Meetings Of The Assembly
In our meditations thus far on the local expression of the Church we have had before us some of the main principles that should govern and constitute a Scripturally gathered Assembly of God. We have seen that it must meet on the ground of the One Body of all believers, owning and receiving each other as members of that spiritual Body of Christ and owning no other body. Secondly, it must be gathered together unto the name of the Lord Jesus Christ alone as its center and uphold that precious name to the exclusion of all others. Thirdly, the Lord must be given His rightful place in the midst as the divine Leader and the presence of the Holy Spirit owned and He be depended upon to guide and divide to every man as He will. Fourthly, the ministry and spiritual ministrations in the Assembly are to be carried on, not by one man an appointed, official minister-but by any of Christ's gifts to the Church and by members of the body, edifying one another, all under the Holy Spirit's direction and in His power and energy. Fifthly, the work of oversight in the gathering is to be done by those who are morally and spiritually qualified as elders and raised up and directed by the Holy Spirit for this needful work. And the deaconal work is to be done by those chosen by the Assembly for this work. Sixthly, the authority for its actions is the Lord in its midst and the Word of God which it acts upon.
Having had these groundwork principles before us, which we may say give us the structure and divinely provided working machinery, so to speak, of the local expression of the Church of the living God, we are ready now to consider the various meetings or gatherings of the Assembly. But before speaking in detail of these various meetings let us look in a general way at the first local Church established by the Lord and the Holy Spirit.
In Acts one we find a company of some 120 believers together in the upper room after the ascension of the Lord to heaven (ch. 1:15). There they continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, waiting for the promised descent of the Holy Spirit. On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit descended, as promised, and by one Spirit they were all baptized into one body (I Cor. 12:13) and were filled with the Spirit. Here the Church of God began its existence and the first Christian Assembly in a locality was formed by the Holy Spirit. While in the beginning the Church here was composed entirely of Jews and the distinctive truths as to the hopes and calling of the Church were not known as yet, we may view this Assembly at Jerusalem as a pattern Assembly for us in many ways. It was the beginning of the Church and it is always instructive to get back to the beginning of things. Here the Holy Spirit wrought as He meant things in general to continue, so we must go back to that point to learn the truth.
From the inspired account in Acts two, we see at once that the Holy Spirit was the leader in the Assembly. They began to speak the wonderful works of God as the Spirit gave them utterance. Then Peter, energized and directed by the Spirit, preached to the multitude about the crucifixion, resurrection, and glorification on high of this Jesus whom they had rejected and slain. The Spirit of God used his words to bring conviction in the hearts of the hearers and worked repentance unto salvation in their souls. Then those that received his word were baptized with water in the name of Jesus and some three thousand were added to this original Assembly of converted believers.
This whole company now "continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers." They had all things in common, continued daily with one accord in the temple, broke bread from house to house, and ate their meat with gladness and singleness of heart (Acts 2:42-47).
Thus we learn of the activities and gatherings of this divinely ordered Assembly at Jerusalem and it is well for us to note some of the things which characterized its testimony as witnesses unto Christ. These proper characteristics were enumerated by the Lord in Acts 1:8.
(1) They were together first of all with one accord and continued in prayer and supplication.
(2) They were baptized by the Spirit into One Body, filled, directed, and empowered by the Spirit and bore witness unto Christ Jesus.
(3) In their witnessing they presented Jesus Christ, called upon men to repent, and proclaimed remission of sins in His name; thus they were active in preaching the Gospel of salvation in Christ.
(4) Those who received this word of salvation, they baptized 1 and thus began to carry out the commission of the risen Lord to make disciples of all nations and to baptize them in the name of the triune God.
(5) Then they all went on steadfastly together in the apostles' doctrine: the teaching which the Lord gave the apostles the Word of God, and in happy fellowship one with another.
(6) They broke bread from house to house daily and thus often remembered the Lord in His death for them, as He requested (Luke 22:19, 20).
(7) They were also one in their ordinary activities of life, sharing together their possessions and eating their meals with gladness and singleness of heart.
(8) They continued together in collective prayer and had favor with all the people. More details of this Assembly at Jerusalem are given in the following chapters of Acts, but space forbids further enlargement of the subject. Such were the activities of the virgin Church. May the Lord help us to get back to "that which was from the beginning" and to be found likewise gathered in principle and practice. We may say that these activities were the natural outflow of the divine nature which was in these new-born souls and of the Holy Spirit who indwelt them. This new nature hungers and thirsts for the Word of God and craves fellowship one with another in the enjoyment of the precious things of God. It yearns to express itself in prayer and praise to God, for worship and renewal of strength, wishes to obey God's Word, and desires to share with others what it possesses. And it is the delight of the indwelling Spirit to lead souls out in these activities.
Thus these new-born instincts, which the Holy Spirit develops and strengthens, leads souls to want to gather with one another around the Lord for teaching, fellowship, worship, prayer, and the proclaiming of the Gospel. Accordingly, meetings of the Assembly naturally begin for these purposes. This is as it should be, and Hebrews 10: 24. 25 exhorts us: "let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." In the beginning, the Church met every day, but this did not continue. Now as we see the evil day of apostasy and wickedness approaching, we need all the more to come together often with fellow believers.
With this introductory survey of the activities of the virgin Assembly at Jerusalem before us, we shall go on with detailed consideration of various assembly meetings.
We have seen that the original Assembly at Jerusalem "continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers" (Acts 2:42). Thus, besides fellowship, which would apply to all meetings and the whole life of the believers, we have here three special features which marked the church life of these saints: Teaching, Breaking of Bread, and Prayer. At first all their meetings were probably so characterized, but as the Church emerged from Judaism, we find regular meetings for special purposes. From Acts 20:6, 7 we learn that a regular meeting was held on the first day of the week for the purpose of breaking bread. There we hear of a company, Paul and his companions, arriving at Troas and abiding there seven days. "And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them." Here at a specified time (the first day of the week, the Lord's day), at a specified place, the disciples came together for a specified purpose (to break bread). From the form of expression used here we are given to understand that this was their regular weekly custom. They did not come together to meet the apostle or to hear him preach, but to break bread on the first day of the week-the resurrection day, the day which spoke of His rising power. This was their habit and Paul and his company waited at Troas seven days so that they might enjoy the great privilege of breaking bread with the disciples. Being thus assembled for this purpose, Paul used the opportunity and followed with an address to the saints, for he was leaving on the morrow. But the first object of their meeting was to remember the Lord in His death; it was the center of their worship and a regular thing among them each Lord's day, the first day of the week. Thus we learn from Acts 2 and 20 that one of the principal meetings of the apostolic Churches was the meeting for the breaking of bread and worship in response to their Lord's request on the night of His betrayal. Further we learn that at first they met together every day at Jerusalem to remember the Lord in the breaking of bread and that later it seems to have been the custom in the Assemblies which were formed elsewhere to come together every first day of the week to celebrate the Lord's Supper. The Lord had said through Paul: "as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come" (I Cor. 11: 26), so they did it often. These early Christians, in the bloom and freshness of their first love, were in the constant habit of breaking bread in affectionate remembrance of their Lord. They were so filled with the Holy Ghost, that Christ was ever before their hearts and they delighted to celebrate that precious feast which was, according to His own express word, the effecting memorial of Himself in His death.
Observe, it was not on the first Lord's day of the month or of the quarter of the year, but on the first day of the week that they gathered together for this holy purpose in obedience to their Lord and Savior's request. It was not occasionally that they broke bread, as is the custom of most Christians in our day, but regularly every Lord's day. So we should do, also, if we would follow the divine pattern given us in the Scriptures. These early Christians loved their Lord too well to neglect the precious memorial of His love which He had instituted on the night of His betrayal. From observing them, we may say that, just in proportion as saints love Christ, love His Word, and are filled with the Holy Ghost, do they delight to go to His table and remember Him, shewing forth His death until He come. He Himself has said, "If ye love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15).
Having seen that the early Church came together regularly the first day of the week to break bread and that this gathering was the chief meeting of the Church (since it is the only one so distinctly specified) we go on to consider more definitely the meaning and purpose of the Lord's Supper. In the Gospels we have the Supper instituted, in the Acts we have it celebrated, as we have just seen, and in the first Epistle to the Corinthians we have it expounded.
In the Gospel of Luke we read: "And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer . . . And He took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you" (Ch. 22:14-20).
The Lord was with His disciples for the last time before going to the cross where He was going to give Himself as a sacrifice for sin. There His body would be nailed to the cross and He would "bare our sins in his own body on the tree," as Peter afterwards expressed it. There He would drink the cup of God's wrath against sin and shed His blood as an atonement for sinners. On the ground of accomplished redemption, He would make a new covenant in His blood which was shed for all believers. He would then go to the Father and they would not have Him bodily with them any more.
Accordingly, after the Passover Supper, He instituted the new memorial feast of the Lord's Supper which would remind them, and believers down through the centuries, of what He had done for them at Calvary's cross. The bread was emblematical of the body in which He suffered and completed the work of atonement and the cup would remind us of His blood which was shed on the cross for our sins. It was not, as some erroneously think and teach, that in the Supper the bread becomes literally His body and the contents of the cup become literally His blood, so that we actually eat His body and drink His blood as something which makes us more fit for heaven and gives us' the forgiveness of sins. The Lord was still bodily present with them when He instituted the Supper and surely He did not mean that, though He was bodily present, the bread and the cup He then gave them was also literally His body and His blood. No, He was thinking of the time when He would no longer be bodily present with them; thus He gave them, and believers throughout the Church age, the emblems of the bread and the cup which would recall Himself and His death on the cross vividly to their minds.
When the Lord said, "This is my body," and "this is my blood," he used a figure of speech, as He often did, just as we do in showing a picture of a loved one, saying, "This is my mother," etc. We mean thereby that the picture is a likeness of our loved one, a representation, and no thought of literalness is implied by the words. Yet many have strained at the like expression of our Lord" This is my body"-and insist that the emblems of the Lord's Supper become, at the words of the priest or minister, literally His body and His blood to the participant.
What, then, is the purpose and object of the Lord's Supper? "This do in remembrance of me," are His own blessed words. He knew well the tendency of our hearts to slip away from Him and from each other, so He gave us this memorial feast of Himself in His death for us, that v7e might be reminded often of His great love towards us and of the wonderful redemption which He has accomplished in our behalf. He would have us raise a memorial to His death here in this world that would not have Him, a memorial not in marble or costly architecture, but by a simple act of remembrance. "This do ye" (I Cor. 11: 25), He says. This act of obedience He claims on our part. Dear Christian reader, are you doing it?
To those who respond to His loving request to remember Him in His appointed way, the assurance is given: "For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do spew (announce, or tell thoroughly-Greek), the Lord's death till He come" (I Cor. 11: 26). This is what our simple act of remembering Him in eating the bread and drinking the cup means. It is the proclaiming of His precious death as the only ground of salvation. The word here translated "shew" is translated elsewhere "to preach" ten times in our King James version. So whenever believers come together to remember the Lord in the breaking of bread, they thereby preach the glorious fact of Christ's death for sinners and salvation through His shed blood. How wonderful! So important is the ordinance of the Lord's Supper, that a special revelation about it was given to the apostle Paul from the Lord in glory. This revelation is recorded in the first Epistle to the Corinthians, chapter 11: 23-29. Here the purpose of the Supper is clearly set forth and the manner in which it should be observed.
From this Epistle to the Corinthians we learn that a bad state of affairs existed in the Corinthian Assembly and much disorder had come in among them with regard to many things, among them the Lord's Supper. From this eleventh chapter we see that they had been coming together in a careless way and had not been eating the Lord's Supper in a true sense. The apostle had to write them: "When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken" (v. 20, 21).
It would seem that they were mixing up the love-feast (a common meal which the early Christians partook of together) with the Lord's Supper and were thus eating the Supper in an unworthy and irreverent manner so that the real character of the Supper of the Lord was lost sight of. They had even degraded the character of the love-feast by holding to class distinctions, the rich feasting on their abundance while the poor went hungry because they had little to bring to the meal.
So the apostle Paul was directed by God's Spirit to write this Epistle to them correcting these various disorders. In this eleventh chapter we have special instructions as to the purpose of the Lord's Supper and the holy and reverent manner in which it should be observed. Since this Epistle to the Corinthians was meant of God to be part of the Holy Scriptures, we see that God in His wisdom allowed these disorders to come up in the early Church so that through this Epistle we might have permanent, divine instructions for dealing with such conditions and know His mind and order more fully. Thereby we see that God not only meant Paul to express the divine mind about these things for the benefit of the Corinthians, but for the guidance and instruction of the whole Church throughout the dispensation. How thankful we should be for this. From verse 23 we learn that a special revelation was given to the apostle Paul about the Supper of the Lord. "I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you." Paul was not one of the twelve apostles who were with the Lord on the night when He instituted this remembrance feast, so these instructions about the Supper were communicated personally to Him by the Lord Himself. It was not now merely the lowly Jesus at the Passover Supper who spoke, but the Lord on the throne of glory in heaven who gave to Paul these details as to the mind of God about the breaking of bread. Surely this fact should show us the great importance of the Lord's Supper as a Christian institution. The whole matter of the Supper, its institution by the Lord on the night of His betrayal, its divine purpose as an act of remembrance, and the manner in which we are to partake of it, is therefore of great importance since the Lord made it the subject of a special revelation. We should notice the oft recurrence of the title of the Master as Lord in this chapter about the Supper. He speaks of the Lord's Supper, the Lord Jesus, the Lord's death, the cup of the Lord, the body and blood of the Lord, the body of the Lord, and chastening of the Lord. The reason for this is easy to see. The Corinthians must have forgotten that He was the Lord or they would not have gotten into this terrible disorder with regard to the Lord's Supper. The One of whom the Supper speaks has been made Lord of all and He has the right of full control and command over everything which we have and are. We are responsible to Him for what we do, what we say, and what we think, and especially so when we remember Him in His death. They had forgotten Him in this respect and had made the Supper their own supper. They were occupied with their own things and lost sight of the things of the Lord. They had forgotten the Lord's presence and thus had lost the true value of the Lord's Supper. This is bound to follow when His presence is not realized. They had fallen so far as to degrade the Lord's Supper to the level of a common meal. It was needful that they be brought back to the realization of the Lordship of Christ and of the sacred character of the Supper of the Lord. Therefore Paul was led to write them urgently and solemnly that he might win back their hearts to a true remembrance of Christ in the breaking of bread. Such was the condition and error into which the Corinthians had fallen and we need to realize that we ourselves are constantly in danger of falling into a similar state of carelessness and disorder as to the manner and ;ray in which we partake of the sacred Supper of the Lord. It is of the utmost importance that we realize the presence of the Lord Jesus and center our thoughts and affections upon Him when we are gathered together to remember Him in His death. There is ever a continual effort of Satan to draw away our thoughts from the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ and to fill our minds with matters not appropriate to the Lord's Supper and the Lord's Table. Therefore continual effort, watchfulness, and prayer to the Lord are needed that our hearts and thoughts may be concentrated upon our Lord and Savior in remembrance and worship. His adorable and wondrous Person and His great work of redemption are the objects before us in the Supper and as we fix our gaze upon Him wandering thoughts will be collected and restless spirits will be subdued. His presence will then be realized and the Supper of the Lord will be observed in a manner pleasing to Himself. In verses 23, 24, and 25 of 1st Corinthians 11 the apostle brings before them afresh the words of the Lord spoken at the institution of the Supper and in verse 26 he adds that as often as they partook of it they skewed the Lord's death till He come. Let us take special note of those blessed words: "till He come." We are to continue remembering the Lord in the Supper each Lord's day, or first day of the week, until His coming again in the air for His Church. Thus the breaking of bread takes us backward to the death of our Savior, upward to the glory where He now is, and onward to the blessed moment of His coming for us. (We might add here that the fact of His birth into this world as man may also come before us in connection with the emblems of the Supper, for then it was that He took upon Him a body of flesh and blood. Thus His birth, death, resurrection, glorification, and coming again are all necessarily brought to our remembrance each time we truly eat the bread and drink the cup of the Supper. Therefore we do not need each year a special day of commemoration for His birth, another for His death, and another for His resurrection. Nothing is said about such days in the Scriptures, but each first day of the week He would have us remember Himself in His birth, death, resurrection, glorification, and coming again.)
