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Principles of Ecclesial Life


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Posted 28 June 2020 - 07:13 AM

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Principles of Ecclesial Life
 
Don Styles
 
Bread and wine artwork by:
Sis. Margo Abel
Sis. Nancy Miles
 
Notes produced for a Study Day in Shelbourne Ontario, Canada in September 1990
 
Published by:
The Christadelphian Scripture Study Service
 
17 Braemar Road,
Torrens Park 5062
Printed by Stallard & Potter
2 Jervois Street, Torrensville, S.A. 5031
 


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Posted 28 June 2020 - 07:14 AM

Table of Contents
 
1. Fundamental Points 3
2. Ecclesias are for Growth 4
3. Ecclesias are to Prepare Believers for Ruling the Kingdom with Christ 7
4. Many in One, One in Many   The Message of the Figures 9
5. Dividing the Body is Sin 11
6. Unity is Vital to God 13
7. Every Member Important 14
8. Solving an Ecclesial Problem - A Case Study from Acts 6:1-8 20
9. Five Practical Suggestions for solving Ecclesial Problems 21
1. Don’t panic - Problems are inevitable 21
2. Follow Bible precedents 23
3. Apply spiritual commonsense. 24
4. Establish right ecclesial structure 25
5. Keep spiritual priorities uppermost 26


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Posted 28 June 2020 - 07:14 AM

1. Fundamental Points

 

The ecclesia Is God’s idea

 

The ecclesial community is not man’s idea; it is not a Chris­tadelphian idea; it is God’s idea.

 

Baptism is more than the individual being baptized into fellowship with the Father and the Son; it is inclusion into a community of believers established by God; we are all baptized into one body.

 

God’s deliberate choice

 

God’s design is a deliberate choice on His part. There are many alternatives to the concept of one community of believ­ers.

 

The individual believer could continue in his former associa­tions.

 

He would not come to meeting but would spend his time with family, neighbors and the religious group to which he originally belonged. Even today, some think this would be a more effective way of spreading the Truth.

 

But this is not God’s design.

 

Believers could be divided into different groups following their favorite teachers.

 

The ecclesia in Corinth was in danger of being rent apart on just such a basis (1 Cor. 1:12‑13). The Jews were used to such a system in their loyalty to various rabbis.

 

Within Christadelphia, some would prefer to have eccle­sias separated along lines of expositional emphasis: all favor­ing pioneer writings in one meeting, all leaning to a young ­earth view in another, etc.

 

But the followers of Christ are not to organize themselves in such a way.

 

Disciples of Christ could be divided into groups along ethnic, social and economic lines.

 

In New Testament times, this would have meant separate ecclesias for Jews, Gentiles, slaves and slave‑owners. Such a structure would have made life much easier for most brethren and sisters. Jewish and Gentile believers frequently irritated one another because of their different dietary practices and attitudes to Jewish holidays. Left to themselves, they would, no doubt, have preferred to maintain one ecclesia for Jews and another for Gentiles, but this was not God’s design. Slaves and slave‑owners moved in wholly different circles in daily life. Why put them together in ecclesias where all are equal? In our own day, it is inevitable that in the ecclesia we have to get along with some people we find difficult. We have no choice as to whom is baptized. If a person believes the Truth and commits himself to living it, we can not refuse him. He may come from a background or socio‑economic level that is radically different from our own. We may find dealing with him uncomfortable and would prefer that ecclesias were divided along lines of people with similar heritage and occu­pation. But that is not God’s way.

 

We may find that some people have traits which irritate us.

 

We would, no doubt, prefer to organize an ecclesia where everybody in it had a personality we found agreeable to ourselves. Ecclesial life would be much easier if God’s design were different. But it is not.

 

Believers are to put aside worldly differences and are to be bound into one fellowship by their baptism into the one body. From a human point of view, this will cause problems. But it is God’s design.



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Posted 28 June 2020 - 07:15 AM

One ecclesial body of all true believers

 

God set Christ “at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named ... and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all ... there is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling ... we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones” (Eph. 1:20‑23; 4:4; 5:30).

