Aids to Believers

Dr. C. J. Davis.

A Scriptural Inquiry as to what is the Church, or the Assembly of God?

1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4.

An Essential Truth.

I do not believe, beloved friends, that only some portions of God's word are "essential," and that others are "non-essential." Such terms are of man's introducing. I believe that every portion of God's word is essential for a Christian to know. More than that — that every portion has its bearing on a Christian's practice. And, therefore, when I find a Christian talking to me about non-essential truth, I find a Christian who does not believe God's word as that which is given to us to profit withal. And again, if I find a Christian using the expression "non-essential" about any part of God's word, I should like to ask this question, "Non-essential to what?" He might say "Non-essential to my salvation." True, I reply but have you got no farther than that? If you go to God as a poor sinner and simply accept the truth in the sixteenth verse of the third chapter of John's Gospel, that would be enough for your salvation. (I use the term salvation in the limited sense of deliverance from wrath. Of course it means more than that.) As far as salvation is concerned, God has fixed unalterably what is necessary, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." So that, if you speak about what is non-essential to salvation, you are taking out two or three Scriptures simply as essential — a small portion only of the Word — and laying all the rest aside. I do not admit the term non-essential at all. Every portion is deeply essential for you and me to know and practise. Hence Paul, writing to Timothy, says, "ALL Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Tim. 3:16). So you see, in order that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works, he must have all Scripture. He cannot afford to yield one tittle of all the Scriptures. That is the expression used by Paul. It is of the deepest moment to-day.

Now with reference to the Church, which is our subject to-night, I need not tell you that it is deeply essential that we should know God's whole revealed mind about it; and for the following among many reasons: —

(1) We should know all that God has revealed, because He has been pleased to give us the nearness of children. And so near are we that God has been pleased to speak into our ears and make known to us His counsels. Was it "essential" that the Prodigal Son should know that he was to sit at his father's table and eat the fatted calf? Was it essential that he should eat it? It was not essential that he should eat the fatted calf to be a son; but it was essential that he should eat it in order to have fellowship with his father. So it is between us and God. It is essential that we should know what He has revealed about His Church to enter into fellowship with Him. And we must know what He has said about the glory of His beloved Son, even as to the near position, which by grace He has afforded us in Christ, and so on. In the first Epistle of John I read, "That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ." We must know all these things in order to enter into God's fellowship — to have His estimate about His Son, our Saviour and Lord.

(2) I should know these things that I may act according to my relationships. I cannot serve my master unless I believe that he is my master. Again, I cannot have my affections flowing out to a man whom I see, unless I know and believe that he is my father. When I have been told that he is my father, my affections flow out upon my believing the truth — as the affections of a child to its father should.

(3) But further, ignorance of the truth of what God says about His Church has led many a Christian to act in any way but that which is in accordance with his relationships as a member of THE Church of God.* For instance, I find Christians mixing up the Old Testament teaching with the teaching about the Church of God. They go for directions about the Church of God to the Old Testament. I do not wish to be misunderstood here, beloved brethren. There are truths in the Old Testament deeply practical to us all, and that we should all learn from; there are examples of moral standing that should all seek to copy. But when we wish to know the specific teaching of the word of God about our relationships in the Church, we do not go to the Old Testament for it — we get it from the New Testament. And I must know all that the New Testament teaches about the Church, in order that I may be able to fulfil my duties in that relationship in which I am placed. When a man is over a house as its head, how is he related to the people in that house? To some he stands in the relation of master, to others in the relation of father, to one in the relation of husband. Although he is the same one man, he stands in a different relationship to the people in his house. The directions he gives to the servants are certainly not the directions by which the children are to be guided; nor will it do for the servants to intrude into the position of the children; and neither can take the nearness of the wife. Each stands in a different relationship to the same man. So it is necessary that we should be instructed as to our individual and corporate relationships to God, and to each other, in the Church, in order to fulfil our responsibilities in those relationships. Having made these introductory remarks bearing on the importance of having correct ideas regarding the Church of God, and regarding our position in it, I now come to the question, What is the Church? To make the subject more clear, I shall try and divide it into various headings.

{* Membership in a church, or even the Church, is not Scripture accuracy; membership is applied to the Church viewed as the body of Christ." — Ed.}


1. And first let me say, the CHURCH REVEALED IN THE NEW TESTAMENT — AND SPECIALLY TO PAUL — WAS NOT THE JEWISH NATION. It may seem almost preposterous to make this statement, but it is needed by way of removing obstacles out of our path of research. The Church, then, was not the Jewish nation. When I turn to 1 Cor. 10:32, I find three distinct classes of persons before God's mind. They are not to be confounded — each is distinct, and they should not be jumbled together. These three classes are respectively the JEWS, the GENTILES, and the CHURCH OF GOD. When we go to other Scriptures we find explanations as to what each class is.

Who, then, were the JEWS? Turn to Romans 9:3-4, and 5, "For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: who are ISRAELITES; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law (note this), and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen." This is a brief description of what the JEWS were. They were a separated people — a distinct nation set apart to God. But an earthly nation they were. Hence you will find God, speaking of them through the prophets, says — "Jehovah hath chosen Jacob unto Himself, and ISRAEL for His peculiar treasure" (Ps. 135:4). And, again, "For JACOB my servant's sake, and ISRAEL mine elect, I have called thee by name, though thou hast not known me" (Isaiah 45:4).* The Lord had set barriers, if I may so say, around them, separating them from all other nations.

