(Directions Concerning Communion of Saints and Church Relation 2)
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)
Question.—What is the third direction to be studied?
Answer.—The third direction is that Christians ought to be diligent in improving religious connections, Eccl. 9:10. Which implies two things: 1.) That the duties of religious communion should be made our great business, Jer. 29:13. We should be always ready and watchful to embrace every opportunity to attend on the communion of the church, and should lay aside every encumbrance that might hinder us in that attendance, Luke 14:26, 27. 2.) That whatever we do in this business, should be done heartily to the Lord, and not unto men, as with the fear of God and an eye to His glory, Col. 3:23. This embraces two heads:
1.) Christians must embrace every opportunity of receiving improvement from Christian and church connections, 1 Thess. 5:11, 14. God has placed every member in the body according to his wisdom and pleasure, 1 Cor. 12:18. Some members are more useful than others, but each is useful in his place, 1 Cor. 12:24, 25. Every Christian should study to know his place in the church, and should use every means of enjoying proper supplies from fellow members, in order to furnish him thoroughly for the services of his station, Acts 4:32. Failure to attend to this is a failure to exercise due bounds of charity by depriving others of their reasonable support, Rom. 14:19.
2.) Christians must cheerfully embrace every opportunity, and comply with every call to communicate social improvement, in a church-relation, 2 Cor. 8:4. They should not bury the Lord’s talents in the earth, far less should they be employed to the dishonor or prejudice of his people, 1 Cor. 12:4-13. Care should be taken to dedicate gifts, Rom. 12:3-8; graces, Rom. 12:10, 11; time, Eccl. 3:1; Gal. 6:10; and, substance, Eph. 4:28; to the honor of the church and the good of the brethren.
Question.—What is the fourth direction to be studied?
Answer.—The fourth direction is that Christians ought to be fearful of breaking their religious connections, Heb. 3:12, 13. These connections are not occasional or temporary, Heb. 10:24, 25; 12:12-16.
1.) Care should be taken not to resign your own judgment, in order to imitate those reckoned great, good, learned or wise men, but only follow them as far as they follow Christ, 1 Cor. 11:1. All human authority and example are apt to mislead and, therefore, they must be brought before the bar of divine revelation, Isa. 8:20.
2.) These connections should not be broken on account of every, or even any, personal offenses, Matt. 5:23, 24. Christ has appointed an order to resolve personal conflicts which ought to be followed with care, Matt. 18:15-18.
3.) There should be a careful endeavoring to give an early stop to those things likely to make a breach upon unity or order, Prov. 17:14. When passions arise, it is best to suppress them immediately, because none can tell how far these shall carry, Jas. 3:5. Conversely, we must heed the apostle’s word of exhortation, 1 Pet. 4:8.
The reasons against separation are: 1.) For your own sakes, and for the good of your immortal souls, which is promoted by keeping up communion, Matt. 18:20. 2.) For the sake of the church, whose beauty is marred by unnecessary division, Song 1:6. 3.) For the sake of the ministry, which sacrifice their worldly concerns on behalf of the truth, Gal. 4:13-17. 4.) For the sake of the brethren, who have a reasonable claim upon your affection and labor of love, that their hearts may be encouraged, and their hands strengthened, Jude 17-23. 5.) For the sake of Christ, who, in his solemn intercession, earnestly prays for this unity, John 17:11, 21-23.