1 CORINTHIANS 14
3 But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.
'State, illustrate and prove the Truth'
A prophet, in the New Testament use of the word, is not confined to the idea of one foretelling future events. In the larger sense of the word, a prophet is a spiritual allocutionist; or one who speaks to others with authority upon spiritual subjects. It is therefore equivalent to a teacher who speaks to men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort (1 Cor. 14:3).
But of teachers or prophets, there are two kinds; the one true; and the other, false. True and false teachers are styled spirits in 1 John 4:1, who saith, "Beloved, believe not every spirit; but try the spirits whether they be of the Deity; because many false prophets are gone out into the world;" and Peter refers to these in 2 Peter 2:1, saying, 'there were false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will privily bring in damnable heresies".
12 Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the ecclesia.
Not for self aggrandisement.
...The true object... to grow up to Christ as our accepted head, and law-giver, and saviour, and priest, in the sanctifying of ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, preparing to meet him at his coming. If they did not take care, Jesus would come upon them, and find them splitting hairs on first principles, and spending their time and temper on abstractions, instead of advancing to perfection in the obedience of the truth, the rejoicing in hope, the living in faith, the love of God, and the love of the brethren.
The Christadelphian, Oct 1870
20 Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.
What is malice? Enmity of heart, ill-will, spite, a deep-seated bitterness that delights in the misery of perversity, a rottenness of the bones, any state of mind that magnifies unpleasant and meaningless trifles and sows malignant seeds of discord. An ugly thing, is it not?
And do we think we are free from it? Then why do we laugh at another's misfortune or embarrassment? Why do we see humour in things that create discomfort? Latent malice is in every heart-
"In my flesh dwelleth no good thing."
...Let us then-in humility, in naturalness, in simplicity, in forgiveness, in freedom from malice, in purity, in guilelessness, in trustfulness, in heedlessness of worldly cares, in dependence on our Father-be obedient children, worthy of our exalted relationship to Him.
Bro Growcott - As little children
The people of this age are mere children, notwithstanding all the discoveries of which they boast. Their minds are spell bound by trifles; the truly great they can neither grasp nor comprehend. How noble will that vocation be-grandly magnificent - the discharge of that divine mission in which the nations shall be brought to confess the ignorance of their leaders and their own foolishness; and from one end of earth to the other to reflect as from a mirror the wisdom and knowledge of God, implanted in their hearts by Christ and his brethren, the conquerors and regenerators of the world.
Here is a labour, this is a work indeed.
Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, Sept 1853.
We are here to remember Christ.
... It is a duty because it has been commanded; and it is profitable because it tends to strengthen the hold of Christ upon the mind; and it is pleasant because every agreeable and ennobling exercise of the mind is called into play by the ideas presented for contemplation.
We make a mistake if we excuse ourselves from attending on any ground, except absolute inability. Duty, advantage and pleasure will be sure to bring us-one or other of them-if we are even moderately in subjection to the Truth. The presence of an enemy or an obnoxious friend will not keep us away if we can realise that Christ requires our attendance. Christ did not say,
"Come when all things are agreeable; come when all think well of you; come when every one else at the Table is perfect."
He said, "Do this," and (by Paul) "Keep the ordinances as delivered unto you." He also said,
"He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me."
Now if we stay away because someone has played Judas, or we think they have, we are not keeping his commandment but breaking it, and making ourselves as much a transgressor as we think our neighbour is in some other particular. The way to do is to go and see our offending neighbour if there is anything seriously wrong, and bring about a restoration.
Try it; it will have a conciliatory effect for you to go and see him. If the thing is not serious enough to call for a visit of this kind, it is not serious enough to think of at all. It is your duty to "drop it" and go on as if all were sweet and right.
If your feelings have been hurt, it is an opportunity of seeing if you can overcome evil with good;
"not rendering railing for railing, but contrariwise, blessing."
It certainly is not a reason for staying away from the Table. Nothing can justify this but the open rejection of the Truth or of the commandments by the assembly, or the open espousal of error or unrighteousness in the person or persons of others.
Some may stay away because they think it unnecessary for them to come. They think they can get all the good they want by staying at home and reading. This also is a mistake, as must appear to anyone on reflection. It is first of all setting up their judgment against Christ. Do they think the Lord would have required our attendance at the Table if it had been unnecessary for us? As a matter of fact, experience shows the wisdom of his appointment in the matter.
