ecclesiastical entity, in any district or country, or generally
as a universal system. Neither is there any hint in apostolic
teaching that such was Divinely intended to be the case. To such
a system or combination the word "Church" is nowhere
applied in Scripture, and any such organization is a contravention
of apostolic testimony and therefore of the will and design of
| The view referred to has
been explained by means of the illustration of a regiment in
the British Army, which fought, for instance, at the battle of
Waterloo, and still bears the same designation, though not a
soldier who took part in that battle is alive today. But Scripture
knows no such third definition of the Church as would provide
ground for the illustration. Again, an attempt has been made
to find some support for the view in the suggestion that the
letters to the seven churches in the second and third Chapters
of the Apocalypse speak of conditions which anticipatively represent
successive periods in the history of the Christian churches,
or of Christendom, throughout the present era. It is argued from
this that since the condition prevailing in any one of the periods
represents what is conveyed to a particular church in the actual
letter, the term "church" way be said to stand for
all the Christians in the world during the period intimated.
This argument is precarious indeed. To begin with, it is based
upon a mere inference, and then, whatever justification there
may be for the successive period view, that view involves the
teaching that the conditions which are represented by the last
of the four letters are not distinctly successive since each
of these four last continues from its beginning to the end of
the age; so that there are four simultaneous conditions at the
time represented by the letter to Laodicea, three represented
by the letter to Philadelphia, two by the letter to Sardis, while
that which is represented by the one to Thyatira continues through
all four. In other words, if we hold the anticipative and prophetic
view of these letters to the churches they cannot all be held
to represent distinctly separate, successive periods. This itself
runs counter to the idea that the Church consists of all believers
in the world at any given time, and in any case it is unsafe
to apply the word "Church," in a way in which it is
not used in Scripture, to something which is simply based upon
inference, and especially an inference which does not fit the
CHRIST'S DESIGN ABANDONED
In times considerably subsequent to those of the Apostles,
churches were externally combined, organized and centralized,
as the result of ecclesiastical aims and efforts, and by such
means something took shape quite different in character from the
arrangements which were designed by Christ and carried out by
the Apostles. It is true that then the term "Church"
was applied to that organization, but in no way could its use
in that respect be justified from the Divine point of view. The
claim is made that such an organization was inevitable, and was
developed and directed by the Spirit of God, but the claim is
invalid. The ecclesiastical history of the third, fourth and fifth
centuries is a witness against it. In those times the churches
became partially paganized, and their organization was arranged
under the influence and guidance of the Emperor Constantine, and
modeled largely on the plan of State arrangements. The whole system
thus became a travesty of the Divine institution and the term
"the Church" was, and has been since, a, misnomer, when
applied to it.
That local churches are themselves visible communities professing
the same faith, partaking of the same holy privileges and spiritual
blessings, governed by the same Lord, and indwelt by the same
Holy Spirit, has never afforded any ground for their external
amalgamation, with the establishment of a central ecclesiastical
authority on earth, either for any particular district, or for
the churches at large; neither has the fact that the Lord provides
spiritual gifts in the several churches for the guidance and care
therein of believers. We have already remarked that the record
of what is regarded as a Council of the Church in Acts 15 affords
no evidence of this. The incident there mentioned is, on the contrary,
a testimony against such an institution rather than an evidence
in favour of it.
THE ONE AND ONLY HEAD
That God the Father gave Christ to be Head over all things
to the Church as His Body, is the crown of all the Divine counsels
relating to the Church. There is no more glorious theme in all
the plan of Redemption. That, no doubt, is the significance of
the double title of God, "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ"
and "the Father of glory," with which this passage begins
(Eph. 1:17), while it also resumed the threefold mention of the
praise of His glory, in verses 6, 12 and 14. The Son wrought for
the glory of the Father in His life on earth and His atoning death,
and the Father, in response thereto, glorified His Son in raising
Him from the dead and seating Him at His right hand in the place
of universal authority and in Headship over the Church.
The phrase "Head over all things to the Church" is
very comprehensive when viewed in the light of both the preceding
and succeeding contexts. The latter speaks of the Church as the
fulness of Him "that filleth all in all"  that is
to say, in regard to the Church as His Body, He fills all things'
in all the members, all their activities being under His direction
and fulfilled by His power. But this does not exhaust the meaning
of the phrase. The preceding context directs our thoughts to the
position which Christ occupies in His universal power and authority
both in this age and that which is to come, a position in which
all things are put in subjection under His feet. This is stated
here anticipatively, as an accomplished fact; for, though as the
Epistle to the Hebrews says, "we see not yet all things subjected
to Him," yet its fulfillment is as certain as if it had already
|  Here the presence
of the definite article in the original refers apparently to
what has preceded.
This opens out a wonderful vista. The One to whom all things
are to be subjected has been given to the Church as its Head.
The Church in this relation to Christ occupies the highest position
in the Divine counsels for the future. All things in Heaven and
on the earth are unitedly to own His authority, and the position
of the Church as being "in Christ" determines its association
with Him in the exercise of this universal control. We are to
be "joint-heirs with Christ" (Rom. 8:17). The Father
has in view for His Son "a dispensation (or administration,
lit., economy) of the fulness of the times," wherein He will
sum up all things in Christ, "the things in the heavens and
the things on the earth" (Eph. 1:10); and inasmuch as the
Church, chosen in Him before the foundation of the world, is united
to Him in the closest possible manner, it will, while being under
His Headship as His Body, at the same time be associated with
Him in His power and rule, and thus He is, in the fullest scope,
"Head over all things to the Church."
Against such a transcendent truth, affecting as it does the
glory of God and the Person of Christ, it is not a matter of surprise
that the arch-adversary should set himself with his utmost might
and his most persistent and ingenious devices, both by opposition
and imitation. Nor need we be surprised that, throughout an era
when God is calling out from among the nations a company for His
Name, to constitute the Church the Body of Christ, formed by the
Holy Spirit, and Heavenly in establishment and destiny, the adversary
should seek to obscure and travesty the truths relating thereto.
Satanic preparation had been made, in the long centuries before
Christ came, for the paganizing of the apostate Christendom of
the fourth century A.D., by the worldwide spread of Babylonish
tents, customs and practices.
The doctrine relating to the Church as the Body of Christ has
a most practical effect on the life of believers, and is strikingly
counteractive of a tendency to regard Church truth as merely doctrinal
and removed from the sphere of Christian activities. The dominating
principle for all believers, in this figure under which the Church
is set forth, is their entire subjection to Christ. The Body is
for the Head. Human will of itself is ruled out. The glory of
man as such has no place. For the believer the Cross of Christ
is the death of human self-satisfaction, ambition and pride. The
Cross has revealed in full measure man's alienation from God,
his love of this world and his disinclination towards grace. But
the Cross is at the same time the very basis upon which the relationship
of the Church to Christ is established. Man's tendency is to exalt
himself. He loves reputation. He likes to be somebody, to do something
which will attract the esteem of people to himself, to be of importance
in his own eyes as well as in the eyes of others. In the very
discharge of spiritual functions in the Church, man is apt to
forget that all that he is and does is to be surely and solely
for the glory of Christ, that Christ is the one Head, controlling
everything, and imparting everything of life and energy to the
Body in all its members.
Nowhere is this innate tendency more dangerous than in spiritual
things, and particularly in the exercise of the care and guidance
of the people of God. Here one exposes himself especially to the
wiles of the adversary, and a man may be deceived into thinking
that he is serving God while really he is establishing the glory
and power of his ecclesiastical position. The true glory of Christ
is obscured when man's greatness is prominent. Ecclesiastical
rivalry, and the resulting domination of the strongest men in
the churches, served to produce such a condition, that control
eventually was exercised from one religious centre, and man usurped
the position of the authority of Christ.
That the Church is the Body of Christ strikes a blow at the
idea of its establishment on earth as a universal ecclesiastical
organization. Christ the Head is in Heaven, and His Body the Church
is identified with Him in the Heavenly places. There the Church
is "seated" with Him, and its establishment and destiny
are there. Its very existence and condition depended, and ever
will depend, upon His ascension and exaltation there as a result
of His Incarnation, Death and Resurrection. There could be no
Church without Christ as its Head, and it is because He is set
at God's right hand that He holds that position. That the Church
is His Body assumes, then, both His exaltation and the identification
of the Church with Him in the heavenlies.
GROWTH OF CLERICAL DOMINATION
This is not according to the ideas and inclination of the natural
mind; it clashes with man's carnal propensities. It is significant
that, while this great truth relating to the Church as the Body
of which Christ is the Head, was taught and maintained by apostolic
testimony, there is the clearest evidence that in post-apostolic
times it fell into neglect. The low spiritual condition into which
the churches lapsed made this inevitable. The state of things
against which Christ Himself remonstrates through the Apostle
John in Revelation 2 and 3 was such as to induce a disregard of
the doctrine concerning the true position and relation of the
Church. Not only so, but, on the other hand, there were forces
at work detrimental to it. The rapid and general advance of clerisy
was against it. The un-apostolic assumption of human power and
domination on the part of Church leaders practically obliterated
it. How could it be apprehended when men "loved to have the
pre-eminence," and when people gloried in man? The general
development of the clerical system was antagonistic to that truth.
Those who have carefully studied the history of the first few
centuries of this era, will perhaps have observed that the writings
even of the early "Fathers" contain no testimony to
this doctrine of the Headship of Christ over the Church as His
Body. Whatever else was taught, that was allowed to lapse. Earthly
aspirations, motives guided by natural ambition, aims that were
concentrated on worldly ideas, superseded the truth of the Church
as the Body of Christ. The confusion of the true character of
the Church with that of earthly organization was a triumph for
the adversary and shows how possible it was for the churches to
be "corrupted from the simplicity and the purity that is
CHAPTER FOUR: A FOURFOLD DESCRIPTION OF THE CHURCH
The first chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians sets forth
the Character of the Church as heavenly in its position, its relationship
to Christ and its destiny. As His Body, it is united to Him as
its Head "in the heavenly places." The second chapter
likewise speaks of the Constitution of the Church. It consists
of those who "in the flesh" were Jews and Gentiles,
all alike being "sons of disobedience," living "in
the lusts of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of
the mind," "by nature children of wrath," and spiritually
"dead through our trespasses" (2:3-5). Of such materials
Divine grace has designed that Christ should "create in Himself...
one new man," reconciling believers both Jew and Gentile,
"in one body unto God, through the Cross" (verses 15,
16). The "one new man" is the Body with the Head, viewed
anticipatively, instinct with spiritual life derived from the
Head, though the Body is actually in process of formation until
the whole attains "unto a full grown man, unto the measure
of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (4:13).
Toward the close of the second chapter the metaphor is changed
(to be resumed in the fourth chapter), and a threefold description
is given. There is firstly the figure of a city, secondly that
of a household, and thirdly that of a temple. Gentile believers
are not raised to the level of Jewish believers; both are brought
out of their former condition into the high privileges of fellowship
and association with Christ.
A CITY AND A HOUSEHOLD
"So then" (i.e., because of this union in Christ
and the common access by one Spirit unto the Father) "ye
are no more strangers and sojourners, but ye are fellow-citizens
with the saints, and of the household of God." The words
rendered "strangers" (xenos) and "sojourners"
(paroikos, lit., a by-dweller) and not infrequently found together
in the Septuagint.
The stranger was an alien, tolerated, indeed, yet liable to
be frowned on and debarred from rights and privileges which belonged
to the nation into whose midst he had come to reside for the time
As a sojourner, if the Apostle was merely referring to conditions
in Greek States, a sojourner was one who came from one city and
settled in another but did not enjoy the rights of citizenship.
If, however, he had in mind the Septuagint use of the word in
the rendering of Leviticus 22:10; 25:23, etc., the reference would
be to one who, while resident with a family or community, was
excluded from its domestic rights and privileges, as, for instance,
in the case of one who sojourned with a priest as his guest but
was prohibited from eating the holy things. That this is the meaning
is suggested by the contrasting context, which speaks of believers
as "of the household of God." 
| In Leviticus 22:10, the
Septuagint has a different word for "stranger" (allogenos,
one of another race). In Genesis 23:4, "sojourner"
(Paroikos) is the first word. See also Leviticus 25:23, 35, 47.
In the New Testament the terms are found only elsewhere in Acts
7:6, 29; cp. 1 Pet. 2:11.
How striking the change wrought by Divine grace! Instead of
"strangers," "fellow-citizens with the saints!"
Literally the phrase is "fellow-citizens of the saints,"
that is to say, the saints constitute a community of which all
are fellow-citizens not that Gentile believers are now privileged
with Jewish saints, as a distinct class, but that all saints (whether
Jew or Gentile formerly) are together privileged as being possessed
of heavenly citizenship. All enjoy the same government and protection,
the same organization and fellowship, the same rights and liberties.
Instead of "sojourners," they are members "of the
household of God!" Not mere guests, here to day and gone
tomorrow, but members of God's spiritual House, enjoying all the
benefits of domestic life, in the most intimate relationship,
as "heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ."
As a Temple the saints are "built upon the foundation
of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the chief
corner stone; in whom each several building (more literally, 'every
building') fitly framed together groweth into a holy temple in
As to the foundation, the word rendered "being built"
(lit., "being built upon"), containing in itself the
mention of a dwelling place, forms a transition from the figure
of the household to the material of a building, that of a temple
being in view. The foundation was laid by the Apostles and prophets
(i.e., those whose testimony was contemporaneous with that of
the Apostles); it consisted of the doctrines relating to Christ.
 Their testimony was foundation work, Christ Jesus Himself,
i.e., His own Person, being "the chief corner stone,"
the foundation stone placed at the corner. Cp. Psalm 118:22, Isaiah
28:16. Christ, the glories of His Person and work, form the foundation.
The Apostles and prophets are again viewed in 4:12 as engaged
in the work of "building up."
| Some regard the apostles
and prophets as themselves the foundation. While this is possible,
it is needful to remember that the genitive case in the original,
represented by the preposition "of," frequently has
an objective sense instead of the appositional. That is to say,
in the present instance the meaning would be, not that the apostles
and prophets were themselves the subjects, forming part of the
foundation, but that the foundation was the object laid by their
agency, and this is a fact. Revelation 21:14 affords no confirmation
of the subjective or appositional view; that passage speaks of
a city wall, a symbol of defence, not of God's Temple.
The phrase rendered "every building" (R.V. margin);
"all the building," (A.V.); each is possible as a rendering
signifies the structure in every part of it. The edifice in course
of construction, in process of being "fitly framed together
(or, more literally, 'jointed together')," grows "into
a holy Temple in the Lord." This presents the process in
its ultimate issue. All is viewed in its future state as complete
and perfect, every stone fitting its appointed place, the whole
being God's dwelling place, a place of absolute holiness, a structure
of glory and beauty, a place of worship. There is no noise in
the process, no outward display. The building is not set up on
the earth it is a spiritual structure and this is consistent with
and confirms all the teaching of the New Testament concerning
the Church. Nothing can prevent its completion. The gates of Hades
cannot prevail against it.
CHAPTER FIVE: THE FATHER'S FAMILY
The first chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians speaks particularly
of the counsels of God in regard to the glory of Christ and the
relationship of the Church to Him. The second chapter brings especially
before us the operations of God in the formation of the Church,
the present process and the ultimate design.
The third chapter, which, since the Apostle treats therein
of his own ministry, is parenthetic, yet introduces, as we shall
see, a figure additional to those of the second chapter. At the
same time even here he recalls the subject of the Body; in speaking
of the special stewardship committed to him in connection with
"the mystery" of Christ and the Church, he defines the
mystery in this way, "that the Gentiles are fellow-heirs
and fellow-members of the same Body, and fellow-partakers of the
promise in Christ Jesus, through the gospel" (3:6, R.V.)
Co-heirs, co-incorporated and co-sharers. Here the one Body is
again the dominating thought. For the thought of the incorporation
into the same Body conveys a closer union than that of joint inheritance,
and the third expression, "fellow-partakers" is simply
added to show that the first two involve this, that there is no
blessing or privilege, either in kind or in degree, which is not
shared alike by believers, both Jew and Gentile.
The additional figure which this chapter presents is that of
a family. Having pointed out the present purpose of God concerning
the Church, in regard to the principalities and the powers in
the heavenly places, the Apostle speaks of the access which we
enjoy through faith, and bows his knees "unto the Father,
from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named."
"Every family" may be taken as the correct rendering.
| It is true that the Greek
word pas may signify "all," even when it is not followed
by the definite article with the noun (when the article is used,
the rendering should be "all the " or "the whole"
as in Acts 3:25, "all the families," and Phil. 1:3,
R.V. "all my remembrance of you; 11 contrast "every
prayer" in verse 4, where the article is absent). Yet a
distinction is necessary in the phrases without the article.
In the case of an abstract, or a proper noun, some collective
nouns, and some used in a collective sense where no other meaning
but "all" is possible, the rendering is "all,"
e.g., "all righteousness" (Matt. 3:15), "all Jerusalem"
(Matt. 2:3), "all flesh" (Luke 3:6). Otherwise the
rendering should be "every;" thus "every ordinance"
(1 Peter 2:13), "every creature' (Col. 1:15, 23), "every
Scripture" (2 Tim. 3:16); so "every family" (here).
As to the meaning of the word patria, "family," it
is found only twice elsewhere in the New Testament, in Luke 2:4,
"lineage of David" (R.V., "family"), that
is, those who reckon their descent from David, and Acts 3:25,
"the kindreds (R.V., families) of the earth." The word,
then, signifies those who have a common paternal origin.
Now as to the context, the Apostle has mentioned in the 18th
verse of the preceding chapter that through Christ "we have
our access in one Spirit unto the Father." This he has just
repeated in the 12th verse of the third chapter and in this connection
he speaks of "the Father" as the One to whom he bows
his knees. In both passages the Fatherhood of God is stressed,
and the point here is that from the Father every family in heaven
and on earth is named. Some have regarded this as signifying a
series of families consisting of the Church, angels, Jews and
Gentiles. This, however, does not seem to be the apostle's meaning.
The phrase is exactly parallel in the original to that in 2:21,
where, speaking of the Church as a temple, he says "in whom
every building (see margin of the RX.), fitly framed together,
groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord." Just as there the
phrase "every building" signifies "the building
in all its parts," so here "every family" would
point to the same kind of meaning, namely, "the whole family
in all its parts," that is to say, all those who, whether
in Heaven or on earth, enjoy relationship to God as their Father.
Thus the Church is in view, in all its constituent parts9 those
who are already with the Lord and the various communities or assemblies
on earth who likewise enjoy this Divine relationship. This is
in keeping with the tenor of the whole Epistle.
That the whole in its several parts is named from the Father
indicates that from Him as Father it derives that which gives
it its true character, and it is the practical realization of
this in the lives of believers that the Apostle desires, as expressed
in his immediately following prayer. For the Fatherhood of God,
and all that this means in spiritual relationship and experience,
can be carried into practical effect only if we are strengthened
by the power of the Spirit of God in the inward man and Christ
dwells in our hearts through faith. only so can we be rooted and
grounded in love and be strong to apprehend with all the saints
what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know
the love of Christ which passeth knowledge." Thus and thus
only can we be "filled unto (Or 'into) all the fulness of
God." All this is consequent upon having God as our Father.
The matters contained in. this comprehensive prayer, then,
are those which appertain especially to the family of God. In
the Apostle's prayer in the first chapter he speaks of God as
"the Father of glory," as well as "the God of our
Lord Jesus Christ" (verse 17); for the subject of that prayer
is more especially the power of God in raising Him from the dead,
and in consequence the greatness of His power to usward. Here
in the third chapter his prayer is occupied more particularly
with the subject of love. We are to know the love of Christ and
are to be rooted and grounded in love. The theme of love is especially
appropriate to the subject of the family. As the Father ofg1ory
(chapter 1) He raised up Christ from the dead, and made Him to
sit at His right hand in heavenly places, giving Him to be Head
over all things to the Church, which is His Body. As the Father
of the spiritual family (chapter 3) His design is that the members
of the family should know His love as embodied in and expressed
through Christ. In the first prayer the Church is 44 the fulness
of Him that filleth all in all." That is a matter of glory
expressed in power. Here in the second prayer the subject of fulness
is not the power by which Christ fills all things in all the members,
as in 1:23, but the design of the Father that the members of His
family should so know the love of Christ that they may be filled
into all the fulness of God. Divine. power fills all the members
of the Body; by Divine love the members of God's family are filled
into His fulness.
The theme of the Apostle's prayer is so transcendent, and the
effects designed to be produced so soul-stirring and heart-affecting,
that he follows his prayer with this doxology: "Now unto
Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we
ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto
Him be the glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations
for ever and ever" (3: 20, 21). Let us note particularly
the combination "in the Church and in Christ Jesus";
that is undoubtedly the right rendering. The Church is the sphere
in which the glory here spoken of is to ascend to God. But not
simply the Church; never the Church without Christ who is its
Head, who fills the members, and whose love draws forth their
praise. The combination is a beautiful continuation of the great
theme of the Epistle, the union of Christ and His Church. The
Son, who glorified the Father on the earth, having finished the
work which He gave Him to do, glorifies Him now, and will ever
do so, in and through His Church, which He has redeemed by His
precious blood and united to Himself. It is this oneness, this
fellowship, with Christ which causes the glory to ascend to Him
who is the Father of glory. The glory, which is the exhibition
of His own character, power and attributes, flows down from Him,
and returns to Him, in responding recognition and expression,
in the Church and in Christ Jesus, and it will do so through all
successive generations and throughout eternity.
CHAPTER SIX: "THE UNITY OF THE SPIRIT"
At the beginning of the 4th chapter of Ephesians the Apostle
recalls his circumstances as mentioned at the opening of chapter
3. There he described himself as "the prisoner of Christ
Jesus;" here he speaks of himself as "the prisoner in
the Lord." The change of title is appropriate to the context.
At the close of chapter 2 he had been occupied with the Heavenly
aspect of the Church, and there, in introducing his appeal, he
uses a title of Christ which expresses the intimacy of the mystical
union between the Lord and His saints; here, where his appeal
actually begins, and his series of exhortations i~ regard to practical
Christian life, he uses the title which betokens His authority
as Lord over their lives.
In saying, "I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord,"
he not merely resumes what he had said of the Church at the close
of chapter 2, but bases it likewise on all that he has unfolded
in chapter 3.
HOW TO KEEP THE UNITY
While now beginning that part of his Epistle which consists
more especially of practical exhortations, he has yet more to
say, by way of the development of his subject, concerning the
Church as the Body of Christ. The sublime character of his theme
leads him at once to enjoin upon the saints the need of a walk
worthy of their calling. Such a walk could be marked only by "all
lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering" and by forbearance
of one another in love. Indissociable from these is the diligence
necessary "to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of
Unity can exist only where we have a right estimate of ourselves,
a realization of our own littleness and demerit, and that unassuming
self-abasement which is a reflection of the lowliness of Christ;
when, too, we exercise that spirit of glad submissiveness to God's
dealings which produces considerateness towards others even when
under provocation, the "invincible might of meekness,"
which reflects the meekness of Christ and overcomes evil with
good. To these is to be added the longsuffering which patiently
bears with unreasonableness and meets disappointments with quiet
fortitude. Only so can we forbear one another in love. That kind
of forbearance is not studied courtesy or frigid endurance, but
is characterized by the holy attachment which binds believers
together in the bonds of Christian love.
