Chapter 11.....The Task of the Church

"Blessed is that servant, whom his lord, when he cometh shall find so doing." Matthew ch. 24: 45.

THE foregoing chapters it may fairly be claimed, give good ground for the belief that the Scriptures teach the purpose of God not in one but in two advents. Each advent is essential to the understanding of the other, and were either rejected, truth would not be seen in its right proportions. One principle governs both advents. The advent of humiliation culminating in Calvary was entirely the work of the Eternal Father through His Blessed Son. The finished work of man's salvation was accomplished without the slightest help of man. The kingdom of heaven is now open to all believers. The consummation of the kingdom in the coming in glory will no less be the work of God alone. No human frailty will be enlisted in its creation and consummation, it will be entirely the work of God. That it is coming, we may be sure, coming with us or without us, but certainly coming. There is no power in heaven or earth that can prevent the fast approaching moment when the Lord Jesus will rend the heavens and come as King to the earth.

In the light of all this what is the present task of the Church? Nothing is more instructive than the present confusion as to the immediate duty. Ministers are charging the Church with the task of securing international peace and a new spirit in industry, but exactly what is meant by the Church and the specific methods by which these ends are to be accomplished we are not told. So many tasks are being thrust upon the Church that it suffers from constant agitation as to what to do and where to begin. When one contrasts that distraction of mind with the concentration of purpose which characterised our Lord, one is immediately convinced that something is radically wrong with the outlook of organised Christianity in the twentieth century.

No such distraction and confusion exist in the minds of those who are waiting for the glorious appearing of the Lord. Their faith and hope shape practical issues in the life, and indicate clearly immediate personal work for, " every one that hath this hope in him." The Church of God is a magnificent army, but it has spent too much time polishing its buttons, instead of entering into the conflict. At its peril will it neglect its proper task in the world. "Blessed is that servant whom his lord, when he cometh shall find so doing."

The first duty of every individual Christian is to testify to the coming of the King. In daily conversation in office, shop and home the testimony must be borne. Let it be urged as a truth of Scripture. It will come as a great revelation to the unbeliever who knows nothing of what the Scriptures teach concerning the purposes of God in Christ. If the Bible seems out of date to the masses, it is because the pulpit has neglected to utter its prophetic note. It is now the duty of the individual believer to spread the news of the coming of the King as a sure and certain truth woven into the very fabric of Holy Writ.

What makes us ashamed of the simple testimony of the Bible? When one probes deeply into one's own heart one knows that the shame arises from the antagonism of the world spirit, and most of us like to be regarded as up to date. That fact should make us ponder. The Word of God is not obsolete. If it has no message for the great times in which we live, if it finished its application to world movements at the end of the first century, then it is history and not revelation and we need a modern oracle.

That is surely the most illogical of positions that applauds the Bible as a Divine revelation but denies its prophetic note to our times. If to Moses, David and the prophets it was given to see into the future to Bethlehem and Calvary, by what process of reasoning can we argue they did not see beyond? They did: and it is the duty of the believer to show how the Word of God has anticipated our times and addressed itself to our modern needs.

The testimony must also be borne as the only answer to the world's needs. Serious men on every hand are troubled. Blind optimists hope that we have seen the last of war, but so recently m March 11th. 1927, " The Times," speaking of the nations of Europe, declared "These peoples are equipped with means of destruction already so deadly and yearly becoming deadlier, that they threaten armies, cities, whole populations, and the very countryside with annihilation." In the light of such a fact it is the conversation of the nursery to suggest we have seen the last of war. The unrest of the times is patent, and its deadly significance is not obliterated nor is its character changed by calling it the birth throes of a new era. Everywhere the question springs to the lips of men: " Where is God? " The answer is plain. He is nearer than we think, but while man plunges into the vortex of his own sin and human nature remains what it is and Satan is free, this world can never know peace.