We do not get the same benefit staying at home reading that we do in the assembling of ourselves together to call the Lord to remembrance. For this, there may be more reasons than one.
First of all, the going out, the seeing of others, the taking part in an outward act in connection with the name and memory of Christ, all has a power to feed the mind more richly and more powerfully than belongs to the mere act of reading at home. We are mentally constituted for variety of exercise, and we get more "good" by going out to a meeting for the breaking of bread than we can get in the passive monotony of home.
Seasons 2: 23
26 How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.
In this, he refers particularly to speaking at the ecclesial assemblies; for this is his subject. He refers to some who edified themselves, but not the ecclesia, and such he commanded to be silent. This is according to reason. The usefulness of a man's speaking (or writing) is to be measured by the pleasure it imparts to others, and not by the satisfaction it may afford to himself.
The man who enjoys his own rhetorical performances is, as a rule, a failure as regards others. It is also nearly a rule that those who speak with most profit to the hearers, are the least satisfactory to themselves. The point to aim at, the standard to judge by, is the edification of those who listen,
"Seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the ecclesia."
What is this "edifying"? It is more than entertaining. A man may be an entertaining speaker, without being an edifying speaker. Edification is building up, strengthening the convictions of the mind in things pertaining to God. Some men weaken those convictions. Some men are as a debilitating air on the vegetation which droops under the influence; others may even be as a flood devastating the land, and washing away the growing plants.
Some are mere lime-water squirts, causing blight where the drops fall. There are all sorts. Let us seek to excel in comforting and fortifying. This is to be done by bringing to bear those considerations which in their distinct apprehension result in the mental ardor of conviction and decision.
32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.
It is true that the Lord had bestowed upon them spiritual gifts; but these gifts did not act compulsorily upon those who had them.
They did not compel them to speak only the truth, and to use them aright; they only qualified them so to do if they were disposed... the prophets were, therefore, responsible for the right use of them.
It is written in Job xxxiii. 16, "The Deity openeth the ears of men and sealeth their instruction." From this we may learn that sealing has to do with teaching, and, consequently, as the seal of the Deity is applied to a surface capable of thinking, his seal is that which impresses his ideas, or "thoughts and ways," upon the brains of his creatures...
The power of the truth taught caused them to believe and trust; and after these results were evinced which showed that they had been "sealed in their foreheads," they were sealed with holy spirit, as promised, and could exercise gifts which none have had access to since the Apostasy was enthroned.
They could use these sealed gifts or "spirits," or abuse them; for "the spirits of the prophets" were "subject to the prophets." They were, therefore, exhorted to "grieve not the Holy Spirit of the Deity by which they were sealed for a day of redemption" (1 Cor. xiv. 32; Eph. i. 13; iv. 30). The exhortation, however, was not generally heeded. They abused "the Spirits" or spiritual gifts, and therefore the consequences threatened were manifested in the withdrawal of the Spirit, or, symbolically speaking, on "removing the lightstand out of its place," by which they were left in the "outer darkness" of the kingdom of "the Spirituals of the wickedness in the heavenlies" of the world.
33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all ecclesias of the saints.
'...orderliness is the hallmark of all His handiwork, alike in Nature and in Scripture'.
Law and Grace Ch 2
34 Let your women keep silence in the ecclesias: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.
There is a tendency with some to drive this doctrine to an extreme. I have heard some speak contemptuously of the sisters as "mere women, only fit to nurse babies, and look after the pudding." Against such a doctrine every true brother will earnestly protest. It is not only degrading to her whom God has given us for "an helpmeet," but it is inconsistent with the spirit of the Gospel which teaches that there is neither male nor female in Christ: that we are all one in Christ Jesus.
It is probably the natural extreme of the theory which flourishes on the other side of the water, and is equally to be reprobated in Christ. The one puts woman too high, and the other most certainly too low -- so low as only tyrannical and selfish men would put them.
Bro Roberts - Woman's position
35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the ecclesia.
Trained to usefulness, of cultivated intellect, and with moral sentiments purified and ennobled by the nurture and admonition of the Lord's truth, women are "helps meet" for the Elohim, and much too good for men of ordinary stamp. The sex is susceptible of this exaltation; though I despair of witnessing it in many instances till "the age to come." But even women of this excellency of mind and disposition, were it possible for such to do so, would be guilty of indiscretion, presumption, and rebellion against God's law, in assuming equality of rank, equality of rights, and authority over man, which is implied in teaching and preaching.
