H. A. Twelves
And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple: that disciple was known unto the high priest, and went in with Jesus into the palace of the high priest. But Peter stood at the door without. Then went out that other disciple, which was known unto the high priest, and spake unto her that kept the door, and brought in Peter. Then saith the damsel that kept the door unto Peter, ※Art not thou also one of this man's disciples?§ He saith, ※I am not§.
And the servants and officers stood there, who had made a fire of coals ; for it was cold : and they warmed themselves: and Peter stood with them, and warmed himself.
high priest then asked Jesus of his disciples, and of his doctrine. Jesus
answered him,§I spake openly to the world ; I ever taught in the synagogue,
and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and, in secret have I said
nothing. Why askest thou me ? ask them which heard me, what I have said unto
them : behold, they know what I said . . .§
Annas had sent him bound unto Caiaphas the high priest. And Simon Peter stood
and warmed himself. They said therefore unto him, Art not thou also one of his
disciples ? He denied it, and said, ※I am not.§
of the servants of the high priest, being his kinsman whose ear Peter cut off,
saith, ※Did not I see thee in the garden with him?§
then denied again : and immediately the cock crew. (John
18 : 15-21, 24-27)
denial of his discipleship has provoked some to condemn him ; others, knowing
that, with no danger threatening, they have done the same, are less ready to
find fault. Indeed, whilst still most British people would call themselves
＆Christians＊ not one in a thousand would call himself a ＆disciple＊. A
disciple Peter emphatically was, the foremost of them, in his faith, his
enthusiasm, his indignation when harm threatened his Lord, his protestation of
loyalty ; and therefore the most noticeable in his failure. Usually he
vigorously claimed to be one : "We have forsaken all and have followed
19 : 27)
however, mingling with his Teacher's foes, he fears and denies his discipleship.
Some Christians are disciples and would have acted just so. Others are disciples
and often fail, with less excuse, fearing for their reputation, unwilling to be
considered odd. Many are not disciples and their shyness of calling themselves
so is really their honesty. They realize that discipleship implies a closer,
more positive relationship than they enjoy or even want. They treat with respect
those who proclaim themselves disciples of Marx or Darwin or any other man, but
prefer that discipleship of Christ should not be mentioned in their company.
Their honesty is to their credit. What is rather to their discredit is the
tenacity with which they cling to the title ＆Christian＊.
justify themselves with the fancy that only the Twelve were ＆disciples＊, all
the rest being ＆Christians＊, as if there were some difference of degree in
the meaning of the terms. There is in fact none. ＆Disciple＊, indeed, is the
normal word in the New Testament, being used 269 times : there were multitudes
of them only a few years after Christ's resurrection. ＆Christian＊, on the
other hand, is a term found only three times, in passages which by no means
encourage us to use the term loosely.
first use is by townsfolk who thought it a suitable name for those who were
constantly speaking of Christ: "After the persecution that arose about
Stephen, the disciples were scattered abroad as far as to Antioch; and the
disciples were called Christians first at Antioch", (Acts
careful reader of the history can avoid asking himself the question suggested by
this first occurrence of the word "Christian" in the Scriptures : Am
I, who call myself the same, ready to belong to an unpopular sect or to suffer
persecution ? Do I often speak of Christ?
meet the word a second time on the occasion of the Apostle Paul's defence before
Agrippa and Festus. The king interrupts him with the cryptic remark :
"Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian" (Acts
26 : 28).
Christians should not fail to ask the obvious questions: Can we imagine
ourselves defending our Christian position before authorities, giving an account
of the reasons for our faith and quoting from the Old Testament as Paul did, or
even from the New ? Have we even grasped as much as Agrippa, who, whatever his
interruption was intended to convey 〞interest or sarcasm〞 realized at least
that Christians were made by persuasion, not by the geographical accident of
first epistle provides us with the word's third and last occurrence. Disciples
were not to suffer as murderers, thieves, evil-doers or busybodies : "Yet
if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed ; but let him glorify
God on this behalf" (1
Pet. 4 : 16).
