By Leslie Grant
A Key to a Diagram of the Same Title
From “Things New and Old”
If one has been redeemed and saved eternally by means of God’s provision of the Lord Jesus Christ, as the great and sufficient sacrifice for his sins, can he have any doubt that this same Almighty and loving Father has also provided for him as regards his entire Christian path and fellowship? Indeed, it is utter unbelief, and dishonoring to the Name of the Lord of Glory, to suppose that He has neglected this most vital aspect of the needs of His blood-bought people. Let the Christian heart have the utmost confidence that the precious Word of God holds the fullest answer to every question that may be raised in these matters. Then, believing, let him search the Scriptures with a spirit willing to bow thoroughly to God’s sovereign will.
In using the accompanying simple diagram, I desire to appeal to this willing spirit of faith in the child of God. Let us first justify God, and not ourselves, by acknowledging that His ground of gathering for His people remains absolutely the same from the beginning of the church at the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), until that church is taken to Glory at the coming of the Lord Jesus.
The circle in the diagram represents this ground. The solid surrounding line indicates that this ground itself remains inviolate through all history. It is the ground upon which the early church in the book of Acts was established, and the only basis upon which the unity of the spirit in the church can possibly exist. This is clearly seen in Ephesians 4:3,4: “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling.” Keeping “the unity of the Spirit” is based upon the unchangeable, established truth, “there is one body, and one Spirit” etc. The unity of the body of Christ, the church, cannot be broken, because it is God’s workmanship. And this unity includes every sinner saved by grace upon the face of the earth. God can recognize no ground smaller than this, nor can He enlarge the ground to include even one unsaved soul. However, although a believer can never lose his place in the one body of Christ, it is yet possible for him to desert the ground of the one body, — and this, sad to say, is the state of Christendom today. Thus, while every believer has his unchangeable place in the unity of the body of Christ, yet in leaving the ground of the one body, he renders himself unable to keep “the unity of the Spirit,” for he has left the ground of the Spirit’s operation in the church. Yet, no matter how many abandon this ground, “Nevertheless, the foundation of God standeth sure.” (2 Tim. 2:19) He cannot change His foundation to accommodate the wills of men.
One has applied the following simple illustration: A school teacher has told the pupils to play together in the school ground. Yet very soon all the pupils leave the school ground to play elsewhere. Whether there they play together or not, they are not on the stipulated ground. So also, very soon after the establishing of the church, it would seem that with one consent the people of God deserted the true ground of the one body of Christ, to adopt clerisy, ritualism, denominationalism, and other evils noted on the diagram. Indeed today, many denominations are so bold as to claim that they are solely the direct line of the original church! Yet denominationalism itself is a gross denial of the very ground of the church! This kind of spiritual pride should certainly deceive no one. We must trust no claim whatever that boasts of being “the original line.” This is merely justifying self, and not God. For God has always been right, and we have been wrong in ever at any time leaving His ground.
Whatever other ground we may have taken, or however close to the true ground it may seem, or however well we have cooperated with others there, it is still not God’s ground, and the child of God should face this honestly, with a broken and a contrite spirit before God. Then he should seek, not merely to be more right than others, but rather to return simply to the ground God has Himself established. Nor indeed, even on that ground, when we return there, can we boast that ‘we are right’, for after all, the teacher told all the pupils to play together in the school ground; and so long as any of God’s saints remain off the ground, then the least thought of self-satisfaction is utterly unseemly. Rather than justifying ourselves, we should have a real concern for others, and thus by our actions justify God.
The number of “other fields” or grounds outside of God’s ground is legion, for the professing church has split up into numberless groups with varying forms of human organization. But our diagram in principle covers them all, in describing simply the unscriptural principles adopted by these different systems of men. It is not that these are merely inconsistent practices, but rather standards adopted and defended as though they were Scriptural, in other words, a ground taken in actual opposition to God’s true ground. Therefore, if a believer would honor God, he must leave these entirely, and return to “the foundation of God.”
Let us consider for instance the doctrine of the clerisy, that is, that a certain class called ‘the clergy’ are entitled to an authoritative spiritual position over ‘the laity’. The roots of this doctrine were already beginning to develop in the early church. Diotrephes loved to have the preeminence (3 John 9), and “the deeds of the Nicolaitans” troubled the church at Ephesus. The meaning of the name ‘Nicolaitans’ is simply ‘rulers of the laity.’ The Ephesian church hated these deeds, which the Lord also hated. However, in Pergamos, this evil had grown and assumed the boldest confidence: “So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.” Rev. 2:15. One whose deeds are inconsistent may be borne with to a certain point, even while spirituality hates the evil of the deeds. But when a doctrine is formed to defend and justify such deeds, this is a defiant opposition to the ground of the one body, for it usurps the authority of the Spirit of God in the church. The same must be said of false doctrine, unholy associations, independency, evil practice, legality, denominationalism, and ritualism — when any of these are justified, as though Scriptural, by any group of people. Solemn it is to think that men will boldly justify evil in order to justify themselves. But let us rather justify God.
As another example, we may ourselves act all too independently at times, as much as to say, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”, and we ought to unsparingly judge ourselves for such carelessness. But the ‘independency’ referred to on the diagram is the avowed doctrine that each local church (or assembly of the body of Christ) is independent in its constitution and government, having no vital connection with, or responsibility to, other assemblies. This again is a thorough denial of the very ground of “the one body”, for the one body includes all saints the world over, who are hereby linked vitally together, interdependent, and responsible for the welfare of one another.
In the diagram, the reader will note that these various unscriptural grounds are separated from each other only by broken lines. The reason for this is that any of these things may easily mingle together, and in fact, the easy-going religious toleration of our day encourages just such mixtures. But the ground of the one body will tolerate no mixture, for it is the ground of truth, and error has no place there. Hence, the strong, unbroken line which encloses the circle. God allows no man-devised additions to His foundation.
This ground then is that upon which the Spirit of God is free to work as He will in producing true unity according to God while allowing fully for the diversity of gift in every member of the body of Christ. If one is deeply exercised by the Lord to return to this ground, he may find many who oppose him and object that he is breaking unity with them in order to do so, but he may well answer that unity, if not based upon God’s ground, is not the unity of the Spirit, and therefore of no spiritual value. If only one pupil were concerned to return to the school ground because of the word of the teacher, that pupil could not be rightly charged with schism, but the opposite. “In a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the Master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.” 2 Tim. 2:20, 21.
We may be certain that Satan will continually attack this ground and do all in his power to keep souls from it or to entice them off it. He knows that he cannot destroy the ground itself, but by means of all these evils surrounding the circle he ceaselessly assaults what he cannot overthrow, using insinuations, denunciations, and deceit in an effort to nullify or gloss over the pure truth of God in such a way as to blind even the very elect to its clear and pure reality, so that they will not truly seek the one blessed foundation of God. Only a simple, real faith in the Living God will discern and act upon this grand truth, which is so clearly revealed in the sacred Scriptures.
The truly interested reader will perhaps not require any more comment on the various “other fields” and their harmful influences, but with the help of the Scripture references shown, will be able to search out for himself the thoughts of our Lord and Master in all these things. May our gracious God and Father stir the hearts of His people to desire unfeignedly to be honestly in His place for them in days when we cannot but be impressed that the coming of the Lord Jesus is very near.