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

by C. H. Mackintosh


QUESTION OF INQUIRY

In handling the question "what is God’s assembly," our thoughts will be clear and precise by considering the following four points:

• What is the ground on which God’s assembly is gathered?

• What is the center around which the assembly is gathered?

• What is the power by which the assembly is gathered?

• What is the authority on which the assembly is gathered?

Ground of Gathering

First, the ground on which the assembly is gathered is, in one word, salvation or eternal life. We do not enter the assembly to be saved, but as those who are already saved. The Word is: "On this rock I will build my church." He does not say, "On my church I will build the salvation of souls." One of Rome's boasted dogmas is this: "There is no salvation outside of the true church." Yes, but we can go deeper still and say, "Off the true Rock there is no church!" Take away the Rock, and you have nothing but a baseless fabric of error and corruption. What a miserable delusion to think of being saved by that!

Thank God, for it is not so. We do not get to Christ through the church, but to the church through Christ. To reverse this order is to displace Christ entirely. Thus, we have neither the Rock, nor church, nor salvation! We meet Christ as a life-giving Savior before we have anything to say about the assembly at all. Hence, we could possess eternal life and enjoy full salvation as though there were no such thing as an assembly of God on the earth.

The reader will do well to note the fact that in Matthew 16 we have the first allusion to the church, and there our Lord speaks of it as a future thing. He says, "On this Rock I will build my church." He does not say, "I have been, or I am building." Briefly, the church had no existence until our Lord Christ was raised from the dead and glorified at the right hand of God. Then, but not until then, the Holy Spirit was sent down to baptize believers, whether Jews or Gentiles, into one Body and unite them to the risen and glorified Head in heaven. This Body has been on the earth since the descent of the Holy Spirit, it is still here, and it will be here until Christ comes to fetch it to Himself. It is a perfectly unique thing. It is not found in the Old Testament Scripture.

Paul expressly tells us, it was not revealed in other ages. It was hid in God and never made known until its revelation was committed to him. (See Rom. 16:25-26; Eph.3:3-11; Col. 1:24-27.) The church is never spoken of until Matthew 16, and there only as a future thing. The termini of the church's earthly history are Pentecost at the beginning (Acts 2) and the Rapture at the end (1 Thess. 4:16-17).

We cannot be too simple in grasping this truth, the truth of getting into the church through Christ alone. At a time like the present, ecclesiastical pretension is rising to such heights. The church, falsely so called, is opening her bosom, with delusive tenderness, and inviting poor, sin-burdened, world-sick, and heavy laden souls to take refuge therein. She, with crafty liberalism, throws open her treasury door, and places her resources at the disposal of needy, craving, hungry souls. And truly those resources have powerful attractions for those who are not on "the Rock."

There is an ordained priesthood, professing to stand in an unbroken line with the Apostles. Pathetically, how different are the two ends of the line - the New Testament Apostles and today's organized priesthood. There is still a continual sacrifice, but lamentably, a bloodless one and therefore worthless (Heb. 9:22). Also, there is a splendid ritual, but regrettably, it seeks its origin among the shadows of a bygone age, shadows which have been forever displaced by the Person, work, and offices of the eternal Son of God. Him, we will forever adore in His peerless Name!

The believer has a very conclusive answer to all the pretensions and promises of the Romish system. He can say he has found his all in a crucified and risen Savior. Why does he want the sacrifice of the Mass? He is washed in the blood of Christ. Why does he want a poor, sinful, dying priest who cannot save himself? He has the Son of God as his Priest. Why does he want a pompous ritual with all of its imposing adjuncts? He worships, in spirit and in truth, within the Holiest of all, where he enters with boldness, through the blood of Jesus.

Nor is it merely with Roman Catholicism. There are thousands, besides Roman Catholics, who, in heart, look to the church, if not for salvation, at least as a stepping stone to salvation. Hence, the importance of seeing clearly that the ground on which God's assembly is gathered is the Lord's salvation and eternal fife. Whatever be the object of that assembly, it is most certainly not to provide salvation for its members, since all of its members are saved before they enter it at all.