※fiery trial§ was to come upon them (1Pet. 4:12). They could expect to
suffer. Today for believers in the English-speaking world widespread toleration
and religious indifference have robbed this warning of its urgency, but it
should not be assumed that in this easy-going land the severe suffering of other
minorities such as in Nazi Germany and Eastern Europe could never happen.
However that may be, it can truly be said that without suffering one cannot be a
Christian. "Even hereunto were ye called", said Peter (1Pet 2:21). The
tribulation may be inward, unseen of other men, entirely of the mind and heart;
it is none the less suffering and essential to the Christian's discipline. For
Christians are disciples and disciples Christians; there is no soft option.
some the title "Christian" seems to give the comfortable feeling of
belonging to the crowd. It should give nothing of the kind. It is their
difference from the majority that is always being stressed about the first
Christian disciples. One sees it in the very words used of Christ's relations
with them. He "withdrew" with them, "went apart" with them,
"called" them "unto him", "spoke privately" to
them. Whereas others would acknowledge that "never man spake like this
man", yet the masses would desert the wonder-worker because of his hard
sayings. To the disciples, on the other hand, it was "given to know the
mysteries of the kingdom of God", and to them "he expounded all
3:7; Mark 6 : 31 ;
Matt. 14 : 13; 17:1; 20:17, 24 : 3; John 7:46; Mark 1:22; Matt. 13:16).
distinction is fundamental in the Sermon on the Mount. They are to be the
salt of the earth, the light of the world. Their righteousness is to exceed the
righteousness of the most righteous of the sects. They are to do more than
others, in loving not only their friends and relatives, but their enemies also.
In their almsgiving, prayer and fasting, they are not to be as "the
hypocrites", and in their seeking "first the kingdom of God and his
righteousness" they are not to be like the nations in which they lived. (Matt.
5:13, 14, 20, 6:1-9,16-18, 33).
Teacher states the position as directly as possible in that passage which is the
Holy of Holies of the New Testament 每 his parting prayer with his disciples
before his agony in Gethsemane: "I have manifested thy name unto the
men which thou gavest me out of the world ... I pray for them : I pray not for
the world, but for them which thou hast given me ... I have given them thy word;
and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am
not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but
that thou shouldest keep them from the evil." (John
17 : 9, 14, 15)
fear of self-righteousness is a further cause of shyness about claiming to be
disciples. The word has an angelic ring about it, some say, and they dare not
claim to be angels. This apology is often sincere; but it is always without
foundation. The twelve were not angelic; far from it. John and James began by
being ambitious. All were so self-centred as to be able to quarrel among
themselves, in Christ's presence, and just before he suffered, disputing as to
which of them was the greatest (Luke 22:24), not perceiving that his spiritual
stature dwarfed them all.
was a traitor. All forsook him and fled from the Garden as he was arrested.
Peter and John recovered, but Peter recovered only to then deny his Lord three
times. Thomas was a doubter. Outside the twelve, the two on the way to Emmaus
walked and were ※sad" (Luke 24:17) at their Teacher's death and burial
which they thought his end, and were reproved by him, now risen but unrecognized
by them, for being "fools and slow of heart to believe all that the
prophets" had spoken of the necessity for the Messiah to suffer before
entering into his glory (Luke 24:25). In becoming a disciple one does not become
an angel. In calling oneself a disciple one makes no such claim. One proclaims
oneself simply a learner. That is the meaning of the word ＆disciple＊. That,
clearly, is what the earliest disciples were.
is not in any way to lower the high standards to which disciples are called or
to make the experience more attractive by lessening its responsibilities or
softening its demands. The mixture of the loftiest idealism and starkest realism
that so often challenges us in Christ's words quite precludes any hope that
vague religiosity plus mild benevolence can serve for Christian discipleship.
ye therefore perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect" (Matt 5:48).
cannot serve God and mammon." (Matt 6:24)
ye in at the strait gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that
leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is
the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that
find it." (Matt.
