On The Authority Of The Assembly
In the difficult times in which we live (2 Tim. 3:1), we are struggling with an enemy whose spiritual power is heaping up obstacles so as to turn us away from the straight path of faithfulness. It succeeds in its aims only too often, but such obstacles can never seriously impede those who have the Word of God as their guide and who 'walk humbly with their God' (Mic. 6:8). It may be in the beginning they will not realise how dangerous the traps are that are set before them. Perhaps they will hesitate a little at the start, but if the danger forces them to pause and consider, then this delay will be a salutary one, and will lead them to seek communion with the Lord more diligently, by being more intimately in touch with the scriptures. Their very hesitations will teach them to lose all confidence in their own wisdom, realise more fully their own insufficiency, and thus place themselves more completely under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who alone can reveal the thoughts of God contained in the Word. In fact, our ignorance always stems from not depending enough upon His guidance.
Yet there is still another danger to avoid. If we have acquired a certain amount of knowledge through contact with divine things, we are tempted to puff ourselves up by attributing the possession of knowledge to ourselves. Such spiritual pride exposes us to the danger of imposing our ideas on others, and since they are our ideas we are tempted to think of them pretty much as infallible. Let us be sure that if we yield to this temptation, the enemy will have achieved his aim and will have won the battle pitched against us. We who were pretending to be guides for the ignorant will thus become unfaithful shepherds; puppets in the hands of Satan in his wiles. Instead of leading the flock to the rich pastures and still waters that Jesus possesses, we will have led them to their moral ruin in the arid deserts of the miserable thoughts of men, where the flock dies of hunger and thirst.
Often, it is not necessary to present a doctrinal system - an elaborate set of logical thoughts, which are attractive to the natural intelligence of man - in order to mislead souls. In all times, men of philosophical spirit have built such systems upon the Word of God, to attract followers to themselves. A single word, changed from its true meaning, can become the starting point for serious errors or fatal ideas. Those who are not ignorant of the enemy's devices will not be surprised at this. They know that a speck of dust hinders, and can even stop, the workings of the best watch. They know too that the Christian's heart is a set of delicate cogs which demand continual attention, and that the least interruption in communion with the Lord can become the source of the greatest perturbations. Therefore the humble Christian who is aware of the dangers that he faces, especially if God has committed to him responsibility in the assembly, will need to watch over himself with fear and trembling, so as not to allow the enemy to introduce some subtle thought in his spirit, which is disguised under some apparent meaning but is ready to deceive or mislead souls.
We could multiply proofs of the catastrophic damage produced by the false interpretation of one word. The Word itself gives us examples of this. Thus the word 'resurrection' and the expression 'day of the Lord have been used to propagate the most serious errors (1 Cor. 15:12; 2 Tim. 2:18; 2 Thess. 2:2). In more recent times, the word 'church' was used to sanction all the sects of Christianity. Later on, the word 'eternal' was turned from its true meaning to combat eternal punishment and to destroy the foundations of Christianity. Yet again some have recently denied that the words 'eternal life' relate to the person of Christ, and this has served as a basis for a sort of mystical perfection which excludes the majority of the children of God from eternal life.
Such is also the case with the word 'authority' which has undergone similar alterations, and it is this word which 1 wish to consider with my readers today. Upon this word, Rome has built up a system which annuls the authority of Christ and His Word; with this word, Protestantism has sanctioned the rights of the state within the Church; and upon this word, the clergy in every place establish their pretensions.
More recently still, this principle of authority has been claimed from various quarters for the assembly, as propagated in various writings, and advocated as being the basis of her administration.
To begin with, let us make haste to understand the great importance of the word authority (exousia in Greek) in the scriptures. Its importance can be measured by the fact it occurs over one hundred times in the New Testament. The excellent 'Pau-Vevey' version translates it in various ways: very often as 'power'. very often as 'authority' (both heavenly and earthly authorities, the authority of the governor or magistrate, etc.); on other occasions as 'right', and only rarely as 'freedom or jurisdiction'. This word 'authority' does not simply mean power and might (which is dynamis in Greek), but rather power with the right to exercise it. This is proved by the fact that in certain passages the two Greek words for 'power' and 'authority' are found side by side (Acts 1:7-8; Luke 9:1; 1 Pet. 3:22).
