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                            Words from Sounder Days



 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'.   


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