{*And their blessings were earthly (cp. Gen. 13; Deut. 26, etc.); not heavenly as ours are (Eph. 1).}

Hence, in reading the Old Testament, we must be struck with this, that God told His people that they were not to go in and out amongst other nations. Such a thing as intermarrying was out of the question. (But this separation was soon abused. Pride got into the heart of that nation, and they soon began to look down upon the Gentiles as dogs. The distinction between the Jews and the Gentiles was God's; but the looking down upon the Gentiles was their failure, was an abuse of God's sovereign grace.) You will now be enabled to understand why the Lord Jesus told the apostles when He sent them out, as you read in the tenth chapter of Matthew, "Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not; but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of ISRAEL." God had made Israel a distinct nation, and the Lord Jesus, when He came to the world, would not interfere with such a distinction, until the barrier was pulled down in His own death. God had separated them, and the Lord Jesus owned it. This will also help us to see why, in John 4:9, the woman of Samaria, speaking to the Lord Jesus, whom she perceived to be a Jew, said, "How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me who am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans." That is to say, there never was any mingling: Jew and Gentile, or Jew and Samaritan could never come in contact. She deemed this a very condescending act in a Jew; and so it was. God had separated them off, and no one could interfere to break that separation but GOD Himself. This will further help us to understand the conduct of Peter in the 10th of Acts. You will find that Peter, with the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 16), had to go to open the door to the Gentiles. Cornelius had to be let in — but before Peter would go to Cornelius (remember that Peter was a Jew), the Lord Jesus had to show him, in a vision, that He, having pulled down the barrier in the cross, in His death, had let the Gentiles in. The scene is now changed. "God putteth down one and setteth up another." Peerless wisdom! Hence we have that beautiful vision of the sheet let down by the four corners, full of all manner of four-footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And there came a voice saying, "Arise, Peter, kill and eat." But Peter said, "Not so, Lord, for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean." But he was told not to call that common which God had cleansed. The result was that Peter had to go to Cornelius. But you will observe how warily, cautiously (and, shall I add? scornfully) Peter proceeds. He thought it a most degrading thing for him, a Jew, to come in contact with a Gentile; because the Jewish nation until that time had been, according to God, a separated nation; and he had not learnt that the barrier was pulled down by the cross. Hence, further, in the 11th of Acts, the brethren who had been Jews called upon Peter to give an account of his conduct in going to the Gentiles. The brethren "pulled him up," as we say, for it. They had not understood that GOD had broken down the middle wall of partition; hence they accused Peter. And this is his answer in the 16th verse — "Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. Forasmuch then, as GOD gave them the like gifts as He did unto us who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, what was I that I could withstand? When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also (mark the word also) to the GENTILES granted repentance unto life." I think from these scriptures I have said sufficient to show you that the Church of God, of which I am speaking, was not the Jewish nation.

<Here let me just remind you of that verse in 1 Cor. 12:13, "For by one spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many." This is quite a new thing, then, which is here introduced. Again, in Galatians, Paul speaks about there being neither Jew nor Greek, neither bond nor free, neither male nor female, in Christ Jesus. Now, how can you reconcile all these different passages together? On the one hand, the Lord Jesus telling His disciples not to go to the Gentiles (the woman of Samaria saying that the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans); and this teaching, on the other hand, that there is neither Jew nor Gentile in the Church of God? The only explanation is this, that the Church of God is a perfectly new thing which had no existence before Pentecost, but which has been formed since the cross ― of believers out of Jews and Gentiles. Therefore THE JEWISH NATION IS NOT THE ASSEMBLY OF GOD ― the body of Christ ― (Eph. 1:23).

Look, again, at the 26th chap. of Deut. Let that have been taken to a Gentile. Supposing a Gentile had been asked, Have you taken the basket of first fruits and offered to the Lord your God? He would have stared at such a question; he could not have understood you. Supposing I had seen a Gentile woman in the time of Moses wearing fringes on the borders of her garment, and supposing I had said to her, You should not wear fringes, would she understand me? And why not? Simply because she knew nothing about it: the teaching about not wearing fringes (Num. 15:38) was for Israel, not for the Gentiles. Again, if I had met a Gentile, and asked if he had gone and offered burnt-offerings to the Lord, he would have told me that he knew nothing about them. Such directions were for the Jews, not for the Gentiles, and of course there was then no church. Indeed, they are also in their principles unsuited to the BRIDE, of heavenly origin, with heavenly hopes, and with a heavenly destiny, although for a while she be, like a meteor, flashing across the earthly scene.

In the 9th chap. of Romans, which I have read, the Holy Ghost tells us that "they are not all Israel who are of Israel; neither because they are the seed of Abraham are they all children: but, in Isaac shall thy seed be called." We learn from that, and from other sources, that there were some of the Jewish nation who were believers, as Elijah, Daniel, etc., just as amongst the Gentiles, who were separated off, there were some saints ― Job among the men and Rahab amongst the women.>

The Jews were a separated people, but they were not the church.


