Monday, January 23, 2017

Sectarianism

Bible Students should note the apostle Paul spoke of the sectarianism that was taking place in his day, for we often see the same carnal reasoning taking place today, as many would wish to bind and restrict the Christian fellowship beyond what is written. (1 Corinthians 3:3,4; 4:6) Yet we admonish our brothers in Christ, the same as the apostle admonished the Corinthian brothers: “Let all that you do be done in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:14) “Finally, brothers, rejoice. Be perfected, be comforted, be of the same mind, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.” — 2 Corinthians 11:26.
Paul elsewhere set the foundation for what a Christian is to believe in his words recorded at 1 Corinthians 15:3,4. Of course, the Christian should grow beyond this so as to add a fuller knowledge of God and Jesus, but the scripture sets forth is what is required.
Some have claimed that they need to force a doctrinal unity based on 1 Corinthians 1:10. Therefore, there seems to always be a tendency to set forth a man, or a body of men, whose teachings are thought to establish such unity, and then demand that all accept whatever is decreed by this man, or that man, or this body of men, etc.
Paul does not say, as some seem to have added to what he said, "You must agree with me regarding every detail of doctrine, or else I will not have any association with you."
Nor was he authorizing a governing body or a man to be set up who was to take upon themselves the authority to judge the brothers so as to decide that everyone must agree with whatever they say, even if what they say goes beyond what is written. Often sectarian leaders will claim that their authority has been given to them by their own application of some prophecy, or statement, in the Bible, which they have interpreted to be referring to themselves. Nevertheless, anyone who sets himself/themselves up or sets any man or body of men (other than Jesus and his apostles) as such an authority has/have gone beyond what is written, and have actually produced the very kind of sectarianism that Paul condemned.
Nor was the apostle Paul giving a prophecy that Christians would become totally outwardly at unity in every aspect of doctrine, at least not in this age. The harvest results will not be known physically until the saints "shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father." (Matthew 13:43) This signifies the same time spoken of by Paul in Romans 8:19, where he stated: "the creation waits with eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed." At that time the Satan will have been abyssed so that he will not be able to deceive the nations. (Revelation 20:1-3) At that time, the whole creation will no longer be groaning and travailing in pain as it now is, for the creation will have been delivered from its present bondage. (Romans 8:20-22) Since the world has not yet been so delivered, we know also that the revealing of the sons of God has not yet taken place.
See the study:
The first century Christians never had an outward unity, not until later when there was a general apostasy from the faith once delivered, and professed Christians began to set up men over themselves men who then decided what was supposed to be accepted as true doctrine and what was not to be accepted. Paul was simply stating what should be, but even in this, he was not appealing to them to agree on every detail of every scripture, but that they all be of the same mind in agreement with Christ [not a governing body, or other alleged central authority in the flesh, claiming to represent Christ], and not be following others into various divisions.
The agreement in Christ is that "if you will confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." -- 1 Corinthians 1:23; 2:2; Romans 10:9.
Surely we are not to think that that every Christian is not to have any thought at all that is different from another Christian. What most who set themselves up to judge others on this matter usually claim is that everyone has to agree with them on practically every point of doctrine, or else "we" will not fellowship with "you". Paul did not say that. Indeed, he did not disfellowship himself from the brothers in Corinth who disagreed with him, but he did continue to encourage them in Christ.
In those groups that boast of unity in doctrine, most often which include a lot human speculation, we find that such unity is achieved by a submission to a man, or to a group of men, who make the decisions for the group as to what is to be believed or not believed. In actuality, this is the kind of division that Paul was speaking against. In other words, Paul is saying that we have Christ, and it is he who is our great Pastor, and we should not be following any man, so as become sectarian followers of Paul, of Apollos, etc, thereby bringing a division amongst the flock. He does tell us to mark those who cause division, so as not to follow others away from Christ.
Paul's able and pointed reasoning upon this subject is partially obscured by the common translations, as they seem to use stronger words and phrases than the Greek suggests. Paul exhorts that those teachers who favor divisions in the flock of Christ, be "watched" and turned away from; because they are not following Yahweh's will, but their own. And he adds, "by kind and complimentary words they mislead the unsuspicious." (Romans 16:17) Thus, he reproved the Corinthian church because of a tendency toward such sectarianism among them. (1 Corinthians 1:10-13; and 3:3-6) As he showed, they were dividing into Paulites, Apollosites, and Peterites, while a few rightly clung to the name of Christ.