This authority does not reside in man, and does not belong to him intrinsically; it resides in God Himself. It resides likewise in Christ, who is God manifest in flesh. He taught with authority (Matt. 7:29; Mark 1:22; Luke 4:32), and fie commanded the unclean spirits with authority, and they obeyed Him (Mark 1:27; Luke 4:36). He had the power and the right (exousia) to forgive sins (Matt. 9:6, 8 etc.). and the power and right to lay down and take up His own life (John 10:18). Moreover, by virtue of His death and resurrection, all authority has been given to Him in heaven and in earth (Matt. 28:18), and also the authority to judge. since He is Son of Man (John 5:27).
God does not keep authority for Himself only, but He confers it His creatures, whether this be the governor (John 19:11), the magistrate (Rom. 13:1-3), or all principalities on earth and in the heavens. Similarly, Christ confers it on His own. During His pathway here below, He sent out the twelve and gave them authority over unclean spirits (Mark 6:7) and authority to heal (Luke 9:1). But only He can confer this authority. The apostles could not give others the power to do miracles or to cast out demons. After His resurrection, with all authority in heaven and on earth having been given to Him, He imparted the authority to the eleven to make disciples of all nations and to teach them (Matt. 28:1820), and also to vanquish and overcome all the power of the enemy (Mark 16:15-18). Similarly, He conferred authority on the Apostle Peter for the administration of the kingdom of the heavens (Matt. 16:19), and later on the Apostle Paul, for the edification of the assembly (2 Cor. 10:8; 13:10).
It is clear from these passages that the Lord confers authority on men, that is power with the right to exercise it. However, the fact that He confers it on them shows that the source of this authority is never found in man, nor in a group of men, but only in the One who imparts it. Nevertheless, once men have received this authority, without which they are unable to accomplish anything at all, they can go and exercise it on their own responsibility, as from the Lord. Thus in this sense they can exercise it independently, so to speak, though never in a way that is independent of the Lord and His Word, nor in a state of soul that puts confidence in the flesh (Matt. 9:29).
What is worthy of note is that. when it is a question of the assembly, the Word authority (which is always applied to individuals or groups of individuals: an apostle, a magistrate, the twelve, the seventy) is never used. This does not mean that the assembly does not, in fact, possess what the word represents, but that it possesses it in a totally different manner. Authority is not delegated and entrusted to the assembly as it was to the apostles, disciples and magistrates, who could use it freely, while always being responsible to the One who had entrusted it to them. The church, or assembly, has a totally different character for she is united to Christ as her Head, and forms one body with Him, which is not true of any individual, however privileged. In the case of the assembly, which is the body of Christ, authority resides completely in the Head, from whom flows the increase of the body (Eph. 4:15-16).
The same principle applies when the Lord presents himself in Matthew 16:18 and 18:18-20 as the Centre of the assembly - of the house of God, which lie has built and which is gathered to His Name. In the second of these passages administrative and legitimate power is entrusted to the local assembly, which, in a time of ruin, is recognised as the church (the 'twos or the threes'), but power resides there and can be exercised only in virtue of the fact that He is 'there in the midst of them'. Thus exercise of authority is not exactly the same as for an apostle or a magistrate, so the Word is careful not to use the word `authority'. The power to bind or to loose, in other words administration, never exists independently of His presence in the assembly.
The assembly can be considered responsible for the witness and administration entrusted to it by the Lord. It is obliged to exercise that administration and to be that witness in direct dependence on Him who placed them in her hand. The seven churches in Revelation are presented to us from this point of view. Rather than being their Centre, the Lord walls in the midst of them in His supreme majesty, justice, holiness and authority. This raises the question: 'Has the assembly kept her relations with the Lord intact, which are her only means of continued existence?' It is in this respect that the Lord addresses the angels of the seven churches, that is to say symbolically the responsible element, a personified group to which He has entrusted an administration, with the right and duty to exercise it. What has the assembly in responsibility done with this prerogative? Let us not forget that these angels are presented as seven stars presiding in each of the different phases of the assembly's history in Revelation chapters 2 and 3. Symbolically stars are subordinate or secondary authorities, each having a heavenly origin, and having the responsibility to shine, and to direct those whom they enlighten.
