Knowing the All-sufficiency of Jesus' Name in God's Ecclesia

by C. H. Mackintosh


AUTHORITY FOR GATHERING

Fourth, in the last place, a few words will suffice to set forth the authority on which God's assembly is gathered. It is THE WORD OF GOD alone. The charter of the assembly is the eternal Word of the living and true God. It is not the traditions, not the doctrines, nor the conmandments of men. A passage of Scripture, Matthew 18:20, to which we have more than once referred in the progress of this paper, contains this summary:

• The central standard around which God's assembly is gathered - the Name of Jesus.

• The power through which it is gathered - the energy of the Holy Spirit.

• The authority by which it is gathered - the Word of God.

Now these are the same all over the world. Whether I go to New Zealand, Australia, or Canada; or to London, Paris, Edinburgh, or Dublin: The gathering Center, the gathering power, and the gathering authority are one and the same. We can own no other Center but Christ, no gathering Energy but the Holy Spirit, and no authority but the Word of God. These three should issue in a testimony characteristic of holiness and soundness in the truth.

Such is the assembly of God, and nothing else should be acknowledged. What about all the saints of God? These we can acknowledge, love, and honor as such wherever we find them. But human systems? Those are dishonoring to Christ and hostile to the true interest of the saints of God. All Christians on the true ground of the assembly are in the place of real blessing and effective testimony. There is a testimony characterized by the assembly which could not be produced were that assembly broken up and each one a Whitefield in evangelistic power.

Fellowship with Evangelists

This is said not to belittle evangelistic work. God forbid. We would that all were Whitefields. The fact is that many were influenced to despise the assembly under the plea of going out as evangelists. When their path is traced and the results of their work are examined, it is discovered that no provisions were made for the souls who were converted by their instrumentality. They seem not to know what to do with them. They quarry the stones, but do not build them together. The consequences are that souls are scattered here and there. Some pursue a haphazard course at random. Others are fragmented, living in isolation. In other words, the fault is attributed to the lack of focusing on His true church.

All of these converted souls should find their place in the assembly of God. The Word of God says they should be "added to the assembly," having "fellowship in the breaking of bread and in prayer." They should "come together on the first day of the week, to break bread," looking to the Lord Christ to edify them by the mouth of whom He will. This is the simple, true path - the normal, Divine idea. It may be they need more faith to realize it, because of the clashing and conflicting sects of the present day.

Of course, all this will be pronounced proselytizing, prejudice, and party spirit. People will regard it as a very idealistic, liberal idea to be able to say, "I belong to nothing." It appears to them to be a very strange, irregular position! They think it has just resolved itself to this: That somebody is professing nothingism in order to get rid of all their responsibility and to go with all and everything. This is a very easy path for these natural - thinking, amiable personalities, but what will come of it in the Day of the Lord's return? Even now, it seems to be an unfaithfulness to Christ. From this, may the good Lord deliver His people.

But let none imagine that the evangelist and the assembly are placed in opposition to each other. The evangelist should go forth, in full fellowship, from the bosom of the assembly. He should work not only to gather souls to Christ, but also gather them into the assembly. Here, divinely gifted pastors could watch over them and divinely gifted teachers instruct them. No one should clip the evangelist's wings, but only guide the results of his movements. The Lord is unwilling to see real spiritual energy expended in aimless, haphazard service.

Undoubtedly, it is a grand result to bring souls to Christ. Every soul linked to Jesus is a work done forever. But ought not the lambs and sheep be gathered and cared for? Would anyone be satisfied to purchase sheep and leave them to wander wherever they incline? Absolutely not! But where should Christ's sheep be gathered? Is it into the folds of man's fabrication, or is it into the flock of God's assembly? Into the latter unquestionably! For it is the inevitable place for all the lambs and sheep of the flock of Christ, however feeble, despised, blackened, and maligned.

Here, however, is responsibility, care, anxiety, labor, and a constant demand for watchfulness and prayer. This is what flesh and blood would like to avoid if possible. The idea of going through the world as an evangelist is attractive and agreeable, for thousands will hang on one's lips and hundreds will be the seal of one's ministry. But what will be done with these souls? By all means, show them their true place in the assembly of God. In spite of the ruin and apostasy of the professing body, it is the place where they can enjoy proper spiritual communion, worship, and ministry.