 

All true believers of all ages are united in the one ecclesia in Christ. Only in the kingdom will the reality of this association be fully manifested. In any one generation, distance dampens the relationship between members of the body in different geographic areas. As much as possible, however, the Apostle sought to make the concept of the one body a reality by inter‑ecclesial introductions, associations and welfare projects. The technological advances of our own day have many negative aspects but one great positive effect is to facilitate drawing the worldwide body of Christ closer together. Our opportunity to benefit from and to minister to other members of the body is thus enhanced.

 

Local ecclesias by geographic area

 

“And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem.” “They returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch ... and when they had ordained them elders in every church...” “Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus ... unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Likewise greet the church that is in their house” (Act. 8:1; 14:23; Rom. 16:3‑5).

 

The word “church” (ecclesia) is clearly used in two ways: one referring to the total body of believers spanning all places and all generations, the other alluding to a specific group of believers who came together in one meeting place. The size of the local community was evidently determined by geo­graphic distance and available facilities.



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Posted 28 June 2020 - 07:16 AM

2. Ecclesias are for Growth

 

“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teach­ers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ; that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Eph. 4:11‑16).

 

These verses are very impressive in underscoring the fact that ecclesial life is mandatory to growth. Even when the spirit gifts were given, nobody had all the abilities needed for the growth God wanted. Every believer, even those having the greatest of gifts, was only partially equipped. They all required what others had to offer and the community as a whole needed what they as an individual could provide. God deliberately arranged His gifts so that the necessity of eccle­sial association would stand out for all to see.

 

The objective of growth through ecclesial association is made clear in the emphasized phrases in the above quotation.

 

v.12 “perfecting” – Greek is katartismos, “a restoring, restoration: a making perfect, educating” (Liddell‑Scott Greek Lexicon). The basic idea is to improve the quality of something; here the word has particular reference to improv­ing ecclesial understanding of the word of God.

 

vs.12,16 “edifying” – Greek is oikodoniee, “the act of building: a building, edifice. 2. metaphorically edification, improvement, instruction” (L‑S). As a building grows from the initial foundation to its full size, so the body of Christ is to grow in size and in quality.

 

v. 13 “unto a perfect man” – Greek for “perfect” is teleios, “complete, perfect, entire ... of animals, full‑grown; a full-grown man...” (L‑S). The figure of a child growing into a man is prominent in vs. 14 and 15; we are “to be no more children” but are to “grow up” into mature disciples in Christ. Note how the figure of speech is based on the human growth process of many individual body parts maturing, sometimes at different rates, but eventually resulting in a single mature person.



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Posted 28 June 2020 - 07:17 AM

Growth In knowledge

 

In these verses, one phrase after another underscores the need for growth in knowledge.

 

V. 13 “... the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God...”

 

v.14 “... carried about with every wind of doc­trine ...

 

v. 15 “speaking the truth ...

 

Everybody was dependent upon others for growth in knowl­edge. Most needed to learn from those who were particularly blessed in this regard – those who were apostles, prophets, teachers. If those with such gifts absented themselves from the ecclesia, others would not be able to grow in knowledge as God intended. Even those who were prophets needed to learn from those who were teachers, and teachers from those who were prophets. God so designed the situation that ecclesial association was a requisite to growth for each believer.

 

Today we are blessed with the completed New Testament and we may feel the principles that were true for ecclesial life in the first century are not true today. But the sweeping language of Ephesians 4 surely persuades us God’s principles have not changed.

 

We may think we can not learn anything from somebody else or we may think we can learn everything necessary from one person. Such is not the case. The interchange of exposition and discussion of various points that is an integral part of ecclesial life contributes to the growth in knowledge of even those who know the most about scripture. The responses and questions of some babes in Christ often help clarify points for everybody.

 

We need to be wise in this regard. A hasty stifling of a question that may be new to us can shut off an area of consideration that would eventually add to the growth of our own knowledge and that of the ecclesia.

 

We may wish that all wisdom could be garnered from one teacher. We may find it disturbing to associate with those who approach things differently from ourselves. But one of the reasons for ecclesial life is growth in knowledge and this comes about by the various parts of the body contributing as they are able.



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Posted 28 June 2020 - 07:17 AM

Growth In numbers

 

Part of the “work of the ministry” and the “Fulness of Christ” (vs. 12, 13) relates to the quantity of people who are converted to the Truth. While quality is more important than quantity, it remains true that “blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in” (Rom. 11:25).