It will know peace when the Prince of Peace comes to reign. He Who has laid the foundations of peace not merely by sacrifice but by HIS blood, will erect the superstructure by His own hand at His appearing. The pessimism of the people must be met by the abiding optimism of the believer. Every device of man is failing, his Babel towers are left unfinished, his gorgeous temples are raised to the ground. The schemes of politicians end with the grave, and they touch but the fringe of the awful problems that afflict the world. Sin, with its bestiality and lust, can never be uprooted by Act of Parliament. Politics to heal the world's wounds are as effective as a corn plaster for a cancer. The hopes some people indulge in these methods and instruments are pathetic. Sin has been dealt with effectively by One Person at one place. Every believer whose faith has been placed in the spirit of a child, in the atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ knows how effective it was for himself. That is the only way whereby sin can be overcome. The Kingdom of God will never come through the social reformers and the politicians: it will come when the King comes. That is the message of the believer as he moves amongst his fellows day by day.

Every believer must be personally ready for His appearing. We know not the hour of His coming but we are called to live in the attitude of expectancy. We must live hopefully cultivating confidence in His coming. The fact of His appearing must no less be related to the sorrows, trials, bereavements and pain of life. What these things mean only those who move amongst the burdened and broken hearted can really know, but it is a great consolation to know that at any moment He may come, and that most certainly there will be one generation of God's redeemed children who will not see death. The grave is not inevitable.

Personal holiness is at once the preparation for his coming and the result of hope in His coming. We are called to keep ourselves unspotted from the world, and we are assured that "everyone that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure." Watching for Him there will be nothing in the life that He might condemn. Our Lord specifically commanded the disciples "Pray always that ye may be accounted worthy to escape those things which shall come upon the world." That is as much a prayer for the Christians today as the Lord's Prayer. It should he as frequently on our lips. It will aid in keeping us separated from the money lust of the time, from the frantic rush for pleasure. When the world sees the believer independent of those things, which it values most, it will begin to wonder. The world spirit is under condemnation, and judgment is to be executed. The believer who is waiting for Him must be utterly separated from it. There must be nothing polluting the life, no contacts permitted which grieve the Spirit.

Every believer must plead with the unbeliever. The task of the Church is to evangelise. To make disciples of all nations was the final injunction left with the little band who witnessed the ascension of our Lord. It was to be an individual process, for baptism of the individual was to follow it. Strange indeed that those who believe in the baptism of the believer also look for the kingdom of God through processes in society! The world with its sin is doomed. The best efforts of man are bound to fail. What he can devise he can destroy. Repentance and faith are still the clarion calls of the Christian Church if it is to be true to its task.

There are many noble ambitions in the hearts of men to day. The writer counts amongst his friends those who are eager for social reform, for industrial and international peace, and these aims are good. But life is short: our desire must be to use it not for good purposes, but for the very best purpose. Not without reason does our Lord say " Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the Gospel." Let those who are dead in sin carry on with the dead works of a civilisation which has no mainspring in redemption, but as for those who have received the grace of God in Christ the duty is plain, preach the life that has been received. If life, eternal life, has come to us through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, if we know ourselves redeemed in His blood, if His Cross has been our peace, then we have our message. If it has been the way for us, why alter the message in contradiction to our experience?

The appalling fact is that within the organised communities of the Church today there are many who have had no experience of personal redemption through repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, but where that experience has been known it supplies the key to Christian service. If light has come let us give the light. If we know that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses the sinner and that men and women become new creations in Him, then to evangelise and to secure new creatures in Christ is a better work than to socialise and make new circumstances for the same sinful natures. When the Christian leads another to the feet of the Saviour he does a greater work for time and eternity than any act of Parliament.

The writer is conscious, painfully conscious, of the defects of these pages, but he feels their truth and thanks God for the unifying purpose, however feeble, that is in the heart. There is something deeply satisfying to lead a soul to the Lord Jesus Christ. Without that satisfaction the Christian ministry would be a heartbreaking task. But to be thrilled with the truth in one's own heart, and to see it leaping up by the Holy Spirit in the hearts of others, is to be privileged to see part of that mystery of God. Whereby there is a calling out in this dispensation of the Church of His redeemed, and to be re-quickened and inspired with a humble, joyful confidence in the coming King for the establishment of His Kingdom. We pray that it will be very soon. "He that winneth souls is wise." May it be our wisdom to plead with the unbeliever while the message of the Gospel still obtains.



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