WALKING WITH GOD
“If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth; but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin” (1Jno 1:6,7)
Of Enoch and Noah, who are referred to in the early chapters of Genesis for their faithfulness, it is recorded that they “walked with God”. And the Apostle John in his first Epistle, Chapter 2, verses 5 & 6 states: “Whoso keepeth his word (i.e. of Jesus Christ) in him verily is the love of God perfected. Hereby know we that we are in him, He that saith he abideth in him ought to walk even as he walked”. To walk along the road of life with anyone then, is to have fellowship with them in concord and oneness of mind – and we have been called out of the world to have fellowship with God and His Son (v 3). But what exactly is this “fellowship?” The word is often used by brethren and sisters, but what do we mean by it? It is, we feel, essential that we should rightly understand, for there are few matters more vital to our well-being as a separate distinctive religious community.
As Christadelphians, we lay claim to an exclusiveness in both doctrine and practice, which is demanded of us by reason of the teaching of the One whose name we bear. We have responded, each one of us individually, to the call to come out from those making up the world around us, to be separate. We are therefore in the world, but not of it. That being the case, it inevitably follows that our course of life will display, if we are true to our calling, lines of demarcation between ourselves and our neighbours, which make us a “peculiar” people. But being gregarious creatures, as the vast majority of people are (naturally speaking), loving the company and affection of their fellows, any imposed restrictive course of life can be very irksome. It is not an attitude that comes naturally, nor is it easy to maintain. Not surprisingly, therefore, human nature being what it is, there are ever influences at work, subtle and insidious, endeavouring to persuade us that the Way of Life is not so “narrow”, nor the Gate into it so “strait” as Jesus said and demonstrated it to be.
These influences are all around us in the world and, sad to say, even in the brotherhood – and we have to be ever watchful. They can so easily find a sympathy with ourselves when in moments of weakness, the natural mind which we all possess, dominates our thinking, for it is from that source that those influences emanate, and find an affinity. This resistance is a constant daily battle with ourselves, tiring and wearisome from which we often groan to be delivered. It has, it seems, ever been so. The whole history of the Truth from the very beginning, commencing with Righteous Abel to the present time is a long saga of men and women who, in their lives, often alone, have been scoffed at, derided and spurned – none more so than our Master himself – for faithfully maintaining that separateness, that holiness which characterises a walking with God, which is true fellowship.
Genesis 3:21, records that “Enoch lived sixty and five years and begat Methuselah: and Enoch walked with God”. What this relationship entailed, among other things, was the preaching of that message of severe rebuke and dire judgements contained in the words found in the Epistle of Jude, verses 14 & 15. One can well imagine the ostracism this would bring. Again, we read of Noah, that “preacher of righteousness”, that he “found grace in the sight of the Lord … Noah was a just man, and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God” (Gen 6:8,9). Living as we do, in days which the Lord Jesus likened to that time, we do well to deeply ponder what this fellowship entailed – in its exclusiveness – when the whole world was corrupt.
The situation has not changed in the days in which we live. Naturally speaking, men – whether in the Truth or out of it – revolt against restrictions, especially if their purpose is lost sight of, or their separation irksome. Constraints can cause rifts in otherwise amicable relations and can create problems in our intercourse with others. It is never easy to be the “odd man out”, rather it can be a distinct disadvantage, when promotion is in the offing. It requires a disciplined mind to sustain, and a face set like flint, and it is bound to show through. Moreover, when in the world around us, the predominant spirit is one of liberal thought and action, when ‘dogmatism’ (as adherence to principle is called) is viewed with suspicion and strictures opposed, when old landmarks must needs be removed to give place to more modern ‘enlightened’ ways, small wonder it’s influence is felt amongst us – as seen in the demands for change, ostensibly to make the Truth more palatable and in keeping with the age. These pressures are not new, however. They have been ever present as the Scriptures make plain. Though they may lie dormant for a time, they are there waiting for the right conditions to prevail that they might become manifest.
We need to remind ourselves that change is a constant urge in established society. It is engraved in Man’s very being, arising from his antipathy to all things Divine. He is ever restless, never satisfied. So it is, that men are trained to believe that the only way forward in whatever field of human activity is by reform. The precept is, that to remain the same is to stagnate and die. Progress, or perish is the philosophy. In things human, this may well be true, but it stems from the mind of the flesh, which is ever changing. It is, as wisdom teaches, insatiable in it’s influence to erode, ever powerful in reducing all at length to the lowest common denominator – death and dissolution into dust. The history of man is evidence of the fact.
