Church Membership, and Gifts.

1870 187 In reading the Epistle to the Ephesians it is of the greatest consequence, doubtless, to notice the various subjects of which the Holy Ghost is treating, seeing it is God Himself, and "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory," whom it reveals, as come forth in the fulness of all blessing to the Son of His own love, and to those who are His.

It is however only one of these subjects which I desire to follow in this paper, and in the simplest way; so that I shall almost confine myself to the manner in which it is unfolded in each successive chapter by the apostle Paul. Let us then consider what this scripture teaches respecting the Church — the Church's Head and its members — the source of gifts for its edification and growth — and the Lord's care over it till He comes "to present it to himself a glorious Church, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing."

Ephesians i. 19–23 treats of the Head and the body, and speak only of Christ, as raised up into His place of Headship, by "the working of the mighty power of God, which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places." It is of great moment, in these last days of establishing or disestablishing the national churches (so-called) of Christendom, to see that this Head of the Church which is His body can never be touched or tarnished by the wisdom or wickedness of men. Moreover, this scripture tells us that God "hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the Church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all." The Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, of whom alone these wondrous actings of God are true, is therefore the Head of the Church, which is His body, and there can be consequently no joint or second head. The acknowledgment of this fact will be found to clear the minds of the simple of all difficulty and doubt as to the true and only Head of the assembly (or Church) of the living God.

Ephesians 2 as plainly teaches how the body and its members are formed. "God who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace are ye saved) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." The members of this Christ, as Head, and therefore the members of the Church which is His body, are quickened persons, who were once "dead in trespasses and sins, and were by nature the children of wrath even as others;" but they have been born again, born of the Spirit, born of God, have life in the Second man, and are raised and seated in Him as the Head in the heavenlies. When the Lord comes, the members will be manifestly with Christ the Head, and be glorified together with Him. The mighty power, which wrought in Christ and raised Him from the dead, has been also put forth "to usward who believe," and has quickened us out of the death in trespasses and sins where we once lay, and will be displayed a second time in raising or changing us into the image and likeness of the heavenly man presently.

These persons are members of Christ, the mystic man, members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. None else are members, nor is there any other membership; and to own or sustain any other is therefore to be false to the truth. There are not two memberships, nor two bodies, any more than two heads. What a deliverance would the Lord's people get if they were simple enough to give up every membership but this one which God alone can give, for it is He who has quickened us together with Christ as our Head, one as much as another!

Ephesians 4 declares to us that the source of all gifts to the Church is in the Lord Himself as Head of the body, and flows from His love, which passeth knowledge. As regards the members of Christ "unto every one of us is given grace, according to the measure of the gift of Christ," and as regards the gifts to the body, "he gave some apostles, some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." The Lord is thus the only source of gift, in the heavenlies, though the Holy Ghost on earth, and especially in the Church, acts according to the Head, in carrying out these purposes, and in agreement with His own love. Besides this, it is "by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit."

A fact of great moment may come in here, though the record of it is found at the close of Ephesians 2 which is, that the Church on earth is "the habitation of God through the Spirit," nor is there any other. Thus we learn from the scriptures, that the source of life and power and gift to the members of Christ is in the Lord, and that no one can make a pastor or a teacher, any more than an apostle; and that the members of the body in every locality are responsible for disowning any and all pretensions or assumptions from whatever quarter they may come. Nor is it enough to disown the false thing; but our privilege is to be maintained by owning the right, this one body, and one Spirit, as well as the sufficiency of the Lord's loving care to give all gifts that are needed, in order that the Church which is His body, may not fail in one particular on which He has expressed His mind and purpose. If the Lord's people saw how they were thwarting the action of the Holy Ghost in the Church by human arrangements and systems, and by parochial divisions of the sheep and the shepherds, through authoritative appointments of clergy, or the commoner forms of congregational elections, and ordinations; they would waken up to the discovery of the sad and general departure of the saints in the present day from every true idea of what the Church of God really is.

Ephesians 5 declares the unchanging love of the Lord to the Church, for which He gave Himself "that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word; that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." This is what the Church is to the Lord, and He is the Saviour of the body. He is coming to fetch His Bride away — His Eve — in the day when "the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready." Were the Lord's people looking for such a presentation, and such a marriage, or such a Bride, or the coming forth of the Lamb who is to "present her to himself a glorious church," how many a stirring thought would spring up in the mind, and how many searchings of heart would there be among them, as to whether each could not, by association with such a scene, get more into correspondence with the Lord's wishes respecting His Bride! He says, "behold I come quickly, and my reward is with me." "I am the root and the off-spring of David, and the bright and morning star." Would not a consciousness of His own deep love lead us on our part to reply, "the Spirit and the Bride say, Come?" And if He yet adds "he which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly," may it only find this answer from the longing affections of our souls "even so, come Lord Jesus!" "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen." J. E. Batten.