God's assembly is a house full of salvation from one end to the other. It's a blessed fact! It is not an institution set up for the purpose of providing salvation to sinners, neither is it for supplying their religious wants. The assembly is a saved, living body, formed and gathered by the Holy Spirit. It makes known to "principalities and powers in the heavenlies, the manifold wisdom of God." It declares to the whole universe nothing but the all-sufficiency of the Name of Jesus.

Now, the great enemy of Christ and the church is well aware of what a powerful testimony the assembly of God is called and designed to produce on the earth. Therefore, he has put forth all of his dark energy to quash that testimony in every possible way. He hates the Name of Jesus and every tendency to glorify that Name. Hence, his intense opposition is unleashed on the assembly as a whole, and on each local expression wherever it may happen to exist.

Satan has no objection to a mere religious establishment. He sets it in motion to provide for man's religious wants, whether maintained by organizations or by voluntary effort. You may set up whatever you please. You may join whatever you please. You may be whatever you please - as long as anything and everything is not for God's assembly. That Satan hates most fervently and will seek to blacken and blast by every means in his power. But those consolatory accents of the Lord Christ fall with Divine power on the ear of faith: "On this Rock I will build my assembly, and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it."

Center of Gathering

Second, this spontaneously brings us to the next point: What is the center around which God's assembly is gathered? The center is CHRIST, the Living Stone, as we read in the Epistle of 1 Peter: "To whom coming as unto a Living Stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ" (2:4-5).

It is around the Person of the living Christ, then, that God's assembly is gathered. It is not around a doctrine, however true. Nor around an ordinance, however important. But around a living, Divine Person! This is a great cardinal and vital point, which must be distinctly seized, tenaciously held, faithfully avowed, and constantly carried out. It is "to Whom coming!" It is not "to which coming." We do not come to a thing, but to a Person. "Let us go forth therefore unto HIM..." (Heb. 13:13). The Holy Spirit leads us only to Jesus. Nothing short of this will avail.

We may speak of joining a church, becoming a member of a congregation, attaching ourselves to a party, a cause, or an interest. All of these expressions darken and confuse the mind, and hide from our view the Divine idea of the assembly of God. It is not our business to join anything. When God converted us, He joined us by His Spirit directly to Christ. And that should be enough for us! Christ is the only and unique Center of God's assembly.

And, we may ask, is not He sufficient? Is it not quite enough for us to be "joined to the Lord" (1 Cor.6:17)? Why add anything thereto? "Where two or three are gathered in my Name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matt.18:20). What more can we possibly need? If Jesus is the Center in our midst, why should we think of setting up a human president? Why not unanimously and wholeheartedly allow Him to take the president's seat, and bow to Him in all things? Why set up human authority, in any shape or form, within the house of God?

But this is done. And it is well to speak plainly about it. Man is set up in what he professes to be an assembly. We see human authority exercised in a sphere where Divine authority alone should be acknowledged. It matters not whether it is pope, parson, priest, or some presiding leader. Basically, the principle is that man is set up in Christ's place.

It may be the pope appointing a cardinal, a legate, or a bishop to his sphere of work. Or it may be a presiding leader appointing a man to exhort or to pray for ten minutes. The principle is the same. It is human authority acting in the place where only God's authority should be owned. If Christ is central in our midst, we can count on Him for everything.

Now in saying this we anticipate a very probable objection. It may be said, by the advocates of human authority, "How could an assembly ever get on without some human presiding leader? Would it not lead to all kinds of confusion? Would it not open the door for everyone to intrude himself upon the assembly irrespective of his gift or qualification? Should we not have men popping up often, worrying us with their empty nonsense and dull rhetoric?"

Our answer is a very simple one. Jesus is all-sufficient! We can trust Him to keep His house in order. We feel ourselves far safer in His gracious and powerful hand, than in the hands of the most attractive human president.