Yahweh alone must be regarded as the leader of His people, and that through the one whom he has appointed as our Pastor (Shepherd -- Ezekiel 34:23; Hebrews 13:20); and we must be guided by His Word and constrained by divine love, rather than by bulls, encyclicals, mandates, anathemas, excommunications, epithets, threatening, cajolings or railings that may come from popes, cardinals, bishops, priests, ministers, synods, presbyteries, conferences, societies, governing bodies, committees, boards or presidents, which seek to whatever extent to substitute their own authority in the Church for that of Christ’s, and to teach that disobedience to their orders, decisions, etc., is tantamount to disobedience to God. We believe that everyone who is genuinely consecrated to Yahweh, and who acknowledges Jesus as his head, is united to him in holy service, whether he might be associated with any sect or denomination or not; and that all such are divinely ordained to preach His gospel, whether they serve individually or collectively, in America or in Europe or in the wilds of Africa, and regardless of whether some particular group of brothers in one part of the world has commissioned them, or knows about them or not. Among those who do thus recognize only Jesus as their head there is no division of spirit - despite any outwardly carnal divisions, etc., that may be prevalent as promoted by the leaders of whatever group he might be associated with.
Those who preach the gospel should do so in a manner that will glorify Yahweh and his Son, not to the glorification of a certain man, an organization, a group, a movement, etc., by accepting Yahweh's Word as the repository of all truth. Paul says that to serve with any other design than this is "carnal." In the context of 1 Corinthians 1:10, Paul was speaking of some in his day who were saying, "I am of Paul; others, I am of Apollos; and still others, I am of Cephas." Today some say, "I am of the Watchtower Society; and unless you are of the Society I will regard you as dead." Other say, "I am of this or that orthodoxy, and unless you accept what this or that council of men has decreed as 'orthodox,' you are not my brother in Christ." The argument of many in favor of such a position today is that such "should know where they got the truth" - but it was this very argument that Paul designated "carnality." For this very reason Paul thanked God that he had not been the instrument that had baptized very many of the Corinthian brothers in Christ, so that they could not claim him as being their channel. The Roman alleged "successors" of Peter, however, built a great organization on the claim that they are the repository of all truth -- even as the Society now claims for itself -- and they ask all others: "When did truth and authority become transferred from us to you?"
And so the apostle Paul asked: "Who is Paul? who is Apollos? and who is Cephas?" And if Paul were here today he would most certainly say, "Who is the Society?" "Who is the Dawn?" Who is the the PBI? etc. Who, in fact, is anyone who merely serves the truth to another? While all true servants in the Church are important, even as Paul points out -- some being privileged to sow and others to water -- yet it is God alone who gives the increase.
In view of this plain statement to the effect that only the Lord Jesus, who is the truth (John 14:16), is responsible for our being "in the truth", it is sad that some seem to be not able to see beyond a human organization, counsel, governing body or leader, etc., and are not sufficiently strong in Yahweh to depend wholly on His Word; being willing rather to listlessly trust their eternal destiny to imperfect human leadership rather than to individually assume the divinely imposed responsibility of proving all things by the Word and of holding fast only to that which they have personally proven to be the truth. It is indeed true that all should know where they got the truth -- from the Lord Jesus (John 6:68; 17:8) -- and they should see to it that this pure message shall not become clouded by the muddy waters of human speculation and sophistry.
Does this means that there will be no divisions amongst God's people in this age? The Bible never says that. Paul did not say that. Yes, he did entreat the Corinthian brothers to a unity, but he did not say that they would be united in every viewpoint related to what God has revealed. Indeed, later on, he says just the opposite: "For there must be also factions among you, that those who are approved may be revealed among you." -- 1 Corinthians 11:19.
Did the apostle Paul approve of such factions, divisions? No, but yet he knew that such divisions were necessary for the proving of disciples of Christ. The vast majority of Christians seem to only be able to worship along carnal lines; this does not mean that they are not Christians, for it was to saints, dedicated ones (1 Corinthians 1:2), that Paul said: "Brothers, I couldn't speak to you as to spiritual, but as to fleshly, as to babes in Christ." (1 Corinthians 3:1) Paul does not say to them, "You are not my brothers, because you are divided." Rather, he addresses them as "brothers" in Christ, who are yet "babes" in Christ.
Most of the saints, the dedicated ones who belong to Christ, remain as babes all of their present life. They cannot get beyond worship along carnal lines, seeking man's approval, or on the side, seeking to control others into obedience to themselves. The parable of the four servants gives a good illustration of this. http://rl-bibleinfo.com/?p=41
Although those who remain babes may not lose their standing as sons of God, yet unless they grow in grace, knowledge, etc., they will fail to become joint-heirs with Christ. (Romans 8:17) Only those who grow in their spiritual walk, developing the fruit of the spirit in this age to the point that Paul refers to as "perfect", will become joint-heirs with Christ. This is the goal that is set before them, and yet, Paul realizes that most will not reach that goal, and the divisions serve as a means of revealing, even developing, those who reach the perfect mark of the prize of their high calling. (Philippians 3:12-14) It is for the purpose of edifying the sons of God to to the obtaining of that mark that the entire New Testament was written. Thus, Paul writes: "Let us press on to perfection." (Hebrews 6:1) Once that perfection is obtained, then the mark of the prize of our high calling has been reached, and the prize is assured, since such a person has proven himself incorruptible, and the second death can no longer harm him. -- Revelation 2:11; 1 Corinthians 15:54.