To Ephesus, the first phase of the church, the Lord presents Himself under two aspects: as the One who holds the seven stars in His right hand and as the One who walks in the midst of the seven golden lamps. The seven golden lamps are assemblies, set up by Him in justice according to God, to give a bright testimony. It is only in the case of Ephesus that the Lord makes himself known in connection with the calling of the church, in its responsibility, such as He established it in the beginning (the seven golden lamps); not, as in the cases of the following churches, in connection with what the church has become. In the same way, it is only in the case of Ephesus that we see the Lord holding the seven stars in His right hand, that is to say upholding them and communicating His power to them as instituted from the beginning. Without contact with Him, they would have no authority. And if He let them fall from His hand, they would have no more power than all the subordinate powers of the world - other stars that we often see in the Revelation leaving their place to fall on the earth to devastate it, or to extinguish themselves (Rev. 6:12; 8:10; 9:1).
The safeguard of the Ephesus was there. If she abandoned her relationship of dependence and intimate contact with this powerful hand, she would fall and her brightness would disappear, because she would have no more authority of intrinsic worth. But this is what happened to her, for she abandoned her first love; that is the love of Christ found in the hearts of believers. Having lost immediate contact with Him, the star could only shine on for a moment in its own light before going out. However, the Lord declares that the lamp will be removed from its place, and this warning will certainly be accomplished. What then becomes of the subordinate authority of the star, separated from the source of its power? Every serious Christian will surely agree: this authority is lost. This is what has happened to the church as a whole, but we see here that this is what can happen to any local assembly, since the seven Churches are as much local assemblies as they are particularly symbols of the responsible Church as a whole.
The assembly at Thyatira takes us one step further in connection with the authority of the church. The Lord, and this is important, no longer recognises the church at Thyatira as a whole. He no longer seeks to bring it back to its first love, as He had done for Smyrna by persecutions, and for Ephesus and Pergamos by repentance. Thyatira had been given time to repent, but she would not (Rev. 2:21). Thus the Lord no longer addresses the call 'to him that hath an ear' to the whole church, but only to the faithful remnant found there. This is shown by the change in position of the words, 'He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches' in the last four churches, as has often been remarked. It is the works of this remnant, and not those of Thyatira as a whole, that He recognises (Rev. 2:19), for the church as a whole, does not have any works, or rather only bad ones. So what are the works of the remnant? Note well: 'I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works: and the last to be more than the first' (v. 19). The work of faith, labour of love and patience of hope in the Lord characterised the remnant of Thyatira. These things were missing in Ephesus, who, guilty of having left her first love, had only work, labour and patience, without the spring that gets them going. Such things had characterised the Thessalonians previously. In this passage, they characterise the remnant of Thyatira, even though her first love may not have all the activity which characterised the saints at Thessalonica. Thus the works of the angel of Thyatira are the first love regained by a repentant remnant, when the church does not want to repent. So the angel of Thyatira becomes, in one sense, the angel of 'the rest in Thyatira'; that is to say for the first time the remnant within the church takes the character of the church in the eyes of Christ. It is like a new start, in the midst of a complete ruin.
What then becomes of the authority of the church, in the midst of this state of things? At Thyatira, Jezebel, as queen and prophetess, claims the principle of authority residing in herself, and we know that this pretension ended up as papal infallibility in Catholicism. Jezebel calls herself a prophetess as a cover to spread her evil doctrines. So little does the Lord regard this authority that, in His indignation, He 'casts her into a bed', feeble and powerless, and that which comes forth from her He kills with death. To whom then will the Lord commit His authority? It is to a feeble remnant, 'the rest in Thyatira', who are accused, through the malice of their enemies, as having known 'the depths of Satan'. He says, 'And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron ... And I will give him the morning star.'
Notice - and this is of the greatest importance - that this authority is not committed to the remnant during the current time, for authority in that sense is completely and definitely lost as we shall see. Rather it will be given to the remnant of Thyatira in the future, and furthermore, will be absolutely inseparable from that of Christ (Rev. 2:26; 19:15; Ps. 2:9). These two authorities will make up just one, so to speak, when the millennial kingdom will be set up on the earth. In the same way, the heavenly hope of this remnant is to possess 'the morning star' in the future: the One who is coming, whose brilliant light will shine for ever, whereas the star of Thyatira has gone out.