But so insidious is this power, that it can appear to us in the garb of an angel of light. It was so in the days of the Apostle Paul. A careful reading of his second letter to the Corinthians, chapter 11, verses 1-15 will soon alert us to the dangers. That is what the message is for. The erstwhile friends of the Truth can be it’s most damaging, and plausible enemies. Nowhere is this better demonstrated in our current age, than in the breaking down of barriers, the removing of fences, the call for a wider and broader fellowship, when the few who protest are looked upon as disturbers of the peace – divisive – to be avoided. It is essential therefore, to be clear in our minds why this is contrary to sound doctrine and is to be resolutely resisted. We must “try the spirits to see whether they be of God”.
WHAT IS “FELLOWSHIP”
Let us then, consider the meaning of the word “fellowship”. The dictionary defines it as: “participation, sharing, community of interest, companionship, body of associates, a company, a brotherhood”. In human affairs, these definitions serve to describe those associations, both social and commercial, where men meet with common aim. By mutual consent they hammer out rules and regulations, orders of procedures and conditions of association. So a fellowship, be it a “Company” or “Society” is formed, the very terms used signifying the relationship. More often than not, an initiation into membership is required, be it as in the case of a Company, merely the signature of a formal binding agreement to the Articles of Association, or as in the case of a Society, the performance of some rite in the presence of existing members. In all instances, there are terms and conditions which are binding upon all members. None are exempt. So it is that in the social order around us, organisations, such as “Freemasonry”, and “International Rotary” exist. They are fellowships in the fullest sense – humanly speaking. Prestigious and exclusive. Their members are sworn to discipline and obedience in strict accord with the rules. Any breach brings with it retribution and punishment – even expulsion. Though the rules may, by majority consent, be modified or added to as circumstance or experience demands, they cannot be treated with impunity. So men operate in the world.
You may well ask what all this has to do with us, seeing that we are not interested in the world’s aims, ambitions, pleasures or organisations. Well, we do profess to belong to the Christadelphian Fellowship. We claim to be members of it. What does this mean to us? What conception have we of the aims and responsibilities of our association? Do we, because superficially it has the resemblance to fellowships formed by men, look upon our membership as they look upon theirs?
THE DIFFERENCE OF OUR FELLOWSHIP
In what respect is our fellowship different? Apart from it’s religious basis, is there any difference? We meet together at regular intervals. We have a constitution and rules. We have the interests of members to serve. There is the companionship one with the other. On the face of it, there seems very little difference – and in the days in which we live, I sometimes wonder how many consider that there is any in principle , that their fellowship – if they think of the subject at all – is little more than belonging to a “religious club”, though they may hesitate in the use of such a term. Be that as it may, it is so easy to relegate the understanding of our fellowship to that level. Indeed, unless we ever keep before our minds certain vital essential truths, such an inferior appreciation of our real position is inevitable. We speak as we do, because these truths are rarely discussed, and the principles governing our Fellowship, as presented to us in the Scriptures has grown dim, if not lost sight of altogether.
In what respects, therefore is our Fellowship essentially different from all others? What are the factors that make it so exclusive and distinctive? The answer I think, is threefold:
1- It is not merely an association of men and women.
2- The principles upon which it is formed, and the rules that govern it’s existence are not man made.
3- Its rules cannot be changed. They are immutable.
Let us examine these statements with the Bible in hand and then go on to consider the consequences which ensue. The Apostle John states the truth of the matter in quite unmistakable terms in his first epistle: “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ … this then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth. But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another …” (1:3-7).
To appreciate even in small measure the stupendous facts and their implications written there for our learning, is first to realise that the Presiding Being over our Fellowship is none other than God Himself, and that which governs this organisation and relationship is the Light of His Word, and that He is aware of all we do and say and think, which is weighed in the balance of that Truth. We may therefore say we are in fellowship when, by the test provided we are not. Secondly, and by the same token, our fellowship is with His Only Begotten Son, our Master who was made in all points like unto his brethren for the purpose of redeeming us from sin and death – and is therefore our fellow. That in fact our fellowship with God, with His dear Son, and with one another revolves around his atoning sacrifice. Thirdly (and it is in that order), our fellowship consists in our association with a great company of beings of like passions as ourselves, called out of the world in whatever age, who having come to an understanding of the Truth, having had the eyes of their understanding enlightened, knowing the hope of their calling, and the riches of the glory of their inheritance in the saints, have walked, or are walking in that glorious light.