We come now to the solemn words of the apostle as to eating and drinking the Supper unworthily. "Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation (judgment-original) to himself, not discerning the Lord's body" (I Cor. 11: 27-29).
If we bear in mind what has already been before us about the disorder amongst the Corinthians as to the Lord's Supper, it will help us to see that the eating and drinking unworthily which the apostle speaks of here, does not refer to the worthiness or otherwise of the persons, but to the unworthy manner in which they had been eating the Lord's Supper. If eating the Supper depended upon personal worthiness, no one on earth could partake, for no one is worthy in himself to partake of the Lord's Supper. We are only worthy in the sense that Christ has taken us in our lost condition, cleansed us by His blood, and thereby fitted us for His presence and given us the right to partake of the Supper. This right is the result of what He has done for us and not of any personal worthiness.
The apostle is not speaking of individual worthiness at all, but of the manner in which these saints conducted themselves when together. They were very careless and ignored what the bread meant and what the cup meant. They forgot the solemn realities that were expressed by the emblems, and partook of them as common, meaning less things. They did not discern in the bread the Lord's body and thus ate and drank unworthily and brought present judgment upon themselves.
The same danger remains for us today. We may carelessly partake of the Lord's Supper, not thinking of His body and His blood as we eat the bread and drink of the cup. Our thoughts may be of other things and not of the Lord whom we profess to remember. If we do not discern by faith His body, we eat unworthily and are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord since we treat their memorials with indifference. This is a solemn thought. It is not, as we have said before, that the bread becomes His body and the contents of the cup become His blood, but to faith they speak definitely of the broken body of Christ and of His shed blood. The question is: Are we really discerning by faith the Lord's body in the breaking of bread? Do we sometimes eat and drink of the Supper as an ordinary meal, or a common thing without reflection or self-judgment? Do we fail to realize His presence or fail to perceive that in the bread and the cup the Spirit would bring to our view His body which was given for us and His blood which was shed for us? If so, we are eating and drinking unworthily; we are eating and drinking judgment to ourselves and will bring down upon us the chastening hand of the Lord. "For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world" (v. 30-32). Such are the serious consequences of eating and drinking the Lord's Supper unworthily. Since partaking of the Lord's Supper is a solemn matter, and since there is the possibility of eating and drinking in an unworthy manner with such serious consequences, one might tremble and shrink back from obeying the Savior's last request, "This do in remembrance of me." To do so would be to fall into another error and be disobedient to the Lord's command of love. In this respect verses 28 and 31 are an encouragement to us which we must not overlook. "But let a man examine (prove original) himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup . . . For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged."
While holiness and reverence are stressed on the one hand, grace encourages and strengthens us on the other hand to come and eat of the Supper with self-judgment, carefulness, and sobriety. Though the Lord urges that we put ourselves to the proof, examining and trying our ways and practicing habitual self-judgment upon ourselves, He invites all His own to come and eat of the bread and drink of the cup, but not with a careless or light spirit. Notice, it does not say, "Let a man examine himself, and stay away," but "let a man examine himself, and so let him eat." As an examined and self-judged one, we are invited to come and eat and drink of the Supper. Thus does grace strengthen the one who tries himself with uprightness of heart and judges himself; and this emboldens him to come to the Supper with a good conscience. Where there is lightness and no self-judgment, on the other hand, the Lord will show Himself there to judge and chasten, so that sickness, and in extreme cases even death, may be the result (v. 30).
Thus we see that what will preserve us from an unworthy participation in the Lord's Supper and from eating and drinking judgment to ourselves is the holy exercise of self-judgment as a deep, earnest, and habitual thing. This is most necessary and very important for a happy Christian life. Self-judgment is an invaluable and indispensable exercise. Were it more faithfully and habitually practiced our daily walk would be much different. If self were continually judged in the presence of God we would not be required to judge our ways, words, and actions, for the flesh would be subdued and the root judged so that evil fruit would not appear. Thus there would be no need for the Lord to judge us either. Having pointed out that the eating and drinking unworthily refers primarily to our conduct and manner of partaking at the Lord's Table we must add a word about our conduct and walk during the week. Let no one suppose that since we have spoken so much about our attitude of heart while at the Lord's Table, remembering Him, it does not then matter how we go on during the week and that this has nothing to do with the matter of partaking of the Lord's Supper unworthily.
What we are during the week we will be while at the Lords Table. What our heart has been occupied with throughout the past six days it will also be occupied with on the first day of the week while at His Table. If we h< <-e been careless and indifferent toward the Lord during the week we are bound to be careless and indifferent toward Him while at His Table and to fail to discern His body and His blood in the true sense in the emblems of the Supper. Thus we will eat and drink judgment to ourselves. It is impossible to have our hearts in a worldly- atmosphere all week and then to be entirely detached from it when seeking to remember Him on Lord's Day. If one lives during the week in folly, vanity, pleasure, and worldliness, attends- movies, concerts, processions, musical parties, athletic games, etc., can there be the discernment of the Lord's body in the breaking of bread on the first day of the week? Surely not. In connection with such gross worldliness and in subjection to the Lord, how can there be any spiritual communion with the body and blood of the Savior? Such may go through the outward act of "breaking bread," but it is to be greatly feared that they know practically nothing of the inward power and reality of eating, by faith, the body and blood of Christ (see John 6:55, 56), and thus must be guilty of not discerning the Lord's body and thereby eating and drinking judgment to themselves when partaking of His Supper. May the Spirit of God give us deep searching of heart and cultivate in us the spirit of true and habitual self-judgment, so that we may remember our blessed Lord in all sincerity and in a truly worthy manner.
We have considered the Lord's Supper in its primary aspect of a remembrance feast, setting before us, symbolically, the body and blood of Christ as it is presented to us in I Corinthians 11. There is, however, another aspect of truth, subsidiary to this central feature of remembrance, which is set forth in the Lord's Supper, often overlooked by many. This is given us in I Corinthians 10: 16, 17: "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread."
Here we have the collective act of breaking of bread spoken of: "The cup of blessing which we bless," and "the bread which we break." In the 11th chapter each individual does the eating of the bread and the drinking of the cup as unto the Lord, and is responsible to do it in a worthy manner. Thus the expressions there are cc ye eat ... and ye drink," and "let a man examine himself." But in these verses of I Corinthians 10 the corporate aspect of taking the Lord's Supper together is the important truth emphasized. As we remember the Lord together, partaking of the same bread and cup, we thereby express fellowship with each other and with the table from which we partake. Thus the thought of communion or fellowship in the breaking of bread is also to be thought of. This is the leading thought in the portion before us. Therefore this is the reason why the cup is spoken of first, for the atonement by the shed blood of Christ is the basis of our communion and fellowship with God and with fellow-believers. "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ," or "fellowship with the blood of Christ," as it may also be translated. As we give thanks for this cup and partake of it together we thereby express our fellowship with the blood of Christ, and in so much as we really lay hold of this truth we enter into His thoughts about it, have part therein, and enjoy that which He has purchased for us by His blood. Then the apostle goes on to say: "The bread which we break, it is not (the) communion of the body of the Christ? Because we, (being) many, are one loaf, one body; for we all partake of that one loaf" (New Trans.). Thus the bread here has another significance besides that of the Lord's body given for us. We learn that the one loaf which we all partake of in the Supper is also a figure of His spiritual Body now on earth, "the church, which is His body" (Eph. 1: 22, 23). It speaks of the invisible unity of the mystical Body of Christ "one loaf, one body." And as members of that one spiritual body of believers we partake together of the Lard's Supper in the Assembly thereby expressing our fellowship one with another. This is the "communion of the body of Christ" and the practical manifestation of the truth that "we (being) many, are one loaf, one body . . . all partakers of that one loaf." In the act of breaking of bread we give a definite exhibition of our oneness as "members one of another" in Christ. There is thus no thought of division expressed in the appointed emblems of the Supper nor is there any room for such a thought. They show forth that imperishable and unbreakable unity of the Body of Christ which remains true in spite of the multiplied divisions existing in the professing Church. The practice of some of cutting the bread for communion into pieces or using wafers and individual cups is quite out of harmony with the emblem of the one loaf and the cup of I Corinthians 10:16, 17 and with the truth of the one body of believers. This practice is therefore quite unscriptural. Since the Scriptural ground of gathering together is that of owning only the one body of all believers, only the emblem of one loaf will agree with this. And it is "the cup which we bless," not cups, though more than one cup may be needed in large gatherings for distribution.
Since the loaf of the Lord's Supper speaks also of the one body of all believers and since our partaking of it together is an expression of our unity and fellowship with each other, the question of who may rightly partake of the Supper should be easily answered. It is only for those who are known and proven members of that body. Only those who know the Lord as their Savior and truly believe on His atoning death for their salvation have a right to His Supper and Table. The Lord's Supper is only for the family of the redeemed, and if one claims to be a child of God that one must prove by his walk that he is truly such, otherwise the confession is but an empty profession. All who are known to be true believers and are walking as such in separation from evil, and are not excluded by Scriptural discipline, are privileged to partake of the Supper in God's Assembly. "Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God" (Rom. 15:7). If unsaved persons or those whose profession is doubtful be allowed to take the Lord's Supper with true believers, what expression of true unity and fellowship can there be in the breaking of bread? Surely none. If we partake of the Lord's Supper with any who are unconverted, we cannot say as Paul says, "We being many are one bread and one body," for some in the circle do not belong to that body.
When speaking with Christians on this point, an answer often received is: "I take the Lord's Supper for myself, others do not concern me. If some partake who have no right to, they eat to their own condemnation; that's not my responsibility." Such an attitude surely indicates that the truth of I Corinthians 10:16, 17 is not known or understood. The Lord does not invite us to the Supper to eat and drink every one for himself. No, each child of God is invited to come and partake in fellowship with other believers and there is corporate enjoyment and corporate responsibility as well.
We cannot leave the Lord's Supper open to anyone who wants to partake thereof, that is, the question of partaking or not is never to be decided by the individual only. In I Corinthians 5 the apostle Paul presses upon the Corinthian Assembly their responsibility to purge out the leaven that had come into their midst, and that they were responsible to judge those that were within, that is, those in the circle of expressed fellowship at the Lord's Table. He charges them to "put away from among yourselves that wicked person." Here we see that the Assembly is responsible to maintain the holiness of the Lord's Table and of His Supper. If they must put the evil out of their midst they surely were responsible to watch and see that no evil was allowed to come into the Assembly or to the Lord's Table. From I Corinthians 5:12, 13 we see that there are those who are "within" and those who are "without" the circle of fellowship at the Lord's Supper. All this can only mean that there must be care and oversight exercised as to those who partake of the Supper and an understanding as to who is within and who is without. Persons must be examined and proven as to their confession and walk if the holiness of the Lord's Table is to be maintained and a true expression of unity and fellowship is to be given forth in the breaking of bread. In Israel there were porters who watched at the gates and kept the doors of God's house (see I Chron. 9:17-27 and Neh. 7: 1-3). Their duty was to let in such as should come in and to refuse admittance to those who should be kept out. So today in the Assembly of God the work of porters is most necessary to keep the Assembly from defilement by the entrance of the unconverted and the unclean. Not that there is to be the formal office of porters in the Assembly, but that this godly care is exercised as to those who are admitted into the bosom of the Assembly and to the holy privilege of partaking of the Lord's Supper. Would it not be proper and Scriptural to say that the communion of believers at the Lord's Table is not to be an open communion, nor a closed communion, but a guarded communion? It is not to be open to just anybody, nor closed to any who do not belong to "us," so to say-a sectarian communion, but it is for all those who are known believers and walking in truth and holiness. Since the only Scriptural ground of gathering is the practical owning of the truth of the one body of all believers (which is also symbolized by the one loaf of the Supper) we must receive to the Lord's Table every proven member of that body whom Scriptural discipline does not shut out; otherwise we act inconsistently with the ground which we profess to occupy and we become a sect. In our day of increased ruin, widespread divisions, and multiplied evils in the professing Church, it, of course, becomes more and more difficult to fully carry out this principle and yet to walk in separation from non-scriptural associations, but the truth of the one body ever abides for us to act upon. We believe the following lines of C. H. Mackintosh are worthy of consideration on the subject: "The celebration of the ordinance of the Lord's Supper should be the distinct expression of the unity of ALL believers, and not merely of the unity of a certain number gathered on certain principles, which distinguishes them from others. If there be any term of communion proposed save the all-important one of faith in the atonement of Christ and a walk consistent with that faith, the table becomes the table of a sect, and possesses no claims upon the hearts of the faithful." Thus in receiving to the Lord's Table we must avoid looseness and carelessness on the one hand and sectarianism on the other hand. There are, of course, other angles of the question and other truths that enter into the matter, which we shall shortly consider in connection with the Lord's Table. Acts 9:26-29 gives us an example of carefulness in receiving into the Assembly and shows us that persons are not to be received on their own testimony merely. Here we find the newly converted Saul seeking to join himself to the disciples at Jerusalem, but they were afraid of him and believed not that he was a disciple. Then Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and testified as to his conversion and how he had boldly preached in the name of Jesus. Upon Barnabas' testimony as to the genuineness of Saul's conversion, he was received into the Assembly and went in and out among them. "In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established" (II Cor. 13:1). This is ever an important principle for us to act upon. In Romans 16:1, 2 and II Corinthians 3:1 we read of letters of commendation for believers going from one Assembly to another who are not known in the place they visit. This is godly order and also shows carefulness in receiving to the breaking of bread at the Lord's Table.