TEM FORMATION OF THE UNITY
Since these things are exhibited by reason of our relation
to Christ, and are the fruit of the Spirit, they are essential
to the maintenance of the unity of the Spirit. We are to "give
diligence" (not merely "endeavour"), i.e., to make
it our business, to keep this unity. The unity is there; it is
not for us to fashion it. The Church is one, a Divine entity.
The Spirit of God makes it so. As the presence of the Holy Spirit
imparts to the Church its fitness to be God's Temple (2:22), so
His power imparts its unity to it. That unity is not formed by
man, nor by any ecclesiastical organization on earth. Human arrangements
and institutions may devise, and have devised, something which
possesses a show of uniformity from the natural point of view,
but the unity of the true Body of Christ of which Scripture speaks,
is spiritual in its course of development and heavenly in its
position and character, its design and destiny.
Believers, then, are not exhorted to make the unity but to
keep it. Each has a responsibility to act consistently with it,
keeping it in the bond of peace, by exhibiting those traits of
character and that conduct which are here enjoined. Such a manner
of life is necessarily connected immediately with local conditions
and circumstances. The Apostle was, for instance, directing his
injunctions to the church at Ephesus, thus bringing his general
instruction about the character of the whole Church as the Body
of Christ, to bear upon their life as a local community. By dwelling
together in harmony in "all lowliness and meekness, with
longsuffering, forbearing one another in love," they would
walk worthily of their high and spiritual vocation, and, as he
says further on, by speaking truth in love (or rather dealing
truly  in love), they would "grow up into Him in all
things, which is the Head, even Christ" (verse 15). Again,
"putting away falsehood, they were to speak truth, each one
with his neighbour, since they were members one of another"
(verse 25). All bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour
and railing, and all malice were to be put away from them; they
were to be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving each
other, even as God also in Christ forgave them (verses 31, 32).
Thus maintaining unity in the local church, their harmonious conduct
would be in conformity with the unity of the Spirit which pervades
the whole mystical Body.
| "Speaking truth," represents
the one verb aletheuo in the original. It signifies to deal faithfully,
or truly, with anyone. "The idea of integrity of conduct
as well as of truthfulness of speech is included in the word,
see Gen. 42:16, LXX, "whether ye deal truly or no"'
(Notes on the Epistle to the Galatians, by C. F. Hogg and the
writer, p. 207).
AN UNSCRIPTURAL UNIFICATION
There is no hint here, or anywhere else in the New Testament,
of anything like a unity consisting of the combination of a number
of communities, or assemblies, delimited by geographical conditions,
or formed into earthly associations or circles of fellowship,
nor is there any hint of a number of churches bound together by
the bonds either of formulated religious creeds or of human tradition.
No matter whether such communities are organized by mutual consent
or under a church council or any form of ecclesiastical authority
centralized in a given locality, all such combinations are a distinct
departure from the plain teaching of Christ and His Apostles.
They do not constitute the unity spoken of in this passage or
any other in the Word of God. They are the outcome of human conceptions
and operations. They satisfy the aspirations of men but are contrary
to the mind of the Lord.
The unity which the believer is to give diligence to keep is
determined neither by efforts to bind churches into an earthly
organization, nor by human ideas of what is or is not a local
church. The risen and glorified Head has made provision for the
spiritual direction and care of each local assembly. The traditions
of men and the bondage, or confusion, which has been brought about
by them have naught to do with the unity formed by the Holy Spirit.
Where a local church acts in conformity with the teaching of the
Word of God, it is thereby an expression of the unity of the Spirit.
ELEMENTS OF UNITY
There are elements of unity which characterize the whole. These
are enumerated in verses 4 to 6:"There is one body, and one
Spirit, even as ye were also called in one hope of your calling;
one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who
is over all and through all and in all." The mention of the
Trinity, "one Spirit," "one Lord," "one
God and Father of all," is significant. The Spirit is put
first, for the immediate subject dealt with is the unity of the
Spirit. Associated with Him are the spiritual and heavenly unities
of the Body and the hope of our calling. The Body, yet incomplete,
and only a small portion of which is on the earth, is the entire
Church, formed by the Spirit of God. The hope is associated with
the Spirit, inasmuch as He is "the earnest of our inheritance"
and is in that connection called "the Holy Spirit of promise"
The next three unities are associated with Christ. They have
to do with public witness; firstly, the acknowledgment of Christ
as Lord; secondly, the one faith, the complete Divine revelation,
which testifies of Christ; he who holds it confesses Him; thirdly,
the one baptism, an ordinance involving the public recognition
of, and identification with, Christ as Lord. Then, to crown all,
"there is one God and Father of an, who is over all"
(His transcendence and supremacy), "and through all"
(His pervading and controlling power), "and in all"
(His indwelling and sustaining presence).
All these constitute "the unity of the Spirit" (verse
3), and they are enumerated as inducements for us to give diligence
to keep this unity in the bond of peace. They have to do with
the one Church, the Body of Christ, in which all believers are
thus united to Him. Its unity is not yet visible, for the Head
is not visible, but it will become so when He is manifested and
His saints with Him.
CHAPTER SEVEN: THE BUILDING UP OF THE BODY OF CHRIST
After the description of "the unity of the Spirit,"
a unity which constitutes the high character of our calling (Eph.
4:1-6), our attention is drawn to the functions assigned to individual
members of the Body. Indeed the mention of the seven unities in
verses 4 to 6 is designed to form a basis for the setting forth
of the various forms of service given to us and the source from
whence they are derived.
UNITY NOT UNIFORMITY
Unity is not uniformity. There is diversity of gifts, a variety
of operation. "To each one of us was the grace given."
None have been overlooked. There is no room for envy at the possession
of gifts by others, or of self-glorying in the exercise of them
ourselves; they are gifts of grace; they are to function for the
glory of Christ. Grace and self-exaltation are incompatible. The
grace was given "according to the measure of the gift of
Christ." That is the principle operating in the endowment
of gifts. To each believer grace for service is supplied upon
becoming, by faith in Christ, a member of His Body, the Church.
That is the significance of the past tense "was given."
In 2:8 grace was mentioned in the matter of salvation: "by
grace have ye been saved through faith." That gives us membership
in the Church. In no other way is such membership possible. Here
in 4:7 there is an added grace
grace for functioning in the Body.
THE GIVER OF THE GIFTS
"The gift  of Christ" suggests the source of
the supply, the fulness which there is in Christ, and the relation
which each recipient bears to Him. Paul has already anticipated
this in the preceding chapter. His own ministry of the gospel
was 'according to the gift of that grace of God which was given
him according to the working of His power.' "Unto me,"
he says, "was this grace given, to preach unto the Gentiles
the unsearchable riches of Christ" (3:7, 8). In his case
he mentions God the Father as the Bestower of the gift; here he
speaks of Christ as the Bestower, a testimony to the Deity of
Christ and His oneness with the Father. Whatever the nature of
the gift, Christ is the sovereign Distributer. Whatever the degree
of ability, whether the more highly gifted, or the less, the adjustment
in the Body is His work. The measure of the gift is His.
The description of the varying gifts is preceded first by a
quotation from the Psalms, which tells first of Christ's triumphant
Ascension (verse 8), and then by a statement as to the antecedent
descent which His Ascension involved, and the position and purpose
of His Ascension (verses 9, 10); all this serves to establish
the fact of His absolute prerogative and power in the distribution
of the gifts. Let us consider this a little. "Wherefore He
saith, When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive and
gave gifts unto men." Psalm 68, from which this is quoted,
is a celebration (probably of a general character, that is to
say, without pointing to any particular occasion) of Jehovah's
victory over the foes of Israel and the deliverance of His people
from the oppressor. 
| "The word dorea, "gift,"
is used (in the eleven passages where it is found in the New
Testament) only of spiritual gifts bestowed by Divine grace.
This word and dorema, which has the same meaning, and is found
only in Romans 5:16 and James 1:17, are to be distinguished from
dosis, which directs the thought more particularly to the act
of giving; dosis is used only in Philippians 4:15, "giving
and receiving," and in James 1:17, which, taking the RX.
margin, reads, "Every good giving (dosis. the act) and every
perfect boon (dorenia, the concrete gift)." Here in Ephesians
4:7 the phrase "the gift of Christ" is not "the
gift possessed by or consisting of Christ," but "the
gift bestowed by Him." There is a further word, charisnou,
signifying distinctly "a gift of grace," and though
this is not used in the Epistle to the Ephesians, yet it is connected
with the bestowment of grace (charis), as in chapter 3:7, as
well as the present passage.
| The phrase "to lead
captivity captive," was used to express the completeness
of a victory, as demonstrated by the multitude of captives taken.
Cp. the words of Deborah's song in Judges 5:12. The abstract
noun "captivity," stands apparently for the concrete
"captives," thereby adding force to the expression.
No intimation is given in Ephesians 4:9 as to who the captives
were. The statement has been regarded as referring to the release
of the spirits of the just from Hades and their transference
by Christ into Heaven. Not improbably the reference is directly
to the complete victory of Christ over the spiritual foe, which
had formerly triumphed over his captives (cp. Is. 14:2). All
the efforts to oppose the designs of God in the Death, Resurrection
and Ascension of Christ, had been frustrated, and now, as a result
of what had been accomplished, and in virtue of the glory and
power of His own Person as the triumphant one over him who had
the power of death, as the Liberator of His redeemed and as Head
of the Church in His place of high exaltation, He "gave
gifts unto men," i.e., those on whose behalf He had triumphed
CHRIST'S UNCHANGED PERSONALITY
The next verses lay special stress upon the fact of His descent
and then upon the identity of His Person as the One who having
descended likewise ascended. "Now this, He ascended, what
is it but that He also descended into the lower parts of the earth?"
(verse 9). Opinions vary as to whether this means the descent
into Hades after His death, or whether the reference is to His
Incarnation. In the latter case the phrase, "lower parts
of the earth," means the earth as consisting of the parts
lower than heaven. Whatever may be the intention in the statement,
the great fact stands out that Christ could not be the Ascended
One if He had not first descended. It is a confirmation of His
pre-existence, and served to counteract the erroneous Gnostic
theories being promulgated in the Apostles' times. So again, in
the next statement, "He that descended is the same also that
ascended, far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things."
Changes of locality meant no change in His humanity.
The Giver of the gifts is One who ascended with unchanged personality.
Coming down from heaven to enter upon a life of true manhood,
and having become, by His Death and Resurrection, the Victor over
death and him that had the power of it, He ascended in His glorified
humanity to His place of authority at the Father's right hand.
As Son of Man, while still Son of God, He had experienced all
human conditions, sin apart, and still with undissociated Godhood
and manhood He ascended far above all the heavens, that filling
all things He might meet the needs of His Church. The One who
supplies the gifts is as absolutely cognizant of human needs as
He was m the days of His flesh. He is therefore entirely fitted
to give gifts to His Church, assigning to each his appropriate
work. This is indicated by the emphatic pronoun in the original;
"He Himself gave," that is to say, He and no other is
the Provider and Bestower of the gifts.
THE VARIETY OF THE GIFTS
"And He gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets;
and some evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers." Human
appointment has no place here. The list is a series not of formal
offices but of the exercise of spiritual gifts bestowed by the
Lord. The apostles and prophets fulfilled an initial ministry
in laying the foundations of doctrine. The revelation given to
the apostles was likewise communicated to the prophets (see 3:5).
Evangelists, pastors and teachers communicated the truth already
received in respect of the gospel and the ministry of the truths
of the faith. The work of the apostles and prophets was distinctly
supernatural and temporary, until the completion of the Divine
revelation. The work of evangelists, pastors and teachers continued
and still continues. The last two are associated in a special
way, as one who teaches thereby engages in a measure of pastoral
The provision of these spiritual gifts by the ascended Lord
was for the perfecting of the saints, that is to say, for the
development and equipment of each member, with the following twofold
object in view:(1) "unto the work of ministering," 
that is to say, for service in all its various forms, each in
harmonious relationship with others (a general ministry in which
we all share), and (2) "unto the building up of the Body
of Christ." What this verse plainly sets forth is that both
the service and the building up of the Body, by gathering in new
members and consolidating the work, are to be rendered by all
the saints. In other words, the provision of the spiritual gifts
mentioned is to enable all the saints both to serve and to do
the work of building up of the Body, and this "till we all
come in the unity of the faith, and the knowledge of the Son of
God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the
fulness of Christ."
| Diakonia is "service,"
"ministering," not "the ministry," as if
signifying the present technical sense of an ordained set of
ministers. The prepositions pros and eis, in verse 12, make clear
the order intended. Pros, "for," "with a view
to," introduces the phrase "the perfecting of the saints;
on the other hand, the preposition eis, "unto," is
used to introduce each of the two following clauses, "the
work of ministering," and "the building up of the body
of Christ," showing that both the ministering and the building
up are intended to be the work of all the saints.
THE COMPLETION OF THE BODY
There are three parts to the subject of the unity of the Spirit
in the 4th chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians:
(1) As to its essentials (verses 1-6); (2) as to its development
(verses 7-12, 14-16); (3) as to its ultimate state (verse 13).
In the first part, the unity, which is sevenfold, provides the
standard of conduct consistent with our calling. In the second
part the unity is shown to be developed by the ascended Lord,
who provides the requisite spiritual gifts, the object being that
the saints may be perfected in their service and may fulfil their
part in the building up of the Church, avoiding error, dealing
in truth and love, and so growing up into Christ in all things.
In the third part the finality designed is stated, and is to have
fulfillment in the completion and perfection of the Body of Christ.
In verse 13 the threefold use of the word "unto"
(eis) should be noted: "till we all attain unto the unity
of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a full-grown
man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ"
(R.V.). The 46 we all" signifies all believers as a Body,
the complete company.  The end in view, then, while it has
its bearing upon the life of each individual, is yet the consummation
of the whole as the glorified Body of Christ. The present operation
of the Spirit in the process of building in regard to each member,
is antecedent to the aggregate completeness. The perfect attainment
is not possible for the individual in this life, but nothing can
prevent its fulfillment in all the saints in the Divinely appointed
time and manner.
| This is indicated by the
use of the article with pantes, "all"; as we might
say, "the whole of us" (cp., e.g., I Cor. 10:17, there
especially of each local community).
CONFORMITY TO CHRIST
Again, the word rendered "attain," in its grammatical
form in the original, signifies the point of time at which the
end determined is to be realized, indicating the culminating event.
The faith and the knowledge of the Son of God are associated as
a unity. They will together reach their climax in the day to come.
Faith is the outcome of, and is inseparable from, "the faith."
The doctrines of Scripture, spoken of as "the faith,"
so called because they consist of what is to be believed, are
not given merely as a revelation of Divine truth, less still as
a mere subject for theological contemplation, but with a view
to bring to us an increasing knowledge of the Son of God; an all
this is a matter of faith on the part of believers. Here the word
for "knowledge" is, more literally, "full knowledge,"
as in 1:17.
But this, again, is not a matter simply of personal acquaintance
with Christ. It is rather that of conformity to His character,
of the manifestation of Christ Himself in His saints. This is
what is suggested by the phrase "a full-grown man."
This, too, is what is borne out by the context, both immediately
and what follows in the subsequent verses. The complete development
is defined as "the measure of the stature of the fulness
of Christ," for it is Christ as the Head of His Body who
fills every part, ministering His grace and power by the Holy
Spirit through His spiritual gifts in the Church. The fulness
is that which is His in His own Person as the Head and by means
of which the Body is filled, now as the members are united to
Him and hereafter in eternal completeness. The present process
of conformity to His character is brought out in the exhortations
which follow. "That ye be no longer children, tossed to and
fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight
of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error; but speaking
truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him, which is the
Head, even Christ from whom all the body fitly framed and knit
together through that which every joint supplieth, according to
the working in due measure of each several part, maketh the increase
of the body unto the building up of itself in love" (verses
14, 15, 16, R.V.).
I THE WILES OF ERROR
The first exhortations have to do with that which hinders the
development of spiritual growth. We are not to remain as infants,
spiritually immature in the knowledge and likeness of Christ.
Our spiritual foe exerts himself in unremitting antagonism against
all that makes for the glory of Christ. While, therefore, Christ
provides those in the Church to minister the doctrines of the
faith and build up the saints, the adversary endeavours to thwart
this work by false teachings. These are spoken of metaphorically
in two ways. They are winds of doctrine and wiles  of error
(R.V.). Winds are variable and irregular, wiles are ingenious
and subtle. Those who are subject to such errors are like a rudderless
vessel, tossed about on a stormy ocean. On the other hand, they
unconsciously yield themselves to the craftiness of the Devil.
| The word methodeia is rightly
rendered "wiles" in the R.V. in this verse. The Apostle
uses it again in 6:11, "the wiles of the Devil," and
it is found in these two places only in the New Testament. In
4:14, it is in the singular number; in 6:11, it is in the plural.
To give way to error, then, is to come under a power which
prevents that spiritual growth into conformity to Christ which
it is the gracious work of the Spirit of God to develop. In contrast
to such hindrances, that which makes for spiritual progress is
"speaking truth in love" (margin "dealing truly").
This is not a matter merely of the maintenance of moral virtue,
it is a case of that conduct towards one another which is essentially
the outcome of adherence to the truth of Holy Scripture and manifesting
it in all our ways in the exercise of the love of Christ. "No
lie is of the truth" (John 2:21). If I deal falsely I not
only act contrary to the truth but stifle its power to work in
me. I am robbing myself as well as injuring my brother, and above
all I am grieving the Holy Spirit. The truth, the revealer of
which is the Holy Spirit, binds together in love those who know
it. Possession of the truth leads to walking in the truth, for
the truth produces truthfulness (see 2 John I and 3 John 3, 4).
The exercise of godly sincerity, of love that goes hand in hand
with the truth, enables us with our fellow believers to grow up
in all things into Christ. For such conduct is the effect of His
own work as the Head, making increase of the Body unto the building
up of itself in love.
TRUTH AND LOVE
It is needful to give heed to the exhortation that, "putting
away falsehood," we should "speak truth each one with
his neighbour," remembering that "we are members one
of another" (Eph. 4:25). Love and truth are never to be separated;
they are intimately associated. Love that is pursued at the expense
of truth is mere sentiment. While it may captivate the natural
mind, it is not of God. It plays no part in the building up of
the Body of Christ. Truth that is maintained at the expense of
love is frigid theory. It lives in the element of legalism. Its
effect may be the very opposite to that which it seeks to maintain.
Faith, which links us to Christ, works by love and maintains truth,
of both of which He is the source and which therefore in the life
of the believer are expressions of His character.
When Christ fills the heart there is no room for selfishness.
False teaching and deceit have selfishness as their motive. They
belong to the old nature and are expelled by the love of Christ.
They are superseded by that self-forgetfulness which seeks the
interest of Christ and His people. Truth and love belong to the
new man, "which after God hath been created in righteousness
and holiness of truth." It is only the power of the Holy
Spirit which enables us to grow up "into all things in Him."
CHAPTER EIGHT: THE CHURCH THE OBJECT OF CHRIST'S LOVE
In the passage which follows the command, "be filled with
the Spirit," Eph. 5:18 (a passage which, we may note, in
passing, is explanatory of what being filled with the Spirit involves
in human relationships, as of husbands and wives, parents and
children, masters and servants), the subject of the relationship
of husband to wife is taken as an illustration of the relationship
between Christ and the Church. It should be observed that what
is here set forth is used simply as an illustration. That is to
say, the passage does not state that the Church is actually the
Bride of Christ. Whatever may be gathered from the other parts
of Scripture, we need to keep clearly before us the difference
between what is definitely set forth in the passage and what are
merely deductions from it. The illustration, with its spiritual
application, is beautiful and full of teaching, but any direct
statement that the Church is the Bride is absent from this chapter.
THE METHOD OF COMPARISON
The language adopted is that of comparison. The reason why
wives are to be in subjection to their own husbands as unto the
Lord, is given as follows: "For the husband is the head of
the wife, as Christ is the Head of the Church, being Himself the
Saviour of the Body" (verse 23, R.V.). The phraseology of
comparison is continued in the next verse, where the order of
the natural and the spiritual is reversed. "But as the Church
is subject to Christ, so let the wives also be to their husbands
in everything." Again, husbands are to love their wives,
"even as also Christ loved the Church, and gave Himself up
for it" (verse 25). Again, and still by way of comparison,
"No man ever hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth
it, even as Christ also the Church" (verse 29). Finally,
when the Apostle speaks about a man's leaving his father and mother
and cleaving to his wife, the twain becoming one flesh, he says,
"This mystery is great: but I speak in regard to Christ and
THE COMBINED FEATURES
While injunctions are given as to Christian conduct in the
matter of this natural relationship, the subject of the Church
which has occupied a prominent place in the earlier part of the
Epistle, is interwoven into them. There are features of the relationship
between Christ and the Church which could not all be included
in any of the figures which have been used in the earlier part
of the Epistle, those namely of the body (1:23), the city, the
household (2:19), the temple (2:20, 21), the family (3:15), and
the full-grown man (4:13). While the subject of authority and
subjection are involved, for instance, in the relationship of
the head to the body, yet there are additional features in this
respect in the simile of the relationship between husband and
wife. In the illustration of the head and the body there is union
between the one and the other, but, so far as the physical illustration
itself goes, the head does not choose the body; with husband and
wife there is choice as well as union, and love, joy and companionship.
Again, there are servants in the household, and they are chosen
for their service, but they are not related to the head of the
household; with husband and wife there is relationship as well
as choice. There may be friends in the household, but here, too,
there is choice without relationship. Again, in the family there
are love and joy, communion and relationship, but not choice.
Only in the case of husband and wife are an the conditions fulfilled
choice, union, relationship, love, joy, companionship and communion.
All are comprehended in this illustration.
These features form, in a special way, the subjects of that
part of the Lord's discourse in the upper room recorded in John
15. There He speaks of His choice of them (verse 16), of their
union with Him (there in the figure of the vine and the branches
verses 4, 5 and 16, where the word "appointed," R.V.,
is literally "set in"), of His love for them (verse
9), their mutual joy (verse 11), their companionship with Him
(verse 27), His communion with them (verse 15), and their relationship
with Him (verse 5). Thus to those who formed, as it were, the
nucleus of His Church, He unfolded, before His death, those details
which the very illustration of husband and wife in Ephesians 5
UNITY AND UNION
The metaphor of the head and the body suggests unity; the illustration
of husband and wife suggests union. The former has to do with
constituent parts of a whole, the latter with the oneness of two
persons. The body conveys the thought of that which is the instrument
of the Lord's will; the simile of the wife conveys the thought
of that which is the counterpart of Himself and the object of
The similitude of the marriage state is the most lovely of
all the figures by means of which the mystery relating to Christ
and His Church is set forth. It is at the same time the most practical
in its teaching for it sets forth, to begin with, the headship
and authority of Christ over the members of the Church and their
delighted subjection to Him in the fulfillment of His will, the
great principle that moulds their character and guides their conduct;
for Christ Himself becomes the ideal and standard of their manner
of life. Further still, the illustration conveys the truth of
that holy and gracious intimacy by which the Lord unlocks the
secrets of His heart, making known His mind, His counsels and
His love; while on the other hand it suggests that living response
which those who enter into the joy of this communion make to Him.
THE PRACTICAL ACKNOWLEDGMENT
It was the delight of Christ ever to abide in the Father's
love and so to fulfil His will. This is the very fount of His
love to us and His desires toward us, as is expressed in His words
of grace "Even as the Father hath loved Me I also have loved
you: abide ye in My love. If ye keep My commandments, ye shall
abide in My love; even as I have kept My Father's commandments,
and abide in His love" (John 15, 9, 10). Let us, then, abide
in His love, as a faithful spouse does in her husband's love.
