It seems ‘partnership’ is the buzzword nowadays. We see partnership every where. Business men search for partners to enhance their business. Government seeks public-private partnership to build various projects easily and efficiently. Similarly more and more Christian ministries are also looking for partners to work better. All of them have come to realize that jointly they can achieve more than what they could accomplish single-handedly.
Definitely it is applicable in our Christian life and ministry. None of us can do everything alone, nor does the Lord intend it. We need the help of one another. Our Christian ministry and testimony will be more effective by joining our hands together with others. By pooling together our expertise and other resources, our work will move faster and better.
There are certain people, by nature they prefer to stand alone. That is part of their natural temperament. Experts say that even that distinct personality has its own benefits. Yet the word of God very clearly states that the Lord saves us individually and places us in the Church, where we are no more alone. We have become part and parcel of a company of God’s people, like a brick in a building, connected to each other vitally. The effectiveness of our life and testimony will be in proportion to our ability to make use of this relationship.
The common word used in the New Testament to depict this idea is ‘fellowship’. That is sharing something in common. By virtue of our regeneration we have been united together with the Lord Jesus Christ and we share not only the divine nature but the Father and the Holy Spirit. Cf. 2Peter. 1:4; 1Corintians 1:9; 1John 1:3; 2Corinthians 13:14. It is this sharing together that makes the foundation for fellowship one with another. Because we all share the Lord Jesus Christ and His goodness, we are partners together in Him. We are workers together with God. 2Corinthians 6:1.
It is the longing and prayer of the Lord Jesus Christ that believers maintain this wonderful union and continue for His glory. John.17:21, 22. God showers His choicest blessings there. Psalm 133:1. Apostle Paul valued such partnership so much. Even the remembrance of the fellowship of the saints refreshes him. He thanks the Philippians for their partnership in his gospel efforts. Philippians 1:5; 4:15, 16. The early church expressed their fellowship one with another through their prayers, exhortation, giving, hospitality and even willingness to suffer for the fellow brethren. Cf. 2Cori. 1:11; Colo. 3:6; Heb.10:25; 1Thess.4:18; Reve.1:9 etc.
Do we value fellowship with the brethren? Do we take conscious steps to maintain this partnership and enhance the fruitfulness of our life and service for the Lord?
Now, there is another aspect that we ought to consider. Our partnership is not just for the sake of coming together, but based on our individual relationship with the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. 1John.1:3; 1Cori.1:9. The condition of our relation with the Lord affects our relation with one another. That means we can not partner with an unbeliever in connection with a Christian ministry, for the simple reason that He doesn’t know the Lord or His way. In the same manner, we can not associate with those who walk in darkness, live against the word of God. 1John.1:7.
There are some who suppose that we can partner with any body for the sake of the gospel! That is absolutely against the scripture. The word of God, unequivocally commands the Lord’s people to be away from those who follow a false teaching. 2Corinthains 6:14—17. 2Thessalonians 3:6, 14. 1Timothy. 5:22; 2John vs. 10, 11. In other words, not only an experience of salvation but also we need to consider the doctrinal as well as moral purity of that individual before we can associate with them.
Partnership, of course it’s a wonderful experience, the opportunity to be effective for the Lord. At the same time let it be honouring to God and His word. Let the words of Psalmist be our motto: “I am a companion of all who fear You, And of those who keep who keep Your precepts.” Psalm 119:63. And let us express our fellowship through practical ways, so that it will encourage one another and enhance the work of the Lord. Cf. Philemon vs. 6 & 7.
Chain of Fellowship
Fellow Heirs—of one inheritance. Ephesians 3:6
Fellow Members—of one body. Ephesians 3:6
Fellow Partakers—of one calling Ephesians 3:6
Fellow Citizens—of one Home. Ephesians 2:19
Fellow Labourers—of one master. Philippians 4:3
Fellow Soldiers—in one warfare. Philippians 2:25
Fellow Prisoners—with one Hope. Romans 16:7
The Black Door: - Preference of the Known
Several generations ago, during one of the most turbulent of the desert wars in the Middle East, a spy was captured and sentenced to death by a general of the Persian army. The general, a man of intelligence and compassion had adopted a strange and unusual custom in such cases. He permitted the condemned person to make a choice. The prisoners could either face the firing squad or pass through the Black Door.
As the moment of the execution drew near, the general ordered the spy to be brought before him for a short, final interview, the primary purpose of which was to receive the answer of the doomed man to the query: “What shall it be—the firing squad or the Black Door?” This was not an easy decision and the prisoner hesitated, but soon made it known that he much preferred the firing squad to the unknown horrors that might await him behind the ominous and mysterious door.
Not long thereafter, a volley of shots in the courtyard announced that the grim sentence had been fulfilled. The general, starring at his boots, turned to his aide and said, “You see how it is with men; they will always prefer the known way to the unknown. It is characteristic of people to be afraid of the undefined. Yet I gave him his choice.”
