But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, [even] Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love (Ephesians 4:15-16).
The Apostle Paul calls us to intensely love the truth. However, love for the truth without love for our neighbor is a love that is feeble and weak, if it is love at all.
Just as God has united himself with men (the Infinite with the finite, the objective with the subjective), he has united Justification with Sanctification. He has united the truth and our actions, and any separation of these two things is unbiblical. If we love the truth, and we love each other, we grow up into Christ.
To grow in our love for the truth we need to be exposed to it. This is a process: the pastoral ministry, and primarily the preaching of the Word, is used by the Holy Spirit in the body of Christ in such a way that it nourishes all the limbs of it according to the measure and proportion of each one. In the preaching and teaching of the Word each member gets what he needs. When the Spirit of God speaks in the ministry of the Word the whole body is made alive.
By the pastoral and teaching ministries the church is quickened: it gets life from the Holy Spirit who has bound himself to the Word of God.
From this it follows that just as this body cannot live without Christ neither may any one grow up spiritually who separates himself from the other members of Christ’s Body, which is his Church.
Love for Christ begets in our hearts a love for His people. If we are joined to Christ, we must be joined to his body.
“Well,” you might say, “I am waiting for this body to be more loving, more lowly and meek and forbearing, before I can join myself to it.” It is an error to wait.
On the other side of the aisle, some perhaps are members on paper, but not in their hearts.
Stop waiting, and show your love for Christ by loving each other. Be joined to one another, not just in word, but also in deed, for love is like the sinews that hold our own bodies together: Without sinews, our limbs would come apart. Without love in the church, we shall be split apart. With it, we cannot be separated!
The root of the problem is not epistemological. Neither is it political, social, or economic. It isn’t even intellectual. Deficiencies in these things are symptomatic. The root of the problem is spiritual, and it goes back further than Neo-liberalism, Neo-modernism, Liberalism, Modernism, Evolutionism, the Renaissance, or the Enlightenment. The problem started with a man, but it wasn’t with Freud, Darwin, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Karl Marx, John Dewey, Thomas Aquinas, or Epicurus.
“All attempts to solve the various problems and end the seemingly interminable crises of the twenty-first century will not be successful” unless it is recognized that the problem of sin which began with Adam and Eve is always the ultimate problem, and that unless this problem is solved, no other problem can be.
When our first parents disobeyed God in Eden, the basic issue at stake was phrased in the form of a question: Hath God said… (Genesis 3:1).
The problem with sin is that it denies God is God. Sin denies what he is by denying that he has spoken a sure word that is disobeyed at one’s peril. Doubting God’s Word led to the fall of our first parents into sin, and this doubt of the Word of God is at the root of what ails the church today. To be clear: the sin of the church is its failure to adhere to the teachings of God’s Word. She doesn’t believe what God has said, or, she doesn’t know what God has said to begin with.
The remedy for sin is Christ, and, following this, to teach what God is in Christ, what the Church is as Christ’s Bride, and to do all this primarily from God’s Word, the Bible. Although great men of faith—men such as Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Bunyan, and others—have given us their thoughts on what God is, who Christ is, what the Church is, and what the Church ought to be, we believe that the Bible is the only infallible guide of faith and practice, and that in it is contained the doctrine of Christ, which is all we need to know for life and godliness. The works of men may echo Scripture, but they cannot attain to the same great height.
And so to Christ and to the Bible we would encourage the church to return. We would plead with her to return to her first love. God has revealed in Christ, the living Word, the embodiment of what he has revealed in the written Word. By looking at Christ, and at his Word, we can know the Gospel, the only Truth that can solve the problem of sin and set men free. Only by knowing Jesus by faith can we rightly know what God is, who Jesus is, and what the church is and ought to be.
Without doubt the church on Earth (the church militant) has declined. She suffers from the enemies of blind Devotion, Traditional Faith, and Ecclesiastical Tyranny, by which her children are in many places kept in bondage. This trilogy of evil, this Hydra of Hell, has led some to make shipwreck of Faith and a good Conscience, and led in other cases to the overthrow of the faith of some; but, we have hope that it is only of some, not all, nor the most: This causes us to give thanks to the Lord and King of the Church, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Cornerstone upon whom the Church is built, through whose mercy we desire to build up the weak-kneed and faint-hearted who with us are in expectation of our glorious hope.
When Jesus comes to take his Bride to himself, she shall fully and finally be pure and spotless, and free from all ills. For this reason, and following the example of the Lord Jesus and the apostle John, we shall not speak sharply to His Bride, or condemn her as wretched and miserable. We shall not lay anything to the charge of God’s elect. But we shall not shirk our duty in exposing to the Bride her enemies, some of whom are within her pale.
Though God is to be avenged for evil done to the apple of his eye, we do not ask to be the avengers. Taking the form of servants, we shall endeavor to build up God’s people wherever, however, and whenever we are able. If the power of God is to appear in his people, we must uphold the divinely ordained union between the people’s faith and the Bible, this mutual relation being the ground of all spiritual growth under the guidance and blessing of the Holy Spirit. If we fail in this, we believe we must be condemned for unfaithfulness, and have to confess that we ourselves are not of Christ’s body.
Our only aim is to serve our Savior, and those who are able and willing to be taught. We do not seek our own fame and estimation, nor are we afraid of the judgment of men, although we would be glad to receive their instruction from God’s Word (2 Timothy3:16-17).
Understanding that the church militant has largely disavowed that God’s Word is to be her only rule of faith and practice, and that this failure belongs to the church membership as a whole, we shall endeavor that the members of the church, which have been shaken and are out of place, be restored into their place, and that good order be restored. This is our hope of reformation (2 Corinthians 13:9), which is not a return to the past, but a present and future hope in God, for his glory and for his people.
The only mark that we shoot at is to teach God’s children so that they may serve their Savior in spirit and in truth (John4:23, 24). This requires faith and obedience: sound doctrine and practice. Our argument is not for right doctrine alone, but for right practice as well. If God is pleased to bless his Bride in this way the Church will once again become a city set upon a hill, and a light to the nations.
This also we wish, even your reformation (2 Corinthians 13:9)
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