The practical acknowledgment of this relationship is intimated
in what is said of Sarah, who "obeyed Abraham, calling him
Lord" (I Peter 3:6). Not by mere exclamations of faithfulness
and loyalty, or loud protestations of adherence to the truth,
is He to be acknowledged as Lord, but by manifestation of that
character which is conformed to His own, which indeed involves
the maintenance of Divine truth, but therein displays His virtues
and excellences. Christian conduct consists in truth expressed
in love, love which is a Spirit-kindled response to His. "We
love because He first loved us" (I John 4:19, R.V.).
THE CLEANSING AND PRESENTATION
"Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for it."
Displayed in all its fulness at the Cross, His love is undiminished
now that He is in glory. The love which led Him to the Cross had
this as its object, that, having cleansed the Church by the washing
of water with the Word, "He might sanctify it," and
might "present it to Himself." Christ did not sanctify
the Church in order that it might be His possession, He made it
His possession in order that He might sanctify it. It belongs
to Him inasmuch as He gave Himself for it, and it is destined
to be just what He designed that it should be, the great expression
of His character as well as the object of His care. It is in its
heavenly sphere and destination that He will present it to Himself
and it will then be entirely suited to His own glory.
Since there are things which are contrary to His character
in the life of believers here below, His present work is to cleanse
them by the laver of the Word of God. This is the Divine purpose
for all who as true believers constitute the Church. How readily,
therefore, should we respond to this His gracious operation, realizing
what He has done in giving Himself up for us, what His will is
for us now, and the destiny to which He is bringing us! How ardently
we should desire just those things that He desires, and do only
that which pleases Him, that our life may be entirely lived for
Let us ever remember that we are the objects of that tender
care and love which are expressed in the words "nourisheth
and cherisheth." "Even so ought husbands to love their
own wives as their own bodies." To love one's wife is to
love oneself. "For no man ever hated his own flesh, but nourisheth
and cherisheth it, even as Christ also the Church" (verse
29, R.V.). What is said about Christ's love for the Church is
given as the pattern of the husband's love for his wife, but what
constant and loving care on the part of Christ, what provision
for all our needs, are herein set forth! As one ministers nourishment
to his body so that it may be healthy and strong, and affords
it protection and everything else designed to make it free from
that which would be detrimental to it, so is the gracious and
unremitting ministry of Christ for those who are members of His
Body, the Church.
All this is designed for our comfort. May we live in such close
communion with our Lord that we may enjoy the realization of His
love, and respond by our love to the impulse of His. Let us remove
from us all that would hinder this holy communion, and, entering
into His desires towards us, find accordingly our delight in Him.
CHAPTER NINE: LOCAL CHURCHES
The word ekklesia is never used in the New Testament in the
singular number to embrace all the believers in a country, or
district, or the churches in any locality. Such companies of believers
are spoken of in Scripture as "churches of God," as
in I Cor. 11:16; 1 Thess. 2:14; 2 Thess. 1:4. The phrase in the
singular, "the church of God," is correspondingly used
to designate a company of believers acting together in local capacity
and responsibility. Thus Paul addresses his first Epistle to the
Corinthians to "the church of God which is at Corinth"
(1:2. See also 10:32, and 11:22). He uses the same phrase with
reference to the church at Jerusalem, which he had persecuted
(I Cor. 15:9; Gal. 1:13). So with regard to the church at Ephesus
in Acts 20:28. Obviously the phrase is used of the local church
there, for the Apostle, in addressing the elders of the church
whom he had called to him at Miletus, exhorts them to take heed
to themselves and "to all the flock, in the which the Holy
Ghost hath made you bishops, to feed the church of God which He
purchased with His own blood" (R.V.). That the church in
which they were to exercise their responsibility is spoken of
as a flock, and the whole character of the injunctions given to
them, indicate that the phrase is used there simply of the local
THINGS THAT DIFFER
Similarly in his instructions given to Timothy as to the character
and qualifications of a bishop, he says, "If a man knoweth
not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church
of God?" (I Tim. 3:5). Again, the Epistle is written that
he may "know how men ought to behave themselves (lit., 'how
it is necessary to behave,' i.e., for all in the assembly) in
the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar
and ground of the truth" (verse 15). The description of the
kind of person referred to is general, but the application is
to any given local assembly, as is clear from the facts that Timothy,
who had been at Ephesus, was exhorted in the same Epistle to stay
there for a time, and that the Apostle was hoping to come shortly
to him there (3:14). If we speak of the whole Church, the Body
of Christ, as "the Church of God," we confuse things
which Scripture differentiates, and we miss the import and teaching
conveyed by the term, which has to do with local responsibility
The plural, "churches," is used in other descriptions
of such companies, besides that already referred to. They are
spoken of as "churches of Christ" (Rom. 16:16), "churches
of the saints" (I Cor. 14:33), or, topographically, as churches
of a particular country (I Cor. 16:1; 16:19; 2 Cor. 8:1; Gal.
1:22), or, ethnographically, as "the churches of the Gentiles"
(Rom. 16:4). None of the phrases containing the word "churches"
is used with reference to the entire Church, the Body of Christ,
and this for the obvious reason that the Church which is His Body
is one and indivisible and to it the plural would be inapplicable.
The importance of having regard to the Scriptural use of these
terms lies especially in this, that deviations therefrom support
unscriptural organizations, sectarian views, racial antipathies,
and merely human traditions concerning the true Church. The application
of the word "church" to the Christians or to the churches
in a whole country, as, e.g., "the Church of England,"
"the Indian Church," or "the Church in China,"
or again, to any section or branch of professing Christians, is
unwarranted by the Scriptures.
Hence the importance even of guarding against the term "Indigenous
Church." The expression is subversive of the maintenance
of that true and spiritual position and relationship the realization
of which is necessary for our fulfillment of the will of God.
A believer of Chinese nationality is as much a foreigner spiritually
as the missionary from Europe or elsewhere who brought him the
gospel. Plants of the Heavenly Father's planting are not "indigenous"
in the spiritual realm; they have been transplanted by the Holy
Spirit (cp. Col. 1:13). Churches of God as such should know no
We have already pointed out that it is contrary to the teaching
of Scripture to use the word to designate all believers now living
in the world, or for any religious system to apply the term to
all its adherents in the world. The phrase "the Church on
earth" finds no support in the Scriptures. The Church is
heavenly in its constitution and organization; its seat and centre
are in Heaven, where its one and only Head is. The Word of God
does not countenance any organization or amalgamation of churches,
whether in a locality or in the world at large.
The terms "churches of God" and "churches of
Christ" indicate that they are each His possession, a possession
purchased by His blood. As "churches of the saints"
they consist of those who, by the operation of the Spirit of God,
have been set apart to Him for His glory. Not only so, they are,
in each case indwelt, as churches, by the Holy Spirit, and hence
are I as each one a temple, of God. To the church in Corinth the
Apostle writes, "Know ye not that ye are a temple of God,
and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man, 4**Uoycth
the temple 4 of God, him shall God destroy; for
the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are" (I Cor. 3:16,
17, R.V.). The word used for "temple" here (as also
in 6:19, and again in 2 Cor. 6:16, of the body of the believer
and of the whole Church in Eph. 2:21) is naos, which is derived
from a word meaning "to dwell." The earthly temple in
Jerusalem was most frequently called hieron ("the divine
or dedicated place"). That term was applied to the whole
building, and is never used in the New Testament in the figurative
sense, as in the passages in the Epistles just referred to. Naos,
while occasionally used of the whole earthly temple, more frequently
signified the inner sanctuary, the holy of holies." 
| It was the naos into which
Zacharias entered (Luke 1:9, 10), while the people were without
in the hieron. Into the naos the Lord did not enter during His
ministry on earth. He drove out the money changers from the hieron,
not from the naos. Zacharias was slain between the temple, naos,
and the brazen altar, which was outside. The priests alone went
into the naos, and there Judas in his despair entered and cast
down the money before them.
Many circumstances in connection with the Temple, as with the
Tabernacle, find their spiritual counterpart in a local church.
Of this we speak more fully later. How solemn and yet what a high
and holy privilege it is to be a naos, a sanctuary, a dwelling-place
for God, a house of God (oikos, from oikeo, "to dwell")
as the local church is called in I Tim. 3:15! "Holiness becometh
Thine House, 0 Lord, for evermore." Evil doctrine, evil association
and evil practice are to have no place there. Where such exists
it is to be judged and put away. It is a place where God's honour
dwells (Ps. 26:8, lit., "the place of the tabernacle of Thy
glory"). There the honour of the Name of Christ is to be
maintained, and those who name His Name are "to depart from
iniquity." It is a place of worship, and worship can only
rightly be offered in "the beauty of holiness." It is
a place of witness for God, where the testimony to His attributes,
His character and His Word are to be maintained; for the house
of God, the church of the living God, is "the pillar and
ground (or stay) of the truth," and the witness is to be
that not only of oral testimony but of Christian character and
conduct. Those who belong to it are to live "in righteousness
and holiness of truth."
It is with that in view that the Apostle, in the passage just
referred to, says that the object of his Epistle is that Timothy
may know "how men ought to behave themselves in the house
of God" (R.V.). That is to say, instruction is given concerning
the believers who form a local church, in regard to their general
life, conduct and service, so that the assembly itself may be
a living testimony for God.
Both in doctrine and practice, our spiritual foes are constantly
and assiduously set against such a testimony. Collectively as
well as individually, we need to be much in prayer and intercession
and ever on the watch, lest the Lord's Name should be brought
into dishonour, and the witness He designs be marred by our inconsistencies.
CHAPTER TEN: "JESUS IS LORD"
That part of the first Epistle to the Corinthians which treats
specially of the distribution and exercise of spiritual gifts
in a local church, is introduced by a declaration concerning Christ
Jesus as Lord: "No man speaking by the Spirit of God saith,
 Jesus is anathema; and no man can say, Jesus is Lord, but
in the Holy Spirit" (I Cor. 12:3, R.V.). The test of the
witness is the due acknowledgment of Christ. The two utterances,
"Jesus is anathema" and "Jesus is Lord," were
the battle cries of opposing spiritual forces. Readily would the
words of execration spring to the lips of hostile Jews. "Anathema"
designated that which was devoted to God for destruction under
His curse. That was how the rulers of the Jews, and the people
after them, regarded and treated Jesus of Nazareth. That was how
they instigated Gentiles to do the same, and the utterances became
the glib expression of Satanically-inspired antagonism, whether
on the part of Jew or Gentile, to the gospel and the Person whom
it proclaimed. Doubtless, upon occasion, when testimony was being
given by the preachers of the gospel, or in the midst of an assembled
church, the witness would suddenly be interrupted by the blasphemous
cry "Jesus is anathema," uttered by opponents of the
| The words "speaking"
and "saith" stand for two different words in the original,
laleo and lego. Laleo signifies an utterance of human language
in contrast with silence; it stresses the fact that speech is
being uttered. Lego represents a statement or discourse in its
orderly reasoning; it stresses the meaning and substance of what
THE GREAT ESSENTIAL
"Jesus is Lord;" that was the witness of the faithful.
It sums up the doctrines of the gospel. It was the great central
truth. It formed, therefore, an essential part in the ministry,
'not only of gospel testimony itself, but of the foundation thereby
laid in the formation of local churches.
The acknowledgment of Jesus as Lord marks the beginning of
the life of a believer. It is an element of that faith by which
he is saved and becomes a child of God: "If thou shalt confess
with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thine heart
that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved" (Rom.
10:9).  That is, "the word of faith" which is preached
 The confession of Christ as Lord is put
first, presumably, for the following reasons:
1. It is appropriate to the order, mouth and
heart, verse 8.
2. The order is in agreement with the order
in verses 6 and 7, verse 6 speaking of Christ's present position
in Heaven, verse 7 of His resurrection.
3. The confession of Jesus as Lord provides
a distinctive and evident difference between those who have been
justified by faith and those who are seeking righteousness by
their own works.
With a special significance this passage in Rom. 10, which
deals with the basic ministry of the preaching of the gospel,
stresses His title "Lord." "The same Lord is Lord
of all" (verse 12, R.V.), that is to say, of Jew and Gentile
alike, "and is rich unto all that call upon Him; for whosoever
shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." The
acceptance, then, of Christ as Lord as well as Saviour is essential
for faith, and the proclamation of Christ in both respects is
the responsibility of the evangelist.
THE FULL COMMISSION
That the work of the preachers of the gospel was not simply
that of evangelization, is clear from the narrative of the Acts
and from the Epistles. The service in which they were engaged
had wider responsibilities. Gospel ministry was designed to issue
in a corporate testimony. Hence, by means of the gospel they preached,
evangelists are spoken of as laying the foundation of churches
(I Cor. 3:10).
The commission given by the Lord Himself intimates this wider
scope. "Go yeand make disciples of all nations, baptizing
them into the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded
you" (Matt. 28:19). The incorporation of believers into local
companies had been definitely inculcated by Him. Besides His intimation
concerning His formation of His entire Church (16:18), He gave
unequivocal instructions as to His design for the existence of
communities, gathered in His Name, conditioned by local circumstances,
and enjoying His spiritual and continued presence (18:17-20).
These were not already existent Jewish companies, as has been
supposed. The teaching given by the Lord as recorded in the context
makes clear that He had in view not only His disciples but those
who would become so by their instrumentality.
The record in the Acts of the Apostles relating to the founding
and formation of local churches is significantly in keeping with
the Lord's instructions in His commission regarding making disciples
and teaching them to observe all that He commanded. No sooner
do we read of the effects of the gospel in Antioch in Syria on
the part of the scattered members of the church at Jerusalem,
than we learn that a church has been formed in the northern city;
so that those who go there as servants of God are able to gather
together "with the church" (11:26), and the believers
so gathered are spoken of as "disciples."
So again, as the gospel spreads, not only are churches formed
in every place, but the saints are described as "disciples."
They were "disciples" who stood around Paul after his
stoning at Lystra (14:20). At Derbe he and Barnabas preached the
gospel and "made many disciples" (verse 20, R.Y.). From
thence they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch "confirming
the souls of the disciples" (verses 21, 22), and after arriving
back at Antioch in Syria they are said to have tarried there with
"Go yemake disciples," said the Lord. Now while believers
are spoken of as "brethren" in relation to one another,
they are designated as "disciples" in relation to Christ
as their Master and Lord. Disciples are those who have learned
His Will and seek to carry it out in that relationship. "Ye
call Me Master, and Lord; and ye say well; for so I am. If I then,
the Lord and Master, have ... ye ought also to.. ." (John
13:14). In Acts 9:1 believers (not simply the Apostles) are distinctly
called "the disciples of the Lord."
Since, then, confession of Christ Jesus as Lord marks believers
from the time of their conversion, and their life as His disciples
gives proof of their recognition of their relationship to Him
in this respect, so in their collective capacity, as constituting
churches, it is their high privilege and responsibility to acknowledge
Him as Lord by the fulfillment unitedly of all that He has commanded.
Only as an assembly owns Christ as Lord, can it be built up and
ordered according to the Divine will. Only when Christ has His
rightful place in a local church can it be constituted according
to God's design. Only adherence to what is taught in the Word
of God will meet with His approval.
That Jesus Christ is Lord betokens the authority committed
to Him by the Father, who has made Him "both Lord and Christ."
The measure in which His authority over a local church is recognized
by it is the measure of its spiritual vitality and power. In virtue
of His authority He has Himself appointed the ordinances and exercises
His prerogative in the provision of spiritual gifts in each assembly
and in the functioning of each member in the power and operation
of the Spirit of God.
THE EFFECT OF THE ACKNOWLEDGMENT
The genuine acknowledgment of Christ as Lord will keep the
saints f4ithful in their adherence to the Scriptures in these
matters, and in the recognition of the presence and work of the
Holy Spirit in matters of worship and service. They will be likewise
kept separate from the world's religions as well as its principles
and ways, its ambitions and follies. The fulfillment of the will
of their Lord will be their consuming ambition, if they are indeed
true to Him, and this will involve their repudiation of the traditions
of men, of human accretions to the faith "once for all delivered
unto the saints" (Jude 3), and of all that undermines its
doctrines as they are set forth in the Scriptures of truth.
The craft of Satan is ever at work to beguile us from allegiance
to our Lord. We need, then, to receive the exhortation He gave
to His disciples in this matter, when He warned them against lip
confession, against mere profession of faith, and the imagination
that service is being rendered to Him while all the time His revealed
will is being ignored. His words demand our careful attention.
"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter
into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father
which is in heaven" (Matt. 7:21). His will is not far to
seek. It is set forth with such clearness in the Holy Scriptures
that none who genuinely seek to know His mind need err therein.
Let us beware of substituting our own predilections, or the traditions
of men, or matters of our own convenience, or even the bonds of
human associations, for what He has enjoined upon us, lest, in
setting aside or ignoring His authority over us, both in our private
life and in our church capacity, we are after all found wanting.
CHAPTER ELEVEN: SPIRITUAL GIFTS
In the twelfth chapter of I Corinthians, after the introductory
statement that the acknowledgment that "Jesus is Lord"
is due to the operation of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle takes
up the subject of the provision of spiritual gifts and their exercise,
with special reference to the local church. The uniform confession
of Christ as Lord produces multiform effects. The source, the
distribution and the operating power are Divine, not human: "Now
there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there
are diversities of ministrations, but the same Lord. And there
are diversities of workings, but the same God, who worketh all
things in all" (verses 4-6).
The essential element of harmony and unity is pointedly stressed
by a sevenfold mention of "the same," first as to the
Triunity of the Godhead, "the same Spiritthe same Lord ...
the same God," and then a fourfold repetition of "the
same Spirit," in verses 8-11. So in Ephesians 4, with reference
to the whole Church, the Body of Christ, stress is laid upon the
essential unity--a sevenfold oneness; there not only of the Trinity,
but of details of a basic character relating to the church.
There is a threefold diversity, first as to possession of the
gifts, then as to forms of service, and then as to their exercise:
diversity of "gifts," of "ministrations,"
of "workings." Firstly, the differing gifts are distributed
to be possessed according to the individual capacity as Divinely
prepared. Secondly, there are the varying kinds of ministration
of service. 
| Not "administrations,"
as in the AN. The exercise of rule is not in view here. The word
is diakoniai, "ministrations," i.e., forms of service.
The gifts are charismata, gifts of grace (expressive of their
utility); they are energemata, "workings" (expressive
of their activity).
Two enumerations of gifts follow, one immediately, in verses
8-10, the other in verse 28. The former has to do with the functions
discharged, the latter more particularly with the persons who
exercise them. The lists are not formal and exhaustive. The order
sets forth, to some extent, their comparative importance, but
the great object for which they are mentioned is to keep before
us their Divine origin, and the purpose for which they are bestowed.
"To each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit withal"
(verse 7). Their rightful exercise gives evidence of the power
of the Spirit of God acting through the human channel. This again,
in each case, is for the profit both of the one who possesses
the gift and of the other members of the church. They are given
not for the display of human abilities but for the glory of God
in the edification of the saints. They are given not to be characterized
by an atmosphere of mystery, but that the Spirit's power may be
THE TEMPORARY AND THE PERMANENT
They are mentioned just as they were in operation in the churches
in apostolic times. Some were designed for the temporary and special
purposes of that period, others were for permanent functioning.
This is made clear in the next chapter. The personal gifts of
apostles and prophets, for instance, were bestowed for the immediate
purposes of the time. They laid the foundation of the truths of
the faith by the revelations Divinely imparted to them, and laid
it completely. No foundation doctrine remained to be added. The
special work of apostles and prophets ceased with the completion
of the inspired Scriptures. All that was communicated to them
by direct revelation, and through them by oral testimony in the
churches, was, during their lifetime, imparted "in the written
Word of God."
TONGUES AND PROPHESYINGS
As with the temporary character of the ministry just mentioned,
so with other gifts imparted for the particular purposes of the
apostolic period. "Tongues" were "for a sign"
and especially to unbelieving Jews (I Cor. 14:21, 22):the Apostle
makes this clear by basing the fact that they were for a sign
upon the quotation from Isaiah 28:11, 12, wherein God declared
that "by men of strange tongues" He would speak "unto
this people," that is to say, to Israel. This testimony,
the rejection of which was likewise foretold, continued while
God maintained relations with His earthly people, and ceased with
the termination of those relations." 
| As to the gift of tongues,
this was not be exercised without being interpreted (verse 28).
There was a special gift of interpretation (12:10). Each of these
was an inferior gift (verse 31; 14:1, 2, 12, etc.).
So, again, with the miraculous manifestation of the power of
the Spirit of God. In every instance recorded in the Acts, the
testimony and its appeal were especially to Jews, as vindicatory
signs of what God had done and was doing through Christ Jesus
in His death, resurrection and session at His right hand. Firstly,
there was the testimony at Jerusalem at Pentecost (2:22-36); secondly,
in Samaria (8:14-17); thirdly, at Caesarea, in the house of Cornelius
("they of the circumcision were ... amazed," 10:45);
fourthly and lastly, at Ephesus, where the "certain disciples"
were clearly Jews who had been baptized with John's baptism, and
had not heard "whether the Holy Ghost was given" (19:2,
R.V.). The sign was accompanied by the exercise of the gifts,
tongues and prophesying (verse 6). There is no further mention
of this kind of demonstration either in the Acts or anywhere in
the Epistles. All took place within twelve years after Pentecost,
in the period of transition characterized by God's special dealings
with the Jews.
So, again, with the miraculous "gifts of healings,"
these were designed for the same period of apostolic testimony,
whereas those gifts, the purpose of which was the ministry and
unfolding of the Scriptures, were of a permanent character. The
limitations of the gifts of healings as sign gifts are shown by
the fact that Timothy, Trophimus, Gaius, and others were not healed
of their physical infirmities. Yet these were certainly Spirit-filled
men. Moreover, in the same period the supernatural power was imparted
of raising the dead (Acts 9:40; 20:9, 10), all attempts at which
since have been unsuccessful. Undeniably God does heal the sick
in answer to prayer and such ministry as is enjoined in James
5:14, 15, but the distinction between that and the supernatural
gifts temporarily bestowed in the churches in the times of the
Apostles, is clear from the Scriptures themselves.
The Apostle lays it down as a general principle that "when
that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be
done away" (I Cor. 13:10). Wherever the principle holds good
it is applicable. It will be applicable at the coming of the Lord,
after the completion of the Church. It was primarily applicable
when the sacred Volume consisting of the Scriptures of truth,
the written Word of God, was complete. As the Word of God it stands
perfect. With this communication of the full cycle of Divine truth,
the temporary gifts, imparted as supernatural sips, were done
The professed possession of supernatural power is always attractive
to the mind of man, and imparts a glamour to any so-called "Movement"
which claims to use such powers and even performs supernatural
deeds. Those, however, who are living in the light of God's Word,
and know the fellowship with Him which the indwelling Spirit of
God imparts through its pages, will ever test all things by its
teachings, and will "prove the spirits, whether they are
of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world,"
and even Satan "fashioneth himself into an angel of light."