They will be approved by improving themselves, by forgiving, by apologizing, and by showing love, all of which is done to the perfecting of faith. (1 Thessalonians 3:10) It is our faith that is on trial, as we read in the King James Version of the "trial of your faith." The World English translation calls it "the proof of your faith." More correctly it is the proving of our faith. So divisions among us are allowed (although not approved as such) by Yahweh to see who will properly react to this proving, or trial, who will have the right heart attitude, who will grow and manifest the fruits of the spirit, especially that of faith, since it is our faith that is being proved.
Please note that it is the heart that is being judged, not whether one is physically associated with this or that organization, movement, church, etc. With this in mind, we need to note that one may be associated with the Bible Students movement, and yet, in his heart, he may still supporting a form of Babylonism, if he is still effecting a form of sectarianism based on the teachings of a certain man, or of a body of men, etc.
"Christians may not see eye to eye, but they can still walk arm in arm." -- (Originator of this statement is unknown.) ===========   Related: Charles Taze Russell Regarding Sectarianism What did Charles Taze Russell teach about sectarianism? Charles Taze Russell and Authority -- Did Charles Taze Russell teach authoritarianism as if found today in the JW organization? Related Books: Crisis of Conscience In Search of Christian Freedom ========== Edited and Republished August 28, 2014. Originally published sometime before October 2012.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Church's Divinely-Appointed Mission

Therefore seeing we have this ministry, even as we obtained mercy, we don't faint. -- 2 Corinthians 4:1
WHAT is the mission of the Church? -- What ministry or service has Jehovah appointed to his consecrated people? This question is one that should be prominent and clear before the mind of every consecrated child of God. It is of the utmost importance that the servant know what is expected of him before proceeding far in rendering service; otherwise he will be more than likely to waste his energies in wrong directions -- leaving undone those things which ought to be done, and giving attention to matters which would better be attended to otherwise according to the plan and arrangement of the great Supervisor of the plan of salvation -- Jehovah.
(2) The answers to this question throughout Christendom would probably divide themselves into three groups -- two of them quite unscriptural, and the third, although scriptural, by reason of other errors generally associated with it, is made unreasonable, and held in its purity and consistently by but few. We will examine these as follows:
(3) <1> THE ROMAN CATHOLIC VIEW of the Church's mission is that she is the ruler of the world, appointed to be such by the Almighty, and duly empowered and authorized to rule over kings and nations, to order all the affairs of earth, moral, political, financial, social and ecclesiastical, -- the pope and his hierarchy constituting this spiritual kingdom. This spiritual kingdom, it claims, reigned gloriously in the past, -- during the period which the remainder of mankind denominate "the Dark Ages." They claim that now this kingdom is suffering a reverse at the hands of infidelity, Protestantism, etc., and is deprived of its proper, God-given and God-intended rights, as the supreme government of the earth. It claims that very shortly there will be a grand change in earth's affairs, which will put back again, into its possession and under its control absolutely, all peoples, nations, kindreds and tongues, so that again, as of yore, the pope must be the recognized head of the world, all other religions be overthrown and effectually stamped out, and that thus the world will be blessed -- by a return to medieval conditions.
(4) We dispute this theory, and hold that the scriptures teach to the contrary: that the reign of the Church as the Kingdom of God to rule and bless the world is declared to be not during this "present evil age" (Galatians 1:4), but in one to follow this, the "age to come," (Mark 10:30; Hebrews 6:5) to be inaugurated by our Lord Jesus with power from on high, at his second advent. (Revelation 21:1-5) The Scriptures point out, in harmony with sound reason, that the sufferings of the Church are not coincident with her reign, but precede it. The sufferings of this present time, they assure us, are not worthy to be compared with the glories which will be (in the future) revealed in us. (Romans 8:18.) These sufferings, though they are to be until death, are to be esteemed light afflictions and to be rejoiced in, because of the divine assurance that they are working out for us (preparing us for) a far more exceeding and an eternal weight of glory, as yet unseen. -- 2 Corinthians 4:17
(5) <2> THE COMMON VIEW AMONG PROTESTANTS respecting the mission of the Church resembles the foregoing considerably, except that the pope and his associates are rejected as respects their claims to special divine authority to rule the world. The claim of the Protestants, however, is that their denominational churches should undertake to rule the world, and to place its representatives in power amongst the nations; and that higher and better forms of religious sentiment should be cultivated, the religion of the world growing with its politics and its social conditions, and thus leading the world onward and lifting the degraded masses up to good citizenship in the present age. In other words, this claim, growingly prevalent amongst Protestants, is what may be termed the worldly idea of the Church's mission; that is, to engage in merciful, philanthropic, educational, moral and benevolent works, in the interest of mankind. In other words, this view recognizes the Church as the moral influence which God has placed in the world for the world's uplift and regeneration. In short, it is an attempt to make the present evil age (Galatians 1:4), of which Satan is the god (2 Corinthians 4:4 [Young's]; Revelation 12:9), to be better place to live in.