We have all of the spiritual gifts treasured up in Jesus. He is the Fountainhead of all ministerial authority. He is "the One who hath the seven stars in His right hand" (Rev. 2: 1). Let us only confide in Him, and the order of our assembly will be as perfectly provided for as the salvation of our souls. This is just the reason for the way we connected the title of this article using the "The All-sufficiency of Jesus’ Name" with "God's Ecclesia." We believe that the Name of Jesus is, in truth, all-sufficient, not only for personal salvation, but also for all the urgencies of the assembly. Christ is our all-sufficient Center for worship, communion, ministries, discipline, government - yes, everything! Having Him, we have all and abound.

Contrast to Religion

Christ as our Center is the real marrow and substance of our principle. Our one aim and object is to exalt the Name of Jesus. We believe He has been dishonored in what calls itself His house. He has been dethroned, and man's authority has been set up. In vain does He bestow a ministerial gift, for the possessor of that gift dare not exercise it without the seal, the sanction, and the authority of man. Not only is this so, but man also thinks it proper to give his seal, his sanction and authority to one who possesses not a particle of spiritual gift. Yea, perhaps he may not have a particle of spiritual life. Nevertheless, he is a recognized minister. It is paradoxical that man's authority without Christ's gift makes a man a minister, and Christ's gift without man's authority does not! If this does not dishonor the Lord Christ, what does?

Christian readers, pause here and deeply ponder this principle of human authority. Get to the root of it, and judge it thoroughly, in the light of Holy Scripture and the Presence of God. It is, be certain of it, the grand point of distinction between the assembly of God and every human system of religion under the sun. If you look at all those systems, from Romanism down to the most refined form of religious association, you will find man's authority recognized and demanded. With it, you may minister; without it, you may not.

On the contrary, in God's assembly, Christ's gift alone makes a man a minister, apart from all human authority. "Not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead" (Gal. 1: 1). This is the grand principle of ministry in the assembly of God.

Now, in classing Romanism together with all of the other religious systems of the day, let it once for all be distinctly understood - it is only related to the principle of ministerial authority. God forbid that parity is shown to a system which shuts out the Word of God, teaches idolatry, worships saints and angels, and promotes a whole mass of gross and abominable error and superstition. It most definitely does not compare with those more improved systems where the Word of God is upheld and scriptural truth is somewhat proclaimed. Nothing can be further from our thoughts. We believe popery to be Satan's masterpiece of a religious system, though many people of God have been, and may yet be, involved within it.

Further, let us at this stage most clearly declare to be true that the saints of God are to be found in every Protestant community, including both ministers and members. The Lord uses them in many ways by blessing their work, service, and personal testimony.

Finally, we feel it is night to declare that we refuse to move a finger and touch any one of those systems. It is not with the systems that we have to do. The Lord will deal with them. Our burden is only with the saints in those systems - to seek by every spiritual and scriptural agency to get them into their true position regarding God's assembly.

Having said this much to prevent misunderstanding, we return with increased power to our principle: That the thread of human authority runs through every religious system in Christendom. And in truth there is not a hair's breadth of consistent standing ground between the church of Rome and the assembly of God.

An honest seeker after truth, departing from among the dark shadows of popery, cannot possibly stop until he finds himself in the clear light of God's assembly. He may take years to travel over the intervening space. His steps may be slow and measured. But if only he follows the light in simplicity and godly sincerity, he will find no rest between those two extremes. The assembly of God is the true place for all of the children of God. Regrettably, they are not all there. But this is only their loss and their Lord's dishonor. They should be there, because God is not only present there, but He also is allowed freedom to act and rule there.

This latter statement is all-important. Because it is said, Is not God everywhere? Does He not act in various places? It is true, for He is everywhere, and He also works in the midst of palpable error and evil. Nevertheless, He is not allowed to rule in the systems of men, because man's authority is actually supreme. This we have already shown.

And besides this, the fact of God's mercy in converting and blessing souls in any system is still no reason for us to be there. Otherwise, in this sense we ought to be in the Church of Rome. Remember how many have been converted and blessed in that awful system. Even in a certain revival, we have heard of persons being stricken with conviction in many of the Roman Catholic chapels. What proves too much proves nothing at all.

Hence, no arguments can be based on the fact of God's working in a place. God is Sovereign and may in mercy work where He pleases. Yet we are subject to His authority and work where we are commanded according to His Word. My Master may go where He pleases, but I must go where I am told.