The Gentiles were outside altogether. In Ephesians 2:11 we read, "Wherefore remember, that ye being in times past Gentiles in the flesh who are called uncircumcision by that which is called the circumcision in the flesh made by hands; that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world." Hence the Gentiles were outside Israel's blessings. "But NOW in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition" — what I called the barrier. That barrier was not pulled down until Christ did it — "Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances, for to make in himself of twain" — (that is, the Jew and the Gentile) — "one new man, so making peace" — not forming the Jewish nation into the Church, nor constituting the Gentiles His assembly, but taking out of both some parts, and forming them into one new man. The Jews and the Gentiles were not reconciled before. Hence Peter's slowness to go to Cornelius. "And that he might reconcile both unto God in ONE BODY by the cross." When we speak of the cross of the Lord Jesus, we speak then not only of that by which God declared his righteousness in remitting the sins of those that lived before the cross — Abraham, David, etc., through the forbearance of God; nor that by which God declares at this time His righteousness in being the just one, while He justifies all that believe in Jesus (Rom. 3:24, 26). But we speak also of the cross as that by which the middle wall of partition between Jew and Gentile is broken down; by which Jew and Gentile, in one body, baptized into such by the Holy Ghost, rejoice in one common Saviour and Lord! How truly numerous and soul-stirring are the contemplations, as we sit in the shadow of the cross!* The cross is not only that by which we get peace to-day, but that by which the sins of those who lived before Christ were remitted, and it is also that which has pulled down the barrier between Jew and Gentile, so that now there is no barrier. The Jew and Gentile both meet God at the same altar of burnt-offering; both present the same one sacrifice, even Christ; and both are there, articulated members of the "one body." Well may we exclaim, What hath God wrought!

{*I hope no one will imagine that I uphold the idea of the Christian's place "being at the foot of the cross." He has to learn, or rather accept the truth — that he is in Christ (Rom. 8:1; 2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 1:3-7); that God accepts him according to the value of Christ. Indeed, I do not believe that any soul gets real, lasting peace till it accepts God's word as to the value of Christ — His person and His work. And I would say once for all, that those only can contemplate what "Christ and the Church is," who have solid peace in their own souls. To many the subject is most uninteresting — and why? Because they do not know their personal standing before God. They cannot run over in praise as does the Apostle in Eph. 1:3. May every one of my readers know what it is to say, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Christ, who hath blessed us."}

I hope you have seen, then, that the Church is a perfectly new thing — in fact, so new, that the Epistle to the Ephesians tells us that before union with the Head — and therefore with the members — could be effected, Christ had to die and be raised from the dead, and with Him we are raised up and made to sit together in heavenly places in Him. Before there could be a body the head must be raised up* to sit at God's right hand. In John 11 you find Caiaphas speaking thus: "Ye know nothing at all, nor consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. And this spake he not of himself, but, being High Priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; and not for that nation only, but that also he SHOULD GATHER TOGETHER IN ONE the children of God THAT WERE SCATTERED ABROAD." The death of the Lord Jesus then was necessary in order that the children of God scattered abroad should be gathered together in one. So we may see how THE CHURCH IS FORMED UPON THE DEATH AND RESURRECTION AND SESSION AT GOD'S RIGHT HAND OF THE LORD JESUS. May our hearts enter more deeply into the merits of His divine Person and work!

{*Scripture does not speak of the "Head" being raised up, but Christ as man being risen and glorified is the Church's glorious Head. — ED.}

Disowning the one body is dishonouring Him who died to "gather in one," etc. In 1 Cor. 12 you are told that it is not the hands and the feet standing separate and unconnected. "The body is not one but many members;" and by the Holy Ghost coming down, all the separate members were brought together and articulated into one body, so that there is no such thing as isolated or independent membership. The word of God authorises no such thing as "an independent member" — one which is not mutually dependent upon the other. I want my finger to clear the dust from my eye, and also my eye to see for my feet; my feet to carry my trunk along, and so on. It is one body, and all the members are mutually dependent upon one another; so dependent, indeed, that if one member suffers the whole body suffers. "But now are they many members but ONE BODY" (v. 20). It is indeed a beautiful picture — comparing the Church to the human body. If I have an abscess on one finger, the whole body sympathises by a fever; if one part gets diseased, it affects all the rest. So, on the other hand, so long as I can manage to keep all the members in good health and free from injury, the whole body is in a healthy state. You find in 1 Cor. 12 that what affects one member acts upon the whole. There is no such thing as independent membership; there is articulation; the members are mutually dependent one upon another. So says the Holy Ghost; and this is what the cross of Christ has done. It has pulled down the middle wall of partition; and it has done more, it has gathered into one the children of God that were scattered abroad. "And other sheep I have (Gentiles) which are not of this (the Jewish fold, aule), them also I must bring; and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be ONE FLOCK (poimne) one Shepherd (poimen). Blessed oneness! Our entering into His thoughts in this is quite another thing. Oh, may none of us be another day out of fellowship with Him about HIS BODY — HIS CHURCH — His BRIDE, of which each believer is a constituent part, draining or feeding the whole. The Church of God, then, was not the Jewish nation, nor the Gentiles, but formed out of both.

