1 This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop [overseer], he desireth a good work.

Baptism of Spirit

Baptism of spirit, then, was only partially bestowed even upon the saints in the apostolic age. It was an outpouring of divine power upon certain of the saints having natural and moral qualifications fitting them for the administrative use of it.

They were not only to be "faithful men," but

"apt to teach," "able to teach others," "holding firmly according to the teaching of the faithful word, that by sound instruction they might be able both to exhort and to convince opponents;"

and good rulers of their own houses.—1 Tim. 3:2, 4; 2 Ep. 2; Tit. 1:9.

Having these and certain other qualifications, they were considered eligible for baptism of spirit by prayer and imposition of hands. They must be saints first; for no apostle nor presbytery, nor inworker of powers, would lay hands upon sinners to impart divine power to them

"for the work of the ministry."

When the Laodicean Apostasy which now fills all "Christendom," as the heathen call their Babylonish system, came to be established, sinners laid hands upon sinners, as at this day, but notwithstanding all their prayers for the gifts and graces of the spirit, no other spirit comes into manifestation but "the spirit of error" which strongly works in all "the children of disobedience"—the spirit of their own nature, "sin's flesh," in which "dwells no good thing;" and which is therefore the Devil Nature.

Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, Nov 1861

2 A bishop [overseer] then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;

Truly Solomon says, a little folly in him that is in reputation is like the stink of dead flies in good ointment.

A serving brother must avoid anything that could reflect on the Truth, or discourage his brethren, or cause the weak to stumble, or the evil to rejoice. All work in the Truth is to be aspired to in the true spirit of serving God most fully and acceptably, but such work and positions have great added responsibilities.

Vigilant: wide awake, watchful -- discerning and aware -- concerned for needs and dangers.

Sober: grave, self-restrained and self-controlled: not excitable or impulsive or flippant or silly.

Orderly: decent and correct, well-mannered, courteous, considerate of others.

Able and ready at all times to teach: enthusiastic in the Word.

Not quarrelsome or argumentative, but conciliatory and understanding.

Not concerned with material things: heedless of self.

Patient, meek, and gentle.

Hospitable: literally, a "lover of strangers": one who is happy and eager to care for others.

Bro Growcott. Grace, Mercy and Peace.

"Polygamy is opposed to the principles of Paul, who, in his writings, only recognizes 'one wife,' (Titus 1:6; Eph 5:31,33; 1 Cor 7:2,12-17). This is sufficient for us, without discussing the case of the ancients, who lived under a different order of things. We are subject to Paul as the appointed teacher of the Gentiles (1 Tim 2:7; 1 Cor 9:1; 1 Thess 4:1). 'If any man think himself to be spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I [Paul] write unto you are the commandments of the Lord' (1 Cor 14:37.

If polygamy is anti-apostolic, then it is our duty to withdraw from the polygamist, whether he is so in practice or principle only; for Paul has laid down the rule; 'Withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the traditions which ye have received of us' (2 Thess 3:6).

A man's knowledge of the truth goes for nothing, if he is disobedient."

The Christadelphian, 1897, p. 151.

Bro Thomas referred to polygamy as a mormon abomination (Eureka).

In the days of the ancients polygamy was permitted but invariably caused jealousy and strife between wives and the numerous offspring.

There may have been economic benefits as larger families meant more hands to the agricultural labour equalled greater prosperity.

I believe Josephus comments that polygamy had fallen into disrepute by the era of our Lord's first coming.

What of a polygamous man who learns the gospel and seeks baptism?

The advice given by the Berean Christadelphian fellowship was to remain married. Brothers should not continue to add wives after baptism. This seems a balanced approach.

Quoting the Pioneer Christadelphian Fellowship...

'The believers about whom there was no direct command were those who had already contracted polygamous marriages under the law of Moses, which permitted them. There may also have been converts from paganism who were polygamous.

Such believers would have been accepted for baptism under the principle of 1 Corinthians 7v24 (in a chapter speaking mainly of marriage)-

"Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God".

Supporting this understanding is the fact that nowhere in the NT do we find any command to break up a pre-existing polygamous marriage.

And there are spiritual and practical considerations which support such a position. But their new status as brothers in Christ means they are henceforth subject to His commands, one of which is one "man" and one "wife". They cannot change the past, but must conform in the future.