THE CARE OF THE CHURCHES
The New Testament gives a constant and uniform testimony of
the mind of God concerning the provision and work of those to
whom is committed the care of local churches. The various passages
relating to this subject are not merely the records of facts;
what is written is the Divine will for all churches, not only
in apostolic times but throughout the present era. As in other
matters, the Word of God not only is sufficient for all, it is
binding upon all, and those who desire to be conformed to His
will and to act in loyalty to Christ, will adhere to the teaching
in subjection to Him.
The instruction given does not admit of human accretions. The
devices of men, however specious and plausible, fail to accomplish
the designs of the Lord, as revealed in the Holy Scriptures. The
teaching, unvarying as it is throughout the canon of the New Testament
and the apostolic ministry which it records, should have been
heeded and followed throughout subsequent centuries, instead of
being modified or adapted to suit human opinions and convenience.
If we hope to receive the approval of the Head of the Church hereafter,
let us submit to the claims of the Word of God, and follow it
at all costs, in devotedness to Him whom we recognize and own
BISHOPS IN EVERY CHURCH
We turn, then, to what is set forth in the Word of Truth. It
requires no laborious scrutiny to observe from Acts 20, that elders
are bishops (or overseers), that there are more than one exercising
the care of a single church, and that they receive their function
from the Holy Spirit. From Miletus the Apostle 46sent to Ephesus,
and called to him the elders of the church" (verse 17) obviously
the elders of the church in that city (cp. Rev. 2:1). In his address
he says, "Take heed unto yourselves and to all the flock
in the which the Holy Ghost hath made you bishops"  (verse
28, R.V.). Not only, then, are the elders bishops, but they are
figuratively regarded as shepherds, for the local church is spoken
of as a flock, and their duty is to "tend it." The word
in the original denotes not simply "to feed," but to
do all that devolves upon a shepherd. They are therefore to exercise
pastoral care, acting together as pastors over the local company.
| A.V. "overseers."
The word "overseer" is a literal translation of episkopos,
from whence also the word "bishop" is derived.
The case of the church at Ephesus is illustrative and not exceptional.
In the churches previously formed in Lycaonia "elders in
every church" had been "appointed"'  (14:23,
R.V.). Again, the Epistle to the Philippians is addressed to the
saints there "with the bishops and deacons"--bishops
acting in one church. Later, in the island of Crete, Titus is
enjoined to "set in order things that were wanting, and appoint
elders in every city" (Tit. 1:5) never a single elder or
bishop over one church, much less over a number.
 The word cheirotoneo, rendered "appointed" (A.V.
"ordained"), is the same as that in 2 Cor. 8:19 (the
only other place where it is found in the New Testament); at Corinth
men were to be "chosen" to take a monetary gift to Judea.
Here in Acts 14:23 a formal ecclesiastical ordination is not in
view. The apostles chose men who were already evidently fitted
for the work. The churches did not choose their leaders. The context
makes that clear. Sheep do not choose their shepherds.
This passage, again, shows that an elder is a bishop; for,
in describing the character requisite for an elder, the Apostle
immediately says, "for the bishop must be blameless"
(verse 7).  The postscript printed in the Authorized Version
at the end of the Epistle, to the effect that it was "written
to Titus, ordained the first bishop of the church of the Cretans,"
is false in two respects, to say nothing of the wrong implication
that he was to be resident there. For, firstly, Titus was not
a bishop, and, secondly, there was not "a church of the Cretins";
there were churches in Crete.
| "The definite article
here obviously does not point to a particular individual, but
represents a type (cp. 1 Cor. 12:12). The passage clearly provides
no ground for the functioning of a single bishop.
That a number of elders were exercising pastoral care of the
church at Thessalonica, is clear from the exhortation to that
church, "But we beseech you, brethren, to know them that
labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;
and to esteem them exceeding highly in love for their work's sake"
(I Thess. 5:12, 13). This passage is very instructive. That the
recognition of the elders is urged shows that the well-being of
the church could not be maintained without them. On the other
hand, it is clear that their authority was based, not on human
appointment, whether of an individual or by the election of the
church, but upon the relation of all to the Lord. When the qualifications
of overseers had been put on record, to guide the saints in the
recognition of those who had been put over them in the Lord, apostolic
appointment became unnecessary. That the elders "are over"
them (lit. "stand before," and so lead and care for
"in the Lord') limits the scope of their authority to matters
spiritual. See also Heb. 13:7, 17.
TENDING THE KLEROS
Elders are to "tend the flock of Godexercising the oversight,
not of constraint, but willingly, according unto God, nor yet
for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as lording it over
the charge allotted to you, but making yourselves examples to
the flock" (I Pet. 5:2, 3). The three characteristics of
church leaders are again intimated here, namely, that the same
persons are elders (men of experience), bishops (exercising the
oversight), and shepherds (exercising a pastoral care of the flock).
It is highly significant, too, that the word kleros, from whence
the word "clergy" is chiefly derived, and which is here
rendered "charge allotted," stands not for the church
leaders but for members who are cared for by them! How glaringly
Christendom, owing to the force of unscriptural influences and
the bias of human opinion and tradition, has reversed the situation!
The medieval and modem ecclesiastical systems of clerisy in its
various forms, so far from being founded upon the Word of God,
are contraventions thereof.
THE RISE OF CLERISY
The course of departure from apostolic teaching and precept
is easily traceable. Human pride and rivalry, a struggle for ascendancy
and power, early produced a class of ecclesiastical officials,
who obtained their position in a manner very different from what
is set forth in Scripture. The case of Diotrephes (3 John 9) provides
The method was adopted, too, of electing church officials by
vote. Hence the popular or the strong man obtained the coveted
position. Dependence on the Spirit of God and the recognition
of the evidences of His operation gave place to officialism and
formality. The evil spread gradually but surely, and eventually
False teachers represented that the Christian faith was simply
a development of Judaism. Hence church leaders came to be regarded
as priests in contradistinction to the laity, a flagrant contradiction
of apostolic doctrine, which declares that all believers are priests;
they are "a holy priesthood" (I Pet. 2:5) 66a royal
priesthood" (verse 9); Christ has made us "priests unto
His God and Father" (Rev. 1:6).
We can hardly be surprised that church ecclesiastics were to
the fore in furthering carnal ambition and in supporting and promulgating
clericalism. Writing to the church at Ephesus in 109 A.D., Ignatius
says, "We ought to look upon the bishop even as we do upon
the Lord Himself." In his epistle to the church at Tralles
(also in Asia), he says, "ye are subject to your bishop as
to Jesus Christ." In his epistle to the Magnesians, he says,
"I exhort you that ye study to do all things in a Divine
concord; your bishops presiding in the place of God; your presbyters
in the place of the council of the apostles." Again, to the
church in Philadelphia, "Give diligence to be established
in the doctrine of our Lord and the apostles, together with your
most worthy bishop, and the well
woven spiritual crown of your presbytery."
The marked departure from the principles of the New Testament
and apostolic precept and practice has received candid admission
by many. Dean Alford's comment on the perversion of Acts 20:17,
28 by Irenmus (who states that Paul called together the "bishops
and elders (!), who were from Ephesus and from the rest of the
adjoining states (!)") is as follows: "So early did
interested and disingenuous interpretation begin to cloud the
light which Scripture might have thrown on ecclesiastical questions."
He points out, too, that verse 28 shows that elders and bishops
were apostolically synonymous, and remarks that the A.V. "overseers"
instead of "bishops" conceals the identification.
Again, on Phil. 1:1, he says, "The simple juxtaposition
of the officers with the members of the church, and their being
placed after those members, shows the absence of hierarchical
views such as those in the epistles of the apostolic Fathers."
Jerome, who died in A.D. 420, commenting on the Epistle to Titus,
and with reference to the times of the Apostles, says, "elders
were the same as bishops, but by degrees, that the plants of dissension
might be rooted up, all responsibility was transferred to one
THE CORRECTIVE POWER
The remedy for evils is not to be found in human devices. To
substitute clericalism for the principles and instruction of the
Word of God was a gross departure from the faith. Nor did the
humanly devised system remove the evil of dissension. It existed,
and still exists, even in the greatest religious systems, notwithstanding
an outward semblance of unification.
The various religious systems of Christendom are fast hastening
to their appointed destruction. The anticlerical forces are already
fulfilling Scripture. If we believe that the Bible is the Word
of God, let us follow its teachings. Let us beware of professing
one thing and following another. Let us obey God rather than men.
Faithfulness to His truth may mean suffering here, but it means
peace and joy withal, and an eternal reward hereafter. Let us
recognize and honour the prerogatives of the Holy Spirit in the
churches, and the principles inculcated by Him in the Holy Scriptures.
CHAPTER TWELVE: MINISTRY AND DEACONS
We hear much of the need of revival, and truly the need is
great. Real revival can be brought about only by adherence to
the Word of God. There may be an ephemeral emotion, a transient
zeal, an ebullition of religious fervour and sentiment, but what
is acceptable to God, and therefore of real and permanent value,
is a return to His will as revealed in the Scriptures of truth.
When the Psalmist prays, "Wilt Thou not revive (or quicken)
us again; that Thy people may rejoice in Thee?" and pleads
for mercy and salvation he goes on to say, "I will hear what
God the Lord will speak." There lies the secret of spiritual
The adversaries of God are ever at work seeking to turn people
away from the Scriptures, or to belittle them, or to becloud their
meaning by human traditions. Hence the perversions in Christendom
of what really is a church, as set forth in the New Testament,
and the departure from the revealed will of the Lord regarding
the functioning of church members.
We have seen the provision made by the Spirit of God in the
exercise of His Divine prerogatives, for the spiritual care of
churches by bishops, otherwise called overseers or elders, each
church being provided with a number of such. These are among "the
diversities of gifts" spoken of in I Corinthians 12:4. They
are bestowed in the designs of God's love and grace towards His
saints, for their spiritual welfare, and are for the Holy Spirit's
use in the churches. Next there is mention of "diversities
of ministrations" (verse 5, R.V.). The word diakonia, "ministration,
" is used thirty-four times in the New Testament. It is first
found in Luke 10:40, in the Lord's word to Martha as to her being
cumbered (or distracted) about. much "serving." It is
said in Hebrews 1:14 of the angels who are sent forth "to
do service for the sake of them that shall inherit salvation."
Nowhere in the New Testament is it used in the ecclesiastical,
official sense, with which it has been vested in Christendom,
of "the ministry." Nor again is the corresponding noun
diakonos "servant," "minister," "deacon"
(which is employed thirty times in the New Testament), used in
the sense of a clerical functionary known as "the minister."
Just as, in regard to the churches, "ministry" is said
of the actions of believers in their service one to another, so
the word rendered "minister" describes them as servants,
whether of God or of Christ, or of one another.
A COMPREHENSIVE TERM
Thus the Lord says, "Whosoever would become great among
you shall be your minister" (diakonos), Matt. 20:26; again,
"If any man would be first, he shall be last of all and minister
(servant) of all" (Mark 9:35); and again, "Where I am,
there shall also My servant be" (John 12:26). Diakonos is
used of the domestic servants at the marriage in Cana of Galilee:
"His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever He saith
unto you, do it (John 2:5; so verse 9).
Phoebe, whom Paul commends to the saints at Rome, is described
as a servant, diakonos, of the church at Cenchrea (Rom. 16:1).
Paul describes himself and Apollos as servants, diaknoi, "ministers
by whom ye believed" (I Cor. 3:5) certainly not "ministers"
in the clerical sense; so, too, in speaking of himself and his
fellow-workers as "ministers (diakonoi, servants) of a new
covenant" (2 Cor. 3:6). Tychichus, again, is spoken of as
"a faithful minister (servant) in the Lord" (Eph. 6:21);
and so with regard to Timothy (I Thess. 3:2).
That diakonos is a term used in the New Testament to express
service in general is clear from these instances, and the word
might well have been rendered "servant" in all of them,
rather than "servant" in one place and "minister"
in another. Even in the two passages where in the English Versions
the word is rendered "deacons" there is no mention in
the original of anything like an office in connection with the
term. In the passage in I Timothy 3, which describes the qualities
necessary for what are termed deacons (the deacons there referred
to are those who render any service of a definite character in
connection with a local church), ecclesiastical bias inserted
the term "office" in the Authorized Version, to suit
the clerical traditions of Christendom. Hence the Revisers have
rendered as follows: "And let these also first be proved,
then let them serve as deacons, " if they be blameless"
(v. 10). Even the phrase "Let them serve as deacons"
represents one word only in the original, and it would have been
quite sufficient to translate by "let them serve." So
again in verse 13, instead of the preposterous rendering, "They
that have used the office of a deacon well," the RX. puts,
"they that have served well as deacons." It would have
been quite sufficient to say, "they that have served well."
|  The word is diakoneitosan,
which is a form of the verb diakoneo, to serve, and means "let
them serve" in verse 13, the word is diakonesantes, which
simply means "having served."
THE CASE OF TIMOTHY
Only a few verses further on the Apostle says to Timothy, "If
thou put the brethren in mind of these things, thou shalt be a
good minister (deacon) of Jesus Christ." Timothy, then, himself
is spoken of as a servant of Christ. He certainly was not, as
the A.V. note at the end of the 2nd Epistle describes him, "Ordained
the first bishop of the Church of the Ephesians." Nor was
he, as has been supposed by certain advocates of the sacerdotal
order, "the Primate of all Asia"! On the contrary, surely
if Timothy himself is spoken of as a servant of Christ Jesus,
then those who, in the passage just before, are spoken of as having
served well, were not functionaries holding an ecclesiastical
office. They were rather, as has already been said, such as rendered
service on behalf of the saints in a local church, and any such
service demands that those who render it should be known to be
possessed of the qualities mentioned in verses 8 and 9.
One form of such service will consist in the handling of the
money gifts of a church, though ministry is by no means confined
to this. For instance, in the second Epistle to the Corinthians
the Apostle speaks of the monetary gifts of the churches in Macedonia
for the poor saints in Judea, as "service," or administration"
(diakonia, rendered "ministering" in 8:4 and 9:1, and
"ministration" in 9:12 not "administration,"
as in the AX.):so again in verse 13, "the proving of you
by this ministration." One of the brethren who was appointed
by the churches to convey the gift is described as one "whose
praise in the gospel is spread through all the churches"
(8:18). It was a matter of principle, not only that men of good
repute should undertake such business, but that in regard to money
the service should be undertaken at least by two; "avoiding
this," as verse 20 says, "that any man should blame
us in the matter of this bounty which is ministered by us: for
we take thought for things honourable, not only in the sight of
the Lord, but also in the sight of man."
A GUIDING PRINCIPLE
As a general principle, the prerogative belongs to the giver
of a gift of choosing the channel of its ministration. Thus, in
regard to spiritual gifts, such as elders, pastors, teachers,
and evangelists, these are human channels for that ministry which
is provided by the Spirit of God, and it is His prerogative, and
not that of man, to choose those who shall act as the servants
of God in this capacity. This again, by the way, rules out ecclesiastical
ordination, lay patronage, or the election of a pastor, according
to the traditional methods of Christendom. So, then, with regard
to financial gifts contributed by a local church for one purpose
and another, since the church is the bestower of the gift in kind,
it is the prerogative of the church to choose the channel of its
Take the earliest case that is mentioned in the Acts. When
difficulties arose in regard to the care of the numerous poor
in Jerusalem, the saints were exhorted to look out from among
them seven men of good report, full of the Spirit and of wisdom.
The church in Jerusalem was responsible for choosing the men.
These seven have been called "deacons," in the technical
sense of the term. There is no reason for so describing them.
In point of fact they were servants of the church, and, as they
handled gifts of the church, so the church was entitled to choose
them. The same principle is illustrated in the case of the gifts
from churches in Greece for poor saints in Judea. Such gifts are
primarily offerings to the Lord, but those who handle them are
the servants of the church that provides them, and such should
be chosen by it.
THE REAL VALUE
It is the Person of Christ Himself who imparts both dignity
and value to service of whatever character. No matter how insignificant
it may be in the eyes of men, no matter how little noticed, all
service for God is measured by Him according to the standards
of the Sanctuary, and is treasured by Him for commendation and
reward in the day to come. "Ye did it unto Me," says
the Lord, or, if it was withheld, "Ye did it not unto Me."
We can understand the surprise of those who will say, "When
saw we Thee an hungered, and fed Thee? or athirst, and gave Thee
drink? And when saw we Thee a stranger, and took Thee in? or naked
and clothed Thee? And when saw we Thee sick or in prison, and
came unto Thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them,.
"Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of
these My brethren, even these least, ye did it unto ME" (Matt.
A careful perusal of the Scriptures on the subject of ministry
makes clear that to be rightly understood it requires to be divested
of the clerical accretions which it has received from the traditions
of ecclesiasticism. How important it is, in view of the Judgment
Seat of Christ, to test matters by the instructions and precepts
of the Word of God! The extent to which we have obeyed its truth,
instead of following the precepts and practices of men, will determine
for each believer the abiding results of that solemn Tribunal.
WHAT IS MINISTRY?
Let us consider something of what Scripture teaches on the
subject of ministry, in contrast to the traditional usage which
has obtained in Christendom. The following passage is at once
indicative of the will of God: "according as each hath received
a gift, ministering it among yourselves, as good stewards of the
manifold grace of God; if any man speaketh, speaking as it were
oracles of God; if any man ministereth, ministering as of the
strength which God supplieth: that in all things God may be glorified
through Jesus Christ" (I Pet. 4:10, 11, R.V.). Certain facts
stand out clearly here. Obviously spiritual gifts are distributed
by the Holy Spirit amongst the churches; the ministry is to be
exercised "among yourselves." While "speaking,"
that is to say, oral instruction from the Scriptures, is to be
of the character of "oracles of God," ministering, or
rendering service, is to be by God given strength. Thus ministry
is of a wider scope, both in its nature and in the number who
exercise it, than that of giving discourses or sermons. Ministry
is here, indeed, distinguished from this latter activity.
Again, the passage in I Cor. 12, which enumerates the diversities
of spiritual gifts in a local church, and the "diversities
of ministrations" and of "workings," says, "but
all these worketh the one and the same Spirit, dividing to each
one severally even as He will" (verse 11). Ministry is service
rendered to God on behalf of others. There is no allusion to any
special minister in charge of a church or congregation, nor is
there to any pastor appointed or chosen by a church. The instructions
are imparted to the entire local church itself as the ministering
body, and prominence is given to the prerogatives and operation
of the Spirit of God in and through the members. Indeed, none
of the Epistles to churches are directed to "the minister,"
nor is any such individual named in them.
There is a similar passage in the Epistle to the saints in
Rome. "For even as we have many members in one body, and
all the members have not the same office: so we, who are many,
are one body in Christ, and severally members one of another.
And having gifts differing according to the grace that was given
to us, whether prophecy (i.e., 'telling forth' the mind of God),
let us prophesy according to the proportion of our faith; or ministry,
let us give ourselves to our ministry; or he that teacheth, to
his teaching; or he that exhorteth, to his exhorting" (Rom.
12:4-8). Here, again, ministry is distinguished from oral testimony,
instruction and admonition. Whatever form the service to be rendered
takes, the saints are to "give themselves" to it. Moreover,
teaching, exhortation and other forms of spiritual ministration
are not assigned to one person, either in this passage or any
other. They vary in the members of a church, according to the
With such a widely distributed exercise of gift among the members
of churches, by the provision of the Holy Spirit, and functioning
under His control and guidance, the sacerdotal and clerical systems
of Christendom are entirely inconsistent. They are due to a very
marked and historically well known departure from the Word of
God. Such early apostasy had been foretold by the Apostles themselves.
Scripture knows nothing of an ecclesiastical official set apart
to act as the "minister" in distinction from a congregation,
and appointed amongst other things to "administer the sacraments."
Plainly the spiritual gifts raised up according to the teaching
of the Word of God, differ widely from what prevails in the clerical
systems that have sprung up by human arrangement and tradition.
DIAKONOS, DOULOS AND LEITOURGOS
There are today evangelists, pastors and teachers, as there
were apostles and prophets (Eph. 4:11), and they are given by
the ascended Lord "for the perfecting of the saints, unto
the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ."
The word is diakonia, "ministering." The corresponding
word diakonos, "servant," and the verb diakoneo, "to
minister," are derived from the word diako, "to pursue"
(not from dia, "through," and konis, "dust,"
as has been supposed). They describe service in general. A servant
of Christ is most frequently spoken of as a doulos, a word which
primarily signified a bondservant, but which has not always and
necessarily the idea of bondage. The Apostles so described themselves
in relation to God (Tit. 1:1; Jas. 1:1) and to Christ (Rom. 1:1;
Jude 1, e.g.), and again in relation to the saints whom they taught
(2 Cor. 4:5). Believers who were slaves were to regard themselves
as bondservants of Christ (Eph. 6:6), and all believers are so
designated (I Pet. 2:16).
Speaking of himself in connection with his missionary service,
Paul describes himself as a "minister of Christ Jesus unto
the Gentiles" (Rom. 15:16), and the word he employs is leitourgos,
one who discharges public duties, whether religious or otherwise;
here he uses it of the ministry of the gospel of God as a spiritual
sacrifice. When in writing to the church at Corinth he speaks
of himself and his fellow apostles as "ministers of Christ"
(I Cor. 4:1), he uses a different word huperetes, which originally
signified an under-rower in a war galley and subsequently came
to denote any subordinate official who waited on the commands
of his superior. 
|  "Speaking generally,
the diakonos is a servant viewed in relationship to his work;
the doulos is a servant viewed in relationship to his master;
the huperetes is a servant viewed in relationship to his superior;
the leitourgos is a servant viewed in relationship to public
duties." (Notes on the Epistles to the Thessalonians. by
C. F. Hogg and the writer. p. 92.)
As to the service of teaching the Scriptures, when a church
was assembled the edification of the assembled company was received
through a variety of ministry (see I Thess. 5:11, RX., and I Cor.
12:7, 8), those who thus handled the Scriptures being called and
fitted of God to do so (Eph. 4:8, 11-14; 1 Cor. 12:18, 28-30).
This kind of ministry was confined to such (14:29), and was exercised
under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (12:11), and with self-control
(14:32). The teacher was not to be himself the judge of the value
of his ministry (v. 29), and teachers were to defer one to another
(v. 30). Teaching was to be exercised both with discretion, "according
to the proportion of faith" (Rom. 12:6), and with diligence;
for the teacher was "to give himself to his teaching"
(v. 7), and to do so with a due realization of the dignity and
solemnity of the service he was rendering, speaking "as it
were oracles of God" (I Pet. 4:11). These injunctions and
principles were given as permanently binding upon churches and
should never have been abandoned. The argument that the instructions
given in the New Testament required development in subsequent
periods under the guidance of Church leaders is utterly invalid,
and is contradicted by the internal testimony of Scripture itself.
The injunctions given concerning "prophesying" apply
to "teaching." The principles underlying each are the
same. Upon the completion of the Scriptures, prophesying passed
away, and the teacher took the place of the prophet. This is intimated
in the statement in 2 Pet. 2:1, "there arose false prophets
among the people, as among you also there shall be false teachers."
A prophet spoke by immediate revelation of the mind of God; a
teacher delivers his message from and in accordance with the Scriptures.