2. THE CHURCH OF GOD IS THAT WHICH WAS DEVELOPED AT PENTECOST BY THE BAPTISM OF THE BELIEVERS INTO ONE BODY BY THE HOLY GHOST. I shall show you this presently; but I may say in passing, that although this body, the Church, was not developed till Pentecost, yet at the same time it was in God's mind from all eternity. You will get beautiful figures of it occasionally in the Old Testament. The first one you will find in Genesis 2, before the fall. God there put Adam into a deep sleep, and took one of his ribs, and of that rib made He a woman, and brought her unto the man. "And Adam said, This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman (Isha), she was taken out of man (Ish)." God gave Adam that which was part of himself. It is a very remarkable thing, that in Ephesians 5 the Holy Ghost uses the figure for illustrating what the Church is. After speaking about the duty of man and wife, the apostle bursts out in very peculiar language. He says he is not speaking about man and wife merely, but about the great mystery. "I speak concerning Christ and the Church." (The mystery is not the Church, but "Christ and the Church.") God, bringing Eve to Adam, drew from the lips of the man the sentence, "Bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh." Answering to this is the language of the Holy Ghost respecting the Church — the Eve — of Christ. "For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones" (Eph. 5:29-30). Faith receives this without reasoning, and the child of faith bows and worships. He leaves reasoning on this sacred truth, which can only be received by the spiritual, to the domain of materialism and sophistry; on the borders of which, alas! not a few saints are drifting. Is it not beautiful to go back and see that, before sin came into the world, Abba's purpose was to have the Church for His own beloved Son — that "Abba chose the Church in Jesus long before the world began?"* This is what we get in Eph. 1:3-4. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ; according as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before HIM in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved." God, in order that we might be without blame before Him in love, chose us in Christ; and if I go to God as a poor sinner, God does not see me at all in my filthy rags. He sees me clothed in His robe of righteousness. And what is that robe? It is Christ Jesus — Christ is our righteousness. "This is the name by which he shall be called, The Lord our Righteousness." What depth of wisdom! What breadth and height of grace divine!

{*The choosing and predestinating referred to in Eph. 1 is of saints individually; the Church as such is first named in the last two verses of the chapter. — ED.}

The Church is not something which to-day God has thought of and brought out for the first time. That is not the thought. It was in His mind before the world was, but in His matchless grace He now and again let out in olden times some of the secrets hid in Himself. Suppose any of us to have a plan in our minds: it would be premature to let it out until it was time to execute it; it might not be understood; but sometimes you drop a hint of the secret which may not be observed at the time; but which is understood afterwards. If I mean to adopt a child, for instance, I do not go and tell everybody that that is my intention until I am ready to execute it; but I can indicate my purpose by making frequent references to that child, and showing my affection for it; and it is seen what all this meant when I have taken the child into my adoption. God thus occasionally gave glimpses of His secret in the Old Testament, although the manifestation of it was not till Pentecost, nor the explanations of its detail till Paul developed it. This is clearly shown in Ephesians and Colossians. Previously the mystery — the secret — was hid in GOD. Mark, it does not say in the word of God; but it was hid in GOD Himself (Eph. 3:9; Col. 1:26, et passim). Made known it was by Paul. Ignorance of these simple truths sends men searching into the Old Testament for the Church; and leaves them neither good JEWS (being, of course, uncircumcised) nor decided PAGANS, as they read their Bibles. Clearly, then, the specific truth respecting God's assembly was committed to Paul.*
{* 1. In the Old Testament figures of the Church are given (Gen. 2; 24).
 2. In the Gospels the Lord declared that the time was come for its development (Matt. 16; John 11; 12).
 3. In the Acts of the Apostles the expression of the one body is seen.
 4. In the Epistles it is addressed as one body, and its positions, relationships, responsibilities, and hopes are fully developed by PAUL.
 5. In Revelation a prophetic view is given (Rev. 4; 5; 21.) of it as having entered upon its glorified and eternal state with the Lord.}

If I had time I would dwell upon the position of Eliezer sent to choose a wife for Isaac. This is another of the types. The Holy Ghost is the heavenly — the divine — Eliezer gathering the bride of Christ out of this world to present her to Christ, who is the heavenly Isaac. It is beautiful to notice some of these symbols. Eliezer tells Rebekah that there is abundance of everything in his master's house, but he only gives her some jewels and precious things, and points to the camels — earnests such were of what she was to inherit. The Holy Ghost is the "earnest" of what we are to inherit with Christ. And what is He doing now? He is leading the bride across the wilderness world. And to whom is He conducting her? To the bridegroom. And just as Rebecca was lifted up and put upon the camel's back, and taken across the wilderness to the man whom she loved before she saw him; so each believer, in the power of the Holy Ghost, now journeys along in the hope of seeing soon One he now loves. And we shall soon see Him, beloved brethren, whom here we now love. That is our hope.*

<*For the proper and proximate hope of the church, and therefore of the believer, the reader is referred to "The Personal Return of the Lord Jesus.">

These are then some of the pictures by which God let out the secret that was hid in His bosom, but which could not be fully understood till afterwards. If you look to Matt. 16, you will see how the Lord Jesus intimated this truth. You will find Him referring to the secret which was in the Father's bosom, and known to Him from all eternity. You will notice first, that Jesus made a declaration concerning what he was to do at the time when He was rejected by Israel. The Jews were God's chosen nation, and I may tell you they will be visibly His people yet. The Lord Jesus will bring them into blessing in the earth AFTER the Church is caught up (Rom. 11 and Isaiah). But when Christ came to His own, His own received Him not; and when He asked His disciples — "Whom do men say that I am?" the answer was, "Some say that thou art John the Baptist, some Elias, and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets." What a chilling answer that was! But there was one in the midst who was divinely taught differently. The Lord Jesus asked His disciples — "But whom say ye that I am?" Peter, who was taught of the Father — for he did not know of it himself — said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." This was the first time the Lord Jesus was owned by human lips to be the "Son of the living God." It is very striking. Cheered by that answer, the Lord Jesus utters for the first time that which was filling His breast from all eternity — "Thou art Peter (petros a stone) and upon this rock (petra — rock) I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."* Notice the circumstances under which the Lord Jesus spoke this — it was when He was rejected by Israel. When Israel gave Him up, He, so to speak, gave them up for the present. From that time forth you will observe that He turned His attention to something else. He wanted to have His bride — the Church. That is a beautiful title — the bride; it shows how near she is to His heart. Nothing is so dear to Him as His Church. What does He say to Peter? — "Feed my sheep," "Feed my lambs," — members of His bride (viewed in this instance, however, as His flock). Either title declares how dearly He regards His own. As the flock, the sheep are fed. Indeed they are made to "lie down in green pastures" (Ps. 23). Sheep lie down when they are satisfied. But green pastures surround them, and not far off are the waters of comfort. What a provident Shepherd! Why are not all found with overflowing cups of praise?

