Words from Sounder Days
EXTRACTS FROM 'THE CHRISTADELPHIAN'
1. July 1945.
The present danger arises from the view that in the existing divisions the "root trouble
was that ecclesial sovereignty had been lost sight of. Each ecclesia had the right to ex-
amine individually any who wished to join in its fellowship, but that was the extent of
ecclesial rights". So a brother is reported as saying at a Fraternal Gathering - his thesis
being illustrated by the fact that he was not in fellowship with the convenor of the Gath-
ering. But the thesis is fallacious: ecclesias are not sovereign, but the servants of the
Lord. They are lightstands subject to the guidance for their conduct in the Scriptures;
and the Son of Man takes account of their stewardship. The limits of "ecclesial rights"
are not so restricted as set out. Any group of men and women may make rules govern-
ing membership of their association, but ecclesias have a duty to make rules regulating
their procedure in harmony with the principles of eternal life laid down by the Apostles.
And ecclesias are related to each other as members of the body of Christ.
While the Lord rebuked each of the seven ecclesias for its faults, he added to each of
the letters to the ecclesias that he that hath an ear should hear what He said, for what
He said was intended for all to hear. The rebuke of one was a warning to all to avoid
the evil rebuked.
If an ecclesia is known to persist in teaching wrong doctrine, or in retaining in fellow-
ship those who so do, other ecclesias can only avoid being involved by disclaiming ass-
ociation. In matters of doubt, where it is a question of judgment of fact, ecclesial de-
cisions must be respected, as the Guide and the Constitution provide. But when there is
grave error in doctrine or practice, an ecclesia has the duty of loyalty to the Truth, and
it is recognized among us that by the Truth is meant the definition of doctrine in the
Statement of Faith. If an ecclesia fail in such loyalty, other ecclesias cannot co-operate
without complicity. Harmony in essentials has ceased to exist, and behind a façade of
union there is really disunity. Division is a sin when there is loyalty to Truth; when
there is disagreement on fundamentals it is an evil to be endured with patience.
There then follows a reprint appearing on this site - link to 'heresy'.
2. December 1950.
The basis of ecclesial fellowship is the apostles' doctrine. The apostles were the first
preachers after the ascension, and guided by the spirit they set forth with authority the
word of life. When their teaching was believed from the heart, obedience was rendered
in baptism, and the believers formed the ecclesia. Luke's summary is very instructive:
"They continued stedfastly", he records of the converts of Pentecost, "in the apostles'
doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers" (Acts 2:42).
The foundation was the doctrine preached by the apostles; upon it was based
a fellowship into which believers entered by baptism; but the fellowship was vital and
corporate, for those of the fellowship shared their hope and joy and expressed their
union in the one saving faith by the breaking of bread and prayers together. They wor-
shipped together, and the one ritual act enjoined by the Lord in addition to baptism was
the communal one of breaking bread together. Their united prayer was an act of wor-
ship; the breaking of bread an act of obedience and a symbol of their fellowship with
Christ and one with another. "The bread which we break, is it not the communion (fell-
owship) of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we
are all partakers of that one bread" (1 Cor. 10:16,17).
Such partaking was inclusive and exclusive; inclusive of those who, being of one mind,
sought to share their mutual faith, but exclusive in that those of other "communions"
could not share with them; in the words of Paul as he draws out this lesson,
"Ye cannot drink of the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils:
ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils.
Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he?"
(1 Corinthians 10:21,22)
This exalted association was the result of coming to the light. "God is light, and in Him
is no darkness". Fellowship with God is contingent upon walking in the light; and all
walking in light have fellowship one with another. The light of God is that mediated
through the apostle's ministry in the message of life."To walk in darkness" is, in John's
phrase, to do not the truth, for "truth" is not only things believed, but also things done
in harmony with that belief. The two - conviction and conduct - are related as two
aspects of one thing. When Gentiles walk in the vanity of their mind, having their un-
derstanding darkened, they are alienated from the life of God through the ignorance
that is in them (Eph. 4:17,18). Into their darkened mind, through the Apostles' labours,
there had shone the "light of the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor.
4:6). The "truth in Jesus",like the truth of God - for it is divine truth which is in Jesus -
operates on mind and action. So men believe the truth, and do the truth; men do not be-
lieve the truth and men do not do the truth. The two aspects are necessary to be well
pleasing to God, and radical failure in either breaks the fellowship.
We have already indicated that when there was grievous lapse from the moral standard
or denial of essential truth, the ecclesia had to take the drastic step of separation. There
has been a general recognition of the Scriptural rules concerning withdrawal since the
truth was revived, and the disciples were separated….There have, however, been occa-
sions when other views have been upheld. In 1867 some in Edinburgh were willing to
tolerate the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. Brother Thomas would have none of
this, and after some initial doubts Brother Roberts recognized the duty of separation.
He had critics, and gives his reasons in his Autobiography. These are stated clearly and
comprehensively; they are here reproduced.
There then follows a reprint appearing on this site- link to 'contending'.
In the Inspiration controversy (1885) the real issue was whether the doctrine of erring
inspiration should be tolerated. It is clear from the discussions in 'The Christadelphian'
of that period that those who introduced the doctrine of partial inspiration had support-
ers of their view, while others (probably the majority) who themselves did not subscribe
to it were yet willing to tolerate it. The basic difference of view therefore which caused
division concerned fellowship: should those who taught error on such a vitally important
subject, remain in fellowship? In this connection Brother Roberts wrote:
There then follows a partial reprint from 'fellowship' - link below.
If men refuse to separate when that is a clear duty, they become themselves offenders.
This has been on occasion disputed…...Once again such a view is being advocated. It is
claimed that "avoiding" and "separating" should be individual actions….Fellowship is
made an entirely individual matter instead of depending upon collective action by the
ecclesia…….Support is sought for the theory that ecclesial action is not scriptural from
allusions in the Letters to the Seven Ecclesias. It is said that false teaching existed in
these ecclesias, but the Lord did not require the faithful to separate from the unfaithful.
This seems a strange argument. We cannot suppose that the Lord would in His own
letters require a different course of action from what the spirit had required through
Paul's letters.But why does the Lord find fault? Was it not because the doctrine of Ba-
laam was tolerated,and the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes? If the ecclesias had applied the
instructions in Paul's letters they would not be blameworthy. We might note further that
the Lord addresses the "angel" of the ecclesia on behalf of the ecclesia. The appeal and
the rebuke is to the community in each place; and while each ecclesia is severally add-
ressed, to each the warning is added "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the spirit
saith unto the ecclesias". While the faults of Ephesus are particularized in the letter to
that ecclesia, the warning is for all others.
(for further information link to 'seven ecclesias')
Explanatory note - the above would not appear today in 'The Christadelphian'. Since
that time a great deterioration has occurred in the major body of Christadelphians. We
are very sad that this has occurred, & it is now necessary for those who desire to main-
tain the Truth in its purity to have a separate identity - link to 'appeal'.