We have learned that I Corinthians 10:16, 17 speaks of that phase of the breaking of bread which is the expression of the fellowship of the members of the Body of Christ and that the one loaf is also spoken of as a figure of the spiritual body. In this same chapter we find the only occurrence in the New Testament of the expression "the Lord's Table" which expression we have used a number of times. We purpose now to consider this phrase and to inquire what is implied by and associated with this term. The bread on the table is the symbol of the Lord's body, but since the literal body is the figure also of the spiritual body, the one loaf is taken also in this passage as the figure of the one Body of Christ composed of all believers: "For we being many are one bread, one body" (v. 17, New Trans.). So we see in this passage that the Holy Spirit associates the term, "the Lord's Table," with the one body and our fellowship together as members of that body. We may say the Lord's Supper and the Lord's Table are synonymous in one sense and yet in another sense they have distinct aspects as they present two phases or aspects of the truth associated with the breaking of bread. The Supper is associated with the individual remembrance of the death of the Lord, while the term, "the Lord's Table" is associated rather with that phase of the Lord's Supper where a public expression is given to the oneness of Christ's body and of our fellowship together as such. The Table speaks of the visible expression of fellowship of the one body. The ground of fellowship which God has for us is that of the one body of all believers, and this is founded upon the redemption by Christ's blood. Positionally all believers are at the Lord's Table in the sense that they are in the fellowship of the Body of Christ. In the breaking of bread together, we manifest a practical expression of this fellowship. The term "the Lord's Table" is a typical one and is not to be understood in a literal sense. It does not mean a piece of furniture upon which the bread and the cup are standing, but the principle or ground upon which the Supper is celebrated. The ground taken in the breaking of bread determines the character of the table spread upon it. The Table of the Lord is expressive of fellowship with Him and with the members of His Body and there His authority and His rights must be owned and the holiness of His name maintained. If other ground is taken than that of the practical owning of the unity of the Body of Christ which God has marked out for us, the table spread upon such a ground does not bear the true characteristic of the Lord's Table. Tables maintained on denominational or independent lines necessarily cannot be on the ground of the unity of the Body of Christ and hence do not answer to the characteristic of the Lord's Table in I Corinthians 10. Wherever the principles of the unity of the Body of Christ are not recognized in practice and a man-made ground of fellowship is adopted instead, there is no exhibition of the truth of the Lord's Table and hence such tables cannot be Scripturally owned as the Table of the Lord. They are really the tables of parties on man-made grounds of fellowship. The Lord's Supper may be celebrated there with reverence and thankful love by sincere Christians ignorant of the truth connected with the Lord's Table, but there is not the manifestation of the oneness of the Body of Christ and consequently the truth of the Lord's Table is not realized or enjoyed because principles subversive to the fellowship of His Table are held. Another important feature that must be manifested if a table is to be owned as the Lord's Table is holiness and truth, for this is the very character of Him whose table it is professed to be. ("He that is holy, he that is true"-Rev. 3:7; "Be ye holy; for I am holy"-I Pet.1:16) .If for instance, any unsound and unscriptural teachings affecting the person of Christ are admitted or retained in a gathering, or if persons who hold and teach them are received by the gathering, the very person of the Lord of the Table is attacked and holiness and truth violated. How then can such a table be owned as the Lord's Table? Likewise, if moral evil is allowed in the fellowship at the Table, it cannot be owned as the Table of the holy and true One. So we see, then, that the holiness of the Lord's Table must be maintained as well as the oneness of the Body of Christ. The purity of God's truth must never be sacrificed in order to maintain unity at His Table, nor will true unity ever be interfered with by the strictest maintenance of truth and holiness. But all must be done in a spirit of grace, meekness, and lowliness as otherwise the Lord's character of grace would be distorted. Now let us look at verses 18 to 21 of I Corinthians 10, where we have the principle of fellowship applied to eating at the altar. We have already seen that the thought of fellowship is the prominent truth connected with the Lord's Table. After speaking of partaking of the Lord's Supper in verses 16 and 17, the apostle says: "See Israel according to flesh: are not they who eat the sacrifices in communion with the altar?" (New Trans.). Here is an important principle for us. To eat at an altar or table is expressive of communion and fellowship with that altar or table as well as with those at that altar. To sit at a table and eat denotes identification with that table and with what it stands for.
The apostle goes on to speak of the altars of the heathen and says: "what (the nations) sacrifice they sacrifice to demons, and not to God. Now I do not wish you to be in communion with demons" (New Trans.). Behind the heathen idol was a demon and the heathen, without realizing it, brought their offerings to these demons. Therefore it was the table of demons and for a Christian to even sit in an idol-house and participate in a heathen meal connected with their offerings, as some of the Corinthians thought they had liberty to do, would be to ally oneself with the table of demons and to be in communion with them. So verse 21 says, "Ye cannot drink (the) Lord's cup and (the) cup of demons: ye cannot partake of (the) Lord's table and of (the) table of demons" (New Trans.). It is impossible to drink the cup of the Lord, acquiescing in all that it stands for, and then to drink of the cup of demons also. To do so would be to associate the Lord's Table with the table of demons and to deny the fellowship of the Lord. Thus the apostle showed the Corinthians how serious a matter any connection with the heathen altar would be. This was a danger confronting the Corinthians at the time Paul wrote to them, This danger of association with the table of demons does not exist for us today, generally speaking, but the principle which Paul applied in the matter still remains for us to apply to present conditions. That principle is that the act of eating at a table is expressive of identification and fellowship with that table and with what it stands for and with all who likewise partake. We are not surrounded by tables of demons as the Corinthians were, but there are many tables of religious parties and sects about us and the danger is that we are liable to associate the Lord's Table with principles which contradict the fellowship of His Table and which overlook or even deny the sole authority of the Lord over His Table. In a word, the point for us to realize is that wherever we take the Lord's Supper, we thereby express communion with the table in that place and identify ourselves with the ground and principles upon which that table is spread. If one who is breaking bread with those who meet on the ground of the unity of the Body of Christ and who seek to give practical expression to the truth of the Lord's Table were to visit another gathering meeting on denominational or independent ground and break bread with them and then return to the fellowship of the Lord's Table, or vice versa, he would thereby act inconsistently by associating the Lord's Table with contradictory principles. To do so is clearly wrong, though it may be done in ignorance and calls for instruction in the truth. Communion with the Table, then, is also expressed in the breaking of bread and these important considerations of fellowship which we have discussed are associated with it. Thus there is more to the breaking of bread than the average Christian realizes. To sum it all up, it would, therefore, be well for each one to ask (1) Whom am I remembering in the Supper? (2) Am I remembering Him in a worthy manner? (3) With whom am I remembering Him? and (4) On what ground and principles am I remembering Him? In closing our meditations upon the Lord's Table we would say that amidst the ruin and universal failure and division of the Church in which we find ourselves, it certainly does not become any group of Christians to make high claims as to exclusive possession of the Lord's Table. Our endeavor and concern should rather be that of ever seeking to give practical expression to the truths of which the Lord's Table is symbolical and to be true to the fellowship of His Table. The Lord has His Table and He will take care of it. He has not given it to any ore particular company of Christians, but gives all believers the privilege of being at His Table, with the attendant responsibility of behaving accordingly.
When the question is asked, "WHERE IS THIS TABLE OF THE LORD?" we reply with the weighty words of another: "There where they, be they but two or three, are gathered together without having any other gathering center but the Lord Jesus alone; there where they do not link up the Holy Name, which constitutes their bond of unity, with any iniquity, and the discipline which becomes the house of God is maintained; there where they guard themselves from every principle of independence (which would rob the Lord of His authority), and submit themselves one to another in the fear of God without party spirit or controversy, while, at the same time, all the redeemed are embraced as forming the one body in the Spirit, and all endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, happy to welcome at the Lord's Table all those that are begotten of God under only one condition that they be sound in walk and doctrine. There where there are such Christians they have, in spite of all the common ruin and all the imperfections that may adhere to their testimony, the Lord's Table in their midst; that is, they realize gathered around the Lord Jesus, as they collectively celebrate the Lord's Supper, that they are one bread, and one body with all the beloved of the Lord throughout the whole world." (Translated from the German).
In speaking of the meetings of the Assembly. we have associated the breaking of bread and worship together as one specific Assembly meeting, for truly the remembrance of the Lord in His death for us definitely leads our souls to thanksgiving and worship .
The Lord's Supper is distinctly a feast of Thanksgiving. The Lord Himself, at the institution of it, gave it this distinct character by giving thanks. "He took bread, and give thanks., Praise, thanksgiving, and worship, and not prayer requests, are the suited utterances at the Table of the Lord.
So Paul also speaks of the cup of the Supper as ,The cup of blessing which we bless" (I Cor. 10:16) It is a cup of thanksgiving and a feast Of joy and gladness, and it leads our hearts to "offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks toHis name" (Heb. 13:15). The Lord's Supper and worship are thus surely linked together. The Supper is the witness of His love unto death and of His finished work for us, by virtue of which such sinners as we were can draw near to worship.
If we follow the example of the early Church in coming together each first day of the week for the breaking of bread, we will surely make the remembrance Supper the center. of the worship meeting. Such a gathering together is the great occasion for church worship. Praise should always flow from our hearts to the Lord, but the special occasion for praise and worship is when we are gathered together with the memorials of our Savior's dying love before us. Then the Spirit of God truly leads us out in fervent praise and worship.
But just what is worship? we might well inquire. It is necessary to be clear as to this, for in the common acceptance of the word, "public worship" includes prayer, praise, and preaching for the edification of saints or the conversion of sinners. A moment's reflection will surely be sufficient to show that this is quite incorrect. Even prayer, as blessed as it is, is not worship, for that is asking of God for our needs. And no work of God towards men is worship. Preaching the Gospel to the unconverted is not worship, though it may be the means of producing it in a heart; neither is a sermon worship, though it, likewise, may be the means of leading the heart out in worship.
As another has well said: "True worship is but the grateful and joyful response of the heart to God, when filled with the deep sense of the blessings which have been communicated from on high ... It is the honour and adoration which are rendered to God, by reason of what He is in Himself, and what He is for those who render it. Worship is the employment of heaven, and a blessed and precious privilege for us upon earth . . . Worship is a homage rendered in common, whether by angels or by men ... Praises and thanksgivings, and the making mention of the attributes of God and of His acts, whether of power or in grace, in the attitude of adoration, constitute that which is properly speaking worship. In it we draw near to God, and address ourselves to Him" (J. N. Darby).
This, indeed, is what true worship is. The meaning of the Greek word for worship (proskun), which is used in most of the New Testament, is: "to do reverence or homage by prostration-to bow one's self in adoration."
We might now ask what is the basis of Christian worship? This we shall find in John 4 where we have the conversation of the Lord- with the Samaritan woman. In this chapter we have perhaps the most important word on Christian worship in this dispensation of grace. There the Lord spoke of the true worshippers who worship the Father in spirit and in truth. But first He said to her: "If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldst have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water" (v. 10) .
In this wonderful verse, we have set forth by the Lord the necessary basis of Christian worship. The whole Trinity is therein concerned in one way or another. God revealed in grace as the great Giver is the first thought, the source of all; then we have the Person of the Son present in humiliation among men on earth; lastly the Son gives to needy, thirsty souls the living water-the Holy Ghost.
All this is necessary for the true character and object of Christian worship. God must be known as manifested in the cross in holiness and grace and the Son must be known as the One who has come down to man in grace and love to die for sinners. It also implies that the heart has been awakened to its real wants and has asked of the Lord and received from Him living water, the Holy Ghost, as a well of refreshment within. This means that one must be born of God, have accepted Christ as Savior, and be indwelt by the Holy Ghost in order to worship as a Christian. The natural, unregenerate man is incapable of worshipping God; there is no capacity in him to worship God, for He must be worshipped in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). Only those who are washed in the blood of Christ and who have received the Spirit can draw near and enter into the presence of God to adore and worship Him. No one can dare to present himself before God who has not the assurance of sins forgiven.
It is the Holy Spirit who gives the believer the full assurance of the efficacy of the work of Christ in our behalf and of our acceptance before God in Him. By the Spirit the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts and by that same Spirit we are able to call God our Father, to draw nigh to His presence in the holiest of all as His redeemed children, and to worship the Father without fear or trembling (Eph. 1:3-7, Rom. 5:5, Gal. 4:6, Heb. 10:19-22) . The Holy Spirit is the originator in us of all the thoughts, affections, and feelings of love and praise which arise in our hearts in response to the love of the Father and the Son. He is the power for Christian worship, therefore, no one is able to render such to God who is not indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
Having considered the basis of Christian worship, we may now speak of the character of Christian worship. Returning to John 4, we read of the Lord telling the Samaritan woman: "Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews" (v. 22). How true this is of many today who claim to worship God-"Ye worship ye know not what." For true worship there must be intelligence of God and of His salvation as revealed in Christ Jesus. "We know what we worship." This is one of the first characteristics of Christian worship; there is intelligence and definite knowledge of the One who is worshipped.
The Lord continued to tell the Samaritan woman: "the hour cometh and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a- Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth" (John4:23,24).
Here is the full and distinctive character of Christian worship. God is made known as a Father seeking and adapting children to worship Himself. It is an entirely new character of worship in direct contrast to the old worship of Judaism that left the worshipper far off from God in fear and trembling. The Father is going out in His own love in quest of worshippers, seeking them under the gentle name of "Father," and placing them in a position of nearness and freedom before Him as the children of His love. He accomplishes this by the Son and in the energy of the Holy Spirit.
God is known in this age of grace by His children under the tender and loving character of Father and worshipped as such. This is the portion of the feeblest Christian and every child of God is perfectly competent for worship of the Father in spirit and in truth. It is the only begotten Son, who dwells in the bosom of the Father, who reveals the Father unto us as He Himself has known Him. The Holy Ghost sheds abroad the love of God in our hearts and we worship and adore our Father as revealed to us by the Son and according to the power and affections which the Holy Spirit inspires within us.
Another feature of Christian worship follows. God must be worshipped in "spirit and in truth," for He is a Spirit. "To worship in spirit is to worship according to the true nature of God, and in the power of that communion which the Spirit of God gives. Spiritual worship is thus in contrast with the forms and ceremonies, and all the religiousness of which the flesh is capable. To worship 'in truth' is to worship Him according to the revelation which He has given of Himself" (J. N. Darby).
As God is a Spirit, spiritual worship is all He accepts. His worshippers "must worship in spirit and in truth." It is a moral necessity flowing from His nature. This qualification He has most fully provided for us, as the new life we enjoy is by the Spirit and is spirit, not flesh. We live by the Spirit; we walk by the Spirit and we "worship by (the) Spirit of God, and boast in Christ Jesus, and do not trust in flesh" (Phil. 3:3 New Trans.). Thus Christian worship is the expression of the new inward life in the energy and power of the Holy Spirit. This sets aside all human formulas, imposing ceremonies, and rituals, for worship in spirit and in truth precludes all this. It is the flesh and human will that produces such things, and the energy of the flesh can have no place in the worship of God.
Let us now consider the Christian's place of worship. This the Epistle to the Hebrews clearly marks out for us.