{*Note, that even at that time the Assembly was not yet formed. It was yet to be built. Hence the Lord says I will build. Now, after Pentecost, Paul, speaking of the Assembly as built by the Lord and indwelt by the Holy Ghost, says, "and are built" (Eph. 2:20). He says, I will build; in the Acts we see it built; in Ephesians Paul says it is built.}

But who can estimate the nearness given to the bride! Who knows of the tender love? And, may I add, beloved — Who should be indifferent to His jealousy? What condescension to be jealous? But so it is? There is not a dearer object in this world to Him than His sheep — His lambs: there is nothing that can rival His beloved bride. Oh! that every one of us might have hearts responding to such love! You will find it stated in Ephesians 5 that "Christ also loved the CHURCH, and gave Himself for it."

I have traced so far that the secret was in God's heart before the world began, and I arrived further to the letting of it out by the Lord Jesus; and I remarked that in order that Christ should purchase the Church He must die. In John 12 you find that, before there could be union between the head and the members — between the children of Adam and Christ, the "second man," He must fall into the ground and die. That is the figure which He uses in verse 24, "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but, if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." When did the Lord Jesus utter this? It was at the time certain Greeks (outsiders, Eph. 2) had come to Philip and asked to be allowed to see Jesus. The Lord Jesus, willing to die for His Church, said, "The hour is come that the Son of Man should be glorified." As if He said, "I can wait no longer, I must have my bride, I must die to gather together in one," etc. "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." Of course there is far deeper teaching involved in our Lord's statement here. As "Son of Man," He shall be glorified, not only in His Church; but as results of His death — glory shall be His, in blessings which He shall bring to the Jews and to the Gentiles at a future day.

<Having died therefore and purchased His Church, as you see from John 12 and Ephesians 5, He goes to heaven and takes his seat at God's right hand; and thence He sends down the heavenly Eliezer, the Holy Ghost, to gather together in one the children of God scattered abroad. The Lord Jesus (who was determined to have a perfectly articulated body, the members all brought together and baptized into one body) had told the disciples to wait at Jerusalem for the promise of the Father. Accordingly the disciples waited in an upper room for the descent of the Holy Ghost upon them. The account of this is given in Acts 2. Before passing on to the development of the one body, let me make a remark about the Holy Ghost. Is it too much for me to announce to-day that the Holy Ghost, given at Pentecost, was given to abide with us for ever? Is it true that each believer is himself and herself the temple of the Holy Ghost? Have you not read in Cor. 6, that "your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost?" Again, do you know that the Holy Ghost was given to remain with the Church till the Lord Jesus comes, and hence the expression in John 14, "That He may abide with you for ever?" Once again, I say He is to abide till the Lord Jesus comes, and I think it necessary to make this remark, because I frequently find Christians praying to God to send down the Holy Ghost, just as if the Jews had prayed to God to send down the Messiah when he was actually in their midst. Would that not be a downright insult Him? Would it not be the denial of His identity? That is just what Christians do when they pray to God to send down the Holy Ghost; for they have the Holy Ghost with them ― He has been given to dwell with us and in us for ever. If they were to pray that the power of the Holy Ghost should be manifest in any particular way, this would be a different thing; or if they prayed that they might yield to the guidance of the Holy Ghost. But when they pray to have the Holy Ghost sent down, it savours of an ignorance which the word of God does not permit ― if it does not of refusing to recognise His presence. It is the submission of the soul to the power of these truths that must act upon and influence the lives of individuals. When I know that my body is the temple of the Holy Ghost (1 Cor. 6:19), how careful should I be in every thought, word, and action! So when saints gathered by the Holy Ghost assemble in the name of the Lord Jesus, how much need there is to leave the Holy Ghost free to lead them as He will, lest they quench Him! (1 Thess. 5:9, 1 Cor. 12.)

But for this the saints must accept the truth that, corporately, they are the temple of Holy Ghost. (1 Cor. 3:16-17.) >

It is important to keep both these truths before the soul.
(1.) As an individual believer, I am indwelt by the Holy Ghost; who seals me, as God's, till the day of redemption (Eph. 1:14).
(2.) All believers are together built for "an habitation of God through the Spirit" (Eph. 2:21-22). This, however, was subsequent to the work of redemption.

It is well to remember that God's action in creation was by the Spirit — in that act, indeed, all the persons of the Trinity are active (the Elohim). So the prophets of the Old Testament wrote and spoke by the Holy Ghost; so every godly saint of Old Testament times was operated on by the Holy Ghost. Moreover, the Jewish remnant in the last days after the rapture of the Church will be brought to accept Messiah by the Holy Ghost. But it must be apparent to every diligent student of the New Testament, especially of the Acts and the Epistles, that a new line of action was begun by the Spirit at Pentecost, such as was suited to be an expression of the value God placed upon the work of the Lord Jesus. Believers began then to be, as they are now, indwelt by the Holy Ghost, by Him also united into "one body."