Yes, it will involve much trial and painful exercise. It was so in apostolic times. Those who really cared for the flock of Christ had to shed many a tear, send up many an agonizing prayer, spend many a sleepless night. But then in all these things, they tasted the sweetness of fellowship with the Chief Shepherd. And when He will appear, their tears, prayers, and sleepless nights will be remembered and rewarded, while those who are building up human systems will find their works come to an end, to be heard of no more forever. Moreover, the false shepherd who ruthlessly seize the pastoral staff only to use it as an instrument of cruelty against the sheep and as a means of filthy gain to themselves shall have their faces covered with confusion.

In conclusion, there is a need to answer three questions:

Submission to Scripture

First, we may be asked, "Where are we to find ‘the assembly of God’ from the days of the Apostles in the first century up to the nineteenth? And where are we to find it now?"

The answer is simple. Both then and now we find "the assembly of God" in the pages of the New Testament. It matters little if Neander, Mosheim, Milner, besides scores of other ecclesiastical historians, have failed in their interesting researches to discern a single trace of the true idea of God's assembly, from the close of the apostolic era to the opening of the current century.

It is quite possible there may have been, here and there among the thick gloom of the middle ages, "two or three" really "gathered in the Name of Jesus." At least, there must have been those who sighed after the truth for such a thing. But be this as it may, it leaves the truth wholly unscathed. It is not on the records of historians, but built on the infallible truth of God's Word. Therefore, if it could be proved for eighteen centuries that there were not even "two or three gathered in the Name of Jesus," it would not in the smallest degree affect the question. The final word is not "What saith the ecclesiastical historian," but "What saith the Scriptures."

For example, if history has any forceful argument, it would equally apply to the precious institution of the Lord's Supper. How did it cope with that ordinance for over a thousand years? It was stripped of one of its grand elements, wrapped in a dead language, buried in a tomb of superstition, and engraved with this inscription, "A bloodless sacrifice for the sins of the living and the dead."

Even when, at the time of the Reformation, the Bible was once more permitted to speak to man's conscience and to pour its living light upon the tomb in which the Eucharist lay buried, what was produced? Under what form does the Lord's Supper appear before us in the Lutheran Church? It is under the form of consubstantiation. Luther denied that there was any change of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ (transubstantiation). But he maintained, in the teeth of fierce and unbending opposition from the Swiss Reformers, that a mysterious presence of Christ was with the bread and wine (consubstantiation).

Well, then, should not the Lord's Supper be celebrated according to the order laid down in the New Testament? Should support be given to the sacrifice of transubstantiation of the mass, or to consubstantiation, because the true idea of the Lord's Table seems to have been lost to the professing Church for so many ages? Certainly not! What should be done? Take the New Testament, see what it says on the point, bow in reverent submission to its authority, spread the Lord's Table in its Divine simplicity, and celebrate the Feast. Celebrate it according to the order laid down by the Lord and Master who said to His disciples, and therefore to us, "This do, in remembrance of me."

Obedience to Scripture

Second, "Is it not worse than useless to seek to carry out the true idea of the assembly of God, seeing that the professing church is in such complete ruin?"

Are we to be disobedient because the church is in ruin? Are we to continue in error because the dispensation of the church has failed? Definitely not!

Yes, we own the ruin, mourn over it, confess it, take our share in it and in its sad consequences, and seek to walk softly and humbly in the midst of it, confessing ourselves to be most unfaithful and unworthy. But though we have failed, Christ has not failed! He abideth faithful. He cannot deny Himself. He has promised to be with His people to the end of the age. Matthew 18:20 holds as good today as it did eighteen hundred years ago. "Let God be true, and every man a liar."

The idea of men going around to do church-making or pretending to be ordained ministers ought to be repudiated. It is pure assumption, without a single shred of scriptural authority. It is God’s work to gather a church and raise up ministers. We have no business to form ourselves into a church or to ordain office bearers. Doubtlessly, the Lord is very gracious, tender, and sympathetic. He bears with our weakness and overrules our mistakes. And where the heart is true to Him, even though in ignorance, He will confidently lead on into higher light.