Let us go from Thyatira to Sardis. A remnant -- 'the rest' - came out from the midst of Thyatira and became the church at Sardis at the Reformation. There was much power of the Holy Spirit to bring the scriptures to light at that time. The faithful appealed to the sole authority of the lord and His Word; it was as if the star of Sardis was once again held by the right hand of the One who holds them all. But that blessed time is not mentioned in this letter for here it is no more a question of the beginning of Sardis than it was a question in chapter 2 of the state of Ephesus in the hour of her first love. The Spirit shows us what Sardis, the remnant from Thyatira, became when left to its own responsibility. It was responsible (2:25) to hold fast that which it had, right up to the coming of the Lord. Did it do this? In this passage we can see what has become of the Protestant awakening. It is separated from its Source; the vital relationship of the responsible church with her Head no longer exists. Sardis has completely replaced the Holy Spirit and His fullness, 'the seven spirits of God', with human arrangements. She does without the authority of the Lord and His Word, and substitutes these with the authority of the clergy; she becomes assimilated with the world and subjects herself to it, whether this be the state or the people. As a result she will suffer the lot of the world (Rev. 3:3). The star, the angel of the assembly, is no longer in the right hand of Christ, nor are any of the seven stars. He alone has the seven stars, which represent authority, seen in its whole and in its fullness. Similarly the power of life, 'the seven spirits of God', the fullness of the Spirit, which discerns all things. judges all and brings all to light (Rev. 1:4; 4:5; 5:6) is no longer in the church, for Sardis is dead. Christ alone has the seven Spirits of God. He alone possesses all discernment, all power, and complete authority. Sardis no longer has them; if it were otherwise, she would be living.
So that which was a remnant at the beginning-'the rest in Thyatira' - has become a dead body in Sardis. From its midst we can still distinguish 'the things which remain, that are ready to die': a new remnant, alas! much more restricted than that from which Sardis had been formed. We have 'a few names', known by the Lord, who have not defiled their garments by joining themselves with the world. But these few are not to be pitied; if they have no resources in themselves, then they are completely cast on Christ, and on the fullness of the Spirit and the fullness of authority which belong to Him. He has never lost the smallest fragment of these, but if He has them, He possesses them for His own and puts them at their disposition, when the church has neither one nor the other.
Let us now go to Philadelphia. The `few names' that come out from the dead atmosphere of Sardis have, in the eyes of Christ, taken the form of the church - and yet they are only 'two or three'. What character does He take towards them? Will He again reveal Himself to them as the One who holds the seven stars in His right hand? No, for as we have seen the unfaithfulness of the Church in her responsibility has meant the loss of her place of dependence on Christ, together with the authority that the Lord had confided to her. But what is infinitely precious to consider is that this authority nevertheless exists for Philadelphia, with the true remnant seeing it entirely in Christ. The Lord knows just how feeble the little nucleus of His witnesses is, but it pleases Him to recognise it as one of the phases of His church, and to maintain it in spite of its little strength.
Not only does Philadelphia have but a little strength, she also has no authority and no power to exercise it. 'In me is strength' the Lord tells her. For the time being, He is the true pillar 'Boaz' (1 Kings 7:21) of the church, but He promises Philadelphia that she will be this - she who today is so feeble - in a time to come: a pillar in the glorious temple of her God. Furthermore, He presents Himself to her as having the key of David. He is the true Eliakim (Isa. 22:22), who has the power to open and to shut. He possesses the authority and right to administer the house of God; an administration which was taken away from unfaithful Shebna. He does not say to Philadelphia '1 confer authority, right and power on you', but, 'It is 1 who have them and this must be sufficient for you. Feeble remnant, 1 put these at your disposal. You can count on Me, and on Me alone.' The key of David opens the door for the assembly to go out freely and fulfil her service outside, and no one can close it on her.
Notice too that it is now He who has the key, for in Revelation He has all of them (see 1: 18), and no longer an apostle. He has the key for the administration of the house of God - the key of David - as He has the keys of Hades and of death. Previously He had entrusted the keys of the kingdom of heaven, the right to administer, to the Apostle Peter (Matt. 16:19); then He entrusted the right to administer herself to the church as a whole: the right to bind and to loose in her bosom, by virtue of His presence in the midst of her, as the responsible church. She has been totally unfaithful, and the administration will be taken from her, as with the steward in Luke I6:1-2, even if it is still left for a while in her hands. For now, it is He who has the administration in a general way, and He uses it for the blessing of the two or three - a remnant without strength, but which has kept His word and not denied His name. Yes. if authority and the power to administer are in the assembly at Philadelphia, which is reduced, so to speak, to the condition of 'two or three' in a local assembly, it is because He who is there possesses these things. Philadelphia has a part in them because she is in communion with Him, not because she possesses the key of David herself.