You will get a figure of this in the 15th of Exodus. After the children of Israel got beyond the Red Sea, God put it into the mouths of some of them to speak of His habitation. There was no word of God's habitation while Israel was in the land of Egypt; but after the redemption had been accomplished, seen in the blood-besprinkled door-posts, then it was that God could put it into their mouths, to speak about preparing for Him a habitation. So the Holy Ghost could not come and dwell in believers until the Lord Jesus had been glorified, redemption by blood being fully accomplished. Hence John 7:38, "He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive; for the Holy Ghost was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified." At Pentecost the Holy Ghost did descend, and according to 1 Cor. 12 He baptized all believers "into one body." Therefore you get that expression in Acts 2:47 — an expression which could not be true unless there was this baptism into one body. "And the Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved." I read that 500 disciples saw the Lord after His resurrection at one time; again 120 are referred to in Acts, and at Peter's preaching 3000 were converted; but until the Holy Ghost baptized them into one body and constituted that body, there was not the assembly to add them to. But after the believers had been made into one body, then the Lord added to that body such as should be saved.

I would here make a remark about the word Church — "the Lord added to the Church daily." Now, I am incapable of being a classical critic, I do not know enough of the Greek. But I do know enough to see that there is no reason why the word Church should be so translated. The word is the Greek, ekklesia. The same word is translated Church in the 7th of Acts. Thus, "He who was with the church in the wilderness;" it should be Congregation there.* The same word is correctly translated Assembly in the last verse of Acts 19. There was an Ephesian mob which the Town-Clerk dismissed, but it is the same word, ekklesia. (Why not translate it church?) Then, in the 2nd of Acts, it was the assembly of God. In other words, Ephesians 1 makes the matter very simple — "And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the Church (ekklesia) which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all."

{* Of ISRAEL, of course. We have already seen that the nation of the Israelites was not the "body of Christ," the Assembly of God (1 Cor. 1:2; Eph. 1:22-23), which we are inquiring into.}

And such an assembly was known in Pauline days, and recognised as that of God. Outside of it were Judaism and Paganism.

3. The third statement about the Church which I make is, THAT THE CHURCH WAS THEN, AS IT IS NOW, ONE BODY. This you will get in Eph. 4. Paul, writing there, says, "Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, there is one body." And please note in connection with this, that the Holy Ghost is not exhorting to keep the unity of the Church, but the unity of the Spirit: "for there is one body" (or one Assembly). There are here two distinct things — the unity of the Spirit, which we are to endeavour to keep, and the oneness of the body, which faith must own. This is a truth which, when laid hold of, gives immense freedom to souls. To-day what do we find?  ROMAN CATHOLICISM — full of the most deadly errors conceivable — attempting to bring about the oneness of the Church. Hence letters have been issued to different parts of Christendom seeking to unite the so-called churches together, and thus endeavour to secure and maintain oneness of the Church. (Of course its idea of the Church is not God's.) But it is another thing that is spoken of in Eph. 4. We are to endeavour to keep the unity of the SPIRIT. To keep the unity of the Spirit means walking in the Spirit's mind. Suppose I endeavour to get the Church together — suppose I drew up certain regulations and endeavoured to get Christians to conform to them, with a view of securing the oneness of the Church; in such case, I would be disowning that it is one already; and I would be adopting a human expediency instead of having faith in God's oneness; it would be refusing to be led by the Holy Ghost according to the WORD of God. Now the very first step in the way of the Spirit towards maintaining His unity, is to "Cease to do evil;" secondly, "Learn to do well." If I do this, I am in the Spirit's unity.

An army is one army, whether the soldiers own it or not; but to keep the unity of the army each must obey ONE Commander. Again, if the army should mutiny and be divided, as it should not be, under various usurping colonels, what is the path open to the loyal? "Cease to do evil." Refuse to be identified with any, however great or gallant he may be. "Learn to do well." Find out what the Commander's regulations are; seek for the flag and rally around it. If only ten men of the army did this, they would be acting in the unity of the Commander, they would be on the ground of the one army, while all the others would be plainly wrong — rebellious indeed.

Now, the Church of God is one body. Nevertheless we find to-day 1300 sects and parties. Which am I to join? But surely it must be evil to be a fellow-worker in supporting parties. Then I will join NONE: for God says there is ONE body. And if I was in one of the sects, I must straightway "go out," "go forth," "separate," "depart." And do what? "Endeavour to keep the unity of the SPIRIT." He gathers to the name of the Lord Jesus, and to none other. He gathers believers and none other. He ministers truth and not error. I walk in His unity then, if I am thus gathered, and if I thus walk. Immense truth this! Difficulties vanish, and my path is then as the just, shining brighter and brighter to the perfect day; whereas, outside such leading, the very opposite obtains.

The way of the Holy Ghost to gather, then, is to the name of the Lord Jesus — His way to keep them is by the name of the Lord Jesus. And is there not immense power in that name? Can any need more? Should any have less? The Holy Ghost makes a statement, not that there will be, nor that there was, but "there is one body." But if I look around in any place, shall I see it, or if I go to any part the world, shall I discover it? If I were to go to Perth and ask, Will you show me where the Church is? people would stare at me. The Church, as God reveals it, is not seen by us now. The Scriptures tell me of only one Church — the Holy Ghost speaks of one body, and every believer is a member of it. Membership of a Church the Holy Ghost never sanctions. Such is man's invention; but each believer is a member of the Church,* and wherever he goes he is a member of that Church. Look at Acts 2, before the Church-making system was known, and see how manifestly one the disciples were. See the nucleus in John 20, among whom the Lord appeared after His resurrection. O what an age then of golden days! But we must hang down our heads in shame when we see that things are so far from being in the state in which they were in Ephesus, Corinth, Troas, or Jerusalem, when there was one assembly of Christians, and one only. Outside that assembly everybody was in the world. In 1 Cor. 5:12, we read, "For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? Do not ye judge them that are within?" We have there a contrast between them that are "without," and those "within." But when I compare things to-day with that statement, I find them perfectly at variance with it. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, there was a "within" and a “without;" if any one was put out of the assembly for moral or doctrinal evil, he was really without in the world. If any person should to-day be immoral, and should be put out of any assembly, is he "without" in the world? No; he goes away and joins himself to what he calls another Church, and says he is "within." When we look around at Christendom, we are — at least ought to be — humbled at the state of things which has been brought about. The Church, indeed, is now comparable to a great house, "in which there not only are vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and earth; and some to honour and some to dishonour." The Apostle says to the godly to purge himself from these, and to be "a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the Master's use, and prepared unto every good work."