7 : 13-14).
are only three of our Teacher＊s sayings on discipleship. They call to highest
endeavour ; they set the loftiest possible aim ; they pierce to the springs of
human action. They are uncompromising. Christ＊s definition does not include
within the fold of discipleship any who feel that ＆Christianity＊ ought to be
the generic name for any religion professed by a man or woman born in the
western world. Complacent lip-service to the moral code of Jesus of Nazareth is
not discipleship. Christ is The Light. To him alone men must come.
full fruit of their discipleship is such a complete unity with their Teacher as
the Teacher himself enjoyed with his Father. The Teacher is to be in the
disciples and they in him (see John
only begotten son is in the bosom of the Father" (John
1 : 18),
with the beloved disciple, John,
(John 13 :33);
all true disciples are to be his. Those are the heights to be scaled. But the
climb begins in the valley and they can quite rightly still be called
＆disciples＊ who have only glimpsed the distant summit but are still toiling
up the lowest slopes (if not then these pages should have been written by
think of disciples as learners is not only etymologically sound : it is a
practical help. For it suggests a number of simple questions, whose answers are
sometimes obvious but always profound.
first question may seem puerile and its answer self-evident, but its
implications are tremendous : Who is the Teacher ? All we need to know of
disciples is most fully revealed in him, but his picture grows sharper the more
closely we trace his influence upon his first disciples ; and this reflected
image of the Lord may suit our feeble eyesight better than the vision of his
dazzling glory, as the untrained sense can learn from leaf, flower and fruit the
warm and vitalizing radiance of the sun, whose distant place, giant size,
burning heat and function in the universe, only a rigorous discipline can fit a
man to measure.
what a Sun was here! As we note the turning to him of such diverse human
specimens and their growth in grace towards him, we marvel at the secret of his
power. They themselves teach us, as they answer his call from Galilean
fishing-boat, from tax-collector's desk, from the depths of sin's despair, from
the murderous haste of the Damascus road, that no mere genius had dazzled their
ignorance, flattered their smartness, encouraged their hopes or offered them
worldly fame. Only a "teacher sent from God" (John
could command such a ready devotion from men whose only common quality was their
simplicity of soul, their singleness of heart, their childlike trust in his
sufficiency for all their need.
Socrates was here, plying sharp wits with question and reply, with supposition
and proposition, with logical definition and his ＆reductio ad absurdum＊ 每 a mode of argumentation that seeks to prove
an argument by deriving an absurdity from its denial.
was not in complex rhetoric that he clothed his doctrine, but in direct
statement or in the easy flow of tales a child could follow ; his apothegm and
paradox were never cold and clever with a surface shine, but deep and searching,
big with spiritual truth. He and his subject were one : "grace and
truth" he taught, and these "came by" him ; nothing could sever
the Word from "the Word made flesh" (John
1 : 17, 14).
with all his towering greatness, his heavenly mission and his exalted destiny,
he was no remote dispenser of celestial wisdom. Up the mountain he would go, but
not to thunder down upon his hearers below: "When he was set, his disciples
came unto him, and he opened his mouth and taught them" the nature of true
who himself was the Truth, "went in and out among them" (Acts1:21)
known by them in weariness and dejection, in hunger and thirst, in sadness and
disappointment. He, whose matchless words of grace struck awe into the
multitude, announcing himself with perfect poise the sole channel of the
Father's revelation, was seen of them in the daily intimacy of eating and
drinking, walking and resting, in those unguarded moments that reveal a man's
true worth 〞 and still they wondered and they loved him more. They saw a whole
man in him, clear through and through, pure and without a flaw.
it was that pulled them to him, half unknowing, as his stark, "hard
sayings" (John 6:60) repelled the thronging mass of wonder-seekers. For
this they continued with him in his temptations and, though scattered awhile
like sheep when the shepherd was smitten, were found again beside him in his
triumph. He had no honeyed words to keep them. Warned in grim terms against a
light adventuring upon discipleship, rebuked for lack of faith, upbraided for
petty jealousies, discouraged from vainglory in their "unprofitable"
service, constantly disconcerted that he should talk on one plane whilst they
were thinking on a lower, their obtuseness deplored, the dimness of their
spiritual perception reproved, their vengeful spirit lamented〞still they clung
close by him. To whom else could they go ? He offered them freedom ; he brought
could go no-whither. Despite the gulf between them, they knew that their hearts
were laid bare before him, what each of them was, what each might be through his
grace. They sensed his sympathy as he adapted his method to their limited
capacities and their changing needs, now speaking plainly, now painting them
pictures, now acting in transfigured glory for their comfort and for their
guidance in the humble servant's washing of their feet, and all the time keeping
some things from them which as yet they were not able to bear. They noticed how
differently he answered their questions from those of the carping critics〞no
pennies to silence them, no countering with even subtler puzzles. "Lord,
teach us to pray" (Luke
11 : 1)
and with simple, artless tenderness he provided for their need. They may even
have observed with what patience and strength, ignoring irrelevance, he answered
not their question, but the one they should have asked : "Are there few
that be saved ?" 〞"Strive to enter in by the strait gate."