In chapter 10:19-22 we read: "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near," etc. Here we see that the blood of Jesus, the rent veil, and the High Priest over the house of God give us boldness to enter into the holiest-the holy of holies, to render our worship. Our place of worship, therefore, is in the immediate presence of God where He sits on His throne. Into this presence He has in wondrous grace given us a title to enter for worship at all times through the precious blood of Jesus. This is our sanctuary where we draw near one with another as we meet together around the Lord to worship and praise.
We should say also that the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, is equally with the Father the object of worship, for "all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which sent Him" (John 5:23).
The following words of another give us a good picture of Christian worship: "In brief, we might say that Christian worship has its source in an accomplished redemption; its object is God the Father and the Son; its place, the presence of God; its power, the Holy Spirit; its material, the truths fully revealed in the Word of God; and its duration, eternity" (S. Ridout).
It may be necessary to here reaffirm what has been previously mentioned, namely, that all believers are priests and have equal privileges and access to God to "offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ" (I Pet. 2:5, 9). For true worship, then, we must come together simply as believers, realizing that we are all priests able to offer up worship, and the Spirit of God must be left free to use whomsoever He will to speak the praises of the gathered assembly. He may use one or six or twelve to express the praises suitable to His mind.
In I Corinthians 14:15-19, 24 we have a full expression of God's intended will for Assembly worship and gatherings. There we read of praying with the spirit and the understanding, singing with the spirit and with the understanding, blessing with the spirit, giving of thanks, and of prophesying and speaking in the Church. Such were the activities in which the Holy Spirit led the early Christians when they were gathered together. And thus He would lead us today and cause us to "praise the name of God with a song" and to "magnify him with thanksgiving" (Psa. 69:30).
It should be observed that neither here, in this inspired description of the coming together of a Christian company (I Cor. 14), nor anywhere else in the book of Acts or in the Epistles do we read of playing an instrument as part of the worship service.
Instrumental music is out of place at such a gathering and contrary to the spirit and character of the Assembly so gathered. The object before us at such a time is not the pleasing of our senses, our fallen nature, or the gratifying of the outsider with pleasing sounds, but the presenting to God of what suits Him-that with which He has filled our hearts by the Holy Spirit. That which is acceptable and pleasing to God is "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord" (Eph. 5:19), "singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord" (Col. 3:16). After all, no instrument can equal in effect the human voice; so said Haydn a famous composer. With Israel, an earthly people, we find instrumental music in place, but the Church is a heavenly body and all is to be by the Holy Spirit. It should hardly be necessary to add that reverence should certainly accompany a true spirit of worship. Since we enter into the holiest of all, our souls should be filled with such reverence and godly fear as becomes the presence of God. If we consider the examples given of worshippers in the Scriptures, we find that saints of every age were careful to express reverence before God even in the posture of body which they assumed in worship and prayer. Abraham fell on his face before the Lord (Gen. 17:99; Moses bowed his head toward the earth and worshipped (Ex. 34:8) ; the Levites called the people to, "Stand up and bless the Lord your God" (Neh. 9:5). The wise men fell down and worshipped the Child Jesus and the leper who was healed fell down at Jesus' feet (Matt. 2:11; Luke 17:16). To assume positions of bodily ease and indifference during praise or prayer (when physical infirmities do not hinder), certainly does not express reverence before the Lord.
We would also call attention to the fact that the sacrifice of giving is connected with the offering of the sacrifice of praise in Hebrews 13:15, 16. "With such sacrifices (spiritual and material) God is well pleased." So also in Deuteronomy 26 we find that the giving of tithes is mentioned in connection with the bringing of the basket of first fruits to the Lord in worship. And since the apostle tells us in I Corinthians 16:1, 2, concerning the collection for the saints, that "Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him." it seems becoming that at the worship meeting we should also bring unto the Lord our material offerings for His work. This occasion is the most fitting time for the collection for the work of the Lord, the needs of the poor, etc. Thus at His Table we are privileged to render unto Him sacrifices of praise and sacrifices of our material goods, all in the spirit of worship.
May our hearts be tuned to sing His praises and to offer up true Christian worship in spirit and in truth. May we so walk with the Lord during the week that our baskets of first fruits, as it were, may be filled with praises as we come into the gathering for worship each first day of the week, so that our hearts may overflow with worship in His presence. May we be able to say like the bride in the Song of Solomon: "at our gates are all manner of pleasant fruits, new and old, which I have laid up for thee, O my beloved" (S. S. 7:13).
The book of Acts shows us that prayer and prayer meetings had a large place in the activities of the New Testament believers and Assemblies. In the very beginning of the book we find that the disciples (about 120) continued with one accord in prayer and supplication at Jerusalem while they waited for the promised descent of the Holy Spirit. Prayer was one of the four things in which the newly-formed Assembly there continued steadfastly, following the great outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Throughout the Acts we read of believers coming together for collective prayer. We also find that prayer-meetings were convened in every time of difficulty and preceded great blessing from God.
A remarkable instance of the power of collective prayer is given in Acts 4: "And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness ... And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all" (v. 31, 33).
Here we see a blessed result of united prayer in the Assembly and we learn that the way to spiritual power and boldness for Christ is by lifting up our voices to God with one accord in prayer. We must conclude, therefore, from this passage and numerous others about collective prayer in the Acts, that regular meetings for prayer are a necessity for an Assembly and that no Christian or gathering of Christians can prosper spiritually without coming together collectively for prayer. Stated meetings for prayer are a vital essential for every Assembly of believers. A weekly meeting for prayer ought to be a feature of every Assembly and special meetings for prayer should be called as special needs arise; this is what we see in the book of Acts.
Every careful reader of Scripture is aware of the large place that individual, private prayer has had in the lives of men of God in both the Old and New Testaments and some may think that private prayer is all that is necessary. We find, however, that there are special blessings in collective prayer and that the Lord gave a definite promise as to answering joint prayer. "If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 18:19). Here is a special promise that can only be realized when there is united, collective prayer.
One may pray privately at home and receive blessings and answers, but there is nothing like the prayers at the prayer-meeting, for Assembly prayer besieges the throne of grace and brings down special blessings, because it is the Assembly's prayer in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. If the effectual fervent prayer of one righteous man availeth much (James 5:16), how much greater a result may be expected from the effectual, fervent prayers of an Assembly of righteous persons who are united in their petitions and energized by the Holy Ghost?
Assembly prayer is not just so many individuals uttering so many prayers for one thing, but the presentation of a single prayer, intensified 25 or 50 times by the harmony wrought by the Spirit of God among the 25 or 50 persons present. They are all praying as one, presenting one petition and all saying, Amen, to the one petition going up to God in the name of the Lord Jesus. There is, therefore, special power in such united prayers. Such is the great power entrusted to the Church, which may be exercised in prayer and supplication for untold good and blessing for itself and others.
But let us notice that one very necessary moral condition for assembly prayer is thorough oneness of mind, cordial agreement and unanimity. "If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them." The true force of the words is, "If two of you shall symphonize"-shall make one common sound. There must be no jarring note or lack of harmony and agreement among those that pray if there is to be effective assembly prayer. We must come before the throne of grace in holy harmony of 'heart, mind, and spirit, else we cannot claim an answer on the ground of our Lord's promise in Matthew 18:19.
This holy agreement and oneness is what characterized the believers and the prayer-meetings recorded in the book of Acts and accounts for the spiritual power and immediate blessing which God granted them. "These all continued with one accord in prayer;" "they were all with one accord in one place;" "they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple;" "they lifted up their voice to God with one accord" (Acts 1:14; 2:1, 46; 4:24).
Here is a point of immense moral weight with a great bearing upon the tone and character of our prayer-meetings. Why are our meetings for prayer often so poor, cold, dead, and powerless? Is it not oftentimes because believers fail to come together with one accord and with definite agreement in prayer for certain things? There is much lack today among believers of one heart and one mind and we need to challenge ourselves as to how far we are agreed in regard to the object or objects which are laid before the throne of grace in our meetings for prayer.
Often-times prayer-meetings are objectless in character and the prayers appear to be in rambling confusion. If we observe Scripture aright, would it not teach us that we should come together with some definite object or petitions on our hearts which we are going to present together to God? This is what characterized the prayer-meetings in Scripture. The disciples generally had some definite object before their hearts about which they were thoroughly agreed and about which they prayed with one accord.
In Acts one and two they were all looking for the promised Spirit and they waited upon God with one accord till He came. In Acts four they prayed with one accord for boldness to speak God's word and that signs and wonders might be done by the name of Jesus. In Acts twelve prayer was made without ceasing by the Church for the release of Peter from prison. There was definiteness in their prayer-meetings and happy harmony which brought down power from on high and answers from God.
When the disciples said unto the Lord, "Teach us to pray," He gave them a short, simple, and direct prayer. Then He told them about one going to a friend at midnight and asking him for three loaves, and, though he was first refused, yet because of his importunity or perseverance in asking, his request was granted (Luke 11:1-10). Here again we are taught to be definite in our prayers, and urgent, and also to persevere in the same. These words of our Lord tell us of a request presented out of a positive, felt need with one thing before the mind and heart. The request was simple, direct, pointed, and continued earnestness "Friend, lend me three loaves." It was not a long, rambling, dull statement about all sorts of things with lengthy explanations as are often heard in prayer-meetings.
True prayer is not telling the Lord a host of things, repeating familiar phrases or making statements of doctrine as though we were trying to explain principles to God and give Him much information. Long preaching and teaching prayers are but lectures and expositions from men on their knees and do not conform to the Scriptural pattern of true public prayers. It is such utterances which cast a withering influence over our prayer-meetings and rob them of their freshness, interest, and power. The prayer-meeting is the place where our felt needs and weaknesses should be expressed and the place where blessings and power should be expected from God. We should go there to pour out our hearts to God in earnest petitions for blessings and fervent pleadings for the supply of our needs, the needs of the Church of God, and of souls. This is what true prayer is.
A careful reading of the Scriptures will reveal that long public prayers are not the rule in the Bible. They are referred to by the Lord in terms of withering disapproval. "When ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking" (Matt. 6:7). Of the scribes He said, "Which devour widow's houses, and for a pretense make long prayers" (Mark 12:40). Solomon wisely said: "Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil. Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter anything before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few . . . a fool's voice is known by multitude of words" (Eccl. 5:1-3). We must, therefore, conclude from the above Scriptures that one who makes long public prayers puts himself in the same class as the heathen, the scribes, and fools, which is certainly not very complimentary.
The longest recorded public prayer in the Bible is that of Solomon at the dedication of the temple and can be read in five minutes, while that blessed refreshing prayer of the Lord in John 17, the longest in the New Testament, can be read in three minutes. Brief, fervent, pointed prayers impart freshness, interest, and power to the prayer-meeting, but, as a general rule, long rambling teaching prayers exert a depressing, withering influence upon the meeting. It is far better for one to pray several times briefly in a prayer-meeting than to make one long prayer.
For effective prayer we must pray in faith. "What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them" (Mark 11: 24). We must pray in simple faith with the full assurance in our hearts that we shall have what we are asking for. For prayers to reach the throne of grace, they must be borne on the wings of faith and come from earnest, believing hearts.
Following the above words about praying in faith, the Lord gave another requirement for effective prayer. "When ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses" (Mark 11: 25). A forgiving spirit is necessary if our prayers are to be heard and answered. If hard feelings and grudges are held in one's heart against fellow believers there can be no real unity in prayer, the Spirit of God is hindered, and a dampening effect is produced and felt in the prayer meeting.
It is most important to remember that all true prayer must be in the Holy Ghost. "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit," "praying in the Holy Ghost" (Eph. 6:18, Jude 20). For this the Spirit must be free, not grieved or quenched within our hearts or in the meeting.
It has often been said that the prayer-meeting is the spiritual pulse of an Assembly. The character and tone of this meeting is an indication and manifestation of the spiritual condition of the whole Assembly. If the prayer meeting is poorly attended and dull in spirit, the spiritual state of the gathering surely cannot be good. Anyone who willfully stays away from the meeting for prayer is certainly in a bad state of soul. The healthy, happy, earnest, diligent believer will be sure to be found at the prayer meeting if at all possible.
May we know more of true prayer in the Holy Ghost and more fully put into practice the Scriptural example of prayer and the prayer-meeting and continue steadfastly therein.
While we do not read in the New Testament of a specific meeting of the early Christians for the purpose of studying the Bible together or of their having Reading Meetings, as they are sometimes called, there are many Scriptures which would encourage the having of such a regular meeting of an assembly of believers. God's people need instruction in the truth, the lambs and sheep of Christ need to be fed and built up in the faith. An informal meeting for the study of God's Word and the reading together of the Scriptures affords opportunity for the meeting of these needs in a happy and simple way. We must not expect in this dispensation to find definite directions in the New Testament as to details of meetings, etc., for the Holy Spirit is here to guide us and He is to be unhindered in His activities and in the channels which He employs. If a practice is in accord with the general principles of Scripture and is for edification, we need not require further authorization for it.
As already stated, there are however, a number of Scriptures which give us the essentials of a meeting for Bible reading and study. Hebrews 10:25 exhorts us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together and encourages us to exhort one another, and so much the more as we see the day approaching. While this is a general exhortation as to the coming together of believers for various purposes, it would certainly furnish a Scriptural reason for coming together for the specific purpose of studying the Scriptures and exhorting one another.
A notable example of coming together to read the Scriptures is found in Nehemiah 8 and 9. There the people gathered together before the water gate and Ezra and his co-workers daily "read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading" (ch. 8:8). One fourth part of the day they read in the book, or had Bible readings, while another fourth part of the day was spent in confession and worship (ch. 9:3).
All the essentials of a Bible Reading are found also in that temple gathering of Luke 2:46, 47, when Christ was in the midst of the doctors, hearing them, asking questions, and giving answers. These essentials are also found in those meetings at Laodicea and Colosse when the apostle's two letters were read for the first time to those assembled for the very purpose of hearing then (Col. 4:16).
Further, the continuing steadfastly in the apostle's doctrine and fellowship, spoken of in Acts 2:42, would imply that believers must have habitually and diligently sought the apostle's actual company that they might profit by the holy conversation of those who had been with Jesus and had their understanding opened and were now clothed by the Holy Spirit's power to pass on all that they had learned as witnesses to Himself. Here, surely, are found the essential elements of the Bible Reading for the study of the Scriptures. They must have listened to the Old Testament Scriptures and to the apostles' doctrine in the New and had holy conversation together, asking and answering questions-all enjoyed together in fellowship by those gathered to share the spiritual treasures. This is the Bible Reading in all simplicity.
Such meetings, where the children of God sit around together, each with a Bible and each able to read it, look up the passages referred to, with liberty of all brothers to take part in comment or questions, gathered for the purpose of reading a portion of Scripture and helping one another in the understanding and application of it, have been a means of great blessing to souls, in the past century especially. It was in such meetings of a simple, informal character, held in private homes, public rooms and halls, that precious truths, long lost to the Church, were recovered. These truths were first hammered out and afterwards embodied like shining jewels in the expository writings that have been available in the past years and have so greatly enlightened hundreds and thousands of readers in the Word of God.