{*The human body, with its many parts yet constituting one whole, is the chosen figure to which membership is applied (1 Cor. 12). — ED.}

If we compare things now with things as they were in the time of the Apostle, we find that Satan has effected a perfect revolution. The believers then "had all things in common," "continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people."

<Hence the poet Wesley wrote: ―
"O what an age of golden days!
 O what a choice peculiar race!
 Washed in the Lamb's all-cleansing blood,
 Anointed kings and priests to God.
 With grace abundantly endued,
 A pure believing multitude,
 They all were of one heart and soul,
 And only love inspired the whole.">

If you were then to enter a believer's house, he would have nothing to talk about but the glory of the Lord Jesus; he would never talk about being a member of Mr. So and-so's Church, or of this or that congregation. They were all members of the Church, and had all things in common. "O, what an age of golden days!" we may all well exclaim. But when we look around to-day, well we cry, O, how hath the fine gold become dim! how hath the enemy spoiled it!

But you ask me whether there were not different churches when Paul wrote? Yes, I say, there might have been as many assemblies as there were cities; but not different kinds of assemblies. Let this truth lay hold of each one of you; you will never know what it is to be settled before God ecclesiastically, until you lay hold of these divine facts. To give you an example. If a man went from the assembly at Jerusalem to Ephesus, he was as a matter of fact a member of the assembly at Ephesus; and if he went to Troas, he was also de facto a member of the assembly at Troas. And to put an extreme case, if all the Christians at Cenchrea started off and visited Ephesus, there would be no church at Cenchrea at all while they were absent.* They would all sit down with the brethren at Ephesus. They would not need to ask a question, such as where is Mr. So-and-so's church, but where is THE assembly? and having found it, they would be in it at once. This is plain enough. To deny this from the Scriptures will, I avow, be impossible for any. To admit reasoning I refuse — to give expediency a hearing, will be beneath the exalted dignity of any who know what it is to bow to the authority of the Lord Jesus. To continue with men-made Christ-dishonouring sects — to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers — to refuse to obey the command, "Come out from among them and be separate," will be a sin for which each believer must account to Him who will deal with every man "according to his works." Such then is the scriptural idea of the "one body." Such was it at Pentecost, it was seen and known when Paul wrote to the assembly of God at Corinth, Ephesus, Philippi, etc. Intimated in the Gospels (Matt. 16, etc.), developed at Pentecost (Acts 2, 1 Cor. 12:13), written to in the Epistles, it was manifestly — all saw it to be — one assembly. And the child of faith owns still that "there is one body." By the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, all believers everywhere formed the one body, while, in each place where they were gathered, they represented the same "one body." They were the facsimile of it.**

{<*There might have been Jewish Synagogue services, in which unconverted pagans might be found also; but God's assembly would, in such a case, be away in Ephesus.>

**We speak to-day of the British nation. There is no other nation of that name. And every one who owns the authority of the Queen forms a unit of that one nation. So every believer in the Lord Jesus forms a member of the one body.

<Again, in China we speak of the British in China. By that we mean every one who answers to the above description. Not that they are ALL the British nation; but they are the representatives of that nation. So a gathering of saints in Philippi or Ephesus would not be the Body, but the representatives thereof. Further, suppose that some of the British yield their British customs and manners to conform to Chinese customs and manners, that is no reason why all should do so. But then such would decidedly cease to be our true representatives in China: whereas the few that remained true to British customs would then be the representatives of the British. >

Likewise in these days, when many saints have proved faithless to the original and all-abiding principle of the one body, they that cleave energetically to it are the feeble expression of the Assembly. "EXPRESSION," I say, of — but they are not THE BODY — nor, thank God, THE Assembly of God in any place. They are on the ground — they are gathered on the principle of it — but are not it. We cannot be too explicit on such differences, and in having clear ideas about them.}

At what period, then, did things begin to get wrong? In the very days of Paul. What has God ever entrusted to man that man has not spoiled? The Israelites received the pure worship of God, and every privilege of God's chosen people, but they were down before the golden calf worshipping it before very long. The Church began almost immediately after Pentecost to leave her first love.

Paul, writing in 2 Tim. 1:15, says, "This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia, be turned away from me." And he says, "The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers having itching ears." They will not bear the truth; grievous wolves will come in and spoil the flock; there will arise perverse men, speaking perverse things to draw disciples after them. The Apostle has to write to Corinth to this effect, "For while one saith I am of Paul, and another I am of Apollos, are ye not carnal? Who then is Paul and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every one? "The evil was begun at that time. Even in our day what do we get to our shame? Instead of the manifestation of that blessed thing — the one body — I find 1300 sects covering the face of the earth! The Lord Jesus, in John 17, says to His Father that He wills His disciples to be one, so manifestly one indeed that all "the world may believe that thou hast sent me."