(6) We hold that this view is wrong, wholly unscriptural; that it is a mistake to suppose that the Church is placed in the world as a reformatory institution. But if we are asked, Should Christians not take a deep interest in all reforms -- in drug reform, for instance, in social purity, in political reform, in good citizenship, in anti-smoking crusades, in socialistic developments, in financial reforms, etc.? we answer, Yes, indeed; no one could be a true Christian and yet be without sympathy as respects all these and every other possible effort for the mental, moral and physical uplift of our race. And yet you say that this is not the mission of the Church? Yes, we answer; although our sympathies are with every good work, we are at the same time to inquire of Jehovah respecting how, where, what, we may do in his service, if we would be co-laborers together with him: "Jehovah, what would you have me do?" Our query should not be addressed to fellow-men, nor should we accept the burdens and duties and obligations which their judgments and consciences would lay upon us. Rather we are to hearken to the voice of Jehovah (as revealed in the Scriptures), and are to follow his directions, regardless of our own and other people's conjectures as to what would be most expedient.
(7) Nowhere in the Scriptures are God's people directed to spend their time in efforts at morally reforming the Satan's world. Our Lord did not engage in this work, neither did the apostles, nor did they offer any suggestion to the effect that the work of the Church should ever differ from the work which they performed and directed us to continue. On the contrary, they declare that we have the apostles for examples of how we ought to walk. (1 Corinthians 11:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 1 Peter 5:3) They declare that our Lord's course was in full, perfect harmony with the divine will and plan, and that the apostles faithfully followed his example: and we are exhorted to simply become co-workers together with God in his work (2 Corinthians 6:1), already instituted, -- not to alter or attempt to improve on them. There were moralists and moral reformers in our Lord's day; some along the line of total abstinence, some along the line of asceticism, inculcating rigid self-denials in food, clothing, etc., as essential to a moral uplift of the people. There were also political reformers, who sought the establishment of republican institutions, in his day; and social reformers, who sought to establish forms of communism. There were also dress reformers at that time, who advocated certain peculiar styles of clothing, beneficial to health, morals and religious sanctity. Do we find that our Lord or his apostles ever associated with any of these works, or that they ever in any word or act gave sanction or encouragement to any of these theories or reforms? No, not once.
(8) It may, indeed, be claimed that a kind of Christian communal arrangement at the beginning went without rebuke, even if it were not commended by the apostles. We answer that the short-lived communal arrangement of the early Church was to some extent the result of the new doctrines promulgated by Christ, the central feature of which was love to God and love to fellow-men, as opposed to the selfish sentiments of fallen man: so that without divine instruction there was a disposition on the part of believers to have "all things in common." (Acts 2:44; 4:32) But if the holy spirit sanctioned and permitted this, in the beginning, it was evidently only as a lesson, as an experience to the Church, to show that union and communion of this kind is not practicable under present conditions, while all are troubled by imperfections of the flesh -- their own and that of other men. At all events we do know that Jehovah did not permit that communism to last long, but, as we are told, permitted instead a great persecution to arise against the Church, which scattered the would-be "communists" everywhere to preach the Gospel.
(9) Nor did the apostles ever recommend such procedure, or attempt such an arrangement amongst the Christians elsewhere. If, then, the teaching and example of our Lord and his apostles are our criterion of the will of Jehovah, the Church's commission is not to morally reform the world. But perhaps someone will say, Times are changed from what they were, and the Church's work should change accordingly. We answer, that the apostle Paul declares in so many words, " I didn't shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God." (Acts 20:27) And Jude tells us that the Christians should "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints." (Jude 1:3) Whatsoever, therefore, is additional to that which was stated by the apostles and which was recorded for us in the Bible is not the counsel of God. And any counsel from any other quarter is not to be received by Christians, and is sure to be misleading. Again, the apostle says to Timothy, respecting the Word of God, "Every writing inspired by God is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction which is in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16,17) Were the writings of Paul considered as part of those inspired writings -- scriptures? Peter believed they were, for he wrote he includes Paul's writings with "other Scriptures." (2 Peter 3:15,16) If, therefore, it was God's design that the Church's mission should change at some future time we should be able to find in the Scriptures some intimation of this kind, and some authority for the change. And if we find no authority for a change in her mission, we should make no change.