The Bible Reading should have the character of a family gathering where fathers, young men, and babes in Christ alike coming together find interest, instruction, and inspiration as they sit around the written Word with the Holy Spirit present to guide into all truth. It is like the united family meal where upbuilding food is provided for every member of the family, young or old. There the instruction of the father in Christ is given and the gifted teacher imparts what he has gleaned from the Word. There, too, the babe in Christ asks questions on the Scriptures. Such questions often-times impart great freshness and stimulus to the meeting and result in much truth being brought out-clearer light, deeper insight, and "meat in due season" for the profit of all.
While in this meeting the teacher's gift is most helpful and greatly enjoyed, much help is received on the Word by various ones expressing whatever understanding the Lord has given them concerning the passage under consideration. So that none need despair, therefore, where there is little gift among them for expounding the Scriptures, for the Lord will always bless the reading of His Word together if there is a sincere desire to receive something from Him.
Proverbs 13:23 tells us "Much food is in the tillage of the poor." The poor may scratch the ground with nothing but a broken tool. The rich man may work the soil with up-to-date and efficient implements. But it is God who giveth the increase to both. So in searching the Scriptures the Holy Spirit is the real power of increase. He dwells in every Christian, whether gifted or not, and produces food if we till the ground of God's Word. But without labor and searching our possessions will yield no profit.
It will be found most helpful to take up and go regularly through different books of the Bible, especially the New Testament, and particularly the Epistles where the full light of truth for this dispensation of the Church is especially given. Such verse by verse consideration of the Bible, with opportunities for discussion and questions, has proven most helpful and results in souls being "Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith" (Col. 2:7).Subjects which lead to various portions of the Word for consideration may also be taken up with profit. "The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit" would be an example of such a subject.
What one learns at a Reading Meeting comes quietly and gradually like the falling dew, so that one hardly notices how refreshing, stimulating, and establishing the truth is, but afterwards the good effect is realized. For those seeking excitement and entertainment, however, a Bible Reading may seem drab and dull.
As with all other meetings, so with the Bible Reading certain conditions are necessary if there is to be blessing. There are also things which hinder blessing and rob the meeting of its freshness and fruitfulness. While liberty is given in such a meeting for any brother to take part, it should be remembered that liberty is not license. The Bible Reading is not the place for one to speak just to make oneself heard or to air one's peculiar ideas and talk about anything and everything. Those who take part in the Reading Meeting should do so in subjection to the Holy Spirit and unto "the edifying of the church" (I Cor. 14:12). In such a meeting individual, extravagant views and peculiarities of thought on the Scriptures need to be adjusted in humble, quiet discussion with a willingness to learn from one another.
It is necessary also to remember the exhortation of James 3:1: "Be not many teachers, my brethren" (New Trans.), for sometimes there may be a tendency for a number of brothers to all pose as competent teachers. The result may sometimes be that ignorance is the most vocal.The Lord Himself sets us a wonderful example by taking the humble place. When He was young He was found among the doctors, "hearing them and asking them questions." When circumstances called for it, His divine knowledge was also undoubtedly displayed, for they ..were astonished at his understanding and answers."
Sometimes those who should speak and give out what they have of real profit are silent. To such the word is: "he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully" (Jer. 23:28). A happy, prayerful, humble spirit of subjection one to another and a readiness to receive the Word of God with meekness should prevail in the meeting. There should also be, on the part of all, a real spirit of dependence upon the Lord for blessing, rather than looking to human instruments which He may use for edification.
While digressions from the portion of the Word under consideration are sometimes helpful and profitable when they refer to other passages that apply on the subject or are an enlargement of the theme, care must be exercised that the discussions in the Reading Meeting be kept on the subject of the portion to be studied. There is always the tendency to get away from the subject when a number take part. Confusion of thought and lost blessing is the result. Long discussions on what is not of general interest and mutual profit and on controversial points should also be avoided. Points too difficult or where agreement thereon is not reached should likewise be dropped and left for further light.
Those who take part should remember to speak for the benefit of all present and to address their remarks to all and not just to the brother or brothers who may have just previously spoken. For this one must speak up and out so that all can hear and "words easy to be understood" (I Cor. 14:9) must be uttered. The foregoing are a few of the conditions necessary for profitable Bible Readings. May we all experience more of the spiritual blessings that are derived from a Spirit-led Bible Reading and Study.
Often the meetings for Prayer and for Bible Reading are profitably combined into one meeting where separate meetings for each are not possible or practical.
From I Corinthians 14 it is evident that the apostolic Church had what we may call "Open Meetings" for edification, exhortation, and comfort. That is, they had meetings which were open for any, under Scriptural limitations, to speak unto edification as the Spirit of God led. This is clearly set forth in the following verses: "it any man speak ... let it be by two, or at the most by three ... Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. If anything be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted" (v. 27-31).
Such a meeting is to be limited to two or three speakers, so as not to bring in confusion of thought, and those who take part are exhorted to "Let all things be done unto edifying," and "Let all things be done decently and in order" (vs. 26 and 40). The Open Meeting is an Assembly meeting where saints come together as an Assembly to wait upon the Lord for ministry, without any pre-arrangement as to speakers, counting upon Him to edify them by whomsoever He will. If none feel able to give an address to occupy the whole time, several may speak unto edification and profit, as the above Scriptures indicate. It is very important that a meeting of this character be regularly held for the upbuilding and encouragement of the Assembly.
Those who minister should seek to be faithful and wise stewards giving forth to the Lord's household "their portion of meat in due season." The Lord looks for such and He says: "Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing" (Luke 12:42, 43). It is not enough to merely speak correctly according to Scripture or to eloquently present a subject. The Lord would have ministry presented that is "meat in due season," the suitable and timely word for the needs of those gathered. This is what is meant by prophesying, which I Corinthians 14 stresses as most important and that which we should covet (v. 39). It means to tell forth the mind of the Lord, or as Peter writes: "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles (or mouthpiece) of God" (I Peter 4:11) . It is giving living ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit and to meet present needs.
Thus far we have been considering the various meetings which are essentially reunions of the Assembly, such as the meeting for breaking of bread and worship, the meeting for prayer, the meeting for Bible reading and study, and the open meeting for ministry. These meetings may be spoken of as "Assembly meetings," or to use the expressions of Scripture, meetings "when ye come together in assembly," and "If therefore the whole assembly come together in one place" (I Cor. 11:18; 14:23, New Trans.), also "in assembly" as used in chapter 14:28 and 35 (New Trans.).
Some, however, do not consider the Reading Meeting as an Assembly meeting, and perhaps it may be regarded as having a more informal character than the other Assembly meetings. In general, we may say that meetings are meetings of the Assembly if it is understood that they meet as the Assembly and if the meeting is accepted as such by the Assembly.
There are, however, other meetings beside Assembly meetings which should be held among a gathering of Christians. As already pointed out in section D-"The Divine Way of Ministry"-meetings are to be held by Christ's gifts to the Church and carried on as their own personal responsibility to the Lord. Such meetings should be entirely in the hands of those who are competent and who assume responsibility for them. These meetings are not to be confused with Assembly meetings where all are free to take part as led by the Holy Spirit.
The meetings which Paul held at Ephesus in the synagogue and in the school of Tyrannus would be examples of meetings conducted by an individual (Acts 19:8-10). Under this heading would come meetings for the preaching of the Gospel, Sunday School or children's meetings, young people's meetings, Bible classes, and special meetings for ministry to Christians. With this word as to the distinction between Assembly meetings and meetings carried on by individuals, we may now consider the characteristics of these special meetings.
Under this section we purpose to consider Gospel Meetings, Sunday Schools, and Children's Meetings. Such evangelistic work is most important and should form a vital part of the activities of every Assembly. Though not carried on by the Assembly as such, but by individuals called of the Lord for this work, the Assembly should encourage such meetings and support by prayer and material help all such efforts to reach the unsaved and to bring them in to hear the way of salvation to the end that they might be saved.
In taking up evangelistic meetings last in order, we are not classing them as of lesser importance than those meetings previously considered. We have merely spoken first of the meetings carried on by the Assembly itself and would now take up evangelistic meetings as work carried on by individuals, for the preaching of the Gospel is a personal service, primarily to the unsaved, and secondarily to the saved as instructing them in the truth. This work is primarily for those gifted by the Lord as evangelists and the special sphere of labor is the world, more outside of the Assembly than within it.
However, every Assembly should have a stated Gospel Meeting and Sunday School for the work of evangelization of young and old. We firmly believe that the Scriptures would teach us that every Assembly should be a thoroughly evangelistic Assembly, warm hearted in the Gospel and energetic in seeking to reach the unsaved with the word of life. Paul could write to the Thessalonian Assembly: "For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad" (I Thess. 1: 8). The Assembly should be a real base of supply from which the Gospel goes forth into a dark world and from which evangelists and workers launch out into the streets and highways with the glad tidings of salvation, encouraged by the refreshing fellowship and prayers of those in the Assembly.
As the four Gospels form the firm foundation of the New Testament, and as the reception of the Gospel is the foundation of the Christian life, so the preaching of the Gospel lies at the foundation of Assembly testimony. Any Assembly that has no heart for the Gospel is surely not an Assembly after the divine model in the Scriptures.
The Epistle to the Philippians tells us how zealous the Assembly at Philippi was in the Gospel. Paul thanked God for their "fellowship in the gospel from the first day" (ch. 1:3,4) and could say that in the defense and confirmation of the Gospel they were all partakers of his grace (1:7).
No individual is in a right condition of soul if he is not seeking in some way to bring souls to Christ, and no Assembly of Christians can be in a right spiritual condition if the members are not interested in the salvation of souls and in making efforts to bring the Gospel of God's grace to them. All believers are not able to preach the Gospel, but all can pray for souls to be saved and for those who proclaim the glad tidings. All can make efforts to bring some one to the Gospel Meetings. All should be able to witness to souls of Christ the Savior and to give out Gospel tracts. It does not matter what a person's gift is or whether he has any prominent gift at all, he can and ought to cultivate a longing desire for the salvation of souls.
If Assemblies and individuals are satisfied to go on from week to week, month to month, and year to year without a single Gospel effort and without a single conversion their state must be certainly very low. On the other hand, where the Assembly is drawn out in earnest prayer for the Gospel and for the salvation of souls there is freshness of spirit and zeal for souls and streams of blessing are bound to follow. Every new convert, truly born again, is a source of new joy and brings new life into the Assembly. Where there is no effort put forth in the Gospel and no conversions take place, a deadness and dullness among believers is found and there is bound to be a dying out because there is no going out with the Gospel.
We need to study the Scriptures and note the preaching of the apostles and follow them rather than the present day sensational and "high-pressure" evangelistic methods of some who seemingly seek to do the Lord's work in the world's way. We need more of God's work and less of man's. Let the preaching be in great earnestness with the love of Christ constraining souls to be reconciled to God and let the power of the Holy Spirit be counted upon to give the message and to cause the unsaved to "repent and believe the gospel.' Let us not forget to preach repentance, man's lost and ruined estate, and God's full and complete remedy in the Gospel of His grace in Christ Jesus.
For lasting results may we remember that it is, "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord" (Zech. 4:6). Think also of James 5:7, 8. "Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh." His coming will bring the great harvest day and reveal the fruit of all the labors for Him and for the salvation of precious souls. In the meantime, let us earnestly sow the good seed of the Gospel upon the hearts of young and old everywhere and patiently wait for fruit to spring up, remembering that one genuinely converted soul is better than a hundred mere professions of conversion obtained by human means without the reality and power of the Holy Spirit.
It may be well to add here that the evangelist and Gospel worker must be left free as to methods and mode of carrying on his work, for he goes forth in the energy of personal and individual faith and stands on the ground of personal responsibility to Christ alone. "To his own master he standeth or falleth" (Rom. 14:5), therefore we are not to judge another man's servant. He must not be tied down to certain rules and regulations or cramped by men of narrow minds, who object to everything that does not square with their own notions. Gospel workers are not to be held to the exact line of things and mode of acting which might be thought fitting for the Assembly Worship Meeting.
A large hearted evangelist may feel perfectly free before his Lord and Master to do many things which might not commend themselves to the spiritual judgment and feelings of some in the Assembly. He may feel free to adopt a style of speaking and a mode of working which would be entirely out of place in Assembly meetings. But provided he does not violate any vital or fundamental principle of Scripture, we have no right to interfere with him or condemn him. He must be left free to labor in his own way and on his own individual responsibility to the Lord. The Assembly is not responsible for the peculiar mode in which one may carry on his work for the Lord. "Every one of us shall give account. of himself to Cod" (Rom. 14:12). (See "Papers on Evangelization" by C. H. M., pages 64-65).
The Lord gave the charge, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature," but He did not. define the methods or mode in which it was to be done. He has left that up to the individual as guided by the Holv Spirit in each changing period and varying circumstances amidst differing national customs and conditions. The apostle Paul said, "I am made all things to all men that I might by all means save some" (I Cor. 9:22). "He that winneth souls is wise" (Prov. 11:30).
The Lord Jesus said: "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God." Once He "called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them. And said, Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children_, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven ... And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me . . . Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones" (Mark 10:14; Matt. 18:2, 3, 5, 10). So the children of our lands should not be forgotten in our evangelistic efforts.
Yes, children constitute the most fruitful field for evangelistic work for their hearts are yet tender and susceptible to the heavenly call of Christ through His Word. They have not been hardened as yet by sin and are in the formative period of life when character is shaped and destinies are settled. A psychologist has said, "A person rarely ever changes his habits after he has reached his majority years." And it is estimated that only one person out of a thousand is converted after the age of 20. A questionnaire sent to 1,500 preachers asking them the age of their conversion, revealed that the average age was twelve years. A judge in Brooklyn, N. Y., said that out of 2,700 boys brought before his court, not one of them was a Sunday School pupil.
All these facts show the importance and blessedness of evangelistic effort among children and youth. The purpose of the Sunday School is to teach the children the precious truths of the Bible, the fact of man's sinful condition, the full salvation in Christ Jesus, and the path and work of a Christian in this world. Not only should they be taught these things, but we should seek to win their hearts for Christ and pray for their conversion. In writing about the Sunday School, we feel we cannot do better than to present to our readers an excellent letter on this subject by the well - known servant of the Lord, C. H. Mackintosh. It was written many years ago and is as follows:
"We are truly thankful that you have commenced the Sunday School, and we count it a real privilege to be allowed to comply with your request for a word of counsel as to the mode of running it.
"The longer we live, the more highly we prize the blessed work of Sunday School teaching. We look upon it as most interesting and delightful; and we believe that every assembly of Christians, gathered in the Name of the Lord Jesus, should support such work by their sympathy and prayers.
"Some, we are sorry to say, exhibit much lukewarmness in reference thereto, and others seems to disapprove of such work altogether. They look upon it as an interference with the duty devolving upon Christian parents to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. This, we own, would be a grave objection, were it well founded; but it is not so, for the Sunday School is not designed to interfere with, but to assist, or supply the total lack of, parental teaching and training. There are thousands of dear children thronging the alleys, lanes, and courtyards of all our large cities and towns who either have no parents, or else parents utterly unable or unwilling to instruct them. It is on these the Sunday School teacher fixes his benevolent eye. No doubt he is glad to see all sorts occupying his benches; but the poor, the ragged, the neglected, the outcast, are his special objects.