It is a solemn thing that in every place to-day the saints should be cut up into so many sects. It was never the mind of the Lord Jesus that they should be so.

Here the question may be raised, What are we to do in such days of confusion? The answer is plain, "I commend you to God and the word of His grace." You see that it is God's mind that there should be no sects; you see that it is an evil; and that is the answer to the faithful. Wesley asked Whitfield why a man of his power and popularity did not found a sect. What was that dear man's answer? It is an answer which I desire that the godly should give from their hearts now.

"Let sects, and names, and parties fall,
 And Christ alone be Lord of all."

It will not do to-day to seek to reform things; we cannot do it. The Holy Ghost tells us they will get worse and worse. In all simplicity then, owning our weakness, let us take what God gives us. We have a blessed resource in Matthew 18: "Where two or three are gathered together in MY name, there AM I in the midst." That is a wonderful resource. It is not reformation that we are to try; nor to set up a new sect. We must not do that; we must go back to what is the oldest of everything — God's principle of gathering His saints. The ground the disciples took is the ground for believers to take in all ages. And will he not sustain His own feeble ones, who, Elijah-like, stand apart from all that is not of God, and own what is of Himself? I ask, Has not the saint all he needs in the name of the Lord Jesus? "Are gathered in MY NAME." What a name!

Alas! very few will trust that name. They are afraid of the scorn of the high and mighty; they shrink from the contumely of the religious; they fear to lose a worldly position. May such as see what the unity of the Spirit is endeavour energetically to maintain it! The Lord for your encouragement says, "Fear not, LITTLE FLOCK;" again, "You have little strength." But what are we to do, if we see that it is contrary to God's mind to go on with these sects and parties — if we see that there is one body, one Church — that the members are articulated into one body, mutually dependent on each other? Surely for the honour of the Lord Jesus, our blessed Head, we are to CEASE to do evil, and then learn to do well. I trust, beloved brethren, I have said enough to lead you to go and search the word of God respecting these things. If you are willing to be taught, the Holy Ghost is willing and able to guide you into all truth, for the glory of the name of our once rejected, now risen, Lord.

1. Consist of believers only (1 Cor. 1:2);*
2. Permit the free action of the Holy Ghost when gathered as an assembly (1 Cor. 14). This would certainly be impossible if an individual or any number of individuals presided there;
3. Are gathered on the Lord's day to break bread, showing "the Lord's death till He come;" remembering Him and manifesting the ONENESS of the body in the one unbroken loaf (1 Cor. 11:23-26, 10:16-17; Acts 20:7; John 20:19; Luke 24);
4. Are guided by the word of God only;
5. Are gathered to the name of the Lord Jesus, as they would be to His person if He were in the world (Matt. 18:20);
6. They exclude most carefully moral evil (as 1 Cor. 5), and doctrinal evils (as 1 Cor. 12:3; 1 John 4; 2 John). They own God's "within and without," but they never imagine themselves to be THE body to the exclusion of other believers;
7. Mourn over the present ruinous condition of the Church's testimony, with large-heartedness towards all Christians, but stand apart from what the word condemns.
8. Own God's ministry (in evangelists, pastors, and teachers) raised up by GOD, and approving themselves as such (Eph. 4; Acts 20:28).

{*To refer to the parable of the wheat and tares (Matt. 13), as some do, as an excuse for receiving unbelievers, is to set aside altogether the teachings in the Epistles, which are addressed to believers only. Moreover, the Lord, explaining the parable, said distinctly that the field was the world — not the Church. Now, neither the "world," nor the kingdom of heaven, through which believers are passing, is the Church in which they are set.}

As a synopsis of what is gone before, I have added the foregoing table, which contains the gist of some of the leading points in the "Inquiry." Placing things in this clear light, I trust I shall give offence to none of the Lord's dear saints, while I earnestly hope it will help every godly one to detect his true ecclesiastical position in the light of the Scriptures.


The language of faith, to-day, despite the evidence of sense, is, "There is ONE body." (Eph. 4:4.)

The path of obedience to-day, despite the cost, is to "endeavour to keep the unity of the SPIRIT in the bond of peace." (Eph. 4:3.)

The disciple who is guided by the word of God only can neither recognise a sect to be scriptural, nor can he be identified with it; he will neither entertain false doctrine respecting the person and the work of Christ, nor will he associate with those that do so, or that refuse to express judgment on it.

Elijah set up twelve stones for the twelve tribes of Israel, although at the time he stood apart from the false worship of the day. (1 Kings 18)

So the godly saint to-day grasps, in his large-heartedness, all God's saints where-ever they are found; although in faithfulness to God he cannot walk with them in a Christ-dishonouring path; he loves every believer; is servant to all for Jesus' sake; prays for all saints, and is gathered on such divine ground as could contain all Christians if they departed from iniquity.

To be identified with such as purge themselves from the "vessels of dishonour," and "that call on the Lord out of a pure heart," is the exhortation of the HOLY GHOST (2 Tim. 2:20, 22), and is therefore not sectarian.

The disciples, when the Lord was on the earth, owned no name but His. In Pauline days the disciples were gathered in the name of the Lord Jesus to break bread on the first day of the week. In glory no name will be known but that of Christ. Then why may not all the godly to-day, in simple dependence on the Lord himself, and owning the presence of the Holy Ghost, have fellowship with one another in God's thought about the one assembly, the one body? C. J. D.>