(10) But some one inquires, Did not our Lord especially go after the tax collectors and sinners, and especially welcome them; and was not this an indication to us that the Church's work is to be largely amongst the lower, depraved classes of mankind? It is true that Jesus said his ministry was call "sinners to repentance." (Mark 2:17) However, neither the tax collector or harlots were made the subjects of special missionary efforts on the part of our Lord and his apostles; it was when these classes came in contact with his ministry, to his preaching, and manifested interest therein and signs of repentance and reformation, that he received them cordially; he did not refuse to recognize them, as did the Pharisees. The record is not that he carried on slumming missions designed for the tax collectors and harlots, but, he "receives [tax collectors and] sinners," and that many of these lower classes heard him gladly. (Luke 15:2; Mark 12:37) Furthermore, be it noticed, these tax collectors and sinners were members of the Jewish Church -- for that entire nation was accepted of God as his people, and they were all included under the typical sacrifices for sin, on the Day of Atonement; and they were all reckoned as under the Law Covenant -- Covenanters. These lower classes had slipped away from the typical observance of the Jewish law, but our Lord testified that many of them were in far better condition of heart to receive his message than were many of the outwardly pious Pharisees.
(11) <3> THE CORRECT VIEW OF THE CHURCH'S MISSION: The question then arises, If the Church is not to rule the world in this present age, and if she is not to be the world's instructor, uplifter, by moral reforms, what is her mission -- what other mission can she have? And this brings us to the third view, which quite a number hold in a more or less confused way -- their commingled errors beclouding and vitiating the truth.
(12) <(a)> Her chief mission is toward herself. She is to lift up the light in the world, the True Light, the Good News of the Kingdom (Matthew 24:14) -- not with the expectation of enlightening the world, not with the thought that her feeble lamp will scatter earth's night of sin and darkness of superstition; for that can be accomplished only by the coming of the morning, the Millennial morning, when the Sun of Righteousness will arise with healing in his beams (Malachi 4:2), and after Satan has been abyssed so that the heathen will no longer be deceived. (Revelation 20:3) Only then will the present darkness (Isaiah 60:2) be removed. (Isaiah 25:7) The church -- in the present evil age -- holds up the light of the truth, the light of the Kingdom Good News, during this night, to attract some-- "a peculiar people" (Titus 2:14, King James Version) -- not to attract and gather all, but as many as Jehovah our God will call. (Acts 2:39) Her message respecting the love of God and the salvation which is in Christ Jesus, as it rings out into the world, is not expected to awaken the world and to lead the world to Jehovah. No, she is merely bearing "witness" -- a witness which will have to do also with a future knowledge and opportunity to be granted to the world during the Millennium. -- See our publication: The Restoration of All Things
(13) She is instructed by the Word of Jehovah not to expect that any but a comparatively small number will appreciate her light or her message: as the prophet foretold, so she has found it, "Who has believed our report? and to whom is the arm of Jehovah revealed?" (Isaiah 53:1; see also John 12:38) As the scriptures declare, so she finds it, that the vast majority of mankind are blind, so that they cannot see the light: some are stone blind, so as to see nothing: while others are partially blind and can get a little glimmer of it by which they can discern some things indistinctly. In hearing, likewise, the world's ears are dull of hearing -- "deaf," say the scriptures. Some hear nothing, others hear very imperfectly, few hear the message of divine love and mercy clearly and distinctly. The Church is to realize that her mission is not to these, the blind and deaf, but to him "who has an ear [to hear], let him hear." -- Revelation 2:7; 3:6,13,22; see also Matthew 11:15; 13:9,43; Mark 4:9,23; 7:16; Luke 8:8; 14:35.
(14) Our Lord remarked this condition to his followers, when present with them in the world, saying, "Blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear," and he declared that his parables and teachings were not uttered with the intention of making the blind see and the deaf hear, but purposely so that the deaf might not hear, and so that the blind might not see. When the disciples inquired respecting the interpretation of a parable, he said, "To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest in parables; that 'seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.'" (Luke 8:10.) They had indeed the natural sight, and the natural hearing, but they lacked the mental sight and hearing. And the message that our dear Master preached, and that he commissioned his apostles and his Church to preach throughout this age, is the same -- not for the blind, not for the deaf, but for those "blessed," favored ones who have eyes and ears. -- See our study: Understanding Kingdom Mysteries.