QUENCHING THE SPIRIT
The exhortation given to the church in Thessalonica, not to
quench the Spirit (I Thess. 5:19), had particular reference, as
the context shows, to the work of the Holy Spirit in the exercise
of His prerogatives and guidance through such as were qualified
to minister the Word of God when the church was assembled. The
Spirit would be quenched, either by refusal, through self-will,
to acknowledge His will and way, or by yielding to the impulse
of the flesh, whether ignorantly or presumptuously, instead of
submitting to the guidance of the Spirit. To replace dependence
on the Holy Spirit's leading by the substitution of a system of
clericalism was derogatory to the honour of Christ as Lord. To
appoint a minister over a congregation was an easy way out of
a difficulty, but it was a departure from the Word of God. Failure
in a local gathering calls for humiliation, self-judgment and
waiting upon God, and if necessary, faithful and yet gracious
rebuke, and not for the introduction of humanly devised means
of correcting an abuse. One deviation from the Divine will cannot
be rightly removed by another. The Scriptures remain today as
the mind of God for us. The systems of religion in Christendom
have not developed the doctrines and truths of the Word of God.
Additional doctrines have been introduced distinctly contradictory
to it. Where false principles are supported they should be left
and not connived at even by silent acquiescence.
CHAPTER THIRTEEN: BAPTISM
"Baptism," a word transliterated from Greek into
English, is derived from the verb bapto, to dip, and among the
Greek-speaking peoples the lengthened form baptizo, to baptize,
signified the acts of immersion, submersion, and emergence; no
other meaning was attached to the word till a considerable time
after the first century of the Christian era. The Greeks used
the word, for instance, of the dyeing of a garment, in which the
whole material was plunged in and taken out from the element used,
or, again, of a boat which had been wrecked by being submerged
and then stranded on the shore. To substitute the words "immerse,"
"immersion," for "baptize" and "baptism"
is a mistake, for immersion is only part of the process, and a
person merely immersed would not remain alive. We need, therefore,
the transliterated words, for which no adequate English equivalent
It is necessary, moreover, to understand them in their Scriptural
significance and not as.they have been interpreted by ecclesiastical
tradition. The mode and meaning of baptism is clear from the Scriptures
relating to the ordinance. These speak of death, burial and resurrection
(Rom. 6:3, 4; Col. 2:12). Thus, figuratively, the people of Israel
were "baptizedin the cloud and in the sea" (I Cor. 10:2).
The ordinance was instituted by the Lord in the following command:
"Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations,
baptizing them into the Name of the Father and of the Son and
of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever
I commanded you: and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end
of the world (or age)" (Matt. 28:19, 20). The order is significant.
The fulfillment of the command on the part of the Apostles, as
recorded in the Acts, makes clear that baptism was to be preceded
by repentance and faith, essential preliminaries to discipleship.
To translate this passage by inserting the word "by"
before "baptizing," thus making the passage mean that
baptism was to be the means of making disciples, is to force a
doctrine into the command which is contradicted by other Scriptures,
and to read a meaning into it which it was never intended to convey.
On the Day of Pentecost those who were baptized were those who
received the Apostle's word (Acts 2:41). Again, when Philip preached
in Samaria, those who believed were baptized (Acts 8:12). The
subsequent narrative in that chapter, about the eunuch, shows
that he was baptized only after the exercise of faith. So with
the jailer at Philippi and the members of his house (Acts 16:32,
33); the record leaves no room for doubt that all those who were
baptized were believers. For when the word of the Lord had been
spoken to all in the house, all the household both believed and
rejoiced greatly, statements entirely inapplicable to those who
were in infancy. Again, at Corinth, "many of the Corinthians
hearing believed, and were baptized" (Acts 18:8).
These and other Scriptures not only show that baptism is for
believers only, but make clear that the Apostle's words at Pentecost,
"Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the Name
of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins," are not
to be taken to indicate that the remission of sins is obtained
by baptism. The remission of sins is granted on the ground of
faith. The same Apostle declares that everyone that believeth
on Christ shall receive remission of sins (Acts 10:43). So, too,
in the message of the Apostle Paul at Antioch: "through this
Man is proclaimed unto you the remission of sins: and by Him every
one that believeth is justified" (Acts 13:38, 39). 
| The case of Saul of Tarsus
is confirmatory. Acts 9 records first his conversion and then
his baptism (verse 18). In his own narrative of this, recorded
in chapter 22, the command of Ananias, "arise, and be baptized,
and wash away thy sins," by no means implies that God had
not remitted his sins already at his conversion, nor does it
afford ground for the doctrine that Divine remission of sins
is granted on the ground of baptism. Saul, who had judged Christ
to be an impostor, had actually accepted Him as Lord, and was
now to give acknowledgment of this in his baptism, thus publicly
testifying to his fellow nationals his changed attitude, and
symbolically washing away by his own act the sins of his former
rejection of, and antagonism to, Christ. In no case is such language
used of a Gentile; for a Jew thus to testify to Jews would have
a special significance in relation to ceremonial washing.
BINDING UPON ALL BELIEVERS
Further, while none but those who professed faith in Christ
were baptized, no believer remained unbaptized. An unbaptized
believer is not contemplated in the New Testament. It could not
be otherwise in view of the Lord's command. When the Apostle Paul
says, concerning the saints in Corinth, "I thank God that
I baptized none of you save Crispus and Gaius," the context
gives proof that he was not in any way minimizing the value of
baptism, or setting little value on it. He immediately states
as his reason, "lest any man should say that ye were baptized
into my name" (I Cor. 1:15). That there was no unbaptized
believer in the church at Corinth is clear from his preceding
question, "Were ye baptized into the name of Paul?"
He does not say, "Were those of you who were baptized, baptized
into the name of Paul?" as if distinguishing the baptized
from the unbaptized. Again, when he says, "Christ sent me
not to baptize, but to preach the gospel," he simply means
that he did not himself administer the rite in all cases, but
that, while he baptized a few, the carrying out of the ordinance
by his own hand was not his special work. All those who were not
baptized by him were baptized by others, as Acts 18:8 shows.
THE GREAT ERROR
That a person should be regarded as having become regenerate
through having been baptized cannot be rightly deduced from the
Lord's words in John 3:5, "Except a man be born of water
and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."
The Lord immediately says, in confirmation of this statement,
"That which is born of the Spirit is spirit." The Apostle
Peter testifies that we have been "begotten againthrough
the Word of God, which liveth and abideth" (I Pet. 1:23,
R.V.; Cp. James 1:18). It is therefore consistent to understand
the water as symbolizing the Word of God. 
| Water is also a symbol
of the Holy Spirit (see the Lord's words to the woman of Samaria,
John 4:14, and again to the Jews, 7:38, 39). In that case the
kai, "and," is epexegetic and signifies "even."
As against this the objection is raised that a word used symbolically
is not coupled with that which denotes what is symbolized. The
objection, however, is invalid; for instance, "soul and
spirit" (actual) "and joints and marrow" (symbolic)
are thus associated in Hebrews 4:12. On the other hand, the Spirit,
the water and the blood are distinguished in I John 5:8.
There is no intimation in the New Testament that baptism as
the means of regeneration was ever taught in the churches. The
testimony, as we have seen, is to the contrary. The error arose
in a later period, through departure from apostolic teaching,
and by the introduction of rites and practices adopted from oriental
religions. After the early persecutions of immediately post-apostolic
times, measures were taken to incorporate people into the churches
in a wholesale manner, in order that the Christian religion might
outrival its competitors. The mode of baptism by the sprinkling
of water was thus adopted, contrary to the teaching of Holy Scripture,
and the doctrine was promulgated that salvation was secured by
the rite, and that unbaptized persons must perish. In this and
other respects the Christian faith, as taught by Christ and His
Apostles, became generally replaced in Christendom by an admixture
of paganism with the faith, with disastrous results.
THE CAUSE OF THE ERROR
That salvation could be obtained by a mere outward form or
ceremony, appealed to pagan ideas, and would ever prove attractive
to the natural mind. Moreover, the perversion of the ordinance
was contingent upon the substitution of priestcraft for those
forms of spiritual ministry set forth in the New Testament, the
teaching of which is directly opposed to a system of clerisy.
The ordinance of baptism, with its profound significance for the
believer, became changed into a rite which was practised for the
maintenance of priestcraft, and fostered superstition.
Baptism is a testimony on the part of a believer that he has,
through faith in Christ, become identified with Him in His death,
burial and resurrection (Rom. 6:3-5). It is an acknowledgment
that Christ is his Lord, that he belongs to Him as such, and that,
having formerly served sin, he reckons himself as having died
to it and as being alive unto God in Christ Jesus (verse 11).
To take the words of the Apostle Peter (in I Pet. 3:21), that
baptism "saves us," as signifying that baptism is the
means of regeneration, is to miss the meaning of the passage completely.
For he declares at once that baptism is "not the putting
away of the filth of the flesh, but the appeal (R.V. margin) of
a good conscience towards God, through the resurrection of Jesus
Christ." Baptism provides the believer with an appeal against
everything contrary to his identification with Christ in His death
and resurrection. The very significance of the ordinance, to which
he voluntarily submits himself, in the fulfillment of the will
of the Lord is an appeal against yielding to sin. Thus the believer
is thereby saved, not from the doom of his sins, but from an evil
conscience through having by thought, word or deed contravened
the meaning of the ordinance. The passage just referred to is
likewise a testimony to the Scriptural mode of baptism; for it
speaks of the ordinance as "a corresponding figure"
(lit., "a corresponding type") to the similarly typical
representation set forth by the ark and those who were brought
therein through the flood in a figurative burial and resurrection.
Baptism bears no relation to the Jewish rite of circumcision,
nor has baptism taken the place of circumcision. Jews, who, as
such, had been circumcised on the eighth day, were baptized after
they had believed on Christ; and, vice versa, Timothy, who had
become a disciple and therefore had been baptized, was circumcised
by the Apostle Paul just before going forth with him in missionary
service. If there is any analogy, then, as Jews were circumcised
because they were children of Abraham, so believers are baptized
because they are children of God.
In connection with the significance of baptism, the twenty-ninth
verse of 1 Corinthians 15 has been usually understood to refer
to a certain ceremony which took place on the occasion of the
burial of a believer. In view, however, of the absence of any
other intimation in Scripture regarding such a ceremony, and the
absence of any historical evidence thereof in apostolic times,
or those which immediately followed, another meaning must be sought.
Bearing in mind that the original was written without punctuation
marks, let the first question mark in the verse be placed after
the word "baptized," and the verse gives a meaning at
once consistent with the doctrine of Scripture. The reading will
thus be: "Else what shall they do which are baptized? It
is for (i.e., 'in the interests of') the dead, if the dead are
not raised at all. Why then are they baptized for them?"
The first question, "What shall they do ... T' is a way of
asking what is the use or value of being baptized. The insertion
of the words "It is," to provide the answer, is consistent
with the fact that the verb "to be" is frequently omitted
in the original, as is shown by the italicized words in several
places in this very chapter. If there is no resurrection of the
dead, the ordinance, instead of setting forth the identification
of believers with the risen Christ, has no meaning at all either
for Him or for them; for all perish at death: see verse 18. Both
His command and their witness in the ordinance are null and void.
They testify to doctrines that have no significance. Their baptism
is therefore in the interests of dead ones." 
|  The next question
follows appropriately, "Why do we also stand in jeopardy
every hour." If there is no resurrection, why lead a life
which involves "dying daily?"
Ecclesiasticism, so far from developing the truth relating
to baptism, has perverted the ordinance both in its mode and its
CHAPTER FOURTEEN: "THE TABLE OF THE LORD" AND
"THE LORD'S SUPPER"
The phrases "The table of the Lord" and "The
Lord's supper" are found once only in Scripture, the former
in I Cor. 10:21 and the latter in 11:20. There is a difference,
in the first place, in the significance of the terms. For while
the word "supper" stands actually for that which it
denotes, the word "table" stands, not simply for the
material of the table, but also for that with which it is connected.
This is an illustration of that principle of language by which
a word is used to signify that with which it is associated. Another
instance of this is to be found in those phrases which make mention
of the blood of Christ. The blood does not simply denote the physical
material, it stands for the Death of Christ by the shedding of
His blood in propitiatory sacrifice.
Associated with the table of the Lord are, firstly, the sacrifice
of the Cross, through which what is set on the table is provided;
secondly, the materials thereon which set forth the body and blood
of Christ; thirdly, the privileges and spiritual blessings bestowed
upon those who partake. This at once will serve to show how wide
is the scope of the significance attaching to the phrase.
There are three "tables" spoken of in Scripture:(1)
the table provided for Israel, which signifies the privileges
Divinely bestowed upon God's earthly people, through the provision
He made for them. Owing to the hardness of their hearts their
table became "a snare, and a trap, and a stumbling-block,
and a recompense unto them" (Rom. 11:9); (2) "the table
of demons," which is in sharp and divisive contrast to (3)
"the table of the Lord." "The table of demons"
stands for that which is provided for idolaters by these powers
The parallel is clear. The various heathen altars of sacrifice
supplied "the table," in its spiritual significance,
for the devotees of this or that god or goddess. Actually the
provision was made by demons. The activity of these beings in
this respect, however, is more extensive than what appertains
to the idolatrous cults of the heathen. For idolatry does not
consist merely of the worship or veneration of images. There are
many forms of idolatry. The table is spread for the worldling
with a variety of supplies, and believers are warned that they
cannot partake of this table as well as of the table of the Lord.
In the Church at Corinth there was a temptation, while partaking
of the Lord's table, to revert to the former conditions of unregenerate
days, and to associate in idolatrous practices and customs. Against
this the Apostle remonstrates. Hence the warning against attempting
to participate in both tables. Moreover, such an attempt is to
provoke the Lord to jealousy (verse 22), a spiritual application
of the jealousy-offering mentioned in Numbers 5. The believer
who thus transgresses renders himself liable to drink a cup of
judgment instead of the cup of blessing.
THE BASIS OF SUPPLY
With regard more particularly to the table of the Lord, the
Old Testament foreshadowing of this is given in such passages
as Deuteronomy 12:27, "Thou shalt offer thy burnt offerings,
the flesh and the blood, upon the altar of the Lord thy God and
the blood of thy sacrifice shall be poured out upon the altar
of the Lord thy God, and thou shalt eat the flesh." As the
altar of burnt offering supplied Israel with that upon which they
were to feed, so the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross is the means
of supplying us who sit at His table, not only with the materials
which are put thereon, but with the corresponding spiritual provision
made for us in Christ Himself. Hence the Apostle says, "Behold
Israel after the flesh: have not they which eat the sacrifices
communion  (or fellowship) with the altar?" (verse 18).
The spiritual application of this is mentioned in the preceding
verse, in that, in the unity which we enjoy, "we all partake
of the one bread (or loaf)."
| The word rendered "Partakes
of" is metecho, to have a share in, whereas in verse 18
the word rendered "have communion" is koinonos, one
who has something in common with others.
AN IMPORTANT DIFFERENCE
Chapter 10 is not primarily occupied with the details of the
actual partaking of the Lord's Supper, as in chapter 11, but with
the privileges and responsibilities which believers enjoy as those
who have fellowship with one another in that which the death of
Christ has provided for them. We are, in the more comprehensive
sense of the term, always at the Table. This helps to explain
the order in verse 16, the cup first, the bread after: "The
cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a communion of the blood
of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a communion of
the body of Christ?" This is especially a fellowship of His
death. The subject throughout chapter 10 is twofold, namely, the
separating power of His death, dissociating believers from the
world, and the close bond of their union in Him through His sacrifice.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE ORDER
That the cup is mentioned first, then, is very significant.
The passage lays stress on the sacrificial aspect of His death.
The blood of Christ is that which met the claims of Divine righteousness,
the claims of God as Judge, while at the same time the love of
God was therein manifested. The realization of that comes first
in the matter of fellowship with one another, a fellowship which
we enjoy as those who have come under the cleansing power of the
precious blood of Christ. By way of consequent experience, this
fellowship is then set forth by the bread which we break: it is
a communion of the body of Christ, "seeing that we, who are
many, are one bread (one loaf), one body."
Chapter 10 treats of the subject more from the external point
of view, while chapter I I views it internally. What is conveyed
by "the table of the Lord," while referring immediately
to the cup and the bread of which we partake at the Lord's Supper,
points especially to our responsibilities and privileges all the
week, and the provision made to enable us to fulfil and enjoy
them. This is borne out by the immediately ensuing context, where
the Apostle points out the necessity of so ordering our life,
that we shall abstain from anything inconsistent with the table
of the Lord. We cannot partake of that and then go and compromise
our relationship. We are to remember that we have a fellowship
to maintain, and we are to seek not our own, but one another's
good, avoiding everything that would cause our brother to stumble.
Indeed, to partake of the table of the Lord involves this, that
whatsoever we do we shall do "all to the glory of God,"
and that we shall give no occasion of stumbling, either to Jews
or Gentiles, or to the church of God (verse 32). Any such act
belies that fellowship into which we have been brought with other
believers, and dishonours the name of Him whom we own as Lord.
THE MORAL ASPECT
The table of the Lord presents a moral aspect. There are moral
responsibilities attached to it. To partake of it means that we
accept the death of Christ as our own death, the destruction of
the body of sin, the death by which we are crucified to the world
and the world to us, the world in all its phases religious, political,
social. The arch foe of God is its prince, and he will continue
to be "the god of this world" till he is removed hence
to his appointed doom. Hence the importance of maintaining our
identification with Christ as those who, being privileged to sit
at His table and enjoy all that He is to the Father for us and
the fulness of the provision that there is in Him for us, have
at the same time become dead, through His Cross, to all that stands
in alienation from Him.
The order in chapter 11 is that in which Christ instituted
the Supper, and the subject there is the partaking of it in remembrance
of the Lord, and as a proclamation of His death, till He come.
We call Him to mind as the Living One, who was dead, and we proclaim
the efficacy and the purpose of His death. The contrast in chapter
11 is not between the table of the Lord and the table of demons,
but between the Lord's Supper and our own supper. It can only
be the Lord's Supper when we acknowledge Him as Lord thereat and,
fulfilling His commands as He instituted it, enter into the significance
of that of which we are partaking.
FOR THE WHOLE ERA
The teaching given in this Epistle to the Corinthians concerning
the table of the Lord and the Lord's Supper, was not intended
simply for the church at Corinth. The Apostle associates the church
there "with all that call upon the name of our Lord Jesus
Christ in every place, their Lord and ours" (1:2). He definitely
states that the instructions he gives are not simply for that
church but for all the churches (7:17); so 11:16; he says, too,
that what he teaches there he teaches everywhere in every church
(4:17). Moreover, the Lord's Supper is appointed as a proclamation
of His death "till He come" (11:26). It was therefore
not designed simply for the early period of the testimony of the
As in the case of the ordinance of baptism, ecclesiastical
tradition has changed the character of the feast, with regard
both to its mode and its meaning, so that what prevails in organized
religious systems in Christendom bears little resemblance to that
which is laid down for us in the New Testament Scriptures.
A CUSTOM TRANSFORMED
The Lord's Supper, as instituted by the Lord Jesus, was in
one respect not altogether new. The breaking of bread and the
drinking of a cup had been customary in connection with burials.
. By way of contrast, the Lord appointed these acts as a feast
of joy. His followers were to partake of the Supper in remembrance,
not of His death, but of Himself (I Cor. 11:11-25). They were
indeed to enter into the significance of His death, as set forth
in the bread and the cup, and were to proclaim His death in the
act of partaking. "Proclaim," be it noted, not "shew"
or "shew forth." The word (katangello) is used of proclaiming
a message, as in this very Epistle, in 2:1 and 9:16, in the latter
verse of preaching the gospel. Not representation but proclamation
is intended; not, as has been wrongly interpreted, a showing to
God, but a witness to men.
|  For the breaking
of bread in this respect in the Old Testament see the R.V. of
Jeremiah 16:7, where "break bread" is the rendering;
Ezek. 24:17; Hos. 9:4; Deut. 26:14.
Again, the Lord's words are "in remembrance of Me"
(Luke 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:24,25~) not in memory of an absent person,
though He is corporeally absent, nor as a memorial of an act,
but in vivid realization of the Lord Himself, spiritually present,
according to His promise; yet ever on the ground of the fact,
the purpose and the effect of His vicarious sacrifice at Calvary.
The force of the word "remembrance" may be gathered
from its only other occurrence in the New Testament, viz., Heb.
10:3, "in those sacrifices there is a remembrance made of
sins year by year." The effect of the sacrifices under the
Mosaic economy was to bring "iniquity to remembrance"
(Num. 5:15); the design of the breaking of bread and drinking
of the cup is to bring to the hearts of the partakers the realization
of what Christ is to them as Lord and Saviour, and what they are
to Him through His redeeming blood. He appointed the Supper, not
simply "lest we forget," but in order that He might
Himself, as the outcome of His finished work on the Cross, communicate
to us a fresh impulse of His grace and love.
As to His words upon giving the broken loaf to the disciples,
"Take, eat; this is My body" (Matt. 26:26), certain
considerations should be sufficient to make clear that any idea
of the actual transmutation of the material elements of the bread
into the substance of His body, was by no means His intention.
Firstly, the Lord in bodily Presence was there, reclining with
His disciples at the table, His hands that broke the bread and
handed it to them being members of His body. The disciples certainly
did not conceive of His having, or creating, another body in any
sense, shape or form, in addition to that in which He was present
Secondly, the parallel statement concerning the cup cannot
be taken as conveying the thought of transmutation. The following
reason is sufficient to show this. The Lord, upon giving the disciples
the cup, said, "For this is My blood. . ." The narratives
in Luke 22:20 and I Cor. 11:25, are given as His words, "This
cup is the new covenant in My blood." In whatever language
Christ spoke to the disciples in the upper room, it thus becomes
plain that He spoke of the cup as symbolizing the new covenant.
Plainly His words here, therefore, signify representation and
not transubstantiation. The word "this" (neuter in the
original) in Matt. 26:28 refers back to the cup (poterion, also
neuter), which the narrative records Him having just taken. "He
took a cup ... saying ... Drink ye all of it; for this is My blood
of the new covenant." The four narratives are all thus in
agreement. The Lord's language shows that He had no idea of the
transmutation of the contents of the cup itself. Since the cup
was undeniably a representation of the new covenant in His blood,
the preceding and parallel phrase "this is My body"
never should have been interpreted as indicating a change of the
actual substance from bread into His body. Clearly, what the Lord
meant was, "This bread represents My body, and this cup with
its contents represents the new covenant to be made in My death
and to be ratified by the shedding of My blood." In regard
to the cup, this is again confirmed by what is said of the cup
and of the bread in I Cor. 10:16, "The cup of blessing ...
is it not a communion of the blood of Christ? The bread ... is
it not a communion of the body of Christ?" Neither the cup
nor the bread is the actual communion. They stand for, or represent,
the communion (that which we have in common as believers), and
precisely so the bread represents His body.
Thirdly, in all statements with the verb "to be"
as the connecting predicate, the verb is never used to signify
that one thing is changed into another. In other words, it is
never used as the equivalent of ginomai, "to become."
In all such usage either (a) the object is actually what it is
said to be, apart from any change from the one thing to another
(as, e.g., "This is the witness of John," John 1:19),
or (b) the object represents what it is said to be (as, e.g.,
"the field is the world," Matt. 13:38; "these women
are two covenants," Gal. 4:24; "the seven heads are
seven mountains," Rev. 17:9). Obviously (a) is not the case
in the statement, "this is My body" (for the doctrine
of transubstantiation does suppose a change from one thing to
another). We are therefore confined to the meaning as set forth
in the examples under (b), and the statement is to be understood
as meaning "This bread represents My body."