 

Rarely has someone learned the Truth without several ecclesial members contributing to their instruction and con­version. Once baptized, the ecclesia supplies the new member (or should do) with continued instruction, family‑type fellow­ship, social activities and sometimes financial assistance.

 

Without such support, many who turn to the Truth would not be able to hold fast to the end. We are social creatures and we need the fellowship of like‑minded believers. In many cases, the Truth separates people from their natural families. The ecclesia must step in and fill this gap. The fact of an ecclesial community thus contributes to the growth in num­bers of those who are in Christ.

 

Growth in character

 

We are to speak the truth in love; the body is to increase unto the edifying of itself in love.

 

There is to be more than growth in knowledge and in numbers within ecclesial life. Our characters must increase and develop and our personality traits often must be modified.

 

The ecclesia, with all its component parts, is supplied that we, individually and collectively, might come “unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (vs. 11‑13). Love and persistence, forgiveness, longsuffering, gentleness, good­ness, wisdom, judgment, holiness, justice, integrity are all to improve for we are to “grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ” (v. 15).

 

This is a vital area of growth, for the saints of all ages are to be joint rulers of the world with Christ.



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Posted 28 June 2020 - 07:18 AM

3. Ecclesias are to Prepare Believers for Ruling the Kingdom with Christ

 

The faithful will be joint rulers of the kingdom

 

Matt. 25:34 – “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

 

Rev. 2:26‑27 – “And he that overcometh and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.”

 

Rev. 3:21 – “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.”

 

The descriptions of the rulership of Christ thus apply to those who are joint rulers of the kingdom.

 

Isa. 11:34 – “...he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: but with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.”

 

Isa. 30:20 – “… thine eyes shall see thy teachers: and thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.”

 

Isa. 32:1 – “Behold, a king shall reign in righteous­ness, and princes shall rule in judgment.”

 

Integrity, compassion, justice, opposition to sin, etc. will characterize Jesus Christ, the king, and all the saints who are ruling as joint heirs of the kingdom.



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Posted 28 June 2020 - 07:18 AM

Right spiritual attributes must be developed now

 

We may think that at the judgment seat, the accepted will have these attributes injected into them. But at the judgment seat:

 

  • the mortal will be made immortal,
  • the corruptible will be made incorruptible, but
  • the cruel will not be made compassionate,
  • extortioners will not be made generous,
  • haters of good will not be made lovers of righteousness,
  • liars will not be made honest,
  • the filthy minded will not be made pure of heart.

 

The great spiritual development into the new man in Christ must occur now before a physical change will occur at the judgment seat.

 

Consider Matt. 5:3‑11:

 

Who is it that receives the kingdom of heaven, inherits the earth, is comforted, filled, obtains mercy, sees God and is called the children of God? It is the one who is already merciful, pure in heart, a peacemaker, meek, a despiser of sin and a lover of righteousness. Now, in this time of probation, the believer must develop into a likeness of the character of his head, even the Lord Jesus.

 

Spiritual development requires experience

 

Prayer and the word of God help greatly to develop a likeness of the divine character. But, like our physical and mental abilities, our spiritual abilities will not develop without exercise. This means circumstances must occur in our lives which require the application of integrity, forgiveness, longsuffering, etc.

 

For example, in order to practice forgiveness, we need situations where people have sinned against us that we might exercise forgiveness. The same is true of other virtues:

 

  • patience requires irritating circumstances,
  • longsuffering requires long‑term problems,
  • integrity requires promises that are difficult to keep,
  • prudence requires opportunities to be indiscreet,
  • compassion requires exposure to the problems of others

 

Married life, family life, everyday life in business and school, illness and financial circumstances all provide oppor­tunities for exercising godly attributes. But some character­istics needed by the rulers of the world to come are most readily developed in the circumstances of ecclesial life.



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Posted 28 June 2020 - 07:19 AM

Ecclesial life provides necessary experience

 

Saving others – a great objective, as rulers of the kingdom, will be to help mortals be saved.

 

A dominant concern we should now develop is that those in the ecclesial family be saved. Do we really care about that? Do we seriously consider the impact our words and example have on the spiritual welfare of others? Would we just as soon some people would leave the ecclesia and stop bothering us?

