Assembly Characteristics - 02 Lordship of Christ

Chapter 2

Lordship of Christ

1 Corinthians 1:9

Order being maintained in the midst of a disordered world! But what kind of order should an assembly uphold? How is it to be directed? Who is going to control its activities? Is it an order that is imposed by men and by their rules? Or is this order an expression of submission to the authority of an Unseen Head, who is in the midst of that company of His people. This brings us to the important subject of “lordship” in the local assembly. There are definite marks that should characterize a local assembly in the First Corinthian epistle. We noticed its character as the church of God; now we want to see the assembly as the place where the practical expression of the Lordship of Christ is displayed (1 Corinthians 1:9). One can see the emphasis on Lordship in this epistle, in that the full title “Lord Jesus Christ” is found numerous times. There are also many expressions showing that the local assembly is to be subject to His authority and carry out His will. The expression “in the Lord” figures prominently in the epistle (1 Corinthians 1:31; 1 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Corinthians 7:22, 39; 1 Corinthians 9;1, 2; 1 Corinthians 11:11; 1 Corinthians 15:58; 1 Corinthians 16:19), indicating the sphere of the service of believers in a local assembly and their position relative to the exalted One who had called them. We notice also that they were called on to act in the value of the Name of the Lord Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:2, 10; 1 Corinthians 5:4; 1 Corinthians 6:11), which signifies that their recognition of His authority and submission to His Person was to control their thoughts and ways.

Paul teaches these saints that they had been “called unto the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord,” (1 Corinthians 1:9). Primarily this expression teaches that they formed a part of a fellowship in its widest aspect that was linked with Jesus Christ as Lord. They were part of the entire church that confessed Him and His authority (Matthew 16:16-17). However, it could also suggest that he is teaching them that the practical expression of that submissive fellowship is found in the local assembly that they formed in Corinth. It is in the context of their divisions that were violating the place of the Lord Jesus as the center of their gathering. They were unfaithful in their practices, but despite this, “God is faithful” and His purposes for His people are unchanging. Genuine recognition of His sovereignty would have preserved them from allowing the divisions that existed among them.

For what reason does Paul emphasize this? Is it not that the saints in Corinth were failing to recognize their responsibility to uphold principles and carry out practices that were according to the revealed will of the Lord? Their carnality, divisions and wrong practices denied the authority of the Lord in the local assembly. Conditions like these existing in any assembly show that the opinions of men and the activities of the flesh are controlling the assembly rather than spiritual exercise to discern the will of the Lord. Paul was a called apostle according to the will of God (1 Corinthians 1:1), writing to the church of God comprised of called saints who invoked in worship the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Their calling was “in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:22) and the response of their hearts was to be such that the Lord Jesus would receive the praise and worship He should. They were Paul's work “in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 9:1) and the seal of his apostleship “in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 9:2). They were to marry “in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:39) and their labor was not in vain “in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). All these expressions show that God intended for them to recognize His authority in every sphere of their lives. We always receive our knowledge of His will through His enduring and authoritative Word. When they carried out discipline in the assembly, they were acting in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 5:4). Thus, they were responsible to make sure they were carrying out the mind of the Lord. This surely follows on from Matthew 18:18, which indicates that discipline in the assembly is to be in accord with the mind of heaven. Discipline conducted in such a manner would carry the Lord's authority with it and have its desired effect on the assembly and the individual. A reflection on what this means would preserve us all from hasty judgments and would cause a deeply spiritual exercise to seek to know the mind of the Lord in what we do. It would also give elders confidence to seek fearlessly to maintain conditions that honor the name of the Lord in the midst. The practical effect of the Lordship of Christ would have preserved them from the wrong practices introduced in connection with the Lord's Supper. When Paul teaches the principles that are to govern this sacred observance, he repeatedly emphasizes that what he received and taught was from the Lord (1 Corinthians 11:23); it was the Lord's supper (1 Corinthians 11:20); they remembered the Lord's death (1 Corinthians 11:26), and all concerning it was of the Lord. In fact, in point of time, this is likely the first recorded act and words of the Lord Jesus in the epistles. Would this not instill a deep reverence in their hearts for the solemnity and importance of an occasion which was divinely instituted by the Lord and thus they would be preserved from bringing into it elements of fleshly desires which would only mar this remembrance? Would not the awareness of this principle also keep us from approaching this important event with carelessness, unjudged sin or lack of reverence that can mar the Lord's Supper? His presence and authority should always be recognized and conditions maintained which would be in keeping with His character. Recognition of His Lordship in the assembly would have preserved them in their personal lives and practices, whether it were in their attitudes toward other believers (1 Corinthians 4:3-5; 1 Corinthians 6:1, 8-11; 1 Corinthians 8:10-11) or divisions (1 Corinthians 1:10-17), what they would introduce into the assembly (1 Corinthians 3:9,13-16) or even into their married lives (1 Corinthians 7:1, 22). It would have kept them from participating at the idol's temple and its feasts (1 Corinthians 8:12; 1 Corinthians 10:14-32) and would have caused willing obedience to the Lord in every way in which their lives would affect the testimony of the Lord. To see this truth would have controlled the exercise of gift in the assembly as they would seek to use such abilities in keeping with His sovereign will to build up the assembly and for His glory (1 Corinthians 12:3-5, 11). If the Lordship of Christ would affect such a wide range of their activities then, what would it do in our lives today? It seems that all too often we forget the truth stated in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “Ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price...” and begin to act as if we were our own and fail to carry out His will individually or collectively.

If men in the history of the church would have recognized the sovereign rights of the Lord in the assembly, would not that have preserved them from introducing practices and patterns that are not supported by the Word of God? Lest we should think that we are above such things, we should carefully examine ourselves. We must seek to make sure there is no tendency in any one of us, particularly those with responsibility in elderhood, to introduce practices that cannot be supported in principle or pattern from the Word of God. Today, many take the path of expediency, or they would even follow the pattern of the religious world around. Such a path will only result in the introduction of elements that are contrary to the Word of God and, in so doing, will deny the Lordship of Christ in the assemblies of His people. May the Lord preserve us from this and enable us with spiritually enlightened minds to continue in the truths we have received of the Lord!