6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.

Adam in his novitiate

The Lord God having arranged the foundation of the world in the sentences pronounced upon the transgressors, and commenced the preparation of the kingdom in the stipulations of the New Law, decreed their expulsion from the garden eastward in Eden.

As the serpent had said, the man had become "as the gods," or Elohim, "to know good and evil," in consequence of eating the forbidden fruit. He had known good only in his novitiate; but, being lifted up with pride, he had fallen into the condemnation of the devil (1 Tim. 3:6), and had come to know also by experience both sorrow and pain.

This was a great calamity, but not so great as that a greater might not befall him, even in Paradise. He had eaten of one tree, and his presumption might cause him to take and eat of the other. The consequences of this eating, superadded to the first, would have rendered his situation still more deplorable than it was.

He now knew evil, as the Elohim had done before him; but there was hope of deliverance from it when he should return to the dust whence he was taken; but if he should eat of the Tree of the Lives, this hope would be cut off, and he would live for ever the subject of weeping, sorrow, and pain.

The misery of being the subject of evil for ever is forcibly expressed by Job. When reduced to the deepest distress, he laments, saying,

"When I say, my bed shall comfort me, my couch shall ease my complaint; then Thou scarest me with dreams, and terrifiest me through visions: so that my soul chooseth strangling, and death rather than my life. I loathe it; I would not live alway: let me alone; for my days are vanity" (Job 7:13-16).

But if Adam had eaten of the tree of life when reduced to such misery as this, he would have sought death, but it would have fled from him. He would have found no deliverance. This, however, would not have been the worst of it. He would have involved all his posterity in the same interminable calamity.

The earth would at length have become crowded with undying generations of sensual and devilish men, who, if any virtue should survive, would afflict it a hundred fold.

Elpis Israel 1.5.

7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

Having a good reputation among outsiders -- that is, having established a consistent public record of reliability and pure living. *

10 And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.

11 Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.

12 Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.

13 For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

14 These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly:

These are God's DIRECT COMMANDS, and it is vitally important that we weigh them fully when selecting serving brethren, or desiring to be serving brethren. *

* Bro Growcott. Grace, Mercy and Peace.

15 But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the ecclesia of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

A want of unity is fatal to edification. Union without unity is worse than worthless; it is pernicious; it tends to frustrate the objects of fellowship. The Ecclesia is not the place at all for discussing the Principles of the One Faith. That belongs altogether to the outside.

The plea of "looking at both sides" is plausible, and looks candid; but it belongs only to those who are uncertain of the Faith; and certainly is no feature of the "full assurance of faith" without which it is impossible to please God. It is all very well for those who do not know the Truth to talk in such a style. Such are in no state to form constituents of a community whose function is to be the "Pillar and Ground of THE TRUTH" (1 Tim.3:15).

Agreement in the things of the Spirit is the first condition of ecclesial unity. The "unity of the Spirit" may be kept in the bond of peace. But the schism of the Spirit - disagreement in the things of the Spirit - renders peace impossible.

Bro Roberts - Seasons of Comfort.

16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

The Revealing of The Mystery 

But while God lightly esteems the wisdom of the reputed wise, there is a wisdom which, He invites all men to embrace. This is styled "the wisdom of God in a mystery." It is also termed "the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world, which none of the princes of this world knew."

It is said to be hidden in a mystery, because until the apostolic age it was not clearly made known. This will appear from the following texts:

"Now Him that is of power to establish you according to the revelation of THE MYSTERY which was kept secret in the times of the ages, but now (in the time, or age, of the apostles) is made manifest, and by the Scriptures of the prophets made known to all nations for the obedience of faith" (Rom. 16:25, 26).

"By revelation God made known unto me (Paul) THE MYSTERY which in other ages (former ages under the law of Moses) was not made known unto the sons of men as it is now revealed unto the holy apostles and prophets by the spirit, that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel" (Ephes. 3:3, 5, 6).

Here is "the knowledge of God," in which are contained "exceeding great and precious promises," the understanding of which is able to make a man wise, and a "partaker of the divine nature."