 

Sometimes we do not have a natural attraction to others in the ecclesia. Their personalities may irritate us but we have to develop the patience, perseverance and goodness to work for their eternal welfare. These qualities will be critical in the kingdom as we work with mortals who may have very difficult personalities.

 

Being empathetic – one of the great qualities of a godly ruler is to be able to see things from the other person’s point of view. Christ does that now with us (Heb. 4:15‑16).

 

In ecclesial life, we are associated with people from such varied backgrounds that often we have trouble understanding their attitudes and reactions. To deal with them in brotherly love, we must develop an empathy for their situations. This attribute will be essential for the saints guiding mortals into godliness.

 

Applying principles to cases – God does not work from a rulebook. He is the God of spirit and truth. Those who rule in His name must be like Him.

 

In many cases of ecclesial life, we must apply principles to cases that come before us. We might prefer a rulebook telling us exactly how to handle all ecclesial matters but we have not been given one. Wisdom and judgment are required and are developed as we prayerfully consider the matter in light of divine principles.

 

Persistence – God worked with Israel for centuries; Christ and the angels work with us all of our lives; rulers of the kingdom will work with the same mortals for hundreds of years.

 

In our current circumstances, we leave school and may change jobs but we are not to leave the ecclesia or our marital obligations. In both circumstances, we have the opportunity to develop persistence. Some negate the opportunity given in ecclesial life by moving from one ecclesia to another to avoid people they find awkward. Such action is a mistake for one of the advantages of ecclesial life is that we have an ideal situation to develop the persistence we will need in the kingdom.

 

It is clear that the ecclesial system is not designed to maximize administrative efficiency. That is not its objective. It is further clear that some of the most difficult aspects of ecclesial life are the best for our spiritual development. This is not accidental. One of the reasons for ecclesias is to enhance the growth of spiritual attributes that are required for those who will rule the world in righteousness with our Lord Jesus Christ.



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Posted 28 June 2020 - 07:20 AM

4. Many in One, One in Many ‑ The Message of the Figures

 

While a variety of figures of speech are used for the ecclesia, a common message runs through them all – many individuals are to be joined into one unit.

 

The human body

 

In the body, there are many easily distinguishable parts having a variety of abilities and functions but they are united into one working whole.

 

“Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (Rom. 12:4-5 NIV).

 

“For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ” (1 Cor. 12:12). The point is stressed that there are many unique parts but only one body.

 

“For the body is not one member, but many ... But now are they many members, yet but one body” (1 Cor. 12:14,20).

 

God’s design of the human body has been carefully con­ceived so that no members should be neglected and that each member should sympathize with and care for the other members.

 

“That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it” (vs. 25‑26).

 

There is no mistaking the intent of this analogy. We are to apply the points to ecclesial life. No matter what is our ethnic origin, cultural background or economic status, we are all united into one body.

 

“For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free ... Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular” (1 Cor. 12:13,27).

 

A temple made of stones

 

“And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord” (Eph. 2:20-­21).

 

The parts are separately identifiable and have different functions – corner stone, foundation stones, etc. – but they form one unified structure. There are many parts but one whole. While this is clearly a characteristic of a temple made of stone, it is not true of all structures. A tent, for instance, would not suitably represent the ecclesia as the canvas appears as one piece rather than many separate, distinguishable pieces.

 

But what of the tabernacle, was not this a tent that repre­sented the ecclesia?

 

Yes, it was. In order to do so, however, the tabernacle was constructed in a most unusual manner. The sections of the covering curtains were not sewn together but were coupled with loops and taches (a device, like a buckle, for fastening two parts together). They thus retained their individual identity while combining to form one tabernacle.

 

“Couple the curtains together with the taches: and it shall be one tabernacle ... and couple the tent together that it may be one” (Ex. 26:6,11).

 

In like manner, the structure itself was formed of many separate boards tied into one unit by the middle bar that reached from end to end (Ex. 26:18). Thus, rather than contravening the principle being consid­ered, the peculiar construction of the tabernacle in the wilder­‑ness actually reinforces the importance of the ecclesia being a community of many parts united into one whole.



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Posted 28 June 2020 - 07:21 AM

A family

 

We are so accustomed to calling one another brother and sister, we easily forget that this is really figurative language. The natural family is a figure for the association to which we have been called in Christ. And in this association, we, though many, are spoken of as all belonging to the same family. The Lord emphasizes the point that there are not several divine families, there is only one. Christ died that “he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad” (John 11:52). And, again, the apostle prays “unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” (Eph. 3:14‑15).