Let us further add a point of capital importance. He who has the key of David also has, in the assembly at Philadelphia, a certain character which cannot be separated from His administration. He is the holy and the true, and the assembly acts in accordance with this character. That is how this feeble remnant is recognised; it would not be Philadelphia if it abandoned the word of the True and denied the name of the Holy by its walk and conduct. It is these things, linked with waiting for the Lord, and love for Christ and for the brethren, that Philadelphia must 'hold fast'. She is not to maintain her rights, but those of the Lord in the midst of her. One day Philadelphia will possess the exercise of power, as we have said, but not here belom% Power and authority, lost long ago through the unfaithfulness of the church, cannot be regained, but. just as 'the rest in Thyatira' will have and share the public authority of Christ over the nations in the kingdom (2:26), Philadelphia, that remnant of remnants, will have power in the heavenly temple of God. She will be identified with Christ, the true Boaz and true Jachin, and in that place will have strength in herself forever in glory.
Finally, if we go on to Laodicea, we find there the pretence of being something; of being self-sufficient. We find a certain amount of knowledge, no doubt coming from truths realised in Philadelphia - knowledge that Laodicea attributes to herself and thinks she has acquired through the will of fallen man and the faculties belonging to corrupted old nature; truths that she changes so that they become an object of disgust for the Lord. Christ is abandoned in Laodicea; substituted by man and his vainglory. But He remains: He is what the church has ceased to be: 'the faithful and true witness'. As at Sardis He has what the Church no longer has. As for the faithful, there are not even a few names as in Sardis, nor two or three as in Philadelphia, but 'and man' (3:20): faithful individuals who open to the Lord. while He is outside and knocks at the door.
Today, the church is heading towards this state of affairs. A thousand symptoms indicate it, and the witness is becoming more and more individual amidst the growing evil. Nevertheless, thanks to God, the Philadelphian character will be preserved right to the end of this humiliating story. The blessing of the Lord's presence in the midst of the two or three gathered to His holy name will never be lost. At Laodicea there is less than 'little strength' and we can affirm that since the 'Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God' has been abandoned and substituted by man and his strength, there is nothing left. Thus it is an individual who is called to hear the Lord's voice, let Him come in, and sup alone with Him.
If all authority of the Church has disappeared forever, it will be no less the eternal portion of the faithful of Laodicea than it will be for those of Thyatira and Philadelphia in a coming day. For Thyatira, this was governmental authority with Christ (2:26-27); for Laodicea, royal authority with Him (3:21) and for Philadelphia, the heavenly authority of the new Jerusalem (3:12).
We have just shown that when it is a matter of the Church as a whole in her responsibility, she has lost all authority from the beginning through not maintaining her contact with Christ as the sole source of her power. But, you will say, 'Is not authority conferred today on the local assembly; on the two or three who are 'gathered together in his name'?' Without a doubt, and we do not dispute in any way the administrative power entrusted to the local assembly by the Lord; that is to say within a restricted circle, and the means He uses to maintain order there. This subject involves discipline and unity of action by the assembly, and has been often been dealt with. Today, in a time of ruin, administrative power to bind or to loose, to accept or reject from her bosom, and other similar actions are entrusted to two or three who are gathered to His name, although the Word, as if foreseeing that this could be abused, does not use the word 'authority' to designate this. The local assembly exercises this administration by virtue of Christ's presence in the midst of her, and her power depends solely, on this presence. It is true that God uses human instruments for all decisions to be taken, but it is not these who decide, even if their activity is recognised. The assembly alone decides, because Christ is there. It is very important to note that in Matthew 18, the '1 say unto you' in verse 18 (the exercise of discipline) and the '.Again I say unto you' in verse 19 (the answering of prayer) are both linked to the fact that the local assembly is constituted and characterised in verse 20 by the presence of Christ in the midst of her. Thus the authority (I am not opposed to this word, if it is properly understood) of the assembly has a totally different character to the authority of, say, the Apostle Peter, while being, as regards administration, the only apostolic succession. Peter or Paul went about exercising the authority that the Lord had placed in their hands on His behalf, but the local assembly exercises it only when the Lord is in the midst of her, and if she does not realise this truth, she has no authority, no right whatsoever. And what is more, she is not the assembly.