It is the old ambition of the sex to be equal to the gods; but in taking steps to attain it, they involved themselves in subjection to men. Preaching and lecturing women are but species of actresses, who exhibit upon the boards for the amusement of sinful and foolish men. They aim at an equality for which they are not physically constituted, they degrade themselves by the exhibition, and, in proportion as they rise in assurance, they sink in all that really adorns a woman.
The law, which forms a part of the foundation of the world, says to the woman, "He shall reign over thee." The nature of this subjection is well exhibited in the Mosaic law (Numb. 30: 3-I5). A daughter being yet in her youth in her father's house, could only make a vow subject to his will. If he held his peace, and said nothing for or against, she was bound by her word; but if when he heard it, he disallowed it, she was not bound to perform, and the Lord forgave the failure of the vow.
The same law applied to a wife. A widow, or divorced woman, were both bound to fulfil, unless their husbands had made them void before separation. If not, being subject to God, they had no release. This throws light upon the apostle's instructions concerning women. "They are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law." And "Iet the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence."
The reason he gives for imposing silence and subjection is remarkable. He adduces the priority of Adam's formation, and the unhappy consequences of Eve's talkativeness and leadership in transgression; as it is written, "Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression first" (1 Tim. 2:11-14)...
It is true that in another place the apostle says, "let the aged women be teachers of good things;" but then this teaching is not to be in the congregation, or in the brazen attitude of a public oratrix. They are to exercise their gift of teaching privately among their own sex,
"that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God (which they profess) be not blasphemed" (Tit. 2:4-5).
Christian women should not copy after the God-aspiring Eve, but after Sarah, the faithful mother of Israel, who submitted herself in all things to Abraham, "calling him lord" (Gen. 18:12). Nor should their obedience be restricted to Christian husbands only. They should also obey them "without the word;" that is, those who have not submitted to it, in order that they may be won over to the faith when they behold the chaste and respectful behaviour of their wives, produced by a belief of the truth (1 Pet. 3:1-6).
Such are the statutory provisions enacted in the world's constitution at the beginning, with respect to the position of women in the body, social and political. Any attempt to alter the arrangement is rebellion against God, and usurpation of the rights of men to whom God has subjected them. Their wisdom is to be quiet; and to make their influence felt by their excellent qualities. They will then rule in the hearts of their rulers, and so, ameliorate their own subjection as to convert it into a desirable and sovereign obedience.
A man should never permit the words of a woman to intervene between him and the laws of God. This is a rock upon which myriads have made shipwreck of the faith. Adam sinned in consequence of listening to Eve's silvery discourse. No temptation has proved more irresistible to the flesh than the enticing words of woman's lips.
"They drop as a honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil: but her end is bitter as wormwood, and sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death, and her steps take hold on hell " (Prov. 5:3-5).
Elpis Israel 1.4.
37 If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.
Paul's whole work is divine. The modern disposition to humanise -to Paulise it - is treason against the Truth...
Let us then, brethren, get as close to Paul's mind and Paul's ways as possible, for they are according to the mind and will of the Lord. He said to Timothy,
"Thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, long-suffering, charity, patience."
We cannot so fully know these things as Timothy who had the advantage of personal intercourse; but we may know them with wonderful fulness if we act on the advice he gave to Timothy.
"Give attendance to reading-meditate on these things; give thyself wholly to them."
Bro Roberts - A prisoner for Righteousness sake.
Both as regards the topics selected for treatment and the mode and method of narrative and comment, the apostolic writings are as different from the turgid and puny efforts of man as the calm blue of heaven is different from the grimy walls of a human workshop. The stamp of divine wisdom is upon them to the eye that can recognise it. It is not every eye that can. The fact may be offensive to the unfortunate egotisms that run amuck among divine sublimities in their polemical blindness, but the fact remains as the explanation of the intellectual insensibility that can handle the apostolic writings without seeing and feeling that they are in the presence of gift that is neither of man nor by man.
The character of writings depending upon the arrangement of their words, we have in the inspired writings of the apostles' writings in which the Spirit of God co-operated with the apostles in the arrangement of the words composing them. This would seem to be an inevitable conclusion even if we lacked illustration of this work of the Spirit in guiding the apostles in the selection of words. The conclusion is made absolute when supported by such illustration. Such illustration we have in the remark of Christ concerning the attitude to be observed by the apostles in the presence of persecuting tribunals:
"Take no thought beforehand, how or what ye shall answer, for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye ought to say: for it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of the Father that speaketh in you."