Fourthly, there is not the slightest intimation in any writing
of apostolic times, or of post
apostolic times for some centuries, that believers either were
taught, or understood, that any change took place in the substance
either of the bread or of the wine. On the contrary, the testimony
of the Apostle Paul is against the theory of transubstantiation;
for throughout the passage, and with reference even to the actual
partaking, which would be after the alleged pronouncement of the
blessing, the elements are spoken of still as the bread and the
cup, and not as the body and the blood.
Fifthly, the Lord's words concerning the cup were, "Drink
ye all of it." That this was not intended simply for the
Apostles but for all believers, is clear from the testimony of
I Cor. I 1:26, where the Apostle, speaking of the whole church
at Corinth, says, "as often as yedrink the cup." Now,
to say nothing of the audacious decree promulgated in 1415 A.D.,
forbidding laymen to partake of the wine in the Lord's Supper,
there is a very direct testimony against the supposition that
the wine ever became changed into blood. The Law of God given
to the people of Israel forbade the drinking of blood (Lev. 17:10,
14). Nor was the prohibition ever removed. On the contrary, it
was enforced by the decree issued for the churches by the Apostles
at their gathering at Jerusalem. The churches were to abstain
from what is strangled and from blood (Acts 15:20). Any ecclesiastical
fiat, therefore, confining the cup to a sacerdotal partaking (which
is itself a breach of the Lord's own institution of the cup) simply
made the priests of the religious organization guilty, under the
supposition of transubstantiation, of disobeying the Divine prohibition
against partaking of blood. But the idea is preposterous. The
Lord never instituted a feast which would involve a breach of
Sixthly, the statement "Ye proclaim the Lord's death,"
taken with the Lord's own words on the subject, teaches that the
elements are emblems of Christ in His death, and not in His exaltation
and presence in Heaven as the ascended Lord. For, while in bodily
presence He is at the right hand of the Throne of God, He is at
the same time, in fulfillment of His promise, Himself spiritually
in the midst of His people, not in the elements on the table,
but Personally with them. That He "took bread" and "took"
 a cup, afforded no ground whatever for the sacerdotal practice
of elevating the emblems, either for presentation or veneration.
There is no stress upon the word in the original, rendered "took."
What is recorded is simply an act in the ordinary sense of the
|  Lambano is the ordinary
word denoting either .'to take" or "to receive."
It never conveys the suggestion of elevating.
Seventhly, whereas attempts have been made to explain the breaking
of bread by the interpretation of the sixth chapter of the Gospel
of John, a careful perusal of that passage, in which Christ speaks
of His being the Living Bread, shows that there is no reference
there to the Lord's Supper. Christ was on that occasion speaking
of the means whereby a person obtains eternal life, which is granted
on the ground of faith, and not on the ground of partaking of
the bread in the Lord's Supper. Moreover, when He said, "The
bread which I shall give is My flesh, for the life of the world"
(verse 51, R.V.), and the Jews made the mistake of taking His
words literally, He rebuked them, with the remark, "It is
the Spirit that quickeneththe words that I have spoken unto you
are spirit and are life. But there are some of you that believe
not." To take His words therefore in the literal sense is
to support what has become one of the greatest errors in Christendom.
Plainly the Lord was drawing the analogy between material support
of the body by bread and the spiritual support of the soul by
The partaking of the Lord's Supper, as set forth in the New
Testament, is marked by an entire absence of officialism. There
is no hint of the appointment of anyone for the administration
of the elements. Both the breaking of the bread and the drinking
of the cup are for the whole company. The cup is "the cup
of blessing which we bless" (or "give thanks for,"
as is the meaning in I Cor. 14:16); the bread is that which "we
break." The argument that the "we" stands for the
Apostles and their successors is refuted by the context; for the
Apostle immediately says, "seeing that we, who are many,
are one bread, one body: for we all partake of the one bread."
Again, when he points out to the church at Corinth the inconsistency
of partaking of the cup of demons and the cup of the Lord (10:21),
the implication in the "ye" is obvious (save to those
who have some unscriptural theory to advance) that the whole church
partook of the cup.
The sacerdotalism which, by mere human tradition, has intruded
human mediators for official ministrations of the elements to
all the partakers, has marred the character of the feast as appointed
by the Lord, and has perverted the carrying out of His intentions.
The solemn responsibility, yea, happy privilege, of believers
is to follow His will and adhere to the teaching which He has
left on record for us in the Scriptures of Truth.
CHAPTER FIFTEEN: "RECEPTION"
Local churches are spoken of in the New Testament not only
as "churches of God" (I Cor. 11:16) but also as "churches
of Christ" (Rom. 16:16). They belong to the Father and to
the Son, from whom they derive their existence and whose sustaining
power and care are ministered to them. They consist of those who
are both "for God's own possession" (I Pet. 2:9, R.V.),
having been purchased with the blood of Christ (Acts 20:28), and
"for Christ's own possession" (Titus 2:14). The churches
are His by right of His redemptive work on the Cross and by the
operation of the Holy Spirit. They are not the property or possession
of any ecclesiastical organization or religious body or society
or denomination. As we have already observed, the Word of God
knows nothing of such organizations or associations of churches
in any shape or form; its testimony is distinctly against the
formation of any such federation or combination with earthly headquarters.
Each church, as the property of Christ, is designed to acknowledge
His authority as its Lord (I Cor. 12:5).
Nor again does any local church belong to those who, as its
spiritual guides, elders or bishops (see, e.g., Acts 20, verse
17 with verse 28, R.V., Phil. 1:1, etc.), are appointed by the
Spirit of God to exercise oversight and to take care of it (I
Tim. 3:5). They are the Lord's servants, answerable to Him for
the discharge of their functions in tending the flock under their
care, which they are to regard as His. The local church in which
they are bishops or elders is spoken of, not as "their flock,"
but as "God's flock" (I Pet. v. 2).
Having then a care for the "charge allotted" to them,
they are justified, when a person applies for reception into local
church fellowship, in asking the applicant for credentials as
to matters of faith and conduct; indeed, such a demand is necessary,
especially in times of confusion and apostasy like the present,
times of rampant modernism, numerous religious cults and abounding
lawlessness. When such credentials are forthcoming, the command
holds good, "receive ye one another, even as Christ also
received you, to the glory of God" (Rom. 15:7); reception
is to be "in the Lord" and "worthily of the saints"
(16:2). The decision of the spiritual guides of a church that
an applicant is to be received, should be sufficient for the tacit
agreement of the assembly. Yet, as it is the church that receives
and puts away, the ultimate responsibility rests upon the church
(Rev. 2 and 3).
Granted that those who have a spiritual care for the assembly
are satisfied with the evidences, not only of life in Christ but
of soundness in the fundamental doctrines of the faith and of
a life consistent therewith, one who, through faith in Christ,
has been received by Him and become a member of His body, the
Church, is entitled to the fellowship of an assembly, and so to
a place at the Lord's Table. The privilege of partaking of the
Lord's Supper involves the enjoyment of all the privileges of
a church, and not only so but the fulfillment of the responsibilities
attaching to such fellowship. As to permanency or otherwise, this
is conditioned by local or personal circumstances. This is particularly
so in days characterized by the confusion which prevails in Christendom.
THE NEED OF CARE
The greatest care needs to be exercised to avoid the dangers
of introducing elements of error or division, and of laxity in
adherence to the Lord's will as revealed in the Word of God and
the principles contained therein. As to fundamental doctrine,
one is not to be received who "abideth not in the teaching
of Christ" (2 John 9), that is to say, all that He taught,
and therefore also the doctrine relating to His Person. This warning
was against false teachers, not against believers who were seeking
light, or genuinely endeavouring to understand the will of the
The Apostle Paul similarly denounces anyone who should preach
any gospel other than that which he and his fellow apostles had
preached; such a one was to be "anathema" (Gal. 1:8).
Special instances of such errorists were Hymenius and Alexander,
whom the Apostle "delivered unto Satan, that they might be
taught not to blaspheme" (I Tim. 1:20). So, too, the Lord
reproves the church at Pergamos for having in their midst some
that held the teaching of Balaam, instead of putting them away
from them (Rev. 2:14). Teaching which perverts the gospel is called
"leaven" (Gal. 5:9) and thus receives the same denunciation
as immorality (1 Cor. 5:6).
On the other hand, the case of the attitude of the disciples
at Jerusalem towards Saul of Tarsus after his conversion, when
"he essayed to join himself" to them and "they
were all afraid of him," cannot rightly be taken as the regular
course of procedure to be adopted in the matter of reception.
The saints in Jerusalem had had experience of Saul's methods and
had good ground for their fears and for "not believing that
He was a disciple," until Barnabas allayed their apprehensions
(Acts 9:26, 27). To make such a case a guiding line of procedure
would be unscriptural. Evidence is necessary, but not suspicion.
WHOM NOT TO REFUSE
Apart from cases of false teaching and immorality, the adoption
of rigid regulations is precarious. The desire of a believer may
be limited, either through lack of fun understanding or owing
to other circumstances, to the privilege of partaking of the Lord's
Supper and of enjoying the worship of fellow-believers on that
occasion. To refuse a believer simply on the ground of the temporary
and limited character of his desires would be to grieve the Spirit
of God. To receive such a one is not to be guilty of laxity. No
regulations unprovided in Scripture can be sufficient to debar
evil. In Jude's time certain ungodly men had crept in unawares.
That indeed affords no reason for carelessness in these matters;
at the same time it affords no ground for erecting a humanly devised
barrier. Principles of Scripture ever hold good; their application
is always safe. What is needed is watchfulness and care on the
part of those who are appointed by God to exercise oversight--watchfulness
against the reception of those whose life or teaching is inconsistent
with the gospel, and those who give evidence of being such as
to cause division. To go beyond this is to usurp the authority
The following words of J. N. Darby are cogent in this respect:
"Suppose a person, known to be godly and sound in faith,
who has not left some ecclesiastical system, nay, thinks Scripture
favours an ordained ministry, is glad, when the occasion occurs
(i.e., to partake of the Lord Supper), suppose we alone are in
the place, or he is not in connection with any other body in the
place (staying with a brother or the like), is he to be excluded
because he is of some system as to which his conscience is not
enlightened, nay, which he may think more right? He is a godly
member of the body, known as such; is he to be shut out? If so,
the degree of light is title to communion, and the unity of the
body is denied by the assembly which refuses him. The principle
of meeting as members of Christ walking in godliness is given
up, agreement with us is made the rule, and the assembly becomes
a sect with its members like any other.... It may give more trouble,
requiring more care to treat every case on its merits, on the
principle of the unity of all Christ's members, than to say, 'You
do not belong to us, you cannot come,' but the whole principle
of meeting is gone."
A sectarian connection would not of itself justify refusal
of fellowship at the Lord's Table. At Corinth there were those
who were guilty of a sectarian spirit, yet no admonition as to
exclusion was given as with the delinquent in chapter 5. How much
less should a believer be refused who, fulfilling the above conditions,
has been hindered by denominational association from receiving
light upon the Scriptural principles relating to a church! Fellowship
is not conditional upon the measure of light received. Deficiency
of spiritual understanding in this respect affords no reason for
the rejection of one who is a member of the Body of Christ and
walking in godliness of life. Reception of such does not involve
carelessness or looseness in doctrine or in the fulfillment of
LETTERS OF COMMENDATION
It is needful for all that they should bring satisfactory evidence,
and, in the case of one who has been identified with another assembly,
professedly constituted on Scriptural lines, that a letter of
commendation, such as is intimated in 2 Cor. 3:1 and other Scriptures,
should be forthcoming, unless there is any valid reason for its
absence. Those who are moving from one place to another, who have
been so identified, do well to see to it that they are so commended,
not simply for the sake of being admitted to fellowship, but that
the saints where they are received may have the joy of the expression
of goodwill from the commending assembly, and the link of fellowship
which such a letter involves. While ecclesiastical bonds of human
organization are not countenanced in Scripture, yet any means
of Christian intercourse affords an occasion of manifesting that
spiritual unity which eternally binds believers together.
CHAPTER SIXTEEN: CHURCH DISCIPLINE
What is true of the whole Church, the Body of Christ (never
spoken of in Scripture or to be regarded as "the Church on
earth"), is in many respects likewise true of the earthly,
local and temporary portions of it, the churches. An evidence
of this lies in the very name ekklesia, given to both the whole
and its parts, with its suggestive literal significance, "called
out." Those who comprise the parts, and therefore the whole,
are called out from one sphere into another, out from the world
in its alienation from God, and "into the fellowship of His
Son Jesus Christ our Lord" (I Cor. 1:9).
EACH CHURCH A TEMPLE
Again, the whole Church is spoken of as a temple, and so is
each local church. As to the whole, "each several building,
fitly framed together groweth into a holy temple in the Lord"
(Eph. 2:21) that is a process; of a local church, whenever formed,
the statement holds good, "ye are a temple of God" (I
Cor. 3:16; cp. 2 Cor. 6:16, where the reference is to the individual
believer). God's temple is called His house, a frequent description
of the temple in Jerusalem. So a local church is described as
"the house of God ... the church of the living God"
(I Tim. 3:15). That the local assembly is there referred to is
clear from the fact that the Apostle was giving instructions to
Timothy as to the circumstances and testimony of the church at
Ephesus (the instruction is of course applicable to every assembly).
He was exhorting him, as he had done before, to remain there for
a time (I Tim. 1:3, R.V.; 2 Tim. 4:9).
As the temple or house of God, the assembly is God's dwelling
place. That is the root meaning of the word oikos, "house"
(from oikeo "to dwell"; the same meaning is contained
in the word oikodome, "building," lit., house, building),
as, e.g., in I Cor. 3:9. Being such, a local church is essentially
a place of holiness. "Holiness becometh Thine house, 0 Lord,
for ever" (Ps. 93:5). Whatever is inconsistent with the character
and claims of God must be absent from it. In such a community
it is necessary for each believer to know how to behave himself.
That is what the Apostle expresses as the object for which he
wrote the first Epistle to Timothy. That this was not intended
merely to refer to Timothy's individual conduct in the church,
but to that of all the saints therein, both the immediate context
and the general tenor of the Epistle indicate.
The awesome holiness of the Sanctuary, wherein God dwelt in
the midst of His people Israel, was ever impressed upon them,
and that with the beneficent design that His character might find
reflection in theirs. They were to be holy as He is holy. Precisely
so with an assembly. The very reason for its existence demands
that it be kept fit for the presence of God. The spiritual power
and glory of the Lord's presence cannot be experienced where holiness
is not maintained. To harbour anything contrary to the character
and claims of God is to do despite to the Holy Spirit.
THE BASIS OF DISCIPLINE
Consistently with the maintenance of holiness, with its consequent
blessing, the church at Corinth was enjoined to put away from
among themselves the "wicked person" who had defiled
God's spiritual temple. The command to do so was based not only
upon the character of God but upon the claims of the death of
Christ. On this ground they were to "purge out the old leaven."
"For our passover also hath been sacrificed, even Christ:
wherefore let us keep the feast (or, as in the margin, 'keep festival'
not here the Lord's Supper but the constant and joyous maintenance
of a life and testimony well pleasing to God and effective in
its witness in the world), not with old leaven, neither with the
leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread
of sincerity and truth" (I Cor. 5:8). That was what the passover
lamb had meant to Israel. Only so could they be His people, separated
to Him by sanctification and cleansing. "Purge out the old
leaven," says the Apostle, "that ye may be a new lump,
even as ye are unleavened." Spiritual standing must find
its counterpart in conduct.
THE SCOPE OF DISCIPLINE
One who was so disciplined was not merely debarred from the
Lord's Supper, but was put away from amongst the assembly, and
therefore excluded from the fellowship of the believers in their
daily life and intercourse, a fellowship of which the breaking
of bread is only one expression. For any member of the assembly
to ignore the act and continue social intercourse as if there
had been no sin, would be merely carnal sentiment, void both of
holy love and righteousness, and grieving to the Spirit of God.
So with seeking spiritual help from the ministry of one from whom
it has been necessary to separate on account of evil doctrine.
He who has missed his way is ill suited to be a guide. The command
concerning such is, "If any one cometh unto you, and bringeth
not this teaching (i.e., the teaching of Christ), receive him
not into your house, and give him no greeting: for he that giveth
him greeting partaketh in his evil works" (2 John 10, 11).
Further, for a person to be under the discipline of expulsion
from an assembly involves his being outside every other assembly.
No circles of fellowship are required for the maintenance of this,
nor are they Scriptural. Human devices may prove effectual in
preventing one evil, but they do so only by introducing another.
The restrictions of men, however rigid, ever fail to fulfil the
will of God. Unscriptural barriers against a spiritual evil prove
barriers to real blessings. Due care on the part of the spiritual
guides in the churches should be sufficient to obviate the intrusion
of one under discipline into any particular assembly. Let a note
of commendation be required. For such a person simply to go off
and seek the fellowship of another assembly and there to be received,
is to ignore the authority of Christ and to contravene the unity
of the Spirit, which we are enjoined to endeavour to keep (Eph.
4:3). An act of church discipline is not simply the act of the
assembly; when rightly used it is the exercise of the authority
of Christ carried out in His Name and power (I Cor. 5:4). The
realization of that is itself sufficient to enforce the solemn
and binding character of the discipline.
THE OBJECT OF DISCIPLINE
Godly discipline ever has restoration in view. There is a double
purpose, immediate and ultimate: immediate, that the erring one
may learn the mind of the Lord in deep exercise of heart, be brought
to a new apprehension of the sinfulness of sin, and be granted
the grace of repentance and confession; ultimate, that complete
restoration may be established. "All chastening seemeth for
the present to be not joyous but grievous; yet afterward it yieldeth
peaceable fruit unto them that have been exercised thereby, even
the fruit of righteousness." The saints are to see to it
that "that which is lame be not turned out of the way, but
rather be healed" (Heb. 12:11-13).
Following on, and in contrast to, the solemn warning in Gal.
5:19-21, that those who practise the works of the flesh shall
not inherit the Kingdom of God, comes the earnest command concerning
a believer, who, being off his guard, has fallen into sin: "Brethren,
even if a man (i.e., any member, of either sex, of the church)
be overtaken in any trespass, ye which are spiritual restore (a
metaphor from the setting of a dislocated or broken bone) such
an one in a spirit of meekness; looking to thyself, lest thou
also be tempted. Bear ye one another's burdens (here especially
the burden of the sense of shame and dishonour), and so fulfil
the law of Christ" (Gal. 6:1, 2). Where such pastoral care
brings the erring one to judge his sin, he will have been "gained."
That the restoration of an erring one is to be the earnest
and prayerful desire of the whole assembly is touchingly set before
us in the second chapter of the second Epistle to the Corinthians.
Punishment had duly been inflicted, as enjoined in the first Epistle
(2 Cor. 2:6), but the grief which had been caused was to be succeeded
not only by forgiveness but by a ministry of comfort, "lest
by any means such an one should be swallowed up with his overmuch
sorrow" (verse 7). Nay, more, the saints were to confirm
their love toward him. A wholehearted and godly restoration indeed!
But this had another purpose, that of preventing Satan from getting
an advantage of the saints. The adversary is persistently set
against the spiritual welfare and testimony of a church; not only
by marring the witness through sin, but by preventing, either
through a spirit of harshness, or through negligence, the restoration
of one who has been disciplined.
THE EFFECT ON THE ASSEMBLY
The necessity for the act of discipline should bring an assembly
down before God in deep heart-searching and humiliation. There
is need of this, if only for this reason that had the saints been
in a healthy spiritual condition, walking in fellowship with the
Lord and in separation from the world, the sin for which the expulsion
had become necessary might never have occurred. The church at
Corinth had failed at first in this, and had not rather mourned.
Besides, the loss of a fellow-believer under such circumstances
means essentially a defect in the church as such. For, as with
the physical body, if one member suffers, "all the members
suffer with it" (I Cor. 12:26).
Further, unjudged sin in the church mars the testimony in the
eyes of the world, and gives "occasion for the enemies of
the Lord to blaspheme." Achan's sin prevented Israel from
standing before their enemies (Josh. 7:13). To be evil spoken
of for the sake of the Name of Christ is to have "the Spirit
of glory and the Spirit of God" resting upon us (I Pet. 4:14).
But where the fair escutcheon of His Name is marred, and legitimate
ground is given to the world to point the finger of derision,
there is call for deep and constant humiliation in the sight of
God, and for such measures as will do all that is possible for
the removal of the blot.
Where there is a real sorrow and brokenness of spirit on the
part of the gathering, the act of expulsion will not be simply
looked upon as the removal of an offender; instead, the priestly
service will be undertaken of eating the sin offering in the holy
place, making the sin our own and judging it as though it had
been committed by us; judging, too, the lack of that spiritual
power which might have prevented the erring one from falling into
sin. "If we discerned ourselves, we should not be judged."
AS TO DOCTRINAL ERROR
The Apostle speaks of delivering the offender unto Satan. There
was probably special apostolic authority in that respect. Such
an act cannot be regarded as simply involving the alternative
of being put into the sphere of the world (as that which lies
in the evil one) instead of the church, for the object of that
particular discipline in the case of I Cor. 5 was "for the
destruction of the flesh." Again, in regard to the evil of
the doctrinal error by which Hymenmus and Alexander were guilty
of making shipwreck concerning the faith, the act of delivering
them to Satan was wrought by the Apostle himself and not by a
church. Yet one who holds evil doctrine is to be the subject of
church discipline equally with one who is guilty of the sin of
immorality. The church at Pergamos received blame from the Lord
for having in their midst those that held the doctrine of Balaam
and those that held the doctrine of the Nicolaitans. His reproach
makes clear that the church was to put them away (Rev. 2:14-16).
Similar discipline is enjoined where a believer is "a
fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard,
or an extortioner." No company is to be kept with such; the
saints are not to eat with them; that is to say, they are not
to have social intercourse with them. Such dissociation necessarily
involves the same attitude as in the particular instance dealt
with in the chapter. In all these cases a course of unjudged sin
is indicated, not sin that has been repented of.
Certain forms of discipline called for are of a less severe
nature than that of excommunication. Those who are disorderly
are to be admonished (I Thess. 5:14). Believers are to withdraw
themselves "from every brother that walketh disorderly"
(2 Thess. 3:6). Timothy is exhorted to reprove them that sin,
in the sight of all, "that the rest also may be in fear"
(I Tim. 5:20). "Unruly men, vain talkers and deceivers"
are to have their mouths stopped. Those who are so careless and
unspiritual as to give ear to such, are to receive a sharp reproof
(Tit. 1:10, 11, 13).
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: GIVING
The opening verses of the Epistle of James contain a description
of God as "the giving God." That is the literal rendering
of the phrase "God who giveth," in the statement "God,
who giveth to all liberally" (verse 5). "The giving
God" it is almost a title. How abundantly it is illustrated
in the Scriptures! "He gave His only begotten Son";
"How shall He not also with Him freely give us all things
T' His giving is the outflow of His love "God so lovedthat
He gave." He gives "liberally" (James 1:5), "freely"
(Rom. 8:32), "richly" (I Tim. 6:17).
LIKENESS TO THE FATHER
One of the prominent lessons in the teaching of the Sermon
on the Mount, is that by shaping our conduct in obedience to the
Lord's precepts our character will be conformed to that of our
Heavenly Father. We shall be truly "Sons of our Father which
is in heaven" (see, e.g., Matt. 5:45). Not merely children
but "sons." That is to say, those who not only are born
of God but share His character, and so represent Him worthily,
bearing the impress of the Divine parentage. As then His grace
is such that He is "the giving God," liberal in His
giving, the same spirit of liberality is to characterize us. When
Christ sat over against the treasury and observed "how the
people cast money into the treasury," He was really noticing
the kind of giving which corresponded to God's mode of giving.