(Luke 13 : 23-24).
all their bewildering, yet fascinating experience, they knew he never asked of
them what he could not or would not do himself; but he did ask them to do that.
"If I then, your lord and teacher, have washed your feet, ye also ought to
wash one another's feet.§ (John
13 : 14).
was indeed their Way. To come to the Father, was to be like him.
summoned them to answer his call and, with almost brutal starkness, to ※let
the dead bury their dead§ (Luke 9:60). But first he himself had answered his
own Father's call: "Mine ears hast Thou opened"
(Psa. 40 : 6).
This commandment 〞 even the laying down of his life that he might take it
again 〞 he had received of his Father.
Teacher required his disciples to hear and treasure his words, and by the
indwelling of his words to bring forth fruit. But first He, perfect teacher that
he was, had ※hid§ his Father's words in his heart that he might not sin
against Him (as Psalm 119:11).
called the disciple, who would be a friend, to unquestioning obedience. But it
was obedience to a Teacher who himself all the time was learning obedience by
the things that he suffered and making it his meat to do his Father's will.
did he train them only in the days of his flesh when the prospect of his agony
was still before him. Once beyond the cross, his care for them revived. After
the resurrection, with the assurance of the victory gained, the Truth
established, and the way of pain and self-denial behind him, his immortal lips
now greeted them as brethren and resumed their gracious lessons. Again they
heard their foolish heart of unbelief reproved; again they followed his cogent
exposition of the God-breathed Word, but with kindled hearts and understanding
opened ; again they asked the unimportant questions but for answer received the
promise of power from on high.
finally he leaves them, not to ponder the record of his sayings but to write it
〞 certain of his nearness in all they should endure, their memories refreshed,
their darkness enlightened, with words put into their mouths and works within
their compass by the Holy Spirit. He would come to them.
As we watch the long procession of disciples stretching from then to our own times, bowed down beneath the cross they bear, falling all, once or twice or many times, but rising up again, they teach us of their Lord in all that they accomplish of faith, prayer and sacrifice. May their examples help us, in our turn, so to learn Christ that we may take upon us his ※light yoke§ (Matt.11:30), "put off the old man which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts", and "put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness" (Eph. 4 : 22, 24), always looking forward to the coming of the Teacher of teachers:
"The time will come when Christ will appear, Teacher of teachers, the Lord of angels, to hear the lessons of all, that is to examine the consciences of each one." (Thomas a Kempis, ＆The Imitation of Christ＊)
our Teacher and theirs is the greatest of all time, incomparable in word and
deed, and who approves of our calling him so : "Ye call me Master (teacher)
and Lord ; and ye say well, for so I am." (John13:13).
subject of his lesson is righteousness and goodness. Our Teacher shows us his
Father. He holds out to us a way of life which will issue in everlasting
life for those who faithfully follow it.
subject of his lesson is the Gospel, the good news of the Kingdom of God; of the
coming day when God's glory will ※cover the earth as the waters the sea§
(Habakkuk 2:14), when God's will ※shall be done on earth as in heaven§
(Matt.6:10), and when true disciples shall ※obtain salvation§ (1Thess 5:9, 2
Tim 2:10, 1 Pet 1:9).
all this he teaches us not in his own words, but in His words that sent him.
"I speak that which I have seen with my Father." (John
"The Father loveth the son, and sheweth him all things that himself
5 : 20).
invitation that came to the Twelve is thrown open to all. There is a glorious,
potential inclusiveness about it: "whosoever will, let him take of the
water of life freely" (Rev.