However, we must not use God's grace as a plea for unscriptural acting, no more than we should use the church's ruin as a plea for sanctioning error. We have to confess the ruin, count on the grace, and act in simple obedience to the Word of the Lord. Such is the path of blessing at all times. The remnant in the days of Ezra did not pretend to have the power and splendor of Solomon's days. But they obeyed the Word of Solomon's Lord. And they were abundantly blessed in their deed. They did not say, "Things are in ruin; therefore, we had better remain in Babylon, and do nothing." No! They simply confessed their own and their people's sin, and counted upon God. This is precisely what we are to do. We are to own the ruin and count on God.

Today’s Direction from Scripture

Finally, third, "Where is this assembly of God now?"

"Where two or three are gathered in My Name"; the Ecclesia is in the Name of Jesus. This is the assembly of God according to a statement from the Scripture.

And carefully note this: That in order to reach Divine results, there must be Divine conditions! To lay claim to the results without the conditions is only empty conceit. If we are not really gathered in the Name of Jesus, we have no right to expect that He Will be in our midst. If He is not in our midst, our assembly will be a poor occasion. But it is our happy privilege to be assembled in such a manner so as to enjoy His blessed Presence among us. By having Him, we do not need to set up a poor mortal to preside over us. When the assembly is convened for worship, God presides in our midst. If He be fully owned, the current of communion, worship, and edification will flow on without a ripple and without a curve. All will be in lovely harmony.

Remember there is a very essential difference between those occasions on which the assembly is gathered for worship and those for the special services of the gifted brothers. In the latter, the evangelist or the teacher serves in his individual capacity with responsibility to his Lord. It does not make any difference whether such meetings are conducted in the rooms usually occupied by the assembly or elsewhere. The members of the assembly may attend as they feel disposed. But when the assembly is gathered for worship, if one man, however gifted, assumes a place, it would quench the Spirit.

If the flesh is allowed to act, it will grieve and quench the Spirit, which will spoil everything. Flesh must be judged in the assembly of God, just as it should be judged in our individual walk from day to day. But remember that errors and failures in the assembly are no more to be used as arguments against the truth of the Divine Presence in the assembly, than individual failures and errors are used against the admitted truth of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the believer.

"Are you the people, then?" A question someone might ask. Well, the question is not are we the people, but are we on Divine ground? If not, the sooner we abandon our position the better. That there is a Divine ground, in spite of all the darkness and confusion, will hardly be denied. God has not left His people under the necessity of abiding and compromising with something connected with error and evil.

Moreover, how are we to know whether we are on Divine ground or not? Simply by the Divine Word. Let us honestly and seriously test everything connected with our stand by the standard of the Scripture. If it cannot stand the test, let us abandon it immediately. Yes, immediately! If we pause to reason or weigh the consequences, we will unquestionably lose our way. Pause? Certainly, to make yourself sure of the mind of the Lord. But never pause to reason about it once you have ascertained it.

The Lord never gives light for two steps at a time. He gives us light, and when we act on that light, He gives us more. "The path of the just is as the shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day." This is a precious, soul-stirring motto! "More and more!" There is no halting, no standing still, no resting in attainment. It is "more and more" until we are ushered into the full-orbed light of the perfect day of glory.

Reader, are you on this Divine ground? If so, cling to it with your whole soul. Are you in this path? If so, press on with all the energies of your moral being. Never be content with anything short of His dwelling in you, and your conscious nearness to Him. Let not Satan rob you of your proper portion by leading you to rest in any other name. Let him not tempt you to mistake your ostensible position for your real condition. Cultivate secret communion, secret prayer, and constant self-judgment. Be especially on your guard against every form of spiritual pride. Cultivate lowliness and meekness, brokenness of spirit and tenderness of conscience in your own private walk. Seek to combine the sweetest grace toward others with the boldness of a lion where truth is concerned. Then will you be a blessing in the assembly of God and an effective witness of the all-sufficiency of the Name of Jesus.

Edited by W. E. Mallon

Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13, NASB)