The poor widow cast in all that she had. Was not that like the
gift the Father gave in giving His Son? He was His all. Giving
is a test of character.
The world forms its estimate according to the getting: Christ's
estimate is measured by the giving. The world reckons what sum
is given. Men consider the amount: Christ considers the motive.
With the world the great question is: What does a person own ?
The Lord takes notice as to the use a person makes of it. How
much is suggested by the Lord's remarks about the widow's offering!
"This poor widow cast in more than they all: for all these
did of their superfluity cast in unto the gifts: but she of her
want did cast in all the living that she had" (Luke 21:3,
4). There was little, if any, sacrifice in their case. They were
as comfortably off afterwards as before. She had nothing left.
Theirs was a matter of religion; hers was a matter of love and
devotion to God. After all, the great criterion was, not how much
she gave, but how much she kept. What a difference between their
balance and her nothing!
Love and devotion to God! That imparts the real value to giving.
And this perhaps serves to explain why no command as to the amount
is laid down for believers. To obey a command stating the amount
or proportion would be easy, but what exercise of heart would
there be? Where would the motive he? Loyalty would be superseded
by mechanical religion. Love would be replaced by formalism. Both
individuals and local churches would lose their sense of * the
high motive which should inspire in the offering a loving response
to the love of the great Giver Himself.
It may be asked, Was there not a Divine command for the Israelites?
Was it not enjoined upon them to give tithes? And if so, is it
not appropriate for the Christian to give tithes? In the first
place, the Israelites paid much more than a tithe. In addition
to the three tithes specifically mentioned, namely, that given
to the Levite (Lev. 27:30, with Num. 18:21-24; Deut. 14:22-27),
there was the further tithe at the end of every three years, which
was also for the stranger, the fatherless and the widow (verses
28, 29). Some hold, indeed, that the tithes mentioned in the three
passages referred to, were disconnected, and this is supported
by the Talmud. To these tithes, however, there must be added other
offerings; those of the sin offering, the burnt offering, and
the firstfruits. Mal. 3:8, for instance, speaks of "tithes
and offerings" (lit. heave offerings). It has been computed
that an Israelite's total offerings would amount to about one-sixth
of his income. One writer has even put it at a fourth. If such
was the case with those who were under moral obligations, what
response should there be on the part of those who are under the
power of the love that expressed itself at Calvary, and still
burns in the heart of Him who gave Himself there, and is ministered
by the indwelling Spirit of God!
Again, were giving in the case of the believer simply a matter
of tithes, those whose income is very considerable would give
far less proportionately to their income than those whose income
is very small. The former, of their abundance, would so give that
there was little sacrifice. With the latter there might be a danger
lest the regulation might militate against the inspiring motive.
Yet, if the Israelites paid tithes, that amount may well be
regarded as a minimum of our offerings, and from the willing heart
there will be a further response according to the ability that
God gives. Whatever set proportion there may be as a firstfruits,
the proportion will be increased with increasing facilities and
How intensely solemn is the closing book of the Old Testament,
written about one thousand years after the giving of the Law!
The people of Israel, instead of charging themselves, in a spirit
of repentance towards God, with their own sins as being the cause
of the troubles that had come upon them, were adding to their
guilt by reproaching God and blaming His prophets. Among the various
sins by which they were transgressing the Law, there was the non-payment
of tithes. How grievous an offence this was in His sight, is made
known in the stirring remonstrance in chapter 3. To His gracious
command and promise, "Return unto Me, and I will return unto
you," they asked, "Wherein shall we return?" To
this the Lord replied, "Will a man rob God? Yet ye rob Me.
But ye say, Wherein have we robbed Thee? In tithes and offerings.
Ye are cursed with a curse; for ye rob Me, even this whole nation.
Bring ye the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be
meat in Mine house, and prove Me now herewith, saith the Lord
of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour
you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive
it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes." What
a gracious attitude! There was God, waiting all the time to pour
out upon them a copious blessing. Their selfishness was hindering
their own prosperity. In their meanness they were acting against
their own real interests. Let them give God His due. Let them
bring both their tithes and their offerings, and they would find
that what was retained for their own requirements would far more
than meet their needs.
THE WINDOWS OF HEAVEN
The opening of the windows of heaven! How significant a metaphor!
Had not the windows of heaven been opened in judgment in such
a manner that the waters prevailed greatly upon the earth (Gen.
7:18)? The language that describes that act of judgment becomes
used to depict a promise of blessing. "Prove Me now herewith."
The command is an appeal to faith. It holds good today. Shall
we not take God at His Word? To say that we are not under the
Law but under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, as if thus to make
an excuse for doing less than what was done under the Law is to
ignore the words of the Lord Jesus, "Think not that I came
to destroy the Law or the prophets: I came not to destroy but
to fulfil." The Lord spoke eighteen parables, and no less
than sixteen of these deal with the use of money. Let us remember
His remarks at the conclusion of one of them: "If therefore
ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will
commit to your trust the true riches? And if ye have not been
faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which
is your own?" (Luke 16:11, 12).
Turning now to the Epistles, it is well to remind ourselves
that Divine grace has not only placed us individually in Christ,
He has made us members of churches, or assemblies, giving us local
corporate privileges and responsibilities. There is this also
to bear in mind, that what is recorded of the circumstances, for
example, in the church at Corinth, is not simply an account of
what took place there, but, as part of the God-breathed Word,
is permanently left for the instruction of the saints throughout
the present era. The circumstances may vary, but the principles
and commands remain binding. When the Apostle wrote his first
Epistle to that church, there was deep poverty among the saints
in Judea, and the churches in different lands were called upon
to send relief to them. Their very poverty has been the means
of giving us permanent instruction on the subject of giving. That
the call for assistance was not limited to Corinth, but was given
to other churches in Greece, and to the churches in Galatia, marks
the universality of the instruction.
The injunction given to the churches in Corinth and else. where
to have fellowship with the needs of their brethren in another
country, was as follows: "Now concerning the collection for
the saints, as I gave order to the churches at Galatia, so also
do ye. Upon the first day of the week let each one of you lay
by him in store, as he may prosper, that no collections be made
when I come" (I Cor. 16:1, 2). More closely to the original
the command is, "Let each one of you lay by him, storing
as he may prosper." While this conveys the thought of storing
at home, yet whatever was laid by was to form part of a united
offering, as in verse 1.
However varied the details may be in differing circumstances,
the principles are clear. The giving was to be regular ("upon
the first day of the week"), universal ("each one of
you"), proportionate ("as he may prosper"). As
to the first of these, there is clearly an intimation that liabilities
were to have been duly met, and that a fresh week was to be begun
by an offering to the Lord as each had prospered. There was to
be a definite purpose of heart (2 Cor. 9:11), and, as the giving
was to be "to the Lord," there would be a constant exercise
of heart to avoid anything like extravagance or carelessness in
the matter of spending, so that there might be the more set aside
for the Lord instead of less. Thus the gift would be "an
odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well
pleasing to God."
OUT OF DEEP POVERTY
While there had been a readiness on the part of the church
at Corinth to respond to the exhortation given them at the close
of the first Epistle regarding their offerings, and their immediate
zeal had stirred up the churches of Macedonia, yet the latter
had evidently responded still more thoroughly to the appeal made
to them; and this notwithstanding that they were in much affliction
and were suffering great privations. In addition to their immediate
hardships, three civil wars, waged in their territory by rival
claimants either to Dictatorship or Imperial power in the Roman
world, had devastated the whole district. Yet "their deep
poverty" (lit., poverty down to the depth), and with it,
indeed, "the abundance of their joy," had "abounded
unto the riches of their liberality" (2 Cor. 8:2). They are
accordingly set forth as an example to the church at Corinth.
THE GREAT EXAMPLE
Appeal is made, however, to a higher standard than even the
liberality of those churches. The great incentive is the grace
shown in the poverty of Christ and the enrichment we have derived
from it. "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that
ye though His poverty might become rich" (2 Cor. 8:9). With
this we may put into connection that other word on grace in 9:8,
"And God is able to make all grace abound unto you; that
ye, having always all sufficiency in everything, may abound unto
every good work" (five comprehensive "all's" and
"every's," representing various forms of one word in
the original). The example of Christ (8:9) and the power of God
(9:8)! These are designed to kindle our liberality. That the grace
of ministering to need is specially in view is clear from what
follows: "As it is written, He hath scattered abroad, he
hath given to the poor: his righteousness abideth for ever."
There are seven different words used in these two chapters
to describe this ministry. (1) The first indicates the spirit
which characterized the saints: haplotes, rendered "liberality,"
is really 66singleness" (8:2; see R.V. margin, and 9:13);
it suggests that Godwardness in the giving that makes His will
and glory the one great motive. (2) The gift is called a charis,
"a grace" (verses 4, 7, 19); the word also denotes "thanks"
(see 9:15), and the suggestion may be that their gift of grace
was the outcome of gratitude to God. (3) The same verse speaks
of the gift as "fellowship" (koinonia, a having in common,
8:4, and 9:14; the word is rendered "contribution" in
Rom. 15:26), indicating that it is not simply a matter of giving
to others what we have and what they have not, but of sharing
what belongs to us all. (4) Again, it is called a diakonia, a
"ministry," or d6ministration" (8:4; 9:1, 12, 13);
the root meaning of this word is "to pursue"; it suggests
earnestness in the undertaking. (5) In 8:14 it is spoken of as
"an abundance" (perisseuma, lit., that which exceeds,
and so, in this respect, that which is more than one's actual
requirements). (6) In 8:20 it is described as a "bounty"
(hadrotes, not simply "an abundance," but that which
is full, fat, rich, bountiful). (7) In 9:5 it is called "a
blessing" (eulogia, see margin); what is indicated now is
the goodwill which finds expression in the gift; the spirit of
the giving is thus transferred to the gift itself.
Cumulatively the description is very full. It marks four great
aspects of the giving. These are:(a) the Godward view in (1) and
(2); (b) the attitude towards the recipients in (3) and (7); (c)
the character of the act itself in (4); (d) the nature of the
offering in (5) and (6).
Now while the offering especially in view in the Epistles to
the church at Corinth was contributed by individuals, each according
to his ability, it was an expression of the fellowship of the
local church. So were the gifts sent to Paul from Philippi (Phil.
4:14, 18). Since, then, in addition to our giving privately for
any particular object about which the Lord may exercise our hearts,
we also have a corporate responsibility as members of assemblies
or churches, some means must be adopted of collecting the contributions.
There is no method particularized in the Scripture for the actual
"collection." The method, whether by passing round a
receptacle or otherwise, is not the important point. What matters
are the principles laid down in the Word of God to guide each
believer and the whole company in its united offering.
All things are to be done "decently and in order."
We may render this injunction as follows: "Let everything
be done in a becoming manner and according to Divine ordering."
Honesty is to characterize us collectively as well as individually.
We are to take thought for "things honourable in the sight
of all men" (Rom. 12:17). There are liabilities, such as
rent, heat, lighting, and caretaking, to be met. These must not
be allowed to get into arrears.
Nor must we neglect "to do good and to communicate."
There are the indigent widows and other poor saints to be cared
for, according to the teaching of such passages as I Timothy 5.
There are the claims of poverty in other localities, claims enforced
by the Epistles to the Corinthians. There are servants of God
who "for the sake of the Name" have gone forth, "taking
nothing of the Gentiles" (3 John 7); in the case of those
who visit churches for the ministry of the Word, as called of
God for such service, honesty will provide their travelling expenses
(unless the gift is for any reason refused), liberality will rejoice
to do more, it will set them forward on the journey "worthily
of God" (verse 6), welcoming them so as to be "fellow-workers
with the truth" (verse 8). There may be those who, giving
themselves to pastoral work, and recognized in that capacity,
stand thereby in need of material assistance.
THE WORK OF THE GOSPEL
As to those who have gone forth to "regions beyond,"
the exhortation in 2 Cor. 10:15, 16, is significant in the matter
of practical fellowship in this respect. With what delicate suggestiveness
the Apostle says, "having hope that, as your faith groweth
we shall be magnified in you. . . so as to preach the gospel even
unto the parts beyond you" I Their faith was to find its
increase in practical cooperation in the furtherance of the gospel.
Were they to be content with having received its benefits themselves?
What about the people lying in darkness beyond them? The object
of the appeal was not personal support; nor was it made merely
for the sake of evangelism; it did, however, bring home the responsibility
of an assembly regarding material assistance in gospel work in
other regions, and it remains on record as a message to all assemblies.
There can be no more suitable time for the offering collectively
to be made than at the gathering for the Lord's Supper; for the
material offering is associated with the worship and praise which
characterize the occasion. Yet the fact remains that, according
to I Cor. 16:2, the money then brought together is but the united
application of what has already been set aside for the Lord at
THE HANDLING OF GIFTS
As to the handling of the gifts which have been brought together,
how important are the Apostle's words, "avoiding this, that
any man should blame us in the matter of this bounty which is
ministered by us: for we take thought for things honourable, not
only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men"
(2 Cor. 8:20, 21)! Ezra's care provides a lesson for us in this
connection. He separates twelve "of the chiefs (R.V.) of
the priests," weighing the offering, reminding them of their
holy character, and charging them to watch, and keep the gifts
until they weighed them before those responsible in Jerusalem
(Ezra 8:24-29). So Paul sees to it that at least more than one
brother should deal with the offering from the church at Corinth.
"Whomsoever ye shall approve by letters (i.e., to the saints
in Jerusalem), them," he says, "will I send to carry
your bounty to Jerusalem," "and if it be meet for me
to go also, they shall go with me" (I Cor. 16:3, 4).
In all our giving we do well to follow the example of the saints
in Macedonia, who "first gave their own selves to the Lord"
(2 Cor. 8:5). They were His already by redemptive grace, but they
evidently made it a special matter of realizing, in this presentation
of themselves, that they were not simply giving for a particular
purpose, but were doing it unto Him. Just as we are individually
and collectively in true fellowship with the Lord, so we shall
be "faithful in the unrighteous mammon" and so we shall
be entrusted "with the true riches." If that attitude
towards Him characterizes our giving, we shall be cheerful givers,
whom "the Lord loveth." "The liberal deviseth liberal
things; and in liberal things shall he continue" (Isa. 32:8).
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN: THE CHURCH, THE CHURCHES, AND THE SCRIPTURES
The opinion is sometimes advanced that we owe the Bible to
the Church, and that the authority of the Church is superior to
that of the Scriptures. Certain facts and considerations will
serve to disprove the validity of such a view. They say that Christ
did not write a book but founded a Church. That, however, does
not serve to show how the New Testament Scriptures were produced
or by what authority they come to us.
What the Lord accomplished in the days of His flesh prepared
the way for the production of these Scriptures after His Ascension,
and under His authority, by the operation of the Holy Spirit.
They were written at intervals, not by the Church, but to the
churches, and to individual believers, by Apostles or those associated
with them, each writer acting in his individual capacity under
the power of the Spirit of God. By Divine providence the work
was accomplished during the lifetime of the Apostles, the period
in which local churches were first being formed. Thus the Spirit's
operation was twofold, one, the planting of local churches by
oral ministry, the other, the addition of "God-breathed"
writings to the similarly produced Scriptures of the Old Testament.
By this means the oral instruction was put in permanent form for
THE NECESSITY FOR THE SCRIPTURES
An inference sometimes drawn, that the oral instruction would
have continued in its pristine purity, even had there been no
Bible, is without foundation; it is disproved indeed both by apostolic
forewarnings and by facts of history. Already the Apostles were
speaking of "the many corrupting the Word of God" (2
Cor. 2:17), of those who were wresting the Scriptures (2 Pet.
3:16); they were foretelling of men who would arise from within
the churches, "speaking perverse things" (Acts 20:30),
and of the advent of "false teachers" bringing in "destructive
heresies" (2 Pet. 2:1), predictions which subsequent events
The teaching of Christ and His Apostles was designed, then,
not to remain merely oral, to lie open to the variable and wayward
traditions of men and the seductive antagonism of errorists. The
Apostle Peter definitely states, for example, that one great object
of his Second Epistle was, that after his decease the things of
which he wrote should be called to remembrance (2 Pet. 1:15).
There was tremendous opposition to the spread of the Scriptures,
yet the activities of false teachers and the production of spurious
writings was a means of stirring the faithful to assiduous efforts
to keep the true and reject the false. Thus, the Divinely inspired
writings of the New Testament stood out in their true character
as such in immediately post-apostolic times.
THE MODE OF PRODUCTION
The churches were the recipients (and therefore so with the
Church), not the producers of the Scriptures. Nor were they produced
by the subsequently organized system of ecclesiasticism known
as the Church. While the general recognition of the writings of
the New Testament, as being inspired of God alike with those of
the Old Testament, was progressive, yet the principle by which
they respectively received recognition was acknowledged from the
THE CANON AND THE APOCRYPHA
The limits of the Canon were fixed in the earliest times, not
by hostile attack, but by usage, and that long before the convening
of ecclesiastical Councils and their decisions. The usage, too,
was based, not on tradition, but on immediate and Divinely imparted
knowledge of the authenticity and Divine authority of the writings.
Their general and regular use in the churches was determined,
not by the issues of controversy, but by their recognition as
Divinely given, by spiritual men (I Cor. 2:14).
As to the Apocryphal books and the writings of the Apostolic
Fathers, certain facts mark a radical distinction between them
and the inspired writings of the New Testament. As external witness,
the Canonical books as thus incorporated are supported by the
concurrent testimony of believers from the earliest days; in contrast
to this, for the support of the Apocryphal writings only scant
and isolated opinions can be adduced. Further external evidence
lies in this, that, under the stress of Imperial and inquisitorial
persecution, while Apocryphal writings were readily handed over,
as superfluous, to officials for destruction, no pains were spared
to preserve these of the New Testament.
As to internal evidence, an unbiased perusal of the contents
sufficiently reveals the gulf which separates the two both in
character and in time, both in the relation of the books one to
another and in matters of doctrine. The Apocryphal writers themselves
bear testimony to this. Further, there is an essential, untransferable
unity in the inspired Canonical writings which is conspicuous
by its absence from Apocryphal books, to say nothing of the convicting,
soul-transforming effects of the former, with their appeal to
the conscience, and the fellowship they establish with the Father
and with His Son Jesus Christ. These Scriptures endorse no doctrine
not visibly embodied in the lives of true believers.
The earliest references to the New Testament writings show
that they were received as of Divine authority by the churches,
and that a complete Canon of truth, conveyed orally by the Apostles,
providentially became fixed in their writings by the immediate
operation of the Spirit of God.
THE CANONS OF TRUTH AND SCRIPTURE
Thus there was an indissociable connection between the Canon
of truth orally taught and the Canon of Scripture. The contents
were identical as long as the oral teaching was adhered to, and
was free from perverting influence. Neither the Canon of truth
nor the Canon of Scripture derived its authority from the churches,
much less from the Church as an organized body. The Scriptures,
then, were given by the individual writers raised up of God for
the purpose, and were not imparted through the Church as such.
From the earliest post-apostolic times the churches lapsed
from their purity. Yet the authority and value of the Bible remained
unaffected by the apostasy. The written truth stands out, indeed,
all the more clearly in its permanent value by reason of the promulgation
There is ample evidence, too, that copies of all the books
comprising the New Testament were made in abundance and circulated
in all the churches from the very first. The work of copying them
out was carried on assiduously by numerous copyists. So that at
the beginning of the second century the Scriptures as we have
them were in general recognition and use. The production of spurious
writings served only to throw into contrast those that were genuine.
Hence the God-breathed Scriptures of the New Testament, issued,
in their manifest authenticity and Divine imprimatur, from the
conflict of the contending forces of truth against error. What
the Apostle Paul had declared concerning divisions in the church
at Corinth, is true of the Scriptures, "There must be heresies
... that they which are approved may be made manifest among you"
(I Cor. 11:19). The exposure of the false served but to manifest
NOT BY CHURCH COUNCILS
It was not the Church that settled the Canon of the New Testament.
It is true that the Council of Laodicea, held in the latter part
of the fourth century, gave in its sixtieth canon a list of the
books of the Old Testament, and that the third Council of Carthage,
held in A.D. 397, gave a list of all the books in the present
Canon of Scripture, but it is not due to ecclesiastical councils
that we possess the Bible as we have it. The Canon had been practically
fixed by the common use of Christians long before, and was not
formally marked out by any combined investigation. These ecclesiastical
Councils only confirmed the antecedent recognition of the Canonical
books, a recognition manifest in earlier post-apostolic writings
and acknowledged in general by the earliest churches in contrast
to writings which had received no such general recognition. The
recognition was primarily the effect of the testimony, in this
very respect, of the Scriptures themselves. They bear, to the
spiritually minded, their own witness to their validity. Thus,
for instance, the Apostle Peter bears witness at the end of his
second Epistle to the validity of all the Epistles of the Apostle
Paul as being of equal authority with "the other Scriptures,"
a clear intimation as to the existence, among the churches, of
a well-known and recognized number of inspired Scriptures.
To show how worthless the decisions of Church Councils regarding
the Canon can be, the Council of Trent went so far as to admit
the Apocrypha into the Old Testament Canon. The authority of Church
Councils was derived and enforced, not as the result of a process
of Spirit-guided conformity to the teaching of Christ and His
Apostles, nor by way of development in adherence thereto, but
through departure from the faith and through prejudicial influences.
The traditions of men, were as contradictory to the revealed will
of the Lord as the traditions of the Pharisees and Scribes were
in the nation of Israel in its degenerate state.
Appeal is made to the analogy of the so-called Church Council
in Jerusalem recorded in Acts 15. But the record given in that
chapter shows that the nature of that gathering was vastly different
from that of the ecclesiastical Councils established in later
centuries. When the Apostles and elders met in Jerusalem to decide
a question that was troubling the saints, their decision was given,
not as from their own authority, but in the light of Holy Scripture.
They did not add to truth which had already been given by God
and recorded in the Scriptures. They simply confirmed what had
already been revealed.
It becomes us, then, in days when the sufficiency of the Bible
is being called in question, to adhere to the instruction of these
Holy Scriptures, and to hear constantly the voice of God through
them, remembering that they are able to make us "wise unto
salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus," and are
"profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for
instruction which is in righteousness: that the man of God may
be complete, furnished completely unto every good work" (2
CHAPTER NINETEEN: LOCAL CHURCH CHARACTERISTICS
The object of this chapter is to give a brief statement of
some special characteristics of a "church of God," that
is, a local church formed according to the Scriptures.
