2 Timothy 2: 22
I am encouraged to refer to this scripture which was in my mind as I came in, because of what the Lord has given us already. I do not go over the earlier part of the chapter, but some of what has been said already bears on the fact that we are formed into relationships with one another and into company with one another; and if we speak of the household of God and what relates to that, we very quickly would be moved in our spirits to the idea of what is collective.
What was in my mind was that Paul refers first in this section to the individual, but immediately moves to what is collective, “with those”. The idea of “with those” and what is collective has in my mind a good deal in the nature of those associated together by a common bond. I do not think you could think of it otherwise. That led me to think about what has already been referred to as the principles of the house of God, but it led me to look at them from a more natural point of view; that is to say, if there is a company formed ostensibly on the same principles, there is a mind that governs that company. You do not need a rule for everything, but what you find in that company is that there is a single mind about things that arise. The burden of what Paul says here gives some of the indications of what that climate of opinion might be because he speaks of “righteousness, faith, love, peace”, as if these are guiding principles of the house of God and of this company. I think it is a common experience that everywhere where people are gathered together ostensibly on the same ground, there is a climate of opinion that governs what is done. An every day expression is that 'we do not do that kind of thing here', showing that if people gather together in a particular way there are principles that govern them even subconsciously. I think that is true of the Christian company, gathered in spite of the divisions that have come about, gathered together. So that they come together and maintain things, perhaps even without always identifying what they are saying and doing. They demonstrate the same governing principles in their lives because they have come together on the same principles.
What was especially in my mind is that it is the responsibility of each one to maintain these principles. If ground has been taken up, it is up to everyone who takes up that ground to act on the governing principles of that company. I venture to underline that every one of us has the responsibility of maintaining what is suitable to the company in which we are. Matters arise among us when you could wonder if the general climate of what is right, and believed in the company to be right, is what governs everybody. What I draw attention to in this is that every one of us has the obligation to follow “righteousness, faith, love, peace”.
We speak about these things and perhaps have standard impressions about them, but maintaining the climate of common lines of thought and what commonly governs each one is something that is an exercise for us all and we do not always find it easy. In fact, it sometimes seems that it would be easier to look at these things the other way round. Matters arise and the first instincts of many would be let us have peace. It is easy to say, ‘do not let us be bothered by this, do not go raising that because it only creates disturbance in the company’. Love - ‘you could extend love in this case and we will let it go by’. Faith - ‘we are all believers - are we not? - and it may be that we do not all do quite the same thing’. But, beloved the first thing is righteousness, and on such an approach it comes last. The Spirit intends us to be governed by these things in the order in which they are, and righteousness comes first and the obligation on each one of us is to maintain it. Mr Raven says it is ‘fidelity in every divinely appointed relationship’, vol 3 p210, and everything that relates to this company formed by walking with those who have pure hearts, everything in that, is obligatory upon us as a matter of righteousness. We cannot just waive this or that because it suits us to do so. If we are governed by what should govern the company we will find that our consciences are pricked if we tend to go astray from them, so that what belongs to the company rightly and maintains it in integrity is kept alive among us. The Lord would help us in this and as we think of issues that arise - and it is very sorrowful how some issues arise again and again among us when you would think that the purity of the company would keep believers out of the mischief that arises by transgression.
I was impressed that what governs the company is not the letter of the law, but what each one finds to be the characteristics that should mark a company formed by walking “with those that call upon the Lord out of a pure heart”. I was thinking about these things because there are exercises among us that test us as to whether in any degree we tend to stray from what is suitable to the company in which we have taken part. I have been encouraged by what has been said this evening as to knowing the principles that govern the house of God and not holding them as the letter of the law, but holding them instinctively and each member of the company supporting the remainder of the company and encouraging them in it so that things are maintained in suitability to the presence of the Lord. Even little children can be brought up as soon as they can understand anything, with expressions such as, 'that is not suitable to those who call on the Name of the Lord Jesus'. These things work in principle and begin to work instinctively so that you know what is suitable to the company and the Lord would use issues that arise among us to lead us each one to check whether our conduct individually is that which is suitable to the whole company. We know only too well that if someone wanders a bit it is not too difficult for others to say, 'so and so' does that, but ‘so and so’ may be wrong in doing it. The Lord would have us marked, even unconsciously, by what is suitable to the company of one naming the Name of the Lord, and those who call on Him out of a pure heart. The Lord would help us in individual responsibility to maintain these things. I may even have to feel that, if somebody else has strayed in some way, it may be partly because I have not maintained things myself.
8th April 2008