 

The Father, the Son, the angels and the saints are all spoken of as being included in the one family name. The point again is clear: many separate individuals united into one.

 

A flock of sheep

 

“I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep and am known of mine ... and other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (John 10:14,16).

 

The believers are likened to a flock of sheep. Once again it is stressed that, while several flocks might be more conven­ient, there “must” be only one flock gathered under one shepherd.

 

The use of sheep to represent believers, rather than goats or cattle, is significant. Of all herding animals, sheep tend to pack together and move together in a tightly knit unit.

 

The Bread and the Wine

 

The memorial emblems speak of the unity shared among the various members of the ecclesia.

 

“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread” 1 Cor. 10:16‑17).

 

Bread is made of many grains being eventually formed into one loaf. Wine comes from the juice of many grapes being crushed and distilled into its liquid form. In both cases, the end product is a result of many distinct parts being formed into one whole, like the ecclesia.

 

This similarity would not hold true if the memorial con­sisted, for example, of milk and a roast of meat. The roast would be from one animal and the milk could come from only one cow. With bread and wine, however, the perceptive believer is again reminded of the principle that many are to be united into one.



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Posted 28 June 2020 - 07:22 AM

5. Dividing the Body is Sin

 

The sin of dichostasia

 

The Greek word dichostasia (“divisions, seditions”) is used only three times in the New Testament. A consideration of the passages where it occurs stresses the importance of conforming to God’s design of the unity of the body.

 

“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (Rom. 16:17‑18).

 

Those who fragment the ecclesial community:

 

  • Disobey the teaching of the gospel.
  • Are to be avoided.
  • Do not serve Christ.
  • Are mastered by the flesh (“their own belly”) not by the Lord.

 

“For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal and walk as men?” (1 Cor. 3:3)

 

Note the repetition of the word “carnal” in vs. 1‑4. Actions which cause divisions are not spiritual, they are carnal. True, the guilty parties may be actively involved in ecclesial affairs and may be enthusiastic about a given aspect of scripture. But if they are divisive in their effects, they are acting according to the flesh and not the spirit.

 

Note as well that those causing divisions are condemned for defacing the temple of God (vs. 9,17).

 

“Now the works of the flesh are … seditions ... they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:20).

 

Significantly, of the 17 works of the flesh listed in these verses, 8 of them relate to attitudes that prevail when ecclesial turmoil exits. They are: (definitions from Liddell‑Scott Greek Lexicon)

 

“hatred”

echthra

“hatred, enmity.”

“variance”

eris

“strife, quarrel, debate, rivalry, con­tention, discord, jealousy.”

“emulations”

zelos

“any strong passion, especially jealousy: zeal or emulous desire for a thing (such as the respect of others).”

“wrath”

thumos

“wrath, anger.”

“strife”

eritheia,

“intriguing, party‑spirit, faction.”

“seditions”

dichostasia,

“a standing apart, quarrel, dispute: dissension.”

“heresies”

hairesis,

“a taking for oneself, a choice, a sect or school of philosophy.”

“envyings”

phthonos,

“ill‑will, envy, jealousy at the good fortune of another.”

 

 

 

Actions causing dichostasia

 

  • Teaching false doctrine. This must be opposed or even­tually the body of believers will no longer exist for, by definition, they are only the ecclesia if they believe the truth. With some upholding wrong teaching and some opposing it, the unity of the body is shattered.
  • Upholding wrong conduct as being right. This is done both through wrong teaching and through unrepentant indulgence in sin.
  • Treating other members of the body as if they were not. Such behavior is diametrically opposed to the very concept of one body in Christ.
  • Treating others as members of the body when they are not. The demarcation of the body of Christ is thereby blurred until it is no longer distinguishable.
  • Seeking a personal following which is loyal to oneself rather than the community as a whole. This frequently entails demeaning others or promoting deviant teach­ing.
  • Teaching in a confusing or misleading manner that arouses suspicions of false doctrine.
  • Isolating oneself into family groups.

 



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Posted 28 June 2020 - 07:23 AM

6. Unity is Vital to God

 

The dire reaction to those who would disrupt the unify of the body indicates that something basic is at issue.