We see, therefore, with whom our fellowship consists. It is not just with men and women – privileged beings though we are in being called together of God – but it is primarily and essentially with God and His dear Son – a fact which must never be lost sight of, for there are conditions, stringent laws which govern this association. They are not, as is the case in the affairs of men, laid down by the majority, nor are they subject to time and change. They are, like the Great Being Who drew them up, immutable. It is essential to ever remember that the multitude of beings belonging to this exclusive fellowship have no power of their own – no voting rights – no rights of any kind. We are fallen creatures under the sentence of death because of sin. Moreover, all that we are, and by which we exist, is derived from the God who, in spite of all, created the Fellowship in the beginning. It is evident therefore that He alone has the right to draw up the “Articles of Association”, to lay down the terms and to delegate His Power to whomsoever He Will.
WALKING IN THE LIGHT
Having therefore briefly reminded ourselves of these fundamentals, we stay to consider what is meant by “walking in the light” as God is in the light. Our Fellowship with one another, unless it be degraded to that which obtains in associations of the world, depends entirely upon the recognition of this vital principle, for what it is. Now, light in the Scriptures is often used as a metaphor – a figure of speech to graphically illustrate the knowledge and wisdom of God in all it’s sparkling facets. This Light is made manifest in three ways:
1- In the Scriptures (Psalm 119:105),
2- In Christ Jesus (John 12:46),
3- In His Saints (Ephesians 5:8)
The Apostle Paul writing to the Ecclesia at Corinth sums up the position quite succinctly when he states: “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness hath shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2Cor 4:6). It is this light in which we must walk, for it is the governance of our exclusive Divine association. It is absolute in it’s requirements, for in God there is no darkness at all; there are no shades of grey. If there is any shadow caused by turning, then it is on our part and if when it occurs it is not corrected, then inevitably it will lead, in the final analysis, to a breaking of that beautiful and precious relationship with our Heavenly Father and His dear Son, without which our Hope is lost. “Though we may say that we have fellowship with Him and walk in darkness, we lie and do not the Truth”.
It is surely evident for the foregoing that oneness of mind with God and His dear Son is of crucial importance. This has been revealed by God in his love to men, written down and miraculously preserved down the generations of men to our own day. This record is there for our learning – that we may be guided thereby in our walk along the paths of righteousness – which is a walking with God. The Lord Jesus himself both taught and made this manifest, for he was the living epitome of it. The Scriptures of Truth in all their parts bear record and constitute the revelation. In their illumination, they form the Light of Life. And in this Light, we have no part, save only that of walking in it , for naturally speaking, we walk in darkness (Is 42:7, 49:9, 59:9).
A THEOCRATIC UNION
We must never forget that God is a Perfect and Absolute Being and all His Works reflect His Attributes. His Word is immutable and sacrosanct. As fallen, sin-stricken creatures, the wonder is that He has Condescended in the manifestation of His Love to provide the means through which we may have fellowship with Him. Even more wonderful is the fact that conscious of our frailty, He has Provided the means of reconciliation wherein we fail. But it is all conditional; it is provided we acknowledge that our Fellowship in the very nature of the case must be Theocratic – based upon unity of mind in the acceptance and belief of those doctrines and precepts He has revealed and the conversation, the way of life it enjoins. There can be no questioning of his edicts, or compromise of His commands on any pretext whatsoever. We have no prerogative in the matter.
We feel it necessary to lay emphasis upon these facts, because as God, or His Son, the two prime members of our Fellowship cannot at present be seen physically, their influence recedes and grows dim in the measure that their presence with us may be forgotten. It is only by a continuous stimulus of the mind that our awareness remains with us. As Jesus himself stated, “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mat 18:20). No company of believers meeting together however small (or large) do so without the presence, the cognisance of our Lord and Master. The reality of that stupendous fact must ever be before our minds, that we be careful in dress, in conduct, in expression – to do nothing to cause His displeasure, but that we ever remember whose we are, whom we serve, and the price paid for our redemption.
All that we have said is, we feel, summed up for us in that moving and quite wonderful prayer of Jesus addressed to His and our Father, as recorded for us in the gospel of John Chapter 17: “I pray not for the world, but for them which thou has given me; for they are thine … that they all may be one: as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they may be one in us” (vv 9,21). This is fellowship, true Divine association with all it’s attendant exhibition of love, sacrifice, care, holiness and every good. May we be able to comprehend what is the breadth and length and depth and height and to know the love of Christ, which passeth all knowledge that ye may be filled with all the fullness of God. That is walking with God in true Divine Fellowship.
Eric W Phipps