“What lies behind the Black Door?” asked the aide. “Freedom,” replied the general, “and I’ve known only a few brave enough to take it.”
Local Church: Autonomy and Authority
Michael Browne, Bath, England
The growing persecution of Christians across international boundaries in country after country is currently a major concern of both the local Christian communities and the whole global Christian profession. What should be the attitude of Christians towards this on-going oppression? Why has it happened and what is the Christian response?
In the nature of assemblies seeking to follow New Testament principles, they stand essentially alone in their individual entities. They have no confederated voice or energy. They appear insignificant and irrelevant to both national and local authority where in any given location they are simply one small religious group – easily overlooked and marginalized!
The answer of some sincere brethren to this situation is that the status and presence of such congregations need to be elevated and then combined to make their voice heard by the powers that be. They need an authoritative corporate voice to be able to call for protection from actual physical attack, and financial support for legal representation in cases of unjust litigation against them. So the case for some kind of confederation is presented as an answer to this very real predicament. But while a ‘confederation’ of isolated and independent local churches may appear to be the logical and human answer to the problem, is it the spiritual and biblical answer ?
Local Assemblies in the Acts of the Apostles
Originally the early New Testament assemblies were maintained in doctrinal purity and godly order as they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” Acts 2.42. They followed the exhortation of the beloved Apostle to the Gentiles who said, “Be ye followers of me even as I also am of Christ ” 1 Cor.11.1. As those who were ‘spiritual' they acknowledged that the things written by Paul were “the commandments of the Lord” 1 Cor.14.37. Consequently we read in the history of the Acts of the Apostles that local assemblies were formed as a result of Gospel witness, and these assemblies were guided by their own local elders and were therefore independent or autonomous, that is possessing the right of self-government and freedom of action as local churches.
This original apostolic purity and Divine order was soon lost sight of however as men departed more and more from original principles and substituted their own ideas and traditions for the Word of God. The reasons for this were rooted in human pride and rivalry, and a struggle for power which produced a class system of clerisy and resulted in the domination of the assemblies by a priestly hierarchy. These powerful men centralized all church rule in themselves and as they continued to struggle, one against another, divisions occurred and Catholicism and Orthodoxy came into being. In process of time, as the "mystery of iniquity" continued to work (that system of lawlessness eroding the unity, harmony, and order of God's purpose for the age, and which will reach its climax in the substitution of the Lawless One for the Obedient One—that is, the Man of Sin for the Christ of God), further fragmentation occurred even amongst those whose "protest" against the evil of the Babylonish system of Catholicism led to them to leave it, and so the various denominational organizations of Christendom were born. But originally it was not so.
The only organization that appears in the New Testament authorized to discipline, guide, and instruct the people of God, is the local assembly. The highest court of appeal set to adjudicate between brethren is the local assembly. The only body from which workers were commended to preach and teach in the New Testament was the local assembly. Beyond the local assembly there is absolutely no other organization or body that appears on the inspired pages of the New Testament, not even the slightest suggestion of anything else.
News & Views
The result of the recently held general elections in India was a surprise to many. A lot of contestants who were dreaming of a great victory were defeated utterly. As always the defeated parties are seriously searching for the reasons why they failed so miserably.
Nevertheless one party in western India, where none of the contestants could win, gathered together to celebrate over the election result! They brought all the participators on the stage and congratulated for the number of votes each one could garner. It seems they are not worried about defeat, but they were happy that they got so much of the votes!
How does it apply to a Christian? Shall we follow the same principle? To a certain extent it may look like commendable: not to be too worried over failures. Yet can we celebrate failure? Our goal should always be victory, not that some how pulling on.
Prayer & Prasie
New Organization for the Brethren in Maharashtra, India
Brother Amis Lopes one of the responsible brethren of Nallasopara Assembly, Thane district, Maharahstra writes that on the final day of the recently held “Maharashtra Family Conference", a new trust named, "Maharashtra Evangelical Trust" was inaugurated.
The conference is a yearly gathering of the Marathi speaking Brethren believers. Nearly 240 participants from various Brethren assemblies (Marathi speaking) from different parts of Maharashtra were present for this camp.
Some of the objectives of this trust are as follows....
To faithfully pass on the charitable gifts of Lord’s people to Lord’s servants on a regular basis.
To encourage the planting of New Testament based Christian Believers’ Assemblies.
To initiate or support evangelism through assembly based Biblical activities, special conferences, and literatures.
To start a “Bible school” where the Word of God will be taught systematically.
To challenge & encourage the young generation to reach the unreached in Maharashtra etc.
Our brethren are aware of the big task ahead of them but they depend on the Lord for strength and support. Kindly uphold ‘Maharashtra Evangelical Trust’ in your prayers so that the Lord may use it as a powerful instrument in His hand for His glory.
“Behind every saint stands another saint.”.
________________Friedrich von Hugel
“When you meet frequently the forces of satan are annulled and his destructive power
is cancelled in the concord of your faith.”
__________________Ignatius of Antioch
“Consensus gives strength.”