 

Unity Is basic to divine thinking, Eph. 4:4‑6

 

One body

not separate ecclesias for Jew, Gentile, bond, free.

One spirit

not many opposing supernatural forces at work as the heathens imagined, but one power work­ing in one way to one end.

One hope

not the notion that some groups have whereby they believe some will receive immortality, and others found faithful will be given a lesser position.

One Lord

over all; not a system of divided authority.

One faith

one set of promises which God will fulfill and upon which all are to rely.

 

 

One baptism

into one set of standards based on one set of principles.

One Deity

who designs all, regulates all and brings all who would be saved into His one name.

 

 

God’s name speaks of many united in one

 

“And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations” (Ex. 3:14‑15).

 

While Yahweh is the name of God, the full memorial title is “the LORD God of your fathers.” The significance of this title is seen from the following:

 

LORD – “I will be”, as the Hebrew is the first person, future form of the verb “to be.”

 

God – “mighty ones” from the Hebrew elohim which is a plural word.

 

Of your fathers – those who are spiritual sons and daughters of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

 

Herein is the purpose of God with mankind declared for He will take the spiritual seed of Abraham and, making them mighty spirit beings unite them into His name for ever. He will be mighty ones of Abraham. Many will be united in one and the one will be manifested in many.

 

This is His purpose and this is the basic method of divine operation. This very concept is employed now in the unity of the ecclesial body as many are united into one.

 



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Posted 28 June 2020 - 07:24 AM

Immortal hosts working as one

 

Psa. 96:12‑13 reads: “... then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice before the LORD: for he cometh, to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth.”

 

Who will judge the world with righteousness? God Himself, personally? The verse seems to say so clearly enough. But consider Acts 17:31:

 

“he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained ...”

 

God will rule the world through the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus in Psalm 96, the name Yahweh includes the Lord Jesus as well as Deity himself.

 

Zech. 14:18 reads: “And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, that have no rain; there shall be the plague, wherewith the LORD will smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles.”

 

Who will run the world during the kingdom age occasion­ally administering punishment upon various nations, God Himself personally? Consider Rev. 2:26‑27: “And he that overcometh ... to him will I give power over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron ... even as I received of my Father.” Rulership of the world will co‑shared by Christ with the immortalized saints who will share his throne of power. Thus in Zech. 14, the name Yahweh includes the host of the saints as well as Christ and die Deity.

 

There are not lords many and gods many, there is a host of holy ones included in the one Yahweh name and working as one in Him. This is the same principle as the unity of the body of believers today. Again, many in one is seen as basic to divine thinking.

 

When, therefore, we disrupt the unity of the body of Christ we are offending in a very sensitive area of God’s purpose. That is why those who cause division are spoken of in such harsh terms.



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Posted 28 June 2020 - 07:25 AM

7. Every Member Important

 

You are an important brother or sister! The other person is an important brother or sister! Each is vital to the matura­tion of the community to its intended potential.

 

“... even Christ from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Eph. 4:15,­16).

 

This is an essential principle of ecclesial life and is con­veyed several times in different ways by scripture.

 

The broad distribution of spirit gifts

 

At Pentecost

 

The indications are that the Holy Spirit filled all 120 of the ecclesia.

 

“... the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty ... And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place ... And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit ... this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh ...” (Acts 1:15; 2:1,3‑4,16‑17).

 

While Peter. and John were the chief spokesmen for the ecclesia, the broad distribution of spirit‑gifts negated any idea of an elite hierarchy for: “your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: and on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit ...” (Acts 2:17‑18).

 

To gentile converts

 

As the gospel spread to the Gentiles, apparently every ecclesial member was given some aspect of the Holy Spirit gifts.

 

“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, which is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance ...” (Eph. 1:13‑14 NIV). “But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ ... [he] gave gifts unto men ... and he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets ... according to the effectual working in the measure of every part ...” (Eph. 4:7‑11,16).

 

The effect of such a policy would be threefold:

 

  1. all members would feel included as important individuals within the ecclesia;
  2. every member would want all of the others to participate so benefit could be realized from the gifts possessed by others;
  3. the ecclesia would only function to its optimum potential when all members fully participated.