"It is impossible to tell where and when the fruit of a Sunday School teacher's work may turn up. It may be on the burning sands of Africa, or amid the frozen regions of the North; in the depths of the forest, or on the ocean wave; it may be at the present time, or it may be years after the workman has gone to his eternal rest. But, let it be when or where it may, the fruit will assuredly be found, when the seed has been sown in faith and watered by prayer.
"It may be that the Sunday School pupil will grow up a wicked youth-a wicked man; he may seem to have forgotten everything good, holy, and true to have worn out, by his sinful practices, every sacred impression; and yet, notwithstanding all, some precious clause of holy Scripture, or some sweet hymn, remains buried in the depths of memory, beneath a mass of folly and profanity; and this Scripture or this hymn may come to mind, in some quiet moment, or it may be on a dying bed, and be used of the Holy Ghost, for a quickening and saving of the soul. Who can attempt to define the importance of getting hold of the mind while it is young, fresh, and plastic, and of seeking to impress it with heavenly things?
"But we may, perhaps, be asked, 'Where, in the New Testament, have we any warrant for the special work undertaken by the teacher or the superintendent of a Sunday School?' We reply, It is only one way of preaching the Gospel to the unconverted, or of expounding the holy Scriptures to the children of God. Properly speaking, the Sunday School is a profoundly interesting branch of evangelistic labour, and we need hardly say, we have ample authority in the pages of the New Testament for this.
"But, alas, there are too many amongst us who have no heart for any branch of Gospel service, whether amongst the young or the old, and not only do they neglect it themselves, but throw cold water on those who are seeking to do the blessed work. And as it sometimes happens that those who raise objections to Sunday Schools and stated Gospel preachings seem to be persons of intelligence, their words are all the more likely to weigh with young Christians.
"But to you, dear friend, we say, Let nothing discourage you in the work you have undertaken. It is a good work, and go on with it regardless of all objectors. We are told to be ready for every good work, and not to be weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap if we faint not (Gal. 6:9).
"And now a word as to the mode of working a Sunday School. You must remember it is an individual service to be carried on in personal responsibility to the Lord. No doubt it is most important to have full fellowship in your work with your fellow labourers, and with all your brethren; but the work of a superintendent or a teacher must be carried on in direct personal responsibility to the Lord, and according to the measure of grace imparted by Him. The Assembly is no more responsible and no more involved in this work than in any other individual service, such as the Sunday evening preaching, cottage meetings, lectures or Bible classes; though most assuredly the Assembly, if in a spiritual, healthy condition, will have the fullest fellowship with the Sunday School, as well as with the entire range of personal work for the Lord.
"You will find, if we mistake not, that in order to work a Sunday School effectively, you must have a good superintendent-a person of energy, order, and rule. The old proverb, 'What's everybody's business is nobody's business,' is especially applicable here. We have seen several Sunday Schools come to the ground from not being properly worked. Persons take up the work for a time, and then let it drop. This will never do. The superintendent, the teachers, and the visitors must enter upon their blessed work, not by fits and starts, but with calm determination and spiritual energy; and having entered upon it, they must carry it on with real purpose of heart. It will not do for the superintendent to leave his school, or the teacher to leave his class, to chance. under the plea of leaving it to the Lord. We believe the Lord expects him to be at his post, or to find a proper substitute in case of illness or any other unavoidable cause of absence.
It is of the utmost importance that every branch of Sunday School work should be undertaken and carried on with freshness, heart-zeal and energy, and thorough personal devotedness. And, inasmuch as these can only be had at the Divine Treasury, all who are engaged in the service should meet together for prayer and conference. Nothing can be more deplorable than to see a Sunday School falling into decay through lack of diligence and perseverance on the part of those who have taken it up. No doubt there are many hindrances; and the work itself is very uphill and very discouraging; but, oh! if our words have any weight, we would say, with heartfelt emphasis, to all who are engaged in this most precious service, Let nothing damp your ardour, or hinder the work. Go on! go on! and may the Lord of the harvest crown your labours with the richest and the best blessings.
"We need hardly remark that we do not contemplate such a thing as unconverted persons taking any part in the work of Sunday Schools. Indeed, we know of few things more sad than to see a person engaged in teaching others that in which the teacher has neither part nor lot himself. No doubt God is sovereign, and He can and does use His own word, even in the lips of an unconverted person; but this in no wise alters the melancholy fact in reference to the person so used. We could not think for a single moment of admitting or inviting any one to take part in the work of a Sunday School, if we had not satisfactory evidence of his conversion to God. To do so would be to help him on in fatal delusion."-C. H. M.
In closing we would remark that Sunday Schools should not only be carried on in Assembly halls, but in as many different places as is possible. Meetings among children can be successfully carried on on week-days also, in homes or wherever doors are open. Daily Vacation Bible Schools in the summer-time have proved to be a wonderful way of getting the Gospel to the children and instructing them in God's Word. Bible Camp work among children has also been a great blessing likewise among the youth. May the Lord raise up many able and diligent workers to teach and win the young for Christ.
Every thoughtful reader will surely agree that God has given woman a special and wonderful place in the family and in society and that she is especially fitted of Him for this unique place which no man can properly fill. Scripture, from beginning to end, shows us woman's special place in creation, in the fall of humanity, under the law in the Old Testament, and under grace in the Church of the New Testament. We shall see from the Word of God that woman has her own sphere of service and that it is a very blessed and necessary one.
While our subject is woman's Scriptural place in the Church, it will be very helpful to a proper understanding of our topic to consider first her place in creation, in the fall, in the home, and under the law. The discerning of woman's God-given place in these spheres will give us the proper background for considering and understanding her Scriptural place in the Church.
We learn from Genesis 2 that man was created first, and that from Adam's rib God made a woman and brought her unto man to be an helpmeet for him. In I Corinthians 11:8-12 the Spirit of God has recorded the following comment upon this: "For man is not of woman, but woman of man. For also man was not created for the sake of the woman, but woman for the sake of the man. Therefore ought the woman to have authority on her head, on account of the angels. However, neither (is) woman without man, nor man without woman, in (the) Lord. For as the woman (is) of the man, so also (is) the man by the woman, but all things of God" (New Trans.). Here is an exquisitely guarded and balanced presentation of the truth of the relationship of man and woman.
The very fact that woman was taken out of man proves her equality with him. She is not his inferior, but his equal, his helpmeet. There is equality, but with it diversity. Woman was made for man and to be with him at his side. God never intended that woman should be an independent creature apart from man, but that she should be associated with him, and that together they should be one flesh typifying Christ and His bride, the Church. Woman never shines more brightly than when fulfilling the object for which she was created, which primarily was to be man's helpmeet.
However, we must notice that the very fact that woman was made of the man indicates that man is her head. This is the deduction which the Spirit of God brings before us in the above quoted verses of I Corinthians 11-"Therefore (in view of her place in creation), ought the woman to have authority on her head, (i. e., a token of the authority of man under which she stands) on account of the angels." The apostle says, "I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man" (v. 3). Because of this divine order in creation, woman is to recognize man's headship and to have on her head the sign of his' authority over her, that is, a covering on her head, especially when she prays or prophesies and when she is in the Assembly (v. 5-10). The angels are to behold God's order in creation and in the Church.
We shall have more to say later regarding woman having her head covered; we merely refer to this now in connection with her place in creation and as to the consequent recognition of man as her head, which the head covering signifies according to Scripture.
In I Corinthians 11:14, 15, the apostle refers to nature as a further evidence of the distinction between man and woman and of her proper place of subjection. "Does not even nature itself teach you, that man, if he have long hair, it is a dishonor to him? But woman, if she have long hair, (it is) glory to her; for the long hair is given (to her) in lieu of a veil" (New Trans.). God has given long hair to woman and short hair to man as a distinguishing mark between them. It is natural for woman to have long hair and for man to have short hair.
Long hair is generally in Scripture a symbol of dependence, submission, and of that modesty that becomes woman as "the weaker vessel" to which man is to give honor (I Pet. 3: 7).The passage before us in I Corinthians 11 speaks of woman's hair as her glory. A woman only manifests the glory and beauty put upon her when she abides in her God-given place of dependence and subjection and maintains her feminine character. The more feminine woman is, the more beautiful and pleasing to God she is. The more woman tries to appear like a man and to take his place, the more she loses her true beauty and virtue.
The expression "Does not even nature itself teach you?" is capable of wide application to our present subject. The natural constitution and temperament of man and woman are quite diverse. God in His wisdom put great differences in the physical, mental, and emotional make-up of man and woman. He has given man superior height, strength, and reasoning equipment, and in happy contrast has given to woman natural grace, gentleness, and mental nimbleness, fitting her especially for the domestic circle. The Creator has most evidently so constituted them by nature to fill distinct and separate places, yet to be supplementary to each other.
Thus we learn from creation and nature that woman has a distinct place from that of man in society and we shall see that her God-given place in the Church is in harmony with her place in creation and nature. Yea, we will find that her place in creation fixes her place in the Church as well, and that her place in nature is illustrative of her place in grace, or of her relation as a Christian woman to God. The two are inseparable. God does not give woman or man a place in the Church which is contrary to their place in creation and nature.
Having seen from creation that woman's place is one of subjection to her head and companionship with him, we will now consider what part she had in the fall of humanity in the garden of Eden, and what place she was given in consequence thereof. From the divine account in Genesis 3, we learn that the serpent tempted mother Eve to take of the forbidden fruit and that she was the one who took of it and ate thereof and also gave unto her husband who likewise ate of it (v. 1, 6). Because of this, God said to Eve, "In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee" (Gen. 3:16).
Here we see the first woman, Eve, leaving her natural place of dependence and taking the lead. Instead of repelling the serpent's advances and seeking the help and protection of her God-given head she acted in independence and was beguiled by the serpent into disobedience of God's command. Therefore, God definitely pronounced that her place was to be one of subordination to her husband.
Furthermore, we are not even left to make our own deductions from these facts, for the Spirit of God refers to this deception of Eve by Satan in I Timothy 2:11-14, and gives it as a reason why women in this present Church age are not to usurp authority over the man. There we read: "Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but. to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression."
Here we have two reasons given why woman is not to teach in the Church. One is Adam's first place in creation, implying headship, and the other, that the woman was deceived by the Serpent. Adam was not deceived as was the woman; he sinned with his eyes open and was more guilty than his wife, but it was Eve who was deceived. Such was her part in the fall of humanity, and since she proved herself a bad leader in this respect, in God's wise government she is debarred from the place of authority or teaching in the Church. Thus here we get the first and most powerful warning against woman taking the lead. It is surely a vivid warning signal at the very start of man's journey across the sea of time.
As another has observed: "When women get out of their place, they appear to be the special prey of the devil. It is a woman in the parable, who introduced the leaven into the three measures of meal (Matt. 13:33) -type of the introduction of corrupting principles which have permeated the Christian profession. It was a woman-Eve-who was "in the transgression."
"They are 'silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,' who are led captive by evil men in the perilous times of the last days (II Tim. 3:6). It is a woman-Jezebel-who stands historically in the Old Testament page as an example of all that is disgusting and wicked; who stands figuratively in Revelation as the example of ecclesiastical corruption and religious depravity of the worst type (I Kings 21; Rev. 2:20).
"In the present day the great majority of spiritist mediums are women; modern spiritism began with women the Fox sisters in America. It was a hysterical woman-Mrs. White-who by her blasphemous pretensions has been the leader, and largely the inventor, of that wicked system-Seventh-Day Adventism.
"Christian Science-which is neither Christian nor scientific-owes its origin to Mrs. Eddy-a woman. (We may add that a survey of Christian Science Practitioners in a certain large city reveals that 75% are women-g. K. C.) Theosophy, as known in the Western hemisphere, was popularized by a woman-Madam Blavatsky; her work was carried on by a woman-Mrs. Besant" (A. J. Pollock).
To this list one might add the present-day Tongues Movement, with its attendant fanaticism, etc., in which women are the most prominent and enthusiastic leaders.
This is not indeed to slight woman, for morally she is generally of finer qualities than man and, as a rule, she exceeds him in affection and devotion to Christ. Nor is it a question here of woman's ability, for it is gladly admitted that compared with man, she manifests no inferiority of genius, culture, tact, speech, etc. It is only positionally that man is above woman, and the point which we wish to emphasize here is merely this: that when woman departs from her God-given place and sphere of service and takes a place of teaching and leading she often becomes the special victim of Satan's deceptions and the propagator of his falsehoods and heresies. This is the lesson which we should learn from Eve in the garden of Eden and from woman's subsequent history.
On the other hand, when woman abides in her God-given place, she is a most effective power for good and her presence and power in the service of Christ are, under God, vitally essential to the success and continuance of the Church. The Bible is full of examples of godly, faithful, and devoted women who performed great services for God in their divinely appointed spheres. Of this we shall have more to say later.
Gathering up what has been before us, we may summarize it thus: as a consequence of the fact that Eve was deceived by Satan and took the lead in the act of the first sin, woman was put (in the governmental dealings of God) in a place of subordination to man, and she is to learn in silence with all subjection and is never to exercise authority over man. This is what we learn as to woman's Scriptural place because of her part in the fall of humanity in Eden. This divinely appointed status remains unchanged in the present Church period of Grace. Furthermore, as has been pointed out, woman's history has only proved the wisdom and justice of the circumscription of her sphere as imposed by God.
The apostle Peter, in exhorting wives as to their behavior, speaks of the manner of holy women of old time and gives the conduct of Sarah as an example. As these words which the Holy Spirit has given us through Peter are helpful in our present subject of "Woman's Place in the Church" we shall quote them here. "Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation (behavior) of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation (behavior) coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are" (I Peter 3:1-6).
These words are very clear in themselves and need little comment. Sarah, whom we would judge from the Old Testament to have been a woman of vigorous and masterful personality, stands as an example of holy women of old who abode in subjection unto their husbands and manifested a chaste behavior. This clearly gives us the position of woman in relation to man and the practice followed by godly women of old.
In connection with the preceding, we would make a brief reference to woman's place under the law. When the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian Assembly instructing them as to woman's place in the Assembly, he said they were "to be under obedience, as also saith the law" (I Cor. 14:34). It is not a particular passage or precept that he refers to, but the whole tenor of the Old Testament. Throughout the dispensation of the Law we find woman's place to be that of subjection and obedience and not of leadership or authority.
Thus we see clearly that Creation, the Fall, and the Law, all unite in pointing out the place of subjection as woman's divinely appointed position. With this Scriptural background, we are now ready to consider woman's place in this present dispensation of Grace, both in the home and in the Assembly.
We have thus far considered woman's place in creation, in the fall of humanity, and under the law, and have noticed that Scripture mentions her position in each of these spheres in connection with instructions as to her place in the Church. We shall now study in particular woman's place in the New Testament, or in this present age of Grace, known as the Church period.
