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Monday, November 26, 2012

The Church Local # 3

The point is that if Christ and what is of Him by the Holy Spirit is the constitution of the Church, then our meeting, our fellowship, our communion must be on the ground of that which is of Christ in all believers. We are referring to the basic life of all true Christians. When it comes to the work of the Lord, there may be things which we cannot accept, while we still hold to the ground of one life. This is surely the meaning of the Lord's Table. In Ephesians Paul's sees only one Church, while he knows all about the many churches. There may be a million loaves and cups and tables in true evangelical Christianity in every nation under heaven. But the Lord only sees one loaf and one cup. Even when the local loaf is broken and "divided among yourselves," the Lord still only sees one loaf. Christ can be shared but not divided; He remains one Christ in "ten thousand times ten thousand" believers who share His life. When the Lord does something in us and thereby changes our mind about former acceptances, the temptation and battle can so easily be to become separate in spirit from those who - as yet - have not been so changed, and then the almost incorrigible inclination sets in to make a "sect" of that particular complexion or experience. While there may be real values and vital values in God's dealings with us which we strongly desire all others to know and experience, we must never make our experience a wall between us and all true children of God. The only way of hope and prospect is to shut our eyes to much that may offend our spiritual sensibilities (providing it is not sinfulness in the life) and to get on with the positive course of as much fellowship in Christ as is possible by the grace of God, always avoiding like the plague any attitude or talk which can be justifiably interpreted as spiritual superiority. Misunderstandings because of ignorance, prejudice or insufficient investigation are inevitable, but even such must not be allowed to close our hearts and turn us in on ourselves. While the wall of the New Jerusalem does mean a definite limit to and demarcation of what is "within" and what is "without" as to Christ, we must remember that it is "twelve thousand furlongs" in every direction, which symbolism is intended to signify how great Christ is and, therefore, how great His Church is.

When Paul set himself to write the First Letter to the Corinthians, he knew that he was going to deal with the partisan and sectarian spirit. He therefore opened the Letter with the true ground and range of Christian fellowship: "Sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints, with all that call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place, their Lord and ours." In this same dimension he closed the Letter to the Ephesians: "Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in uncorruptness."

5. If it is true, as we have been trying to show, that Paul's history embodied the principles of the revelation that became his "Stewardship," one further feature of that history must be noted and taken up in the church local. That is, an overmastering apprehension of Christ. "I was apprehended by Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:12). The word "apprehended" is a strong word. It meas to be arrested, overpowered, appropriated and brought under control. It is the word used in John one, verse five regarding light and darkness: "And the darkness overcame (apprehended) it (the light) not." It is also used in relation to the power of demons in possession. As the outcome of this apprehending, Paul always spoke of himself as "the prisoner of Jesus Christ" and "the bond-slave of Jesus Christ" and as "bearing branded in his body the marks of Jesus." This experience, born of an event, meant for Paul the loss of all independence, self-direction, self-government, and the rule of the world.l It meant the absolute Lordship of Christ. Here was a man who had one overmastering concern for Jesus Christ. Not for a this or a that, but for a Person. His first ejaculation on the encounter was "Who art Thou, Lord?", and in capitulation he followed up with "What shall I do, Lord?" That Lordship was no mere doctrine to him, it was a complete mastery. Very personal; for of the many double calls in an encounter with God, such as "Abraham, Abraham!" "Jacob, Jacob!" "Moses, Moses!" "Samuel, Samuel!" "Martha, Martha!" "Simon, Simon!" - the last was by no means the least: "Saul, Saul!"  Such a real sense of being called with a purpose must be a constituent of and in any true local church. To lose the sense of vital vocation, purpose and destiny is to lose dynamic and to become an existence rather than an impact.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 1 - "The All-Inclusive Goal")

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