 

1 Cor. 12:6‑11 confirms the spirit gifts were dispersed widely and a careful reading of the verses further indicates that, in the first ecclesias, every member was given some spirit gift.

 

... it is the same God which worketh all in all ... But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal...dividing to every man severally as he will.”

 

The individual received a gift of the spirit to “profit withal” (v.7). Each person would thus be under pressure to participate fully in the ecclesia that the whole group might be benefited thereby. If he did not, then the ecclesia would lose his input of teaching, administration, healing, tongues or whatever his gift might be.



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Posted 28 June 2020 - 07:25 AM

In today’s ecclesia

 

The same is true today. While we do not have a gift of the Holy Spirit, we each have unique contributions we can make to ecclesial life. If we are not fully involved, we deprive the ecclesia of that benefit others can derive from us. What can we do for the ecclesia?

 

  • Attend meetings, listen attentively, participate with joy in singing, prepare carefully for any participation.
  • Willingly take part in providing refreshments and in maintaining the meeting place.
  • Thoughtfully communicate with others by conversation, phone and letter edifying others by our faith, joy and peace.
  • Show hospitality, care for the sick, share our possessions, talents, homes and resources with those who are in need.
  • Instruct our children and those of others.
  • Spread the word of truth to friends and in ecclesial efforts. Use special abilities in writing, art or clear thinking for exposition and communication of the word of God.
  • In a kindly manner, benefit others by our experience and wisdom.

 

The lesson of the human body, 1 Cor. 12:14‑27

 

No matter how unique he may feel, every believer is part of a community of believers;

 

“For the body is not one, member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?...” (vs. 14‑16).

 

A variety of individual contributions are essential to the proper operation of the whole.

 

“If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing?...” (vs. 17‑20).

 

No person can say other believers are unnecessary to him; every member is important;

 

“the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee ...” (vs. 21‑23).

 

Every believer should have the same care for all members alike:

 

“but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honor to that part which lacked: that there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another” (vs. 24‑25).

 

One believer’s problem should be a concern to the entire ecclesia;

 

“And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it ...” (v.26).

 

As the lessons apply to individuals within ecclesias, so they can apply to ecclesias within the brotherhood. For example, a small ecclesia that feels inconsequential compared to those which are large and well‑known, can be a valuable training ground for young brethren. And they can be an example to others if they diligently send their young people to ecclesial functions in larger ecclesial centers.



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Posted 28 June 2020 - 07:26 AM

The lesson of the stones, 1 Kgs. 5:17; 7:9‑11

 

The great stones used to build Solomon’s temple and associated buildings represent believers in the ecclesia.

 

“And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded ...” (Eph. 2:20‑22).

 

The ecclesia is likened to a temple in the process of being built. In the figure, the corner stone speaks of the Lord Jesus Christ, the foundation stones represent the apostles and prophets and the other stones the rest of us. That much is plain. What may not be so evident is the allusion to the stones in Solomon’s temple complex contained in the phrase “fitly framed together.”

 

Fitly framed together

 

The Greek word is sunarmologeo used only here and 4:16 (“fitly joined together”) and means, “to frame accurately together” (L‑S). The word alludes to 1 Kings 6:7:

 

“And the house, when it was in building, was built of stone made ready before it was brought thither: so that there was neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was in building. “

 

Some of the stones weighed thousands of pounds. God’s instructions forbade making any final adjustments to the stone once it was moved on to the temple site. Certainly, no one wanted to haul these stones into place and be forced to haul them out again because they did not fit properly. Great care would thus be taken with each stone so that it would fit perfectly when put into its final spot in the project.

 

God’s instructions applied whether the stone was a highly visible one or whether it was to be covered over with wood never to be seen again once it was in place (1 Kgs. 6:18). Great care would be expended to make every stone right, every stone was important to the master designer.

 

The message to us is clear – we are represented by those stones; great care is being taken with us to mold us that we might be fitly framed parts of the dwelling place of God. We may not be prominent, highly‑visible stones, but we are important to the great builder.



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Posted 28 June 2020 - 07:26 AM

Costly stones

 

The stones were fitly framed and they were described as being “costly.”

 

“And the king commanded, and they brought great stones, costly stones, and hewed stones, to lay the foundation of the house ... All these were of costly stones, according to the measures of hewed stones, sawed with saws, within and without ... and the foun­dation was of costly stones, even great stones, stones of ten cubits, and stones of eight cubits” (1 Kgs. 5:17; 7:9‑10).

