The World's Redemption

Duties and Privileges of God's People

Those who have believed the gospel and been baptized into Christ are God's "workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them"--Eph. 2: 10. Simeon said that "God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name"--Acts 15: 14. And the apostate religions of the world, headed up in Rome, are represented as Babylon and as intoxicated with false doctrine, when a voice from heaven says, "Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her plagues"--Rev. 18: 4. They are no longer of the world, though they must for a time be in it. They are "strangers scattered abroad," saints, or separated ones, and strangers and pilgrims in a crooked and perverse world. Light cannot dwell with darkness; "ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons," nor have any "fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness." God's people are a "peculiar people," and it is their duty to keep the house of God free from the doctrinal and moral corruptions of the world. As a body, they are an ecclesia--called-out-ones; and while it is their duty, individually and collectively, to endeavor to spread the truth and bring their fellow men and women into the one fold, they must not countenance doctrines and societies of the world which are based upon that "mystery of iniquity" which "worked" till it had caused the "falling away from the truth and giving heed unto fables."

Some in Galatia had departed from the simplicity of the true gospel, and Paul said he marvelled that they would yield to those whose doctrines were a perversion of the gospel of Christ. "O foolish Galatians," he said, "who hath bewitched you?"--chap. 3: 1.

Having come to a knowledge of the true gospel, and become part of the body of Christ, the duty of all such is concisely stated by the Apostle Peter. He says: "And besides all this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness love"--II. Peter 1: 5-7. This will produce wise, virtuous, temperate, patient, godly, brotherly, kind, loving people; and of such the apostle says, "An entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."

Now for God's people there is one special duty, or rather privilege, laid down, and that is to remember their Lord's death till he come; and for this purpose Jesus gave a most impressive institution to be observed, one that would "stir up pure minds by way of remembrance" of the cross as the means by which God's blessing of salvation has come to the fallen race; and to carry the mind forward to the return of their departed Lord to bestow upon his faithful people the actual blessings of salvation. What could be more beautiful than an institution of this sort? This institution is that of breaking bread and drinking wine upon every first day of the week.

This was instituted on the night of our Lord's betrayal. "And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to his disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new in my Father's kingdom"--Matt. 26: 26-29. Who would not heartily do this in remembrance of him who suffered so much and died for us? How ungrateful would such an one be! Christ is as a bridegroom gone away for a time, and he has left his espoused a keepsake, as it were, which represents the fact that he has died for her. In view of this pathetic fact can she neglect this keepsake? Can she forget what he has done for her, and that he will return to her again to take her to himself as his own? Now the espoused of Christ is a company of people, and each one has a part to perform in order that the church or ecclesia might be as a faithful spouse. Hence the plain duty of every child of God is to remember the Lord's death and look forward to his coming by means of the institution of the breaking of bread upon every first day of the week.

It would seem that Jesus was careful to have this institution delivered to his people who would be taken out from among the Gentiles as well as to those from the Jews, lest, perhaps, some may say that it was a Jewish matter only. So Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles, says, "For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread; and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat; this is my body, which is broken for you; this do in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come. 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"--I. Cor. 11: 23-28.

This institution bridges over the time from the resurrection of Christ till he shall come again; and not only is the observance of it a duty and privilege to be observed by the household of God; but it shows that the salvation to be obtained through the death and resurrection of Christ depends upon his return for its realization. How fitting it is, therefore, as a means to help in a weekly special remembrance of the past and the future in respect to the two most important events which concern the salvation of men. It is therefore recorded that, "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized; and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers"--Acts 2: 41, 42. "And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them"--Acts 20: 7. "The cup of blessing which we bless, 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"--I. Cor. 10: 16, 17. It was at this First-day weekly meeting that free-will offerings were made for the poor: and so the Apostle Paul writes the Corinthians: "Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God has prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come"--I. Cor. 16: 1, 2.

When one is baptized into Christ, he is "free from sin," in the sense that he is no longer a servant of sin; and since all his sins are "washed away," he is "clean through the word." But only the Lord Jesus was able to live a life of absolute holiness. It is by virtue of his having become the "Captain of our salvation" by a life of absolute holiness that he becomes to us, as it were, a garment of righteousness which fits us for reconciliation and communion with God. So that he gives us a clean start on our probation in him. Hence the Apostle Paul says, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus; for the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death"--Rom. 8: 1, 2. If ever those who have been freed from condemnation, come under another condemnation, they will have no one to blame but themselves. But the question arises, how can weak mortals escape condemnation? Answer, by not becoming sinful. There is a difference between one who is sinful and one in whose life sin is the exception. Those who are "born of God" do not "walk in sin;" but if they say they have no sin they deceive themselves.

See I. John 1. God knows our weaknesses, and He is a merciful God. Therefore he has given us His Son as our High Priest who "ever liveth to make intercession for us." Having "been touched with the feeling of our infirmities," he will have compassion upon all who strive to do the right, but who through weakness or lack of knowledge may stumble.

On the other hand, those who fall away and never repent and recover themselves, "there remaineth no more sacrifice for them;" their end is destruction at the final judgment. Those of God's people who will do their best and look to God through Christ for mercy to be extended towards their weaknesses, can cherish the sweet thought that God "will never leave them nor forsake them." Through His Apostle John, therefore, He affectionately appeals to us, "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous"--I. John 2: 1. Then in chap.1:9 he says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." God has therefore met every need of poor fallen man, and given us a plan of salvation that is infinitely complete. Why then will men die?--why will they perish with the divine hand of love within their reach ready to rescue them if they will but grasp it and hold fast to the end? Compared with every wicked way that leads to death, the "yoke is easy and the burden is light;" for the happiest life to live, if it were only for this life, is that of which Jesus has set us an example. It is a happy life because it yields a "conscience void of offence"--a real inward satisfaction which is not to be compared with the effervescent pleasures of this fleeting world. But when we consider that beyond the happiness which a righteous life enjoys here, it yields a glorious and everlasting hereafter, what folly it is to neglect it.

And now, in conclusion, dear reader, my prayer is that the humble effort put forth in this book may be helpful in bringing many into the path of life whom we may meet in the presence of our Lord, returned to earth again, to receive his smiles and approbation, which shall fill our hearts with eternal joy and thrill us with the ecstacies of that life which shall know no sickness, sorrow, pain or death.