Such illustration also we have in Paul's definition of the verbal modes of apostolic tuition: "Which things we teach, not in words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Spirit teacheth"; with this practical result which he enforces: "The things which we write are the commandments of the Lord" (1 Cor. xiv. 37). It follows as a result that the wording of the apostolic testimony is not the sole selection of the apostles, but is the joint work of the apostles and the Spirit, and is therefore not open to the imputation of fallibility and error.
The Christadelphian, March 1887. p126
38 But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.
... uttered by Paul in reference to a class of critics who set themselves up as judges and censors of Paul's course, without being competent to fulfil their self-imposed function; being, in fact, pious hypocrites, perhaps without knowing it. These critics considered themselves to be spiritual
...This challenge was doubtless humiliating to those concerned. Paul was willing to allow the possibility of their being prophets and spiritual men, but made their recognition of his teachings a test of the point. If they recoiled from the test, saying, "We don't know," he then charged them with ignorance, and called on them to accept their place as ignorant men, and not pretend to be what they were not.
The picture before us is that of men in Paul's day professing attainments in the truth, but ventilating doubts as to Paul's authority, under a concert of superior discernment, which was only a cloak of ignorance.
By one trenchant sentence Paul was able to tear the thin gauze from their faces, and reveal the pale, ghastly, green countenances of envious hypocrites, who made a profession of subjection to the truth, but were all the while spiritual cyphers, uncertain about the great realities of the spirit, and only faintly appreciative of even its palpable glories, being chiefly distinguished by a care of their own precious little dignities and reputations, which suffered eclipse from the orb of Paul's vigour and faithfulness.
There is such a thing as the whole counsel of God (Acts xx. 27); a faithful work of the Lord (Titus i. 9-14); an earnest contention for the faith (Jude 3); a full, wise, uncorrupted, saving testimony of the truth (1 Tim. iv. 15, 16). And there are those who never get farther than a mere smattering of the thing; whose capacities are too contracted to expand to the greatness of the truth -- whose energies are too much bestowed on mere temporalities to leave a sufficiency for growth in the spirit, and stop short in pious "charitable" uncertainties, which embarrass the operations of the truth, and would spoil the work of God if they were to get their way.
They are dealt with in Paul's words:
"If any man think himself a brother, let him show it by acknowledging frankly and abetting heartily the whole counsel of God; but if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant."
If he is uncertain in this or that, and disposed to temporize and compromise, let him take his place as an ignorant man, whose voice should not be heard in counsel, and least of all, lifted up against those who are where he professes to be, and who are doing the work, which, by his profession, he ought to be doing with all his heart.
We have not a Paul to cut the matter short in this summary way, though if we had, we should probably have the same fight to fight, considering how they flourished and obtained the ascendancy in Paul's day. We have, however, the word of God, and good sense to apply its most glorious facts and principles; and with a little timely firmness we may cut our way through the tangle-weed that would obstruct the progress of the boat, and, by the merciful permission of God, land in the desired haven.
Bro Roberts - spiritual ignorance
40 Let all things be done decently and in order.
An ecclesia is a society constituted upon principles divinely revealed. It is a company of believers organized for the worship of God, the support of the truth, and their mutual benefit. Union is strength; but there must be union in fact, or association is incorporate weakness. It is not good for Christians to be alone; therefore it is a privilege and a blessing for those who are partakers of the divine nature to be together in society. They afford the truth a local standing; they give it utterance, minister to its necessities, encourage one another, and assist the poor.
Baptism organizes believers of the gospel of the kingdom into the One Body of the Lord. In the beginning, this consisted of 120 persons, with the twelve apostles as their eyes, ears, mouth, hands and feet; their eldership, in short, which comprehended all their office-bearers, who attended to the ministry of the Word, and to the serving of tables. When the 3,000 were added to this ecclesia, they continued under the apostles' sole administration of things spiritual and temporal, until the seven assistants were added to the twelve, to relieve them of the secular concerns.