 

A person reading 1 Kgs. 5:17 could think three different categories of stones were in mind – very large (“great”) stones, precious jewels (“costly stones”) and stones that required cutting (“hewed stones”). Upon reading 1 Kgs. 7:9-10, however, we see that all three descriptions apply to the same stones. They were very large (up to 12’ by 15’), they were hewed with stone‑cutting saws and were spoken of as costly.

 

“Costly” – Hebrew is yaqar, “precious, rare” (Young’s); describes God’s love for the upright in Psa. 45:9 – “Kings’ daughters were among thy honorable women,” and for the Messiah in Isa. 28:16 – “Behold, I lay in Zion for a founda­tion a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone ...” cf. 1 Pet. 2:6.

 

The contour of Jerusalem required that many of these “costly” stones be used to provide a level platform for the erection of Solomon’s complex of buildings (see illustration and note 1 Kgs. 7:8‑9). Most of those stones may, seem unimportant to us but to God they were “costly, precious.” In like manner, we may feel we are an obscure member of the ecclesial building; we may think our work is unimportant but to God we are “costly precious.”

 

Note, too, the great effort in carefully preparing these costly stones for their appointed place. The sawing and shaping may have been a time‑consuming, laborious and sometimes painful process (cf. Heb. 12:11) but it was done with great care by the builders for each of the stones was precious to the great builder.

 

Lessons from the second temple, Haggai 1 and 2

 

Realistic encouragement, 2:3-4

 

The returned exiles had recommenced work on the temple when God’s word came through Haggai:

 

“Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now: is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?” (Hag. 2:3)

 

Was this a discouraging remark? Not if we know the divine perspective. Whether or not a project is glorious to man is wholly irrelevant to God. While this temple project was not magnificent, God accepted it. He realized their limitations; the message was, “Don’t be discouraged but “work.”

 

“Yet now be strong ... saith the LORD, and work: for I am with you saith the LORD of hosts” (Hag. 2:4).

 

God realizes our limitations in talent and resources; He knows our physical difficulties and natural responsibilities. What He wants is for us to put our hearts into His service, to hands to the work and He will be pleased, in fact, He will be glorified by such conduct.



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Posted 28 June 2020 - 07:27 AM

The work that glorifies God

 

“Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD” (Hag. 1:8).

 

There was nothing glamorous about the task at hand: cut the wood, shape it, haul it and do it with your own hands. Here was not a call to prominence but to simple hard work. Yet look at what would be accomplished. The great God would take pleasure in their willing diligence and would be glorified by it. (The “it” in 1:8 was not the temple, which would be four years in building, but the labor of working thereon.)

 

We need to remember that the Lord Almighty is not glorified by the splendor of a great cathedral or the chords of a majestic organ; He is glorified by the humble work done in respect of His will. That would be hard to remember when struggling up the mountain under a load of wood, but here is conduct in which God delights.

 

All involved in the work, 1:12,14; 2:2,4

 

Of 38 verses in the entire prophecy of Haggai, 4 of them stress the same important point: Zerubbabel the son of Sheal­tiel, governor of Judah, Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest and all the remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the Lord and did work in the house of the LORD of hosts, their God. Not just the leaders were involved, not just the people did the laborious chores, but all gave themselves to the work. Through the prophet, God made it clear that His delight would come from everyone personally doing arduous routine labor on a project that was not magnificent.

 

Every member of that community was important. Every work done according to His will glorifies Him.

 

Today there are various humble tasks we do that give God pleasure:

 

The brother cleaning the hall may not have the talent for platform duties but can glorify God none the less in his ready labor.

 

The young couple prevented from doing mission work by family care and physical infirmity can give God pleasure by ministering in their local ecclesia.

 

God realizes the limitations of sickly members and takes pleasure in what they can do.

 

He sees the countless hours spent at preaching work which seem to yield no fruit and is glorified by the effort.

 

We may be limited by talent, resources and ability and our contribution may be small but God’s view is not man’s view. He is the one who put this treasure in earthen vessels. He is the one who has called not many mighty, not many noble, not many brilliant people. But every one He has called is, important to Him and the work done according to His will gives Him pleasure.






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