Moreover, a truth which is even more important, if that is possible, is that to affirm this presence would be a vain and lying pretension if she denied the holiness of the One to whose name the assembly is gathered, either by word or by deed. If there is denial of the character of the One who is in the midst of the assembly, then the local assembly does not exist, since Christ is not there. To enjoy the authority that the Lord exercises, and to have part in this, there must first be recognition and reproduction of His character, as in Philadelphia. Christ presents Himself to Philadelphia as using the key of David, after having made known to her that He is the Holy and True, and having noted that she responded to this character by her conduct - keeping His Word and not denying His name.
All this, dear reader, is of great importance. There is no more ratification of an administrative act of the assembly than there is an answer to the prayer of an assembly (Matt. 18:19-20) if Jesus is not in the midst. His character of holy and true is not maintained and she herself does not correspond to this character. She has never had, nor does she now have, any power, right or authority in herself without Christ. She cannot pretend to exercise this authority without maintaining the character of the One around whom she is gathered. This presence does not consist of our affirming that He is there, since such an affirmation could simply be a lie. His presence cannot be separated from His character. The Holy and the True will never sanction any iniquity, any act of self-will, or any injustice in the assembly. It is a solemn thought and apt to fill us with a godly fear.
But, you will say then, does the assembly lose all possibility of exercising discipline or making a decision given our infirmity? Not at all. It is perfectly true that as the local assembly has little strength, like Philadelphia, she is capable of lacking in many ways. Every assembly in communion with the Lord cannot but be deeply persuaded of this. So the only safeguard (and He assures us of it) is to count at the same time on His power and on His love. If the assembly lacks holiness or discernment, who will remedy this state of affairs but Himself? He has a thousand resources and can use `helps, governments' to this effect; hundreds of different instruments. Such help will never be lacking if, like Philadelphia, a local assembly looks to Him, counts humbly on Him and has affection for Him, however little her strength may be. But if instead of looking to Him the local assembly lets itself be led by personal motives or considerations, by human influence or authority, then it exposes itself to the most severe discipline and often becomes a cause of trouble and disorder, instead of maintaining order according to God in His house.
For the rest. we need only some little 'patience'; this time of current trial will soon be ended. The Lord is coming. and the poor remnant of Philadelphia will be kept according to His promise from the hour of the terrible. universal trial that will fall upon the earth.
Dear readers. let us never put forward our authority. How often we give it wrongfully the title of assembly authority, so as to be free to do our own will. What we need to maintain is the Lord's authority in love, holiness and truth in His church, and the presence of the Holy Spirit among the saints. A pretence of authority while leaving aside Christ and His character in the midst of His own will necessarily lead us to sanction evil under all its forms: lack of love, pride, hatred, disobedience, jealousy. disunity, sects. Ah! in such a case how far we would be from the character of Philadelphia, which has the love of the brethren engraved on its forehead, communion and waiting for the Lord graven on its heart, and holiness as a seal of its walk!
In these difficult times, may He give us a true Philadelphian spirit. May He keep us from thinking that we can have any strength, unless it is in dependence on Christ. Let us avoid masking the fruit of our independence and of our own self-will by the name of assembly authority. If we have strayed by following our own thoughts, let us make haste to repent of it. Humiliation is salutary; the bitter herbs must come before the feast of unleavened bread - holiness regained in our walk. Furthermore, let us watch that we do not soil our clothes as in Sardis. Worldliness. whatever form it comes in, destroys communion and leaves the soul at a total loss when the evil day arrives. To proclaim the name of the holy One does not go with soiled garments. We are called to be part of those 'few names', well known by Christ, who walk in communion with Him at Sardis in the white garments of holiness; in the fine linen garments of practical righteousness.
 The French New Translation by J N Darby and associated scholars.
 By speaking in this fashion, we do not contest the liberty with which several have used the term 'authority' for this case, with the condition that it must depend entirely on the fact that He is found in the midst of the Assembly.