(15) As our Lord did not expect many to respond to his preaching, and particularly implied that only a small number would be able to do so, saying, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him" (John 6:44), so his Church throughout this age is to realize that when she lifts up the light and lifts up her voice no man will come in response except as the Father draws him. (John 6:44) And as the Father drew only a comparatively small remnant of the Jewish nation to our Lord, so the Church should not be surprised that he has drawn only a comparatively small proportion of Gentiles throughout this age.
(16) Following our text the apostle points out why this is the case: why the majority of mankind are not in a condition of heart to see and appreciate the light, to hear and to rejoice in the Gospel [Good News], not in the condition to be drawn by the Father. He declares that it is because 'the god of this age [Satan] has blinded their minds' (2 Corinthians 4:3,4), and thus hindered the light of divine truth from shining unto them. He points out that all such are in a lost condition, without God and without hope in the world. (Ephesians 2:12) Not, however, that they are any more lost now than they have been all along for six thousand years; for whoever is not in Christ, whoever is out of relationship to God, is a member of that large class, servants of sin, still under condemnation, still strangers from God, still lost in the wilderness of sin. (Romans 5:18; Ephesians 2:2; 5:6) They have not yet been found by the great Shepherd who promises that in due time all the true sheep will be found; -- that all the Satan and prejudice-blinded eyes will be opened to see the light of divine goodness and truth; and all the deaf ears will be unstopped to hear the message of the grace of God. -- Isaiah 35:5
(17) <(b)> It is another part of the mission of the Church to care for those who do see the light which she holds up, and who are attracted by that light, and who come unto Jehovah through Jesus. She is to teach and instruct such, and to introduce them to the full fellowship of the spirit by making clear to them, in obedience to the Master, "what is the hope of our calling," present and future -- now to suffer with Christ for righteousness' sake, to cultivate his spirit, his disposition, to bear much fruit of the spirit in our own hearts and lives, and thus, under divine supervision, to be fitted, polished and prepared for a place in the glorious Temple of the future, for a share in the glorious work of the incoming age, -- the blessing of the world. -- Philippians 2:1; 1 Corinthians 1:26; Ephesians 1:18; 2 Thessalonians 1:11.
(18) The Church is supplied by her glorious Head, Christ Jesus, with certain gifts in men, amongst her members; and these co-working together in their various roles are to strengthen, establish, upbuild, develop, one another, growing in grace and in the knowledge and spirit of the Head, until the whole Church will eventually be brought to the stature of the fulness of perfection as the Body of Christ, under the Lord Jesus as the Head. (Ephesians 4:13) But she is not to expect that all, even of those who see her light, and who hear her proclamation, and who draw near in harmony with her message, will eventually come into membership in this glorious Body of Christ in this present evil age. On the contrary, she is assured of the Lord in advance that, while only a few, comparatively, will hear her message, the call, a still smaller number will accept the call -- for many are called, proportionately, to the few who are chosen -- who make their calling and election sure by faithfulness to the conditions imposed. -- 2 Peter 1:10.
(19) <(c)> The conditions imposed upon the Church are designed by Jehovah to be crucial tests of her loyalty to him, and to the covenant under which she was received by him. Trials, difficulties, persecutions, are useful in proving whether or not her covenant of consecration is from the heart: those who have merely made a lip covenant will be sifted out, manifested, separated from the true ones whom the Lord designates his jewels, and his sons. It is for this reason that this call and election or selection of the Church takes place during this present age, while evil is still permitted to reign in the world, and while the majority of mankind are under the blinding influences of the great Adversary, not yet bound. -- Revelation 12:9; 20:1-3.
(20) As our Lord explained, the darkness of sin and error is in direct antagonism with the light of truth, and consequently when his people lift up the light, -- let their light so shine as to glorify the Father in heaven who has called them out of darkness into his marvelous light, -- the effect upon the darkened world will be to awaken opposition, antagonism; because the effect of the light is to make manifest the evils of darkness which would not otherwise appear; and thus to disturb and make uncomfortable those in sympathy with darkness. Consequently those who love darkness, those who love evil, those who love sin, in its varied forms, hate the light, neither come to the light; but either publicly or secretly oppose the children of the light, the enlightened ones, the light-bearers. And even those who have gotten out of the extreme darkness of moral pollution into a kind of twilight of civilized reformation and moral reform cannot endure the clear, searching light of the true Gospel; they much prefer a measure of darkness. -- John 3:20.
