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1883 Ecclesial Guide

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1. -- The Term "Ecclesia".

To help in the development, and give scope for the exercise of this faithfulness, obedient believers were required to form themselves into communities, which, in Greek, were called ECCLESIAS. There is no exact equivalent in English for this term Ecclesia. It means an assembly of the called. "Church" (by which it is translated), has not this meaning, and has become objectionable through association with un-apostolic ideas and institutions. Consequently, the original term has to be employed.

 

2. -- The Name "Christadelphian."

In the same way, "Christian" has become inexpressive, as the definition of a true believer. A Christian, in the first century, was one who received the doctrine of Christ as apostolically expounded, and who made the commandments of Christ the rule of his life. In our day, it means an inhabitant of Christendom, without reference to individual faith or practice. We escape this confusion by adopting another name, which Jesus applied to his disciples. He called them "My brethren" (Jno. xx 17; Heb. ii 11) -- therefore, brethren of Christ. As the English form of this name would be acknowledged by thousands who do not fulfil its conditions, it is convenient to accept it in its Greek form (Anglicised) -- CHRISTADELPHIAN -- which none will own to but those who endorse its implied testimony, that no one belongs to Christ who does not believe the Gospel of the Kingdom, and obey the commandments of Christ.

 

3. -- The Apostolic Ministry.

To make the communities of Christ's brethren effective for their objects, Christ, by the Spirit, appointed and qualified a variety of officials, in the first century, whom Paul enumerates as -- 1, apostles; 2, prophets; 3, teachers; 4, miracles; 5, gifts of healing; 6, helps; 7, governments; 8, diversity of tongues. Their appointment by the Spirit made them the responsible overseers of the one body, whom the members were bound to obey. This ministration of the Spirit, and this presence of divine authority in the ecclesias, continued during the days of the apostles, and the generation next ensuing. After that, an apostacy arose in the apostolic community, after the analogy of the case of Israel, in their first settlement of Canaan; who "served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord that he did for Israel" (Jude vii). The apostacy prevailed more and more, as the Apostles, by the spirit, predicted would be the case (2 Tim. iv 1-4 ; ii 17), until all trace of primitive truth disappeared, and the spirit of the Lord was withdrawn from all association with an empty Christian name. Whatever genuine profession may have existed since then, has not been honoured by a return of the Spirit's witnessing and governing presence.

 

4. -- Revival of the Apostolic Faith.

In the nineteenth century, when the times of the Gentiles are nearing their end, and the era of the Lord's return has approached, there has been a revival of the original apostolic faith, through the agency of Scriptural study and demonstration. This work has been perfectly natural in its proximate features (see Life and Work of Dr. Thomas), but thoroughly spiritual and apostolic in its results. It has been unaccompanied by any visible manifestation of the Spirit, such as characterised the apostolic era, but is none the less the evolution of the Spirit's work in its individual and collective achievements. There is no reason to expect any recurrence of this manifestation of the Spirit until the Lord's actual re-appearance in the earth. On the contrary, there are reasons for believing the divine programme to be such that it cannot take place.

 

5. -- Problems of the Modern Situation.

In this situation of things, there are problems which did not embarrass the operations of the Gospel in the first century. People come to a knowledge of the truth, here and there throughout the world, by means of the published literature of the truth, which has gone widely abroad. What are they to do on attaining to this knowledge? They are members of the various religious bodies around them: shall they continue in their accustomed association? Reason itself would answer this question even if there were no Scriptural guidance. How can a man continue in association with a body with whose sentiments and objects he has ceased to have sympathy? The Scriptures prescribe that which impulse would dictate: to "come out" (2 Cor. vi 17) to have no fellowship (Eph. v 11), to withdraw (2 Tim. iii 5). It is impossible that the truth could grow or live in the theological communions of the day.

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