Dangers and Difficulties

But some may ask, "Is there no danger of incompetent or unfaithful men intruding their ministry upon the assembly of God? And if this is so, where is the difference between that assembly and systems of men?" In reply, "Certainly, there is a very great danger. But such a thing would be in spite of the principle, not by virtue of it." This makes a great difference. It is pathetic that we often see intrusive men on their feet in the midst of an assembly. Common sense and spirituality dictate that they should keep their seats.

Let no one imagine, while we contend for the truth of God’s assembly, that we are ignorant and forgetful of the dangers and trials to which the assembly is exposed. Far from it. No could be on that ground for 28 years, like the author of this message has, without being painfully conscious of the difficulty of maintaining it. But then the very trials, dangers, and difficulties became many convincing evidences. Painful? Yes, but they proved the truth of the position seen in the Scriptures. Was there no remedy but an appeal to human authority, a setting up of man in Christ's place, and a return to worldly systems? Then we should without hesitation pronounce the remedy to be far worse than the disease! For were we to adopt the remedy, we should have worse symptoms than the disease. Why? Because the remedy would not be mourned over as a disease, but be gloried in as the fruits of man's so-called order.

Nevertheless, there is a scriptural remedy. Blessed be God! What is it? "There am I in their midst!" This is enough! It does not say, "There is a pope, a priest, a parson, or a presiding leader in their midst, at their head, in the chair, or in the pulpit." No thoughts of such a thing exist from cover to cover in the New Testament. Even in the assembly at Corinth, where there were grievous confusion and disorder, the inspired Apostle never hinted at such a thing as a human presiding agent - not under any name whatsoever. "God is the author of peace in all the assemblies of the saints " (1 Cor. 14:33). God was there to keep order. They were to look to Him, not to man under any name. To set up a man to keep a good order in God's assembly is sheer unbelief. Moreover, it is an open insult to the Divine Presence.

Now, we have been often asked to cite Scripture showing the idea of a Divine Presidency in the assembly. Immediately, we reply: "There am I,"" and "God is the Author." On these two pillars, even were we to have no more, we can triumphantly build the glorious truth of a Divine Presidency. This is a truth which must deliver all who receive it, if they hold it as from God, rather than from every system of man, call it by whatever name you please.

It is, in our judgment, impossible to recognize Christ as the Center and Sovereign Ruler in the assembly when anyone continues to sanction the setting up of a man over others. When once we have tasted the sweetness of being under Christ, we can never again submit to the servile bondage of being under man. This is not insubordination or impatience of control. It is only the utter refusal to bow to a false authority and to sanction a sinful usurpation. The moment we see man usurping authority in that which calls itself the church, we simply ask, "Who are you?" And then we retire to a sphere where God alone is acknowledged.

"But then there are errors, evils, and abuses even in this sphere." Undoubtedly. But if there are, we have a God Who can correct them. And what if an assembly is henceforth troubled by the intrusion of ignorant and foolish men? Men who have never yet measured themselves in the presence of God? Men who boldly overleap the wide domain over which common sense, good taste, and moral proprieties preside? Men who vainly talk of being led by the Holy Spirit? Men who are always restlessly and willfully doing some ambitious thing? Men who keep the assembly in a continual state of nervous apprehension, not knowing what's coming next?

If any assembly be thus grievously afflicted, what should they do? Abandon the ground in impatience, chagrin, and disappointment? Give it all up as a myth, a fable, and an idle illusion? Go back to that from which they once came out? It is lamentable that some have done exactly this, proving that they never understood what they were doing. Or, if they did, they had not the faith to pursue it. May the Lord have mercy upon such and open their eyes that they may see from whence they have fallen. May they get a true view of the assembly of God in contrast with the allurements of men's attractive systems.

But what is the assembly to do when abuses creep in? They should simply look to Christ as the Lord of His house. Own Him in His proper place. Bring the Name of Jesus to bear upon the abuse whatever it is.

Will anyone say, "It is not enough. It has been tried and was ineffectual"?