We have already mentioned, along with other spheres, the home as being one of the circles in which it is important to discern woman's God-given position. Since the home naturally comes before the Church in moral order and in order of time as it is the foundation of all society, it is proper that we first consider the special place that Scripture gives woman in this most blessed sphere. This will also help us to better see the divinely prescribed position given to women in the Church, for her place in the home and in the Church are necessarily in harmony with each other and if a woman learns to take her proper place in the home she will most likely discern her proper place in the Church.
The basic relationship of the home is that of husband and wife, and then, if children are given, there is that happy affinity of father, mother, and children. In this delightful relationship of a wife, or a wife and a mother, a woman occupies a very important and influential place in the home. A home is not a real home without a godly wife or mother.
We have previously referred to the place which God gave to Eve as Adam's helpmeet. Brought to him by God, she took her place at his side as his wife and the helpmeet of God's providing. She was created to be his partner and the companion of his bosom-one flesh with himself. Man having been created first, he was her head, and when the Fall came, God definitely said that she was to be subject to her husband's rule. She was, however, not to be trampled upon by him, but to be at his side in equality with him, under his arm to be protected by him, and near his heart to be loved by him. This is woman's special place in the marriage relationship as ordained of God in creation.
But from the Fall to the Cross we hear nothing of woman's right place in creation. "The heathen had degraded her into being man's slave. By the law she was protected from being trampled on under certain circumstances (Exod. 21; Lev. 18:18); yet she never had, under the Mosaic economy, her proper place with man. But after the manifestation of the Second man (Christ), and the accomplishment of His work of atonement, the original order of creation is again adverted to, and woman regains her true place with man" (C. E. Stuart).
This proper place we find set forth in Ephesians 5:22,23. Here husbands are told to love their wives as their own bodies and as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it. And wives are exhorted to submit themselves unto their own husbands as unto the Lord, for the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the Church. Therefore as the Church is subject to Christ, so the wives are to be to their husbands in everything. While the husband is to see that he loves his wife even as himself, the wife is exhorted to reverence her husband.
This is God's order for man and wife in the home in this dispensation of Grace. Though the wife is to be tenderly cared for and regarded in highest love by the husband, she is to own him as the head of the home, to be subject to him, and to reverence him. She is to do this "as unto the Lord" (Eph. 5:22), recognizing the Lord behind her husband, as the One from whom her husband's authority is derived. She is also to remember that in her submission to her husband she is a type and reflection of the Church's subjection to Christ, its head. Wondrous privilege indeed!
In I Timothy 5:14 the younger women are told to "marry, bear children, guide the house." Guiding and ordering the household is woman's special work, but the husband is the responsible head of the house. A woman who assumes the headship of the house to the contempt of her husband will surely be unhappy and wretched, and will certainly reap the bitter fruits of her own rebellion in the lawlessness of her children brought up in disorder. Though women today demand liberty and equal rights with men and feminine submission is unpopular to a great extent and cast aside, it is still God's desire and command that the wife be in subjection to the husband as the head of the house. Without this there can be no true joy and blessing in the home-life.
Having seen woman's position in the marriage relationship and in the home, we may now consider her service in this blessed sphere. Much of a woman's time is spent in the home performing the commonplace duties of life. A great service is thereby rendered unto God for Colossians 3:23, 24 says, "whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord . . . for ye serve the Lord Christ." In caring for the needs of her husband and children and in keeping up the home as a place of refreshment, cheer, and shelter in a world of trouble, a woman fills a very important place indeed.
The mother is truly the center and the heart of the home. The attractions of home depend largely upon the attitude and spirit of the wife. The prudent wife who manages her household with wise and thrifty economy and graces the home with love and cheerfulness is a great blessing to her husband and children and to all who enter her home. A husband's success or ruin in life often depends upon his wife's conduct in the home. Many men today owe their position in life largely to the wisdom and sound judgment of their wives.
The practice of that true Christian virtue of hospitality in the home is largely made possible by the wife. This is a most valuable and needy service in the Church and certainly brings a rich reward of present and future blessings. In this way women have a real part in the work of Christ-opening their homes to the Lord's servants and to the Lord's people and also to the unsaved, that they might hear the Gospel and be saved. The account of Aquila and Priscilla who invited Apollos to their home and taught him the way of God more perfectly is an example of such service (Acts 18:26).
One of the most valuable services of a mother in the home is the training of children. This is her special work since she spends more time with the children than the father and exercises a powerful influence over their lives for good or bad. Notice how often the mother's name is given in the books of Kings and Chronicles in connection with the various kings of Israel. The Spirit of God thus points out to us what was probably the most important factor in the moulding of the character of the men who ruled God's people the influence of the mother.
The foundation of the child's character is laid in the home training and the mother's hand is the instrument which God delights to use in this work. The mother's most important and divinely-appointed work is in the home with her children and she should devote herself wholly to their care, training, and upbringing. If a mother neglects this momentous work in the home or leaves it to others while she seeks to do service for the Lord in other spheres, she leaves her work undone and will surely fail to rightly accomplish someone else's work to which she has not been called. The teaching and training which children receive from their mothers during their young years when sensibilities are tender is most influential upon their whole after life and will leave an impression upon their young, plastic, and receptive minds and hearts which cannot be erased. How important, then, is the work of mothers in the homes. May it not be neglected.
Thus we observe and must declare that it is in the home circle that woman finds her special sphere in which to serve and glorify God. It is here in the more private domain of her own that she shines the brightest and exerts the most influence for good. Domestic life, which is often despised and forsaken by women today, is the place which she is best fitted to fill.
We do not mean by this that there is no service which woman can do or that there is no work which she can perform in assembly life. We merely state that the home or domestic circle is preeminently the sphere of woman's service. And in this home sphere, we see that her Scriptural place is one of subjection and submission to her husband.
In the foregoing we have mainly considered the position and service of married women in the home sphere. The unmarried will, however, find a real field of Christian service in the domestic circle also. They, too, can serve in temporal things, care for children, the sick, and the aged, or by the work of their hands clothe the needy as did Dorcas (Acts 9:39).
With the background of woman's place in creation, her part in the fall, her place under the law, and in the home in this dispensation, which has previously been before us, we are now ready to take up woman's Scriptural place in public and in God's Assembly.
In connection with woman's part in the fall of humanity in Eden, we have already quoted I Timothy 2:11-14, and noted the governmental restrictions therein put upon women. It will be well for us to again have those verses before us in connection with our present phase of the subject. "Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression."
These verses apply to a wider sphere than that of the gathered Assembly. They speak of proper conduct as between man and woman and would include any public testimony where both sexes are present. They refer to public teaching of mixed audiences, for exercising authority over man is spoken of. Woman is never to set herself up as a teacher or to teach in meetings of mixed sexes, for then man is at her feet as a learner, which is reversing God's order.
Man was first formed and is God's representative and head and should maintain his rightful position as leader and teacher. Because Eve took the lead in transgressing and was deceived by Satan (manifesting that she was a poor leader), in God's government women are barred from taking the place of authority and teaching. They are to learn in silence and subjection. A woman, then, is never to take a public place as a recognized teacher of God's Word or to teach in the Assembly or anywhere in mixed audiences where she takes a place of equality with or is set over men, for then she is usurping authority over man.
We find, however, that Titus 2:3, 4 instructs elder women to be "teachers of good things," and "That they may teach the young women," etc. Here elder women are given the right to teach, but the sphere is defined to young women and the teaching is rather of an informal character on practical subjects pertaining more to the home and family (v. 3-5). Helping ignorant women on Scripture and free intercourse with them on the Word is quite proper. One would encourage sisters to labor diligently for the Lord in such spheres. Even the quiet communication of the Gospel in conversation with men is proper for a woman, if done in a modest becoming way Such work, of course, may slip into formal teaching, and then a woman is out of her place. If she sets up a regular public teaching lecture on Scripture, even if only women were present, we believe it would be taking the place of a teacher and a violation of I Timothy 2:12" I suffer not a woman to teach."
Teaching the Bible to children and praying and singing with them is also a proper and valuable service for women. Such work begins in the home and is continued in the Sunday School and in children's meetings. The Sunday School in the Assembly is simply an enlargement of a family gathering, removed from the home to larger and more convenient quarters. Therefore, it would be quite proper for sisters to teach Sunday School classes of children or young women, especially when they are in charge of brethren under whose direction they serve. When young brothers or any brethren are part of a Sunday School, we believe it would be against Scripture for any sister to be the superintendent of the School, for that would be exercising authority over the man.
Our prayer is that more faithful women might be active for the Lord and encouraged to work in these spheres which we have spoken of as woman's proper domain. They are greatly needed and the work of the Lord languishes for the lack of the services of devoted, energetic sisters. May the Lord richly bless every woman engaged in proper work for Him.
I Corinthians 14:34-38 gives us clear instructions as to the woman's place in the gathered Assembly. "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only? If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant."
Here it is plainly laid down that a woman is not to speak in the Church. The expression, "in the church," or "in the churches," is used five times in this chapter and it always means the gathering of Christians in assembly, the coming together of the whole Church. In such an Assembly meeting women are not to speak at all, but are to be in silence and under obedience.
In I Corinthians 11:5 the apostle speaks of a woman praying or prophesying. This passage permits such activity by a woman but does not indicate where it was to be exercised. The 14th chapter distinctly says such ministry of women is not permitted in the Assembiy, but that there she is to keep silent. It is quite evident, then, that it is outside of the Assembly that a woman is to pray and prophesy. Acts 21:8, 9 speaks of Paul's company coming to the house of Philip the evangelist. This man had four daughters who prophesied. It would certainly seem from the context that they prophesied at home and not in the Assembly; this was quite in order.
It is important that we notice that this prohibition of women speaking in the Assembly is not just the word of the apostle Paul-a bachelor, as some would speak of him, but that these things are "the commandments of the Lord" (I Cor. 14:37). Therefore, if any one would be spiritual and pleasing to the Lord in this matter he or she must acknowledge that these injunctions are the statutes of God. It is simply a matter of obedience to God's expressed will. To try to reason around this plain Scripture, as so many do, and go on in self-will and disobedience shows that the heart is not willing to do God's will and that His Word is not respected.
The Corinthians, as also many today, may have thought themselves free to do as they pleased in this matter. The apostle, therefore, says "What! came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?" (v. 36); that is to say, "Have you authority from the Lord as to what you shall do in this matter? The Word of God has not come from you . . . but to you." They were, therefore, to submit to the commandment of the Lord by the apostle.
It is sometimes said that the word "speak" in this passage means to "chatter," gossip, or whisper during service, and that this was what the apostle was prohibiting. But this is a very erroneous and misleading statement which is not at all correct. Young's Concordance shows that it is the Greek word "laleo" which is used here and in the whole chapter. It is translated "speak" throughout this chapter and 241 times in the New Testament. It means to talk or speak. Thus in the same sense that the prophets are to speak two or three (v. 29), the women are not to speak in the Assembly. It is the same word in both cases.
Others would say that this prohibition against women speaking in the Assembly applied only to Corinth where the women were quite ignorant, loud, and brazen and unable to take part publicly. The first statement is quite wrong and the second is mere assumption. The beginning of this Corinthian Epistle shows us that Paul addressed it, "Unto the church of God which is at Corinth ... with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord" (ch. 1:2).
Surely this is decisive. The instructions given in this Epistle are not of mere local application, but are also addressed to all professing Christians everywhere. In the very passage under discussion the apostle speaks of women keeping silence in the "churches." He does not say "in your church," but "in the churches."
Woman's place is one of subjection and retirement in the Assembly and not of leadership. Man is comparatively the mind of humanity and woman is the heart. The heart is in the chest, hidden from view, while the head is outside and public. Those who take part publicly in the Church take a place of leadership in the Assembly, whether in prayer, praise, or ministry, and this place of leadership is not given to women.
Many do not realize that even if one prays publicly, that is leading the gathered Assembly in prayer. It is not merely an individual praying. That one is the mouthpiece of the Assembly in prayer or in praise. Therefore, for a woman to pray in an Assembly prayer meeting or in a mixed meeting would be taking a place of leadership contrary to Scripture. In I Timothy 2:8 the apostle says, "I will therefore that men pray everywhere." This unlimited liberty in prayer is not given to women.
In this respect we can also learn from Hannah in I Samuel 1:9-17. This godly woman prayed in the house of the Lord, when worshippers were assembled. Notice it says of her, "she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard" (v. 13). To have audibly prayed in that mixed company would not have been proper, yet she could pray in her heart and God heard and answered. So also today women can likewise pray and praise in their hearts in the gathered Assembly and join in the "Amen" to public prayer and praise.
We will now consider the matter of woman having a covering on her head while
praying or prophesying and when in the Assembly. The apostle gives instructions as to this in I Corinthians 11:3-16. There we read: "But I wish you to know that the Christ is the head of every man, but woman's head (is) the man, and the Christ's head God. Every man praying or prophesying, having (anything) on his head, puts his head to shame. But every woman praying or prophesying with her head uncovered puts her own head to shame; for it is one and the same as a shaved (woman). For if a woman be not covered, let her hair also be cut off. But if (it be) shameful to a woman to have her hair cut off or to be shaved, let her be covered. For man indeed ought not to have his head covered, being God's image and glory; but woman is man's glory. For man is not of woman, but woman of man. For also man was not created for the sake of the woman, but woman for the sake of the man. Therefore ought the woman to have authority (i. e. a token of the authority under which she stands) on her head, on account of the angels. Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman should pray to God uncovered?" (New Trans.).
From these Scriptures we see that God has established a certain headship and order which He desires we should recognize and observe. It is not just a matter of custom for men to have their heads uncovered and women to have theirs covered in the presence of the Lord. There is a real Scriptural reason and significance to this order.
God is the head of Christ, Christ is man's head and man is woman's head. Since man is the image and glory of God and Christ is His head, it would be a dishonor and a shame to Christ, his head, if man would have his own head covered when praying and prophesying peaking publicly). Christ's glory is to be seen and covered.
But the woman was created for man and of man and she is the glory of man, therefore her head must be covered when she prays or prophesies, for man's glory must not be seen, especially in the gathered Assembly. Christ's glory and not man's is to be displayed there.
Furthermore, verse 10 says that the woman ought to have authority on her head because of the angels. That is, she should have a covering on her head as a sign of the authority of man to whom she is subject. When a woman wears a covering on her head in the presence of the Lord, it is an acknowledgment that the man is her God-given head. A woman that comes into the presence of the Lord without a head covering shows thereby that she wants to be like the man and that she does not want to take the subject place. She dishonors her head, though she may not be conscious of it. It may be done in ignorance, but this is what it means.
The angels are spectators in the Assembly and they should see God's order observed there. They see order in heaven and in all creation and they ought not to see disorder amongst Christians. The seraphim's cover themselves in the presence of the Lord (Isa. 6:1-3), and they look to see women doing the same in obedience to God's Word. God purposes that "the principalities and powers in heavenly places" might learn "by the church the manifold wisdom of God" (Eph. 3:10, 11). This "wisdom of God" is the mystery of Christ and the Church, which is typified by husband and wife, one the head and the other subject to him (Eph. 5:22-32).