(21) It is in consequence of this conflict between light and darkness that our Lord suffered at the hands of those who professed to be children of the light, children of God, and who had at least a little light. Our Lord was not maltreated by the Roman governor and the Roman soldiers of their own volition, for they were so totally blind as not to appreciate anything of the light which he displayed. His persecutors were those who had some light but who hated the brilliancy of the great light which shone upon them. Similarly, all the way down through this Gospel age those who have been burning and shining lights in the world have been hated and persecuted, largely, we might say chiefly, almost exclusively, by those who had some light, but whose light was darkness in comparison to the great light of the holy spirit shining in and through Jehovah's fully consecrated ones. Thus was fulfilled our Lord's testimony, "If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you." (John 15:18) "all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution." (2 Timothy 3:12) The Lord's followers in the present time are called upon to suffer persecution for righteousness' sake, not because it is either reasonable or proper, but because Jehovah, wishing to test, prove and polish his people, is willing to permit the evil, opposing influences to prosper, and persecute and oppose his "members," and thus to serve his cause in the preparation of his elect for a future work of service. Thus the persecutors of the "body," like the persecutors of the Head, are cooperating to fulfil the divine plan in a manner they little suspect. -- John 15:18; 1 John 3:13; 2 Timothy 3:12; 1 Thessalonians 2:14,15; 2 Thessalonians 3:4; John 16:2; Acts 14:22.
(22) We might multiply the Scriptural declarations that this is the call of the Church in the present time -- to let the light shine and thus to attract persecution, and to endure the persecution for righteousness' sake, and to be rightly exercised by it in patience, brotherly-kindness, pity and love -- toward the persecutors and toward all men.
(23) As it was the mission of our Lord not to rule the world, nor to judge the world, at his first advent, but to lay down his life for the world, so it is the mission of the Church, the Body of Christ, not to rule the world, nor to judge the world now, but to "lay down our lives for the brothers." (1 John 3:16) Our Lord declares, "I came not to judge the world, but to save the world." (John 12:47.) The Son of Man came to lay down his life for the world. (John 6:51; 10:15.) "My Kingdom is not of this world." (John 18:36) And so the Apostle assures us that we are not to reign now, but on the contrary to suffer with Christ, if we would reign with him by and by: that we are not to judge the world now, but on the contrary to judge nothing before the time; but he assures us that in God's due time the saints will judge the world, and the prophecies show that this will be to the world's blessing. (1 Corinthians 6:2; Genesis 22:18; Isaiah 2:2-4; 25:6-8; 32:1) He assures us that it was his mission " fill up on my part that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh, for his body's sake, which is the assembly." (Colossians 1:24) He tells us, along the same line, that while we are to do good unto all men as we have opportunity, our service is to be specially to the household of faith. Our efforts that will go toward the world of mankind in general are to be only the side-glances, as it were, the overflow of our efforts expended chiefly and directly upon the members of the body of Christ, the consecrated Church, -- expended in building one another up in the most holy faith. -- Romans 8:18; 1 Corinthians 4:5,6; 6:2; Galatians 6:10.
(24) <(d)> Quite a goodly number of Protestant Christians theoretically take more or less of the position which we have herein stated, especially our Presbyterian and Baptist friends. But when we come to consider God's object in thus specially dealing with the Church we find that very few indeed even of these have any comprehension of it. The general thought is that God merely wishes to elect the Church, and that he is thoroughly indifferent as respects the poor world, that for six thousand years has lain in a lost condition under the blinding influence of Satan, and deaf to the Gospel call. Here we must differ, for we find the Scriptures to teach a much more wonderful, much more just, much more benevolent, much more grand plan of God than that.
(25) We find it to teach that this Church, now being selected or elected, is merely a first-fruit unto God of his creatures, and that a great work is to be done for the world of mankind, through this Church, after she will have been glorified and associated with her Lord in the Kingdom. (Romans 8:23; James 1:18) The same Scriptures which tell us that now the world is blind and deaf, and that Satan, "the prince of this world," "the god of this age," has directly and indirectly had much to do with this blindness, tell us also that the time is to come when all the blind eyes will be opened, and all the deaf ears will be unstopped, and when Satan, the great deceiver, will be bound, restrained, permitted no longer to deceive humanity. (2 Corinthians 4:4; Revelation 12:9; 20:1-3; Isaiah 29:18,24; John 14:30; 16:11) These Scriptures assure us that the Church now being selected and proved, and thus made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light, is to be God's channel of blessing to mankind; and that Head and Body, Jesus and his Church, will constitute in the full sense the promised "Seed of Abraham," or Spiritual Israel, through which all mankind will be blessed with a knowledge of God's true character, and with an opportunity for gaining eternal life in the Millennial judgment day which God has appointed. -- Gal. 3:16,29; Genesis 12:3; 22:18. -- See our study: Mankind's Course to the Day of Judgment.