Deacons, therefore, were not essential to primitive ecclesia organization, seeing that they were only added to meet the exigences of the case which arose some time after the day of Pentecost. The apostolic eldership was infallible, having been imbued with the Spirit from on high, which guided them into all truth, and made them what they were. Their administration was, therefore, the "ministration of the Spirit," by which each of them was endowed with the "word of wisdom," "the word of knowledge," "faith," "the gifts of healing," "the working of miracles," "prophecy," "discerning of spirits," "kinds of tongues," and "the interpretations of tongues." This was the Model ecclesia, which was of one heart and one soul, and great grace was upon them all.
The ecclesias among the Gentiles were formed after this model; that is, with an eldership or presbytery embodying the spiritual gifts. These gifts were not common to all the baptized, but to those only which constituted the eldership; and, perhaps, the deacons, who may be indicated as the "helps." Those who had the spiritual gifts were the spiritual men, or "members" of the body "in particular." The elderships of the ecclesias, however, differed from the Jerusalem ecclesia, in that each particular elder did not possess all the nine gifts, as did each apostle; but only some of them.
The gifts were distributed among several for the profit of the whole body. These supernaturally endowed persons, by the particular gifts they had received, were constituted "apostles" of ecclesias, "prophets," "evangelists," "pastors," and "teachers." They were all elders, but of different orders. Apostles ranked first; the prophets next; then the teachers; and after them, the helps and governors; so that the ruling elders occupied the lowest rank in the eldership, and acting, therefore, under the direction of the ministers of the word; yet, though these diversities obtained, they were exhorted to have the same care one for another.
It was the function of these elderships to edify the body of Christ. In other words, the body edified itself through these "members in particular," who constituted in each society the branched candlestick of the ecclesia. The unction of the Spirit burned in them, shining as lights, holding forth the "word of truth." All these gifts worked that one and the self-same Spirit, "dividing to every man severally as He willed."
The gift most to be desired was that of "prophecy," or the faculty of speaking by inspiration to the edification, exhortation, and comfort of the hearers. The eldership had a plurality of prophets, who might all prophesy in the meeting, provided they did so without confusion. The Corinthians were desirous of "spirits," that is, of spiritual gifts, by which they might be distinguished. They appeared to have desired the gift of tongues above all others; but the Apostle exhorts them to desire that of prophecy: and whatever they acquired, to seek the acquisition of it, that they might excel to the edifying of the ecclesia.
From this brief outline, it is evident that democracy had no place in the apostolic ecclesias of the saints. The Holy Spirit constituted certain of the saints overseers, that they might feed the flock of God, and minister to all its necessities, as the pillar and support of the truth. As the prophets and teachers were ministering in the ecclesia at Antioch, the Holy Spirit said to them:
"Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away."
In this way the rulers and instructors of the body were appointed by the Spirit, and not by the brethren at large. The Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, the eldership, and the brethren in general, were the elements of God's society in apostolic times. The Father and the Son, by the Holy Spirit, through the eldership, was the authority established in the ecclesia. Democratic republicanism would have been subversive of this; and, if tolerated, would have produced confusion and every evil work.
The authority of the people and the authority of God cannot coëxist. All things of God, and as little as possible of man, is a principle characteristic of the social state originating from heaven, in Eden, in Israel, and in the ecclesia. Decency and order can only be maintained by the authority divinely appointed and sustained by the wise and good. This coöperation suppressed turbulence, and put to silence the foolish talking of the wise in their own conceits, who thought more highly of themselves than they were entitled to.
The respect and consideration that was due to the elders is clearly set forth in the Epistles. "We beseech you, brethren," says Paul, "that ye know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and that ye esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake." "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine." Again: "Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God. Obey them, and submit yourselves; for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief; for that is unprofitable for you. Salute them all."
On the other hand, the elders are exhorted to "feed the flock of God, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; nor for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over the heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder; yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility; for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble."
After the manner of these exhortations were decency and order maintained in the ecclesias of the saints; yet even with this divinely constituted authority, the heady and highminded could scarcely be restrained. It was the ministration of the Spirit, not in word only, but in power; yet evil found admission, and became "the Mystery of Iniquity, secretly working." The power could punish, and did punish, even unto the infliction of disease and death, and could also pardon and heal the penitent. It was evidently, however, not exercised to the full, but with considerable long-suffering and forbearance; though, in many instances, it was pushed to extremities, as a terror to the evilly disposed.
Constitution of The Royal Association of Believers, New York
Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, Jan 1854