JESUS IS LORD
A local church is, firstly, a company of believers where Jesus
Christ is acknowledged as Lord. This is stressed, for instance,
in the opening of the first Epistle to the Corinthians, where
"the church of God at Corinth" is addressed as "them
that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with
all that call upon the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every
place, their Lord and ours." Six times in the first few verses
the title "Lord" is mentioned, and it forms an outstanding
feature of several parts of the Epistle. At the beginning of the
twelfth chapter the acknowledgment of His authority as Lord is
noted as the distinguishing mark of believers, and the Apostle
terminates that section, at the end of chapter 14, by declaring
that the things which he has written are "the commandment
(sing. number) of the Lord." Subjection to His will, as revealed
in the Scriptures is, then, to be the guiding principle in all
THE HOLY SPIRIT'S PREROGATIVES
Secondly, the prerogatives of the Holy Spirit in His presiding
and directing power are acknowledged. To Him it belongs, for example,
to raise up, qualify and equip bishops (otherwise spoken of as
overseers, or elders) in each local church. Thus to the elders
of the church at Ephesus the apostle says, "the Holy Ghost
hath made you bishops, to feed (or, rather, 'tend,' i.e., act
as pastors in) the church of God" (Acts 20:17, 28). To Him
it belongs to control the exercise of the functions of oral ministry
in the assembly, "dividing to each one severally even as
He will" (1 Cor. 12:8-11), and to lead the worship of the
saints. They "worship by the Spirit of God" (Phil. 3:3,
R.V.). If we relegate the direction of collective worship and
the oral ministry of the Word of God to a presiding minister,
we quench the Spirit, deny His prerogatives and hinder the free
operation of His power. So is this the case, on the other hand,
where, even if such ministerialism does not exist, men act in
the impulse and energy of the flesh, under a sense of imagined
freedom! But two wrongs do not make a right. The will of the Lord
is served neither by spurious liberty nor by ministerial officialism.
THE WHOLE WORD OF GOD
Thirdly, there is scope for the teaching and practice of the
whole Word of God. A local church is spoken of as "the pillar
and ground (or 'stay) of the truth" (I Tim. 3:15); that is
to say, of whatsoever is taught in the Holy Scriptures, each truth
being apprehended and maintained consistently with the unity of
doctrine contained in the whole Volume. A church will adhere to
the Word of God as such, not to a creed or set of doctrines drawn
up therefrom, nor to the dictates of a Synod or ecclesiastical
Council, or other form of centralized authority governing a number
of churches. Guided by the Scriptures of truth, a church is the
Divinely appointed medium by which the truth relating both to
doctrine and godliness of life is maintained and practised. In
this connection we may mention the ordinances of Baptism and the
Lord's Supper, which should be taught and carried out according
to what is set forth in Scripture.
THE PRIESTHOOD OF BELIEVERS
Fourthly, the priesthood of all believers is recognized. The
teaching of Christ and His Apostles is plainly contrary to the
appointment of an order of human priests acting in and on behalf
of a church. The Apostle Peter testifies that all believers are
constituted "a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices,
acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." They are likewise
"a royal priesthood" (I Pet. 2:5, 9). The Apostle John
testifies that Christ has "made us to be a kingdom, to be
priests unto His God and Father" (Rev. 1:6). That anyone
should be appointed to administer the sacraments, or dispense
the elements, contravenes the character of that which was instituted
by Christ; it is a departure from apostolic instruction, and is
the outcome of mere human tradition. There are not two orders
of human priests in the Church. All believers are constituted
priests "to offer up spiritual sacrifices," such as
the "sacrifice of praise" and the presentation of themselves
to the Lord for His service. An overseer, or bishop, is not a
priest in virtue of his being a bishop. He is a priest with all
the members of the church as being together set apart for this
SEPARATION FROM THE WORLD
Fifthly, separation from the world is maintained. The character
of the gatherings, whether in the matter of worship or in any
other respect, is to be free from that which characterizes the
world. Both in collective testimony and in that of individual
life the exhortation applies, "Be not unequally yoked together
with unbelievers" (2 Cor. 6:14-18). In this passage the relationship
of believers to God as Father receives special stress, as that
which is made good in the experience of believers, in the fulfillment,
on God's part, of all that He designs to be as a Father to His
children. The rhetorical questions "What fellowship have
righteousness and iniquity? or what communion hath light with
darkness? and what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what portion
hath a believer with an unbeliever?" (verses 14, 15) are
accompanied by the following command with promise: "Wherefore
come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord,
and touch no unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be
to you a Father, and ye shall be to Me sons and daughters, saith
the Lord Almighty" (verses 17, 18). This can be enjoyed only
where separation from the world is maintained, and where the testimony
of the assembly is not marred by worldly schemes, arrangements
and methods. For the assembly, as well as for the individuals
who compose it, the exhortation of the Apostle John holds good:
"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.
If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust
of the eyes, and the vainglory of life, is not of the Father,
but is of the world" (I John 2:15, 16). Where the fear of
the Lord is not realized in the fulfillment of this exhortation,
there may be a form of godliness, but the power of it will be
denied and wanting (2 Tim. 3:5).
Sixthly, the saints dwell together in holy love. This is the
Divine hall mark for believers. It is what the Apostle cans the
46still more excellent way" than even the possession of "greater
gifts" (I Cor. 12:31). Believers are indeed to "desire
earnestly spiritual gifts," but they are to "follow
after love" (14:1). "Endeavouring to keep the unity
of the Spirit in the bond of peace," they will learn to walk
in love even as Christ also loved them, a love that, negatively,
refrains from all that is inconsistent with the claims of Christ,
and, positively, is exercised in denying self and seeking the
good of others.
THE POWER OF GOD
Seventhly, the power of God is manifested. Only where believers
dwell together in love, and where the Holy Spirit is not grieved
by that which is inconsistent with the Word of God and the character
of Christ, can such power actually be manifested. There may be
a show of power without that real possession and exercise the
effect of which will meet with approval at the Judgment Seat of
Christ. Divine power is both repellent and attractive, keeping
out that which is false and corrupting, and drawing sinners to
the feet of Christ and restoring backsliders to repentance and
acknowledgment of the truth.
Eighthly, an aggressive Gospel activity is maintained, not
only in connection with the testimony of the assembly itself,
but in the spread of the truth in other regions. The church of
the Thessalonians is a standing example in this respect. The company
had not long been formed. The assembly there was comparatively
in its infancy, and yet the Apostle could say, "from you
hath sounded forth the word of the Lord, not only in Macedonia
and Achaia, but in every place your faith to Godward is gone forth."
To show to what extent their testimony had proceeded, the two
provinces mentioned were together about the size of England. The
church at Corinth does not seem to have been quite so aggressive,
and the Apostle found it necessary to exhort them to cooperate
in regard to his desire to preach the gospel even in the parts
beyond them (2 Cor. 10:15, 16, R.V.).
Ninethly, the saints live in constant and earnest expectation
of the return of Christ. In this the church of the Thessalonians
is again commended; they had "turned unto God from idols,
to serve a living and true God," and "to wait for His
Son from Heaven" (I Tbess. 1:10). The Lord keeps His coming
before the church in Philadelphia as an incentive to their maintenance
of the faith. He says, "I come quickly: hold fast that which
thou hast, that no one take thy crown" (Rev. 3:11). The weekly
remembrance of the Lord in "the breaking of bread" likewise
has this in view: assemblies are commanded thus to proclaim the
Lord's death "till He come" (I Cor. 11:26).
CHAPTER TWENTY: THE POSITION AND SERVICE OF SISTERS
What is put as the second verse in the eleventh chapter of
I Corinthians really begins a new section of the Epistle; here
the Apostle takes up matters concerning the relative position
of men and women in the church, and certain abuses which had arisen
in other respects as well. He introduces the subject by a threefold
statement regarding headships. "The head of every man is
Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of
Christ is God."
A SIGN OF AUTHORITY
This forms the basis of injunctions concerning the gatherings
of assemblies that the heads of men are to be uncovered and those
of women are to be veiled. The reasons given are connected with
the creation of man: "For a man indeed ought not to have
his head veiled, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God:
but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the
woman; but the woman of the man: for neither was the man created
for the woman; but the woman for the man."
The reference is to the Divine designs regarding authority
and subjection; there is no suggestion of any distinction between
men and women in their individual relation to Christ as believers.
In that respect there is equality: "Neither is the woman
without the man, nor the man without the woman, in the Lord"
(verse 11). In regard, however, to the subject dealt with in the
chapter, it is otherwise. Under the Headship of Christ man acts
in his capacity as "the image and glory of God." He
is not only a visible representation (image) of God, but is in
himself a manifestation of God's excellence. There may be a representation
without glory; or there may be a manifestation of glory without
a visible representation. Both are combined in man. In the assembly,
therefore, man is to be unveiled.
"The woman is the glory of the man." This signifies
that without her there is not the full manifestation of what the
man is. She is his counterpart and complement. The woman, too,
sets forth the higher relationship of the Church to Christ. When
Rebekah learned from her servant that the man who was walking
in the field to meet them was his master, "she took her veil
and covered herself" (Gen. 24:65) not only an indication
of her position with regard to him who was to become her husband,
but an intimation that her beauty was for him alone. The Church
is not only derived from Christ but is designed to be set apart
entirely for Him.
HEADSHIP AND SUBJECTION
In a gathering of the saints, then, the veiled head of the
woman symbolizes the Headship of Christ and the subjection of
the Church to Him. Her place of subordination is thus at the same
time a position of glory and honour. It is one of subordination
indeed, "for the man is not of the woman; but the woman of
the man: for neither was the man created for the woman; but the
woman for the man" (verses 8 and 9). What the woman possesses
is derived from him. Eve was formed from Adam; she was bone of
his bone and flesh of his flesh (Gen. 2:23). Her name "Isshah"
was derived from his, "Ish."
The first "I will" in the Bible is in God's declaration
concerning Adam: "I will make him a help meet for (i.e.,
answering to) him" (Gen. 2:18). The last "I will"
is in the invitation to John: "Come hither, I will shew thee
the bride the wife of the Lamb" (Rev. 21:9). There is a significant
connection between the two "I will's."
In the assembly, therefore, that the women have their heads
covered is emblematic of the higher relationship of the Church
to Christ. The matters of praying and prophesying in the gatherings
of the saints are referred to in this passage incidentally. They
do not here form the special subject with which the Apostle is
dealing. What are in view here are general principles concerning
the position of men and women in the church. Injunctions regarding
the public utterances of men and women on occasions when the church
assembles are laid down in the 14th chapter. Obviously the present
passage does not state that women are to veil their heads at a
given time during the gathering of the church, for their heads
are to be veiled throughout the whole time of such gatherings,
and in this respect he says, "For this cause ought a woman
to have a sign of authority on her head, because of the angels"
(verse 10, R.V.).
The witness given to the angels in the display of the Divine
counsels of grace is of the utmost importance in God's sight.
The Lord is now making known, through the Church, "unto the
principalities and the powers in the heavenly places the manifold
wisdom of God" (Eph. 3:10). The veiled condition of the woman,
then, betokens the authority of Christ. She has a twofold covering.
There is the temporary one, that of the veil, in regard to a gathering
of the church, and put on for the immediate purpose, and there
is the permanent one consisting of her long hair. "Doth not
even nature itself teach you that, if a man have long hair, it
is a dishonour to him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a
glory to her: for her hair is given to her for a covering."
It is the glory of a Christian woman in this, that she thereby
symbolically sets forth the Headship of Christ and the subjection
of the Church to Him.
The careful consideration of the details of this passage in
the light of the great principles of verse 3 will show that this
is no insignificant matter. How could it be so when it is the
express will of the Lord? Again and again, things which may seem
to be of comparative insignificance, are, when brought within
the scope of the teaching of Holy Scripture, seen to comprehend
truths of the very highest order.
When the Apostle says, in the conclusion of this part of his
subject, "If any man seemeth to be contentious, we have no
such custom, neither the churches of God" (verse 16), he
is not by any means suggesting the abandonment of the injunction
as to the veiled condition of the woman and the unveiled condition
of the man, but to a custom of contending. This will be clear
from the true significance of the word "seemeth." It
has the meaning of "making a show," not, that is to
say, merely of appearing to do something, but of making a display
of it. People at Corinth would know exactly to what Paul was referring.
Instead, therefore, of saying anything by way of retracting what
he had just taught, he is confirming it by stating that these
things do not come within the scope of contention.
A SECOND SIGN
With regard to the second principle, that "the head of
the woman is the man," what was said in regard to chapter
I I in connection with the significance of the veiled heads of
the women in the gatherings of the church, likewise applies to
the injunction given at the close of chapter 14, "Let the
women keep silence in the churches; for it is not permitted unto
them to speak; but let them be in subjection, as also saith the
law" (verse 34). Subjection implies authority, or headship.
Accordingly, as the veil is a sign of authority (11:10) so is
the silence of the women.
That this injunction does not refer to abstention from conversation
or chattering, is shown both in the context and in the use of
the word rendered "keep silence" in verse 28. There
it is a command for men under certain circumstances, to refrain
from oral ministry. Exactly the same meaning attaches to the word
here. Moreover, if the reference was to conversation it would
be equally unsuitable for men to engage in it during a meeting
as for women. Their position of subjection would not be exhibited
by their abstaining from chattering while the men did so.
THE GLORY OF THE SIGNIFICANCE
Nor, again, is the prohibition a case of curtailment of what
some consider to be women's rights. On the contrary, when understood
in the light of the teaching concerning Christ and the Church,
the silence of the woman, in respect of oral ministry in the gathering,
is seen to be a matter of holy privilege and high honour. This
must be the case with anything that sets forth the glory of Christ,
and it holds good in the circumstance, as it did in chapter I
I regarding the veil on the head, that "the woman is the
glory of the man." The Apostle does indeed base his injunction
upon God's decree recorded in Gen. 3:16, "thy desire shall
be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee" (for it is
to that verse that the words, "as also saith the law"
apply). Yet what was decreed of God in the garden of Eden, as
a result of transgression, is, while still binding, transformed
into a matter of glory and honour, as a result of the work of
the Cross and the exaltation of Christ as "Head over all
things to the Church." The subjection of the woman remains,
but it is a subjection which sets forth the relation of the Church
All theories advocating that these exhortations were Paul's
prejudiced opinions, are at once ruled out by what the Apostle
himself says, as are those which argue the inapplicability and
impracticability of the teaching in regard to the present time.
"If any man," says the Apostle, "thinketh himself
to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him take knowledge of the things
which I write unto you, that they are the commandment of the Lord"
(verse 37). It is not therefore a case of the opinion of Paul,
or of an out dated restriction, but of the binding will of the
Head of the Church.
The interpretation that the injunction was simply a prohibition
against chattering on the part of women is not borne out by the
context; it is largely an inference derived from a supposed custom
of the time, always a precarious way of handling Scripture. As
was pointed out above, the word rendered "keep silence"
is the same as that in verse 28, and is not to be understood in
any different sense; there the meaning is obvious; the silence
enjoined was abstention from the form of ministry referred to
unless there was an interpreter.
Again, in regard to the explanation, "for it is not permitted
unto them to speak," the idea that the speaking was chattering
or conversation is quite arbitrary and unreasonable. The word
rendered "speak" is the same as in verse 27. We must
avoid, therefore, any paraphrasing of the passage which gives
the idea of a prohibition against mere conversation. If that were
the case the good behaviour of the men, in their abstention from
conversation during the meeting, would likewise indicate that
they were thereby in subjection, a conclusion patently contrary
to the significance of the passage.
Again, the Apostle is not simply dealing with disorder in the
gatherings of the church; he is doing much more, he is giving
instruction as to varying forms of ministry.
The additional injunction that, if the women desired to learn
anything, they were to ask their own husbands at home, is a continuation
of the instruction concerning the attitude of subjection, and
not an enforcing of a supposed prohibition against conversation.
Whatever was said in the eleventh chapter as to the praying
or prophesying of women must therefore be read in the light of
the injunction in this fourteenth chapter, where the phrase "in
the church" is added. It was absent in 11:4. Broad principles
were laid down there; here details of the actual assembling are
The injunction is confirmed in the second chapter of I Timothy.
That the Apostle is dealing in that Epistle with the behaviour
of women in the church and not simply in the home, is clear both
from the context in that chapter and from what is said in the
third chapter as to the object for which the Epistle is written.
There he says that he is writing to give instruction "how
it is necessary (i.e., for believers the word "thou"
as in the A.V. is not in the original; nor is the word 64men"
as in the R.V. the reference is to the conduct of all in the church)
to behave in the house of God, which is the church of the living
God (i.e., the local assembly), the pillar and ground of the truth"
PRAYING AND TEACHING
The 8th verse of the 2nd chapter enjoins that "the men
pray in every place, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and
disputing." The exhortation is especially, then, as to a
manner of life or conduct, and in connection with this the consistent
conduct of women follows immediately: "In like manner, that
women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefastness and
sobriety; not with braided hair, and gold or pearls or costly
raiment; but (which becometh women professing godliness) through
There is no reference here to public prayers on the part of
women. This is mentioned only in regard to men. That not merely
conduct in general is in view, but also those occasions when the
church assembles, is clear from what follows: "Let a woman
learn in quietness with all subjection. But I permit not a woman
to teach, nor to have dominion over a man, but to be in quietness."
Here again the admonition is not against chattering, but against
public teaching on the part of women in mixed gatherings. This
is not a case of undue literalism, but of a plain meaning. That
there is no reference to singing and no possibility of any inconsistency
with such a meaning where women join in singing, should be perfectly
clear, where mere quibbling is avoided. The same is to be said
in regard to Bible Class and Sunday School work.
THE GREAT OBJECT
What the Epistle is enjoining is the need of holiness on the
part of all in the assembly. The reasons given for the injunction
that a woman is not to teach or to have dominion over a man, but
to be in subjection, are, firstly, the order in which God created
man, "Adam was first formed, then Eve;" secondly, that
Eve, the second in creation, was the first in transgression, "Adam
was not beguiled, but the woman being beguiled hath fallen into
transgression." The effect of her transgression was the Divine
declaration that she should bring forth children with sorrow.
Here the Apostle says, "She shall be saved through the childbearing,
if they continue in faith and love and sanctification with sobriety."
This assurance has been understood in different ways. It seems
not unlikely that what is referred to is that, by bearing children
and so being saved from becoming a prey to the vices which characterized
the world at that time, and which are far from being absent today,
the woman who brought up a family for God would thus take her
place in the maintenance of the witness given by the local church.
WIDOWS AND AGED WOMEN
In the 5th chapter of this Epistle special injunctions are
given concerning the responsibility of the local church with regard
to widows. Incidental to the main instructions there are set in
striking contrast the godly manner of life of women who fear the
Lord and those who fall into the snare of the Adversary. The former
obtain a good report through having diligently followed every
good work, both in their home life and in ministering to the needs
of others, washing the feet of the saints and relieving the afflicted.
Those who turn aside after Satan are such as "learn to be
idle, going about from house to house; and not only idle, but
tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought
not" (verses 10-13).
The Apostle is occupied here as elsewhere, not with the spiritual
privileges and blessings of the believers, but with the moral
duties which are essential to a good witness in the world on the
part of the church. The enemy must not have just cause for casting
aspersion upon the saints. Widows, indeed, that is to say, who
were in indigent circumstances and lacked relatives to support
them, were to be maintained by church gifts. Those who had children
or grandchildren were to be maintained by them. If any one had
widows in his household or family, and did not provide for them
he had "denied the faith" and was "worse than an
unbeliever" (see the R.V. of verse 8). A charge is given
as to the age at which a widow was to be enrolled, that is to
say, put on the list of those who were recognized by the assembly
in the way referred to.
Whatever were the particular circumstances of that time at
Ephesus, including the possibility that there were widows who
gave themselves to the care of orphans, binding themselves to
abstain from marriage, the great point of instruction in the passage
is that of piety in the home and in the church. The women who
marry are to bear children and rule the household, and give none
occasion to the adversary for railing. Their manner of life is
to be such that, should they arrive at a condition of need, their
circumstances may receive practical recognition on the part of
Similar instructions concerning conduct are given in the Epistle
to Titus. The aged women are to be "reverent in demeanour,
not slanderers nor enslaved to much wine, teachers of that which
is good; that they may train the young women to love their husbands,
to love their children, to be sober minded, chaste, workers at
home, kind, being in subjection to their own husbands, that the
word of God be not blasphemed" (Titus 2:3-5, R.V.).
In that section of the Epistle to the Ephesians in which the
obligations connected with family relations are enjoined, certain
facts are especially noticeable.
Firstly, in each case, whether of husbands and wives, or parents
and children, or masters and servants, the obligation rests especially
upon the spiritual connection with Christ. The wives are to be
in subjection unto their own husbands "as unto the Lord."
The husbands are to love their wives "even as Christ also
loved the Church." Children are to obey their parents "in
the Lord." The fathers are to bring them up "in the
chastening and admonition of the Lord." Servants are to be
obedient to their masters "as unto Christ" and are to
render service as "unto the Lord." Masters are to act
towards their servants in the realization that Christ is Master
both of themselves and of those who serve them, and that there
is no respect of persons with Him. Everything is to be regulated,
then, not simply on the ground of natural conditions but particularly
in view of the relationship to Christ and in recognition of His
authority. Natural ties, so far from being cancelled by spiritual
conditions, are raised thereby to a higher level.
Secondly, the order, wife and husband, children a servants
and masters, is not given so as to stress particularly the duties
of the weaker, but by way of emphasizing the corresponding duties
of the stronger. There is to be mutual subjection in the fear
of Christ (verse 21, R.V.).
Thirdly, the discharge of all these duties comes under the
great command, "be filled with the Spirit." For believers
are filled with the Spirit, not by passing into some ecstatic
state, but by ordering their lives in the apprehension of their
relation to Christ and of His authority as their Lord.
Fourthly, the obligations of wives to husbands and husbands
to wives are laid down first, inasmuch as that relation is the
very foundation of human life as Divinely designed. The Creator
of man and woman assigned to each that position which would fulfil
His beneficent will for each toward the other and for all the
conditions of a well ordered family life.
The adornment of the women was to be "the hidden man of
the heart, in the incorruptible apparel of a meek and quiet spirit,
which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner
aforetime the holy women ... who hoped in God, adorned themselves,
being in subjection to their own husbands: as Sarah obeyed Abraham,
calling him Lord" (1 Pet. 3:4-6). The Divinely appointed
counterpart of this is that the husbands dwell with their wives
"according to knowledge, giving honour unto the woman, as
unto the weaker vessel, as being also joint-heirs of the grace
of life" (verse 7).
THE SPIRITUAL SIGNIFICANCE
Fifthly, it is the relation of husband and wife that is used
to provide a comparison of the relation between Christ and the
Church. "The husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also
is the Head of the Church, being Himself the Saviour of the Body"
(Eph. 5:23). Authority and control rest in the husband. From him
the wife receives protection and counsel, just as the Church does
The second point of comparison in the simile is that "as
the Church is subject to Christ" so the wives are to be to
their husbands in everything; that is to say, in everything belonging
to the sphere of conjugal obligation. The third comparison has
to do with affection. The husbands are to love their wives, f4even
as Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself up for it; that
He might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water
with the Word, that He might present the Church to Himself a glorious
Church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that
it should be holy and without blemish. Even so ought husbands
also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He that loveth
his own wife loveth himself."
The love that leads to the union should perpetually maintain
it in harmony and happiness. The headship of the husband is never
to be exercised at the expense of love to the wife. The love of
the husband towards his wife is to be a reflection of Christ's
love to the Church, self-abandoning, tender, ardent. In the glory
and purity of the Church the love of Christ finds the realization
of the designs of Divine grace.
The next point in the simile is that in nourishing and cherishing
his wife as himself, the husband is acting as Christ does towards
the Church, "because we are members of His body" (verses
29, 30). The nourishment given by Christ is by the Holy Spirit
through the Word, the Word of God viewed here in its various parts,
each part of the Holy Scriptures being used from time to time
for the required purpose. As Eve derived her being and her life
from Adam and physically was of his body, so spiritually are believers
of Christ. The very life of Christ is extended to all the members.
He is made unto them "wisdom from God, and righteousness
and sanctification, and redemption." "When Christ Who
is our life, shall be manifested, then shall ye also with Him
be manifested in glory."