A BLAMELESS ECCLESIA
A perfect ecclesia cannot exist this side of the judgement seat; for such can only be when the suffering body of the Mystical Christ becomes the Bride of the Second Adam, becomes bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, taken out of his side by the power of the word of the truth of the Gospel and perfected at the judgement seat by being made spiritual flesh and bone like unto the Bridegroom. A blameless ecclesia may however exist in this life. That such has existed in all its elements is doubtful. The weakness, ambition and lust of the flesh is against its existence. Although such an ecclesia may not have existed in the past and may not exist now, yet it is the duty of each and every member of the Lord’s household to contribute all he or she can towards the establishment of such. To do this is but obeying the divine command embodied in various parts of the Holy Oracles.
The greatest work the truth has to accomplish in frail human nature is the bringing of every thought and act of the heart and mind into harmony with the will of God, thus making the mind and heart of each child of God obedient to the mind of the Spirit. This work accomplished in each one would make all of one mind and one spirit, a true reflection of the Divine mind as revealed in the Word, and would constitute all such a blameless ecclesia. There would be no ambition for lording it over the ecclesia, no backbiting, not slanderous speech, no selfish interests to be promoted, no wrongs inflicted, no bitterness or wranglings over diversities of doctrines and practices. Instead, there would be humbleness of heart and mind, brotherly love, kind words, a zealous promotion of the interests of all, guarding each one against the infliction of any wrong, and perfect harmony of doctrine and practice.
In such an ecclesia, love, pure and boundless, flowing eternal from the fountain of love through the word, would surround and cover and fill and spring forth from each and every heart in all the gladsome fullness of a common and mutual and unified joy. All would be as one, thinking according to the Spirit, acting according to the Spirit, living according to the Spirit, helping each other on towards the full fruition of love and joy and life and glory and knowledge and perfection of being found only in the Divine Nature which is the goal of our faith, the fountain of our love, the realization of the purpose of God in our creation.
Who can listen to the following language and fail to see that it is applicable only to a blameless ecclesia possessing the characteristics aforementioned? “Do all things without murmurings and disputings; that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.” “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long suffering, forbearing one another and forgiving one another”. “Where envying and strife is there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.” “Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile and hypocrisies and envies, and all evil speakings, as new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word that ye may grow thereby … Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” “Seeing ye have purified your hearts in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, love one another with a pure heart fervently.” “He that saith he is in the light and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him”. “Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one towards another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one towards another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.”
Brethren, the things enumerated above were written concerning the “one body” (Rom 12:5), the ecclesia of Christ, and portray what constitutes a blameless ecclesia in the sight of God and before all men, in this the evil days of our weary pilgrimage to the rest that remaineth to the people of God, and to the perfect ecclesia of the firstborn whose names are enrolled in or for the heavens. Ah, what joy, what comfort, what peace of mind, what rest to the soul, what revellings in love, what rejoicings in the spirit, what undisturbed feedings upon the truth, would it be to the members of such an ecclesia! It would indeed be a sweet foretaste of all the riches of that feast of love to be spread before the Bride at the marriage supper of the Lamb. But will we ever see such an ecclesia this side of the Great Feast? We may not expect it, yet each one can and should contribute his or her individual share of faith and practice towards securing such and ecclesia, and which the truth demands from each one as a reasonable service of faith and hope and love and patience.
Between the world and the ecclesia of God, a great gulf is fixed in faith and hope and practice. The world is cold and selfish and can only love its own. To come out of the world is to leave its faith, hope and practice. To enter the ecclesia of Christ is to lay hold of the faith and hope and practice set before us in the gospel of God’s dear Son. One is a feast of hatred, selfishness and death. The other is a feast of love, humbleness, and eternal life. Into one we are born by natural generation. Into the other we are born by spiritual generation, even by faith and obedience of the gospel, to be consummated at the resurrection of the dead. As spiritual beings, begotten by the Spirit of Christ through the word, we cannot be both of the world and of Christ. From the attempt to mix the two arise those troubles that militate against the establishment of a blameless ecclesia. There being no affinity between the two in faith and hope and practice, every attempt to mix them detracts from the purity of the ecclesia, and shows that the ones making the attempt are still in the flesh (morally) and not in the Spirit as the gospel requires. Were all spiritual and none carnal, a blameless ecclesia would exist to the joy and comfort and peace of each and every member, a veritable community of the lovers of Christ and of all begotten in him by the word of the truth of the gospel. To attain to such a position is the great longing of every true Christadelphian. To hasten such a consummation is the labour of faith and hope and love of every true child of God, even suffering wrong, bearing reproach, labouring diligently in all humility of heart and mind in the service of the Lord and in behalf of his household. If the fruit of such a labour of love be not apparent in this life to such an one, faith and hope point to its full fruition in the life to come, and the sick and weary heart takes courage thereby and labours on mid every evil surrounding in the work of bringing the ecclesia up to the full measure of a blameless ecclesia in Christ.
The pure in heart behold no evil in a brother who is striving to make his calling and election sure, but the selfish and evil of heart are ever seeking out real or imaginary faults in others that they may have companionship in evil deeds or else wherewith to accuse them before the ecclesia. Whoever is slow to receive or circulate an evil report concerning a brother possesses a noble heart; yet whoever has knowledge of a real fault in a brother and conceals it, wrongs that brother and the ecclesia also. A fault or wrong on the part of a brother, and unknown to the world, should be held secret within the ecclesial pale where discipline in love may secure amendment and the saving of an erring brother.
How weighty and forcible is the following language:- “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance; against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another. Brethren, if a man be overtaken with a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” How full of the Spirit of Christ is that language! Will not the observance of it by each member of the ecclesia be sure to produce a blameless ecclesia, one in which the Spirit reigns supreme? Envy, malice, talebearing, faultfinding, misinterpretation of motive, can find no place in such an ecclesia. Each considers all others as labouring unselfishly for the general welfare and promotion of the truth, and whose rule of action is love and to do the will of God.
Whoever fails to see, and therefore for want of striving, falls short of such duties in the Lord’s household, has sadly mistaken the call of the gospel to purity, peace, faith, hope, humility, meekness, love and practice in this the day of our probation for the glory and prerogatives of the eternal world, in which, as the Sons of God, He rules the nations of the earth through them.
Brother, sister, let me have your eyes and your ears for a moment. Read carefully the prayer of a loving Saviour shortly before he was offered up as a sacrifice for the sins of his people. That prayer was for the complete ecclesia, and also for it in its perfect state. Listen to the following brief quotation from it; “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us … Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me.”
I will not judge you in this matter. I leave you to your own judgement. Do you think that any one who falls short of discharging in this life the duties laid down in the Scriptures I have quoted can have a part in the glorious consummation of that prayer of love? Look into your hearts, call up in mental review your past faith and hope and practice, as members of the body of Christ, and your present standing in the same, and judge ye where ye stand in relation to that wonderful prayer of a loving Saviour.
In calling you to that personal and self-judgement, I also call myself. How do we stand? Have we injured the brethren? Have we done despite unto the Spirit of grace whereby we have been called unto the heavenly glory and the common salvation? Have we striven at all times through the grace of God, to do our duty towards the establishment of a blameless ecclesia? If not, and we are still at fault, let us hasten to put ourselves in harmony with that Scriptures quoted, and with that prayer of love that fell from the lips of our dear Lord and Master. We may deceive others. We may even deceive ourselves. But there is an eye that cannot be deceived, and that searches the secret chambers of every heart, bringing to the light every secret thought and act; and before the scrutiny of that eye we must all stand, even before the one who uttered that prayer of love to the Father.
L B Welch (1894)