We do not, and cannot, believe it! Certainly, we may find that the Name of Jesus is not enough. But we will never hand ourselves over to man and his miserable order! We will never, God being our Helper, erase that peerless Name from the central standard around which the Holy Spirit has convened us! How can we place the perishable name of a mortal in its stead?

Subjects Under Hatred

We are fully aware of the immense difficulties and painful trials connected with the assembly of God. Its difficulties and trials are perfectly characteristic of the assembly life and testimony. There is nothing more under the canopy of heaven that the devil hates than the assembly of God. He will leave no stone unturned to oppose that assembly. We have seen Satan manifesting his work repeatedly. An evangelist may go to a place and preach the all-sufficiency of the Name of Jesus for the salvation of souls. He will have thousands hanging on his lips. But let the same man return. While he preaches the same Gospel, he takes another step and proclaims the all-sufficiency of that same Jesus for the many urgencies of an assembly of believers. He will find himself opposed on all sides. Why is this? It is because the devil hates the feeblest expression of the assembly of God.

You may see a town left for ages and generations to the dark and dull routine of a religious formalism. In other words, a dead people gather once a week to hear a dead man going through a dead service, and yet go through the rest of the week living in sin and folly. There is not a breath of life in them, not a leaf stirring around them. In this the devil delights. But let someone come and unfurl the standard of the Name of Jesus - Jesus the Center for the soul and Jesus the Center for the assembly - and you will soon see a mighty change. The rage of hell is excited, and the dark, dreadful tide of opposition rises.

This is the true secret behind many bitter attacks, which have been made on those who occupy the ground of the assembly of God. Undoubtedly, we have to mourn over our many mistakes, errors, and failures. We have given much occasion to the adversary, by our follies and inconsistencies. We have been a poor blotted epistle, a faint and feeble witness, a flickering light. For all this, we have to be deeply humbled before our God.

Nothing could be more unbecoming in us than pretension, or assumption, or the putting forth of high sounding ecclesiastical titles or claims. We must be reminded that dust is our place. Yes, beloved brethren, the place of confession and self-judgment is becoming to us when we are in the Presence of our God.

Still, we are not to let slip the glorious truth of the assembly of God when we have so shamefully failed in carrying it out. We are not to judge the truth by our exhibition of it, but rather to judge our exhibition by the truth. It is one thing to occupy Divine ground, and another to carry ourselves properly thereon. While it is perfectly right to judge our practice and our principles, yet truth is truth in spite of all that. And we may rest assured that the devil hates the truth of the assembly. A mere handful of poor people, gathering in the Name of Jesus and breaking bread, is a shame to the devil. How true it is that such an assembly evokes the wrath of men. Why? Because it throws their office and authority overboard, and they cannot bear that. Yet, the root of the whole matter will be found in Satan's hatred. His special object of attack is the testimony which the assembly bears to the all-sufficiency of the Name of Jesus for its every possible urgency.

This is a truly noble testimony. May it be more faithfully carried out. Intense opposition is inevitable - like the days of Ezra and Nehemiah and the returned captives. Many a Rehum and many a Sanballat will be encountered. Nehemiah might have gone and built any other wall in the whole world except the wall of Jerusalem, and Sanballat would never have molested him. But to build the wall of Jerusalem was to him an unpardonable offense. Why? Just because Jerusalem was God's earthly center, around which He will yet gather the restored tribes of Israel. This was the secret of the enemy's opposition. And mark the designed contempt: "If foxes go up, he shall even break down their stone wall."

And yet Sanballat and his allies were not able to break it down. They might have caused it to cease because of the Jew's lack of faith and energy. But they could not break it down when God would have it up.

How this is like the present moment! Surely, there is nothing new under the sun. There is a designed contempt, and the alarm is real. But, oh! If those who are gathered in the Name of Jesus were only more true in their heart to the blessed Center, what testimony there would be! What power! What victory! How it would have impact all around us. "Where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there I am." There is nothing like this under the sun, even if it is ever so feeble and contemptible. The Lord be praised for raising up such a witness for Himself in these last days. May He greatly increase its effectiveness by the power of the Holy Spirit!

Seekers of Christ 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)