Covering one's head applies to unmarried women as well as to married women. Woman in general and man in general is spoken of in these verses of I Corinthians 11. Numbers 30:3-5 teaches that a woman in her father's house in her youth must be subject to his authority. Her vows could only stand if her father allowed them. Like wise a wife's vows were only valid if her husband allowed them. So a woman is to acknowledge the authority of her father or her husband or man in general when in the presence of the Lord. Her head-covering is a token of this.
"But every woman praying or prophesying with her head uncovered puts her own head to shame; for it is one and the same as a shaved (woman). For if a woman be not covered, let her hair also be cut off. But if (it be) shameful to a woman to have her hair cut off or to be shaved, let her be covered."
When a woman's head was uncovered or shaven in the Old Testament it was a mark of shame, as is seen in Numbers 5:18 where a wife was under suspicion by her husband and in Deuteronomy 21:10-13 regarding a beautiful woman taken captive by an Israelite. So here in I Corinthians 11 the apostle says that if a woman prays or prophesies with her head uncovered, it is the same as if her head was shaven. And since having her hair cut off or shaven is a mark of shame, she should have her head covered. She must have no marks of shame upon her in the presence of the Lord. She is not to appear before God as one who is suspected of being unfaithful to her husband. The covering on her head would indicate that she owns him as her head and enjoys his fullest confidence.
In passing, it is well to notice from these verses in I Corinthians 11 that it is shameful for a woman to have her hair cut off, but "If a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her" (v. 15). These words of Holy Writ should settle the question of "bobbed hair" for any godly woman. Should a woman cut off any of her God-given glory and throw it away? To do so is shameful and an act of rebellion. Could such an one wipe the Lord's feet with her hair as the devoted women in Luke 7:38 and John 12:3 did?
Our Authorized Version says in I Corinthians 11:15, "for her hair is given her for a covering." From this some teach that a woman's long hair is her head-covering and that no other covering is needed. But this phrase is incorrectly translated and does not give the meaning of the original Scripture at all. An altogether different word in Greek is used here from the one correctly translated "covered" in verse 6. There the word is "katakaluptespho" and means "to cover up, covering one's head." Here in verse 15 the word is "peribolaiou" and means "that which is thrown around" (Liddell and Scott Lexicon).
Thus the New Translation correctly renders this phrase "for the long hair is given (to her) in lieu of a veil." That is, long hair is given to a woman by nature as a veil cast around her. It is not the covering for her head which the apostle is insisting on in the foregoing verses. If man's glory is to be covered in the presence of God, as we have previously explained, then surely woman's long hair which is her personal glory, must be covered in His presence also.
First Paul sets forth the difference between man and woman and says that man should have his head uncovered and woman should have her's covered. Then he further appeals to the sense of propriety and comeliness, based on the different constitution of man and woman by nature, as another reason why she should have her head covered and appear different from man before God. "Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? Doth not even nature itself teach you?" (v. 13, 14).Even in nature God has given woman long hair as a veil to conceal herself. That which is becoming to a woman, then, is to cover her head when she prays to God.
"If any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God" (v. 16). The apostle had declared the mind of God in this matter and if any were going to contend about it and argue, he simply adds, "We have no such custom, neither the churches of God." It is often in little things like this of covering or uncovering one's head that the state of heart is manifested and a test given as to whether one's will is subject to God and His Word or whether it desires instead to go against the Word and according to the fashions and order of the day. Customs may change, but the principle of God's Word in this and other matters abides.
No Public Position-We have seen from various passages in the Bible that woman's place in the Church is not a public one but rather the private sphere of manifold activities for her Lord and Savior. As we have been considering what women are not permitted to do, let us observe from Scripture the various positions or offices which were not given to them.
The sixty-six books in the Bible were all written by men. Not one woman was chosen of God to write any part of the Scriptures. No woman was appointed as a Levite or priest to serve in the tabernacle or temple in the Old Testament. No woman was chosen by the Lord as one of the twelve apostles; all were men. In addition to the twelve apostles, seventy were sent out by the Lord. Of these we are not told that any of them were women. There were "seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom," chosen in Acts 6 to serve tables and look after the widows. Not one woman was chosen.
There were many witnesses mentioned in I Corinthians 15 to prove the resurrection of the Lord. Names of individual men are given, but there is no mention there of a single woman. This is very significant, as Mary was the first individual to see Christ risen and was sent by Him with a wonderful message to the disciples. Here, however, her name is omitted from the list of witnesses. Is not this a strong proof that Scriptures does not give women a place of public testimony?
Bishops, deacons, and elders were appointed in the early Church and described in I Timothy and in Titus. They were all men; no woman was among the number. We read of no woman evangelist, pastor, or teacher in a public sense in the New Testament. No woman is named as performing a public miracle. There are two witnesses in Revelation 11. They are prophets, not prophetesses or a prophet and a prophetess; both are men.
Surely the absence of women in these various public positions would show us that such is not her sphere of activity. We shall now pass on to the positive examples in Scripture of godly women and their acceptable service for God.
In Exodus 15:20 we read: "Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances. And Miriam answered them, Sing ye to the Lord," etc. This was a good service. She led the women in a song of praise to the Lord; she did not seek to lead the men. Here her service was quite acceptable, but later on when she led Aaron in complaining about Moses, she was stricken with leprosy for her sin (Num. 12).
Women of Exodus 35:22-26
In connection with the building of the tabernacle, we read that women came with men, who were willing hearted, "and brought bracelets, and earrings, and rings, and tablets, all jewels of gold ... an offering of gold unto the Lord." "And all the women that were wise hearted did spin with their hands, and brought that which they had spun, both of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, and of fine linen. And all the women whose heart stirred them up in wisdom spun goat's hair." Thus they had a wonderful part in the building of the sanctuary for God.
She was a prophetess, a married woman, and judged Israel in a day of declension (Judges 4). Israel was in a very low condition and Deborah was raised up, when the courage of man had utterly failed, to break the yoke of foreign oppression. It is in times of declension that woman comes forward and it is a sign of the low condition of things. However, we must notice that even Deborah sought to keep her proper place. She dwelt under the palm tree and Israel came up to her for judgment. She called Barak and told him to go forth against Sisera's armies as the Lord had commanded. When Barak would not go forth without Deborah she consented to go along with him, but told him the journey would not be for his honor for the Lord would sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. Her words would indicate that if it was a matter of shame for Barak that a woman should slay Sisera, it was not less a matter of shame that a woman should be forced by the men's backwardness to judge Israel. Her faith and courage inspired and helped Barak who was evidently a timid man. Thus sisters can help timid brethren. Deborah did not lead Barak, but went with him and encouraged him on.
The Woman of Shunem
We read in II Kings 4:8-37 of this "great woman," where her special care and hospitality toward the prophet Elisha is spoken of. She suggested to her husband that they make a special chamber for the prophet, where he could "turn in" any time he came along that way. Her faith and confidence is noted too.
New Testament Women
In two great respects God has honored the woman beyond the man in the New Testament. (1) Christ was born of a woman, the virgin Mary. (2) The Lord, after His resurrection, appeared first to a woman, Mary Magdalene. These two women have a wonderful place in connection with the Lord. Mary was spoken of as "highly favored" and "blessed among women," and Mary Magdalene is noted for her affection for the Lord and was privileged to carry a wonderful message from the risen Lord to the disciples.
Anna, the prophetess, "served God with fastings and prayers night and day ... and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem" (Luke 2:37, 38). Such service is open to any sister today and is much needed.
Luke 8:2, 3 speaks of certain women, who were healed of evil spirits and infirmities, as being with the twelve who followed the Lord, and that they "ministered unto him of their substance." This was a blessed service indeed.
Martha received the Lord into her house and served Him, while her sister Mary sat at His feet to receive His words. Another time they "made him a supper" and Mary anointed Him with costly ointment for His burial (Luke 10:38, 39; John 12:1-3).
In connection with the death of the Lord, we read of "a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him." And afterwards they followed on and "beheld the sepulchre, and how His body was laid" (Luke 23:27, 55). Then upon the first day of the week they came early in the morning to the sepulchre with the spices and ointments which they had prepared for the body of the Lord. Such was the devoted service of women towards the Lord in life and death. Personal, loving devotedness shines out here as the special service of sisters.
In Acts 9:36-39 we read of Dorcas who was full of good works and alms deeds. Upon her death, the widows came weeping and showed the coats and garments which she had made for them. What a blessed service she rendered unto the poor. In Acts 12:12 we learn that Mary the mother of John Mark had opened her home for a prayer-meeting, and in chapter 16:13 we see women gathered together for prayer at a river side. We also see Lydia opening her home to the apostle Paul and those with him (ch. 16:15).
Among the many names cited for personal commendation in Romans 16, are found those of various women. Phebe was a servant of the Church at Cenchrea and had been a succorer of many. Priscilla and her husband Aquila were Paul's helpers in Christ and laid down their necks for his life. Now at Rome their home was evidently the meeting place of the Assembly, for Paul says, "greet the church that is in their house." Mary also had bestowed much labor upon Paul and those with him.
When Paul wrote to the Philippians, he asked that they "help those women which labored with me in the gospel" (Phil. 4:3). That they did not preach with Paul, we may be sure from what he wrote elsewhere, but they were identified with him in the trials and conflicts of the Gospel. They helped him in every possible way, perhaps opening their homes for the Gospel, exercising hospitality, seeking out souls, praying with them, inviting them to hear the Gospel, and in many things that women can do a great deal better than men. Paul valued such service of women and spoke of them as laboring with him in the Gospel. How blessed! Such valuable service in the Gospel is still open to women today. They can sing the Gospel and thus help in open air meetings and wherever the Gospel is proclaimed. They can visit the sick and give out Gospel tracts, too.
What a great field is open to women in which to serve the Lord. The foregoing examples of acceptable service by various women of old should encourage sisters to labor diligently for the Lord. Their work is just as important as the public service of men. It is remembered by the Lord and will be rewarded by Him.
Surely, then, from what has been before us, we must conclude from the Scriptures that woman's place in the Church is quite distinctive from that of man and that it is not Scriptural for woman to do that which is definitely man's work. Sometimes Galatians 3:28 is quoted to prove the contrary. "There is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." This verse, however. is not speaking about conduct and order in the Church, but is a statement concerning the redeemed family of God. In that family there is no difference, as regards salvation and grace, between Jew and Greek, bond and free, male and female. From other passages we have seen that God's order in creation still abides in the Church.
Before closing our subject of "Woman's Place in the Church," we feel constrained, to add a few remarks as to the important matter of her adornment and dress. God has also given us instructions as to this in His Word and the widespread, shameful, present day departure of women in general from these Scriptural injunctions necessitates that attention be drawn to what God has said on the subject. In I Timothy 2:9, 10 we read: "that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair (plaited hair -New Trans.), or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works."
Many women, even some sisters in the Lord, are following the styles of the world as to their dress and adornment and are found with short dresses, dresses with low necks, no sleeves and bare backs, slacks, shorts, painted faces and nails, bobbed hair, gaudy garments, and most immodest bathing suits. Beloved sisters, are these things in accordance with the above Scripture? Is it modest apparel? Would shamefacedness, sobriety, and that which becometh women professing godliness, characterize such things? Assuredly not. Never were the fashions in so-called Christian lands so degrading to women, immodest, and conducive to the stirring up of baser lusts and sin.
The testimony of one young man about women's present day dress is: "It is the clothing that neither reveals, nor conceals, that brings the imagination into play and does the havoc: why don't girls wear enough to cover themselves?"
Dr. Perry M. Lichenstein, former physician of Tombs Prison in New York City, who is in a position to speak authoritatively on the causes of crime, has said the following: "The so-called crimes of passion are increasing alarmingly, and will continue to do so, in my opinion, until the principal cause is eliminated. This, it seems to me, is the present style of dress, which to say the least, is immodest. Rolled stockings and similar styles have a direct bearing upon crime incitation, no matter how innocent the wearer may be.
"And even if immodest clothing does not always lead to serious crime, it certainly offers a very direct and suggestive appeal to sex, and stimulates those baser impulses which slumber in the human breast. It is certainly safe to say that there would be much less crime today, far fewer homes whose happiness has been blasted forever by unfaithfulness, fewer divorce trials, and especially less violations of maidenly honor, and far fewer transgressions of the sins of chastity, if every one of these underworld styles could be thrown into the deepest hell, where they were conceived. Remember, the girl who dresses in an alluring way cannot condemn anyone but herself if the lure of her dress brings her the treatment which is usually accorded to women of questionable morals."
The foregoing by Dr. Lichenstein was written many years ago. Today, as this book is prepared for a second edition in 1973, moral conditions in the world have greatly degenerated. The shameful lack of proper adornment among women has become increasingly worse. With the widespread use of the miniskirt and the exposure of the female form in sexual appeal, crimes and attacks against women have greatly increased.
As skirts began creeping upward in 1964, the rate of forcible rape crimes increased each year after a previous five year decline. In five recent years in the U.S., the increase in rape rate was 68%. In England the increase in sex crimes * during the same period was 90%.
God hates exposure of the sex-related parts of the human body. When the prophet Isaiah warned Babylon of coming judgment, he foretold how God would strip her naked and so expose her shame before the nations. "Make bare the leg, uncover the thigh, pass over the river. Thy nakedness shall be uncovered, yea thy shame shall be seen. I will take vengeance" (Isa. 47:1-3). Modern women are thus uncovering themselves to their own utter contempt and so exposing their shame, even in assemblies of Christians.
The Laodicean Church is counseled to buy "white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear" (Rev. 3:18). While this is spoken in a spiritual sense, it would seem that it is also needful for these words to be spoken literally to many today. The first thing that Adam and Eve did after they had sinned was to make coverings for their nakedness. Now mankind seems to delight in uncovering as much as possible of their nakedness. And what a sad thing it is to see that women seem to be the leaders and the greatest offenders in this dreadful thing. How true are the words of Zephaniah 3:5: "the unjust knoweth no shame."
Beloved sisters, let us heed Romans 12:2: "be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God." May we also remember I Corinthians 6:19, 20: "know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."
R. K. Campbell
1 As water baptism follows believing the Gospel and is more or less connected with the work of evangelization, we have not enlarged upon that subject in these papers on the Church. It is the baptism of the Holy Spirit that puts one into the Church, the Body of Christ. However, the divine pattern in the book of Acts shows us that those who were saved were baptized with water and then received into the local company of Christians. Baptism is an open sign and testimony before men that one believes in Christ and belongs to Him. No one stands on the outward ground of being a Christian who has not been baptized with water to the name of the triune God. Hence no unbaptized persons should be received into communion in an Assembly, for the ordinance of baptism precedes the ordinance of the Lord's Supper. For further study of the subject of baptism the reader is directed to the author's pamphlet, "Baptism, What Is It?" obtainable from Believers Bookshelf.
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