March 2008


I found a good answer -in a footnote to a classic statement about the basis of our Christian union… 

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 AUTHORS NOTES from The Sole Test of Communion” by Roland Allen


1) Perhaps someone will say that all who were received into the Church by the Apostles accepted the apostolic doctrine and order, none were admitted   who did not accept these, and consequently there is here another test of communion.

 

To this I would answer: FIRST, the whole point of the story of Cornelius and the admission of the Gentiles lies in the fact that these people had not accepted what up to that moment had been considered a necessary part of the Christian teaching. The question was whether they could be admitted without accepting the teaching and undergoing the rite. It was that question which was settled by the acknowledgment that they had received the Holy Spirit. 

SECOND, when the Apostles spoke of men with whom they were not in communion, they used language which showed that they were convinced that those with whom they were not in communion had not the Spirit (Jude 19). The moment it was admitted that they had the Spirit they were accepted.
 

The difficulty today is that Christians acknowledge that others have the Spirit, and yet do not recognize that they ought to be, and must be, because spiritually they are, in communion with one another. Those who hold a theory of the Church which excludes from communion those whom they admit to have the Spirit of Christ, simply proclaim that their theory is in flat contradiction to the spiritual reality. The Spirit accepts them and dwells in them; the theory excludes them. 

We must distinguish carefully tests which prove whether the Spirit is given like Paul’s ” No man can say that Jesus is Lord,, but by the Holy Ghost” (I Cor.12.3), and tests which are applied after it is admitted that the Holy Ghost is given. The first is a true test, for there can be no communion between those who have and those who have not the Spirit of Christ. The second is the introduction of a test that subverts a spiritual fact already recognized.  

2) It will perhaps be said that in our present state of schism this assertion of spiritual principle can give us no definite guidance for action, can provide us with no clear programme, and must remain unfruitful. Surely that is not wholly true. It certainly must help us if we recognize that it is the presence of the Holy Spirit which creates a unity which we can never create. If men believe in the existence of this unity , they may begin to desire it, to seek for it, and seeking it to find it. If, when they find it, they refuse to deny it, in due time, by ways now unsearchable, they will surely return to visible communion. 

 It would make a difference if Christians, in their approach to one another realized that, in spite of appearances, they were in fact one. If, in their seeking after reunion, they realized that they were seeking not to create a unity which does not yet exist, but to find an expression for a unity which does exist, which is indeed the one elemental reality, they would approach one another in a better frame of mind. _________________________________________________________Roland Allen (1868-1947) was an Anglican missionary in China working with the Society of the Propagation of the Gospel. Later he labored some 40 years writing missionary principles, retiring to Africa, where he died in Kenya in 1947. First edition of Pentecost and The World was in 1912. Complete article here – The SOLE TEST of COMMUNION 

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The Spiritual Comforts
of Believers in This Life –

by John Owen

The securing of the spiritual comforts of believers in this life is a matter of the highest importance unto the glory of God, and their own advantage by the gospel. For God is abundantly willing that all the heirs of promise should receive strong consolation, and He has provided ways and means for the communication of it to them; and their participation of it is their principal interest in this world, and is so esteemed by them.(Hebrews 6:17-20)

But their effectual refreshing enjoyment of these comforts is variously opposed by the power of the remainders of sin, in conjunction with other temptations. Hence, notwithstanding their right and title unto them by the gospel, they are ofttimes actually destitute of a gracious sense of them, and, consequently, of that benefit which such comforts are suited to afford in all their duties, trials, and afflictions.

What are the principal acts and operations of faith, whereby it will evidence its truth and sincerity in the midst of all temptations and storms that may befall believers in this world? And I shall insist on such alone as will bear the severest scrutiny by Scripture and experience.

The principal genuine acting of saving faith in us, inseparable from it, yea, essential to such acting, consists in the: choosing, embracing, and approbation of God’s way of saving sinners, by the mediation of Jesus Christ, relying thereon, with a renunciation of all other ways and means pretending unto the same end of salvation. (John 14:6)

This is that which we are to explain and prove. Saving faith is our “believing the record that God has given us of his Son,” 1 John 5:10, “And this is the record, that God has given to us eternal life; and this life is in his Son,” verse 11. This is the testimony which God gives, that great and sacred truth which he himself bears witness unto,–namely, that he has freely prepared eternal life for them that believe, or provided a way of salvation for them. And what God so prepares he is said to give, because of the certainty of its communication. So grace was promised and “given to us in Christ Jesus before the world began”.(2 Tim.1:9; Tit.1:2,3)

And that is so to be communicated unto them, in and by the mediation of his Son Jesus Christ, that it is the only way whereby God will give eternal life unto any; which is therefore wholly in him, and by him to be obtained, and from him to be received. Upon our acquiescence in this testimony, on our approbation of this way of saving  sinners, or our refusal of it, our eternal safety or ruin does absolutely depend. And it is reasonable that it should be so: for, in our receiving of this testimony of God, we “set to our seal that God is true,” John 3:33; we ascribe unto him the glory of his truth, and therein of all the other holy properties of his nature, –the most eminent duty whereof we are capable in this world; and by a refusal of it, what lies in us, we make him a liar, as in this place, 1 John 5:10, which is virtually to renounce his being.

And the solemnity wherewith this testimony is entered is very remarkable, verse 7, “There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one.” The trinity of divine persons, acting distinctly in the unity of the same divine nature, do give this testimony: and they do so by those distinct operations whereby they act in this way and work of God’s saving sinners by Jesus Christ; which are at large declared in the gospel. And there is added hereunto a testimony that is immediately applicatory unto the souls of believers, of this sovereign testimony of the holy Trinity; and this is the witness of grace and all sacred ordinances: “There are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one,” verse 8.

These are not essentially the same in one and the same nature, as are the Father, Word, and Holy Ghost, yet they all absolutely agree in the same testimony; and they do it by that especial efficacy which they have on the souls of believers to assure them of this truth. In this record, so solemnly, so gloriously given and proposed, life and death are set before us. The receiving and embracing of this testimony, with an approbation of the way of salvation testified unto, is that work of faith which secures us of eternal life.

On these terms there is reconciliation and agreement made and established between God and men; without which men must perish for ever. So our blessed Saviour affirms, “This is life eternal, that they may know thee” (the Father) “the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent,” John 17:3. To know the Father as the only true God, to know him as he has sent Jesus Christ to be the only way and means of the salvation of sinners, and to know Jesus Christ as sent by him for that end, is that grace and duty which instates us in a right to eternal life, and initiates us in the possession of it: and this includes that choice and approbation of the way of God for the saving of sinners whereof we speak.


from  Gospel Grounds & Evidences of The Faith of God’s Elect (1695)

This has been called the “chiefest interests” and the Christian’s Great Interest – William Guthrie.

Related post : see Tillich’s “Ultimate Concern”.

 

 

      After Easter what comes next? After the “grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies”, then what? Well, according to the MEGA Story, a new kind of life bursts forth! God’s new humanity just as He promised.

Future Glory – Romans 8

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

     As I begin my blog to celebrate the bursting forth of life this year, I am filled with a renewed hope. Hope in what God is doing in the earth. Hope in the multitude of dear hearts scattered throughout this world of ours, who are bravely going where no one has gone before, extending the reach of the Kingdom of God to more and more of the world’s great peoples, compelling them to come and dine at the table the Great Shepherd has prepared.

If any man be in Christ, new creation! Old things have past away; behold, all things are become new”.