(26) One of the particular trials with many of Jehovah's people is that they are frequently upbraided by less consecrated, worldly-wise professors, with the suggestion that they are selfish, and neglectful of the true work of the Church, because they do not join with others in the various political, social, financial and moral reforms of the world; or in "revival" efforts to drive and scare the worldly, whom God has not "called" by the truth along Scriptural lines. The result of such teaching is that the church houses have become filled with false Christians, called in the KJV as tares, weeds. (Matthew 13:25-40) Furthermore, many of the Master's true servants are proving themselves less that fully faithful. (Luke 12:42-48) If we are obliged to endure something on this score for Christ's sake, it is only a part of "the sufferings of Christ" in which we should rejoice; realizing that Jehovah knows our faithfulness to him and to his Word. We may realize, also, that in due time others will see the divine plan actually fulfilling, as we are now permitted to see it by the eye of faith; and they will then see that the "wise virgins" were wise in that they hearkened to and obeyed the Master's word, and made themselves ready for the future work of service for the world. -- Revelation 19:7; Ephesians 4:12.
(27) We can sympathize with those who see nothing; we can sympathize also with those who see a little, and who strive toward moral and other reforms, and in various ways for the sectarian prosperity rather than for the upbuilding of the saints, the Church of the living God, whose names are written in heaven. We should have patience, particularly with those who give evidence that they are laboring in harmony with their convictions. If they are engaging in good works of any kind they deserve our sympathy, and undoubtedly will obtain a blessing as a result. The true Church is laboring not merely for a blessing for the repair of Satan's world, but for the adoption as sons of God, the seed of Abraham that will bring blessings to all the families of the earth. (Genesis 12:3; 22:16-18: 28:14: Galatians 3:8,16,29) Let all, then, who see the reward, and who see the light of God's glory shining in the face of Jesus Christ our Lord, be faithful to the Father's terms, conditions, calling, service. Let all such give attention to this ministry (service) which we have received, and faint not; be not discouraged, whether men hear or whether they forbear, whether they think ill of us or whether they speak ill of us; let us remember that our report at the end of the trial is to be rendered to Jehovah himself, when he is making up his jewels. (Malachi 3:17) Let us remember that the first condition of acceptance with him is loyal obedience to his Word, the evidence of love for him and faith in him through the Lord Jesus. (2 Corinthians 10:5,6; Deuteronomy 30:6; Matthew 22:37; 1 John 3:23; 5:3) Let us remember, also, that the second qualification he will look for in us is love for the brothers, readiness to be, to do and to suffer, to die on behalf of those who are consecrated children of God, those seeking to walk in his ways. (1 John 3:23; 5:2) However, not only are we love the brothers, but our love has extend beyond this to include even those who hate us. -- Matthew 5:44-47; 22:37; Luke 6:27-35. It is this quality of love that is emphasized throughout the Bible, but especially in the New Testament.
(28) All thus following in the ministry (the service) which we have received of God, find themselves today walking in the footsteps of Jesus and the apostles, and find the various predictions made respecting the entire Church applicable to its living members also, as, for instance, following our text, the Apostle declares of his ministry: --
(29)
2 Corinthians 4:5  For we don't preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants [servants toward the church, not toward the world] for Jesus' sake. 2 Corinthians 4:6  Seeing it is God who said, "Light will shine out of darkness," who shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:7  But we have this treasure in clay vessels, that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves. 2 Corinthians 4:8  We are pressed on every side, yet not crushed; perplexed, yet not to despair; 2 Corinthians 4:9  pursued, yet not forsaken; struck down, yet not destroyed; 2 Corinthians 4:10  always carrying in the body the putting to death of the Lord Jesus [through our afflictions we are always representing the death of Christ], that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 2 Corinthians 4:11  For we who live [as new creatures in Christ Jesus] are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus may be revealed in our mortal flesh. 2 Corinthians 4:12  So then death works in us, but life in you [as a result of our sacrificial labor on your behalf].
Thus we have this example before us all, that by our sacrificial work we may be in constant face of death, so that our brothers may have life in Christ Jesus.
(30) In other words, the truly consecrated Church of Christ, all "whose names are written in heaven," are his representative members upon the earth, throughout this Gospel age. The Head suffered eighteen hundred years ago, the members of the Body have since been suffering with him, and have been learning the same lessons of obedience to the divine will, and trust and confidence in the divine wisdom, and love for the brothers; and by and by seed of Abraham will be completed, and they will be judges in the kingdom of glory, so after the selection of the Church will begin God's great work for the world, for which all his dealings with the Church are but the divine preparation. In the Church Jehovah will give to the world Kings and Princes, to rule in righteousness, -- in love, instead of in selfishness and pride; but the Church will also be Priests, to bless with the knowledge of the truth, and with help out of the mire of sin, back to full harmony with God, all who desire to return to him. It will then be true: "you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God, and they will reign on earth." -- Revelation 5:10, New Revised Standard Version.

Paragraphs are numbered for reference and use in group and individual study.