Now although these hidden things have been clearly made known they still continue to be styled "the mystery," not because of their unintelligibility, but because they were once secret. Hence the things preached unto the Gentiles, and by them believed, are styled by Paul "the mystery of the faith," and "the mystery of godliness," some of the items of which he enumerates, such as "God manifest in the flesh, justified by the spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory" (1 Tim. 3:16).

Thus an intelligible mystery characterises the once hidden wisdom of God, and becomes the subject matter of an enlightened faith.

This, however, is not the case with regard to religious systems which are not of the Truth. Unintelligible mystery is the ultima ratio for all difficulties which are insoluble by the symbols of ecclesiastical communities, whose text of universal application is, that "secret things belong to God, but the things which are revealed, to us and to our children." This is true; but then those things which were secret in the days of Moses have been revealed by God to the apostles and prophets for our information.

No one has any right to set up his own ignorance as the limit of that which God has revealed. A thing may be unknown to such a man, but it does not therefore follow that it is either absolutely unintelligible or a secret. He may not know of it, or, if explained to him, he may not have intellect enough to comprehend it, or his prejudices or sectarian bias may darken his understanding -- this by no means makes the thing unintelligible or mysterious to other people.

All that such persons have a right to say is, "we do not know anything about it." They may confess their own ignorance and resolve to look into the matter, or not, but they are presumptuously overstepping the bounds of propriety to venture to do more.

This, however, is not the practice of those who have no secondary interests to subserve apart from the Truth. They only desire to know that they may believe and do; but where to know more would jeopardise the vested interests of a sect and extort the confession of its leaders and members that they were in error and knew not the Truth, investigation is discouraged and the things proscribed as too speculative and mysterious for comprehension, or, if understood, of no practical utility.

In this way mankind infold themselves as in the mantle of their self-esteem. They repress all progress and glorify their own ignorance by detracting from things which they fear to look into, or apprehend are far above their reach.

Elpis Israel 1.1.

God-Manifestation Without God

Renunciationism exposes the brethren to the danger of being taken captive by a specious fallacy which separates God from Jesus; presenting to view a mere man, while professing homage to the sublime fact of God-manifestation in the flesh.

"We believe," say these perverse disputationists, "the Scripture teaching of God manifest in the flesh; for the scheme is all of God."

If a "scheme" of God is God manifest in the flesh, then the law of Moses was God manifest in the flesh, for it was a scheme of God. But there is a difference between a scheme of God and God Himself. The mystery of godliness is not the manifestation of a scheme, but the manifestation of the Schemer, for a reason that comes not within the understanding of such as speak and judge of God as if He were a man.

Then it is said, "Without God, there could be no Son of God." If this makes Jesus God manifest in the flesh, then is an elephant God manifest in the flesh, for without God, there could be no elephant.

"God devised the plan," is the rejoinder. The answer is, a plan is not God. "Marvellous manifestation of God's love to death-stricken man," is the next periphrasis, by which it is attempted to make plausible God-manifestation without God. The manifestation of God's love is seen in rain on the just and unjust, but God's love is one thing; God Himself another.

Then it is put forward as sufficient, that the Spirit of God gave Mary power to conceive. So the Spirit of God gave Elizabeth power to conceive (Luke 1:7, 13), and Sarah also (Heb. 11:11), but neither John nor Isaac was God manifest in the flesh.

Then it is said, the Spirit was on Jesus; so it was on John the Baptist (Luke 1:15), but John the Baptist was not God manifest in the flesh. The manifestation of God in the flesh is displaced by all definitions which seek to bring Christ's case within the lot of mere men. And much as those who put forward these definitions may profess the acceptance of God manifest, they, in fact, deny the doctrine, and impose on others, if not on themselves, a deception.

Jesus was Immanuel—God with us—for the doing of what human weakness could not accomplish of itself, that the praise might be to God and not to men. By him and in him, God helped the seed of Abraham out of condemnation.

Renunciationism denies God in Christ, and it denies man in Christ; for it says, he had not our mortal nature, and that he had "no power within him superior to man, enabling him to pass through this state of existence without sin." It, therefore, denies, despite its protestations to the contrary, the great doctrine that God was manifest in the flesh. It preaches a God-manifestation without God, a doctrine which will be to the certain destruction of all believers of it.

The Christadelphian, Dec 1873