22 : 17).
is no fee: "freely ye have received, freely give" (Matt.
is no exclusion on the ground of race or class or sex: "There is neither
Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female
: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus" (Col.
3 : 11).
is no upper age limit, but the voluntary nature of the course sets a lower age
limit, not reckonable in years
but in maturity. To accept the invitation is to make a choice, and that is a
sober act to be performed only after prayerful thought. Christ's loving words of
appeal underline this limitation : "Come unto me, all ye that labour and
are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt.
Very young children do not labour and are not-yet, consciously, heavy laden. Nor
can they realize the issues involved in making the sober choice : "Take my
yoke upon you, and learn of me" (Matt.11:29)
clearer are the words of a very serious passage, whose deepest meaning continues
to search the disciple's heart even to his dying day, but whose least import
precludes from active discipleship those of immature mind: "Which of you,
intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost,
whether he have sufficient to finish it . . . Or what king, going to make war
with another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able
with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? So
likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot
be my disciple.§ (Luke
14 : 26,33).
scope of those words makes most disciples somewhat uncomfortable even into
old age, despite all that can be said to show from New Testament practice that
they did not demand in most cases the actual abandonment of all possessions, but
rather of trust in them. Their simple teaching is beyond dispute. If we would
build our tower upon the rock of faith in Christ's unchanging word, or adventure
upon a war with sin, with self, neither is an enterprise lightly to be
undertaken. The young should be set upon the way that will lead to real
discipleship, and only too rarely in these days does that happen, but their full
response to its responsibilities and enjoyment of its privileges must await
their maturer years.
are the qualifications for learners?
are few but indispensable. Intellectual distinction is not needed; it is a bar
only if joined with pride, but in that case one of the most effective
disqualifications. Judas was, perhaps, the cleverest of the twelve. "Ye see
your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many
mighty, not many noble are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the
world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to
confound the things that are mighty: and base things of the world, and things
which are despised hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to
nought things that are : that no flesh should glory in his presence" (1
Cor. 1 : 26-29).
human intelligence can grasp the elements of the Christian faith : their depths
the profoundest mind can never plumb. Most of the twelve were fishermen ; one
was a civil servant. The prime necessity, so evident a need in learners, and yet
how rarely found, is teachableness, ＆docility＊ in the true sense of the
word. "Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not
enter into the kingdom of heaven."(Matt.
18 : 3).
in some things we are to remain children : "In malice be children, but in
understanding be men." (1
Cor. 14 : 20).
With the child's docility there must go his trust: we must be able to say and to
mean it more sincerely than they who once said it in the days of his flesh :
"We know that thou art a teacher sent from God" (John
3 : 2).
do we enter upon the course ? With three very simple, unspectacular things: we
believe, we repent, we are baptized.
must be absolute agreement at the start between Teacher and taught on
fundamentals. Quite clearly not everything will then be understood; else we were
no more learners, and that growth "in grace and in the knowledge of our
Lord Jesus Christ" (2
Pet. 3: 18).
Peter prays on our behalf could not happen. But serious divergence from the
Teacher on major matters wrecks all hope of such growth and precludes fellowship
word of the following summary of essentials could be almost indefinitely expanded
and could lead down entrancing avenues of spiritual truth. We must believe at
the beginning with our Teacher that man is sinful and mortal and in need of
salvation from sin and death ; that God alone is righteous and immortal and
wills man's salvation ; that Jesus Christ is the obedient Son of God, overcoming
sin and conquering death, winning salvation, made immortal, and waiting the time
when he will bring salvation to those who are associated with him 每 associated
by faith, by baptism, and by faithful discipleship. To them, when he returns to
the earth, he will give everlasting life in his kingdom which he will set up on
earth. We must believe that good news.
belief must be an intellectual conviction ; but it must be more than that.
"That form of doctrine" which is "delivered" unto us, must
be believed "from the heart" (Rom.
6 : 17).
From the first, the Christian life was a life of confidence and assurance.
there will come in the lives of perhaps all, moments and days, maybe weeks and
months of doubt and perplexity through the frailty of our human nature〞and
though the faith that has known such trial will doubtless be a worthier,
steadier faith because of it〞the broad sweep of the Christian hope, founded as
it is upon such sure evidence, does not produce any mere polite suggestion,
hedged around with reservations and apologies.
world was not turned upside down nor the whole course of history changed by a
half-belief or by an interesting theory or by holders of one among many equally
feasible world-views : it was the assertion of a certainty that did it : Jesus
of Nazareth had been raised from the dead. And certainty was built upon
certainty : the past gave promise of the future : "God will send Jesus
3 : 20).
first examples "knew whom they had believed" (2 Tim.1:12) and
"were persuaded" (Heb.11:13). What they had heard and seen and looked
upon and handled "they declared§ (Acts 15:4), and without sharing that
certainty none could share their fellowship.
the eyewitness of the transfiguration, had not "believed cunningly
devised fables" (2
Pet. 1 : 16).
continued in "the things he had learned and been assured of, knowing of
(2 Tim. 3 : 14)
he had learned them.
wrote his Gospel so that Theophilus and all other readers might know the
certainty of those things which were most surely believed among them.
the author of Hebrews the Christian hope was "as an anchor of the soul,
both sure and steadfast", and would help disciples to "draw near with
a true heart in full assurance of faith" (Heb.
6: 19; 10: 22).
certainty can be ours too and our Teacher will approve it, for he did then :
"they have known surely that I came out from Thee" (John
17 : 8).
He will not approve a blas谷
or a culture whose mark is a hesitant purposelessness, or even the delight in
questing of those who are "ever learning and never able to come to a
knowledge of the truth" (2
Tim. 3 : 7).
assurance will grow from year to year as we feed on his word ; but at the start
we must believe, with a belief which "is the substance of things hoped for
; the evidence of things not seen" (Heb.11:1).
Only when we believe like that can the second important, but unspectacular
must repent. Such belief convicts us of sin and convinces us of our utter
dependence upon God for our salvation. It provokes a change of mind and a
reorientation of our desires. We "turn to God from idols to serve the
living and true God, and to wait for his son from heaven" (1
Thess. 1 : 9-10).
: the word rings out like a trumpet call. It is God＊s own summons - made
through John the Baptist 每 the herald of Christ, then through God's only Son
himself, then through the fisherman Peter, and through the cultured Paul. And if
anyone feels disposed to object that there is no need for repentance being born
in a ＆Christian＊ country, or that the call is too crude in this
sophisticated society or too old-fashioned in this modern world, then the answer
is plain : the call to repent is urgently necessary, it is sober, and it is
universal in its relevance.
call to ※repent§ is universal in its relevance to all times, all races and
every human type. From John the Baptist's first heralding of the Lamb of God
down to this mid-twentieth century, the call to repentance has gone forth, and
except for those three days after the crucifixion, with no intermission. Even
when John was cast into prison, "Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the
gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled and the kingdom
of God is at hand : repent ye, and believe the gospel" (Mark
1 : 14-15).
was put to death, but the third day
he was raised ; ※begotten§ (Acts 13:33), and we too are begotten ※to a
lively hope§ (1 Pet.1:3) by that glorious fact, Peter on the day of Pentecost
renewed the call: "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of
Jesus Christ" (Acts
2 : 38).
Paul blazoned this summons forth a few years later: "God . . . now
commandeth all men everywhere to repent" (Acts
17 : 30).
in the pages of the New Testament the summons is enshrined for all succeeding
centuries. The call to ※repent§ echoes from age to age and rings out with
especial insistence now, when the apparent delay in the fulfilment of God's word
lulls many into a false sense of ease. The passing days and months and years
take us not further and further from a cry that grows fainter and fainter, but
nearer and nearer to those dread events that give that cry its sanction. Our own
far-distant time is still summoned to repent.
summons crosses all bounds of race in an ever-widening circle. Through John, the
last of the prophets, Jerusalem, the capital of Judaism, had heard it, and all
Judea and those about Jordan; through Christ cosmopolitan Galilee and the
Decapolis ; through Peter, Jews from every nation under heaven heard it and
reported it in all the lands around the Mediterranean; and through the apostle
to the Gentiles, Athens and Rome, the capitals of pagan culture heard it. Nor
are these far-off isles exempt; "all men everywhere" (Acts 17:30) are
commanded to repent.
we feel that our changed clothes and our different manners and our multifarious
gadgets and our boasted enlightenment put us beyond its scope, we must learn
that all types were represented in those earliest audiences.
we today are civil-servants or soldiers then our fellows were the publicans or
mercenaries of Christ＊s day.
we today are of those who are living on our ancestors' cultural or spiritual
capital; or if already we belong to the ※straitest§ of the sects (Acts
26:5), then our fellows in Christ＊s day are those who trusted that they were
※Abraham's children§, or the Pharisees and Sadducees who received the
Baptist's early call.
we today are devotees of the modern social Christianity, judging of a religion
by its power to produce food and health and houses; if we are more interested in
material results than in means, seeking first comfort, peace and security, and
resorting only in Christianity as if it were some fairy-godmother to clear up an
unholy mess: then our fellows in Christ＊s day 〞 let us face the ugly truth
〞 were the multitudes who thronged Jesus for healing, who heard ,and most
often refused his summons to repent; or those Jews who wanted the kingdom to
come but in their way and their time.
we today are devout ritualists; or if Christ's very, goodness stirs us almost to
hate him (and it is not impossible that some such may read these words) ; or if
we tend to be carried away on the tide of mass feeling and majority opinion,
then our fellows in Christ＊s day are the men of Israel who, one week,
acclaimed his entry into Jerusalem, and the next week shouted "Crucify
him", but then were granted the merciful opportunity of answering Peter's
Pentecostal challenge to repent.
we today are lovers of philosophy and art; if mere novelty-hunters ; if
believers in the panacea of democracy : then in Christ＊s time we should have
felt at home on Mars Hill among the Stoics and Epicureans, the Athenians and
strangers "who spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell or to
hear some new thing" (Acts 17:21), and who at the very founding place of
western democracy and before the greatest glories of pagan European art heard
Paul brand as "ignorance" their superior, broad-minded folly, as he
commended to them God's ※forbearance§ in commanding them to repent
(Acts 17 :30, Rom.1:25).
we may be today, and wherever we may live in these far-off days, we are summoned
to repent with a call that is not old-fashioned, but universal in its scope.
call to repent is sober too.
does not bring with it any nineteenth century revivalist atmosphere. It fires us
with no mass hysteria. It encourages no showy glory in public conversion. It
demands no immature decisions for Christ. Those answers to the call to repent
are often crude, unbalanced and unscriptural, being founded upon no solid
this call demands action for very good reasons, which are historical and still
valid now as they were then. The kingdom of God is, indeed, now near. As
certainly as Christ was killed, buried and raised again, so certainly, when the
"time of restitution of all things" (Acts 3:21) comes, God will
※send Jesus Christ", and those who have heeded the call will have their
sins "blotted out" (Acts 3:19, 20). "The day" draws very
near that: "God has appointed〞when he will judge the world in
righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained, whereof he hath given assurance
unto all men in that he hath raised him from the dead" (Acts 17:31).
are called to an honest, sober, intelligent conviction of that past historical
event, and to an equally sensible expectation of the sure future historical
event it guarantees ; and to that resolute change of mind which such an
expectation must beget.
the summons is necessary because our western world is only nominally
Christian, as the early pages of this booklet proved, and the fact is being
increasingly acknowledged by those who confess that the full Christian
Gospel has not been preached here by those who claimed to do so. What was
preached was a gospel which was partial only, which is not founded on God's work
in Jesus in the past, and which does not look to the completion of that work
through Christ in his future coming to the earth.
have insisted at some length on the necessity for repentance because it does not
end at the threshold of the Christian life. The
crisis comes then in a man's heart, but its work must continue from day to day,
as he constantly seeks to be "transformed by the renewing of his mind"
12 : 2),
so that he may "approve the things that are excellent" (Phil.
and must still produce "Fruits meet for repentance" (Matt.
first of those ※fruits meet for repentance§, and the third mark of our entry
upon the path, is baptism. Suffice it to say here 〞 for the subject is given
full and separate treatment elsewhere (e.g. the booklet by the same author) 〞
that in the New Testament baptism is a complete immersion after a good
confession of belief. The symbolism of this rite is variously explained : as a
burial in water to associate us with the death and resurrection of Christ, so
that we rise to a newness of life; as a clothing of ourselves with the garment
of his righteousness, so that our sins are covered from God's too pure sight
when we have "put on Christ" (Gal 3:27); as a new birth, of water and
of the spirit (John 3:5, Titus 3:5), to make us ※new creatures§ (2 Co.5:17,
Gal.6:15), sons and daughters of God. Our past errors are forgiven. Our past
exercises are acknowledged worthless. We ＆turn over a new leaf＊, as the
English idiom says. Becoming ※as little children§ (Matt 18:3), we draw near
to be taught the ways of righteousness.
first aim of the path is God's glory : "Herein is my father glorified, that
ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples"
Its second aim is our salvation〞that of all that God has given Jesus, he
should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.
one sense the method employed by our Teacher has changed; but in another it is
always the same. For the Twelve, as we have seen, it was by Christ's personal
company and direct teaching for three and a half years. He taught them to pray,
gave them warnings, answered their questions, acted parables for them, gave them
I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip?"
(John 14 : 9)
are they which have continued with me from the beginning."
(Luke 22 : 28)
have manifested thy name unto them which thou hast given me."
(John 17 :6).
so John, many years later, could begin his first letter by saying : "That
which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our
eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled of the Word of life
. . . declare we unto you" (1
John 1 : 1-3).
the ascension it was the ※Spirit of Truth§ that taught them "all
things" and brought to their remembrance "whatsoever" he had said
unto them, guiding them "into all the Truth"
(John 16 : 13),
quickening their memory and stimulating their spiritual understanding, directing
them to write the New Testament scriptures. Then from the end of the first
century, the canon of the New Testament now being complete, those 27 books,
together with their foundation, the 39 books of the Old Testament, became the
text-book for all succeeding generations.
throughout the apparent change the method remains the same for all:
had told the Jews: "If ye continue in my word, ye shall know the truth, and
the truth shall make you free" (John
says that, being babes, we are to "desire the sincere milk of the word,
that we may grow thereby" (1
told the Colossians that we are to "let the word of Christ dwell in us
richly in all wisdom" (Col.
3 : 16).
author of Hebrews said that we are not to be content with ※first principles§
(Heb.5:12), but to ※go on unto perfection§ (Heb 6:1).
are to treasure the whole counsel of God, both the New Testament and the Old, as
that which had been given to the Jews as their ※tutor§ (Gal.
3 : 24 每 a paedagogus,
a tutor slave)
lead them to their true teacher, Christ; as those things which "were
written for our admonition upon whom the ends of the world are come" (1
Scriptures are able to make us, like Timothy, "wise unto salvation, through
faith that is in Christ Jesus" (2
Tim. 3 : 15),
because they "came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God
spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2
Pet. 1 : 21).
learners of Christ know that they were "written for our learning" (Rom
for all that, it is not the method of cloistered, academic theory. It is a
practical method. After washing the
disciples' feet the Teacher said: "If ye know these things, ..happy are ye
if ye do them"
(John 13 : 17).
Ephesians had "so learned Christ" as to let it have a visible effect
upon their lives : that they should "put off the old man" and
"put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of
him that created him"
(Eph. 4 : 20-24).
is the way
love: "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love
one to another" (John
It is the way of prayer : "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye
shall ask whatsoever ye will, and it shall be done unto you" (John
15 : 7).
It is a learning by doing.
are few precise rules, because that would have been at once too easy and too
difficult. Too easy, because we should have been tempted to tick them off as we
kept them and feel that we were making grand progress. Too difficult, because we
could never have kept them all, and our final failure would have discouraged and
depressed us. There is the great, all embracing law, the law of liberty. It is
the life of Christian love that we are to live, and the standard is that of our
can let the freedom deceive us and lapse into a benevolent, spineless lack of
moral purpose, and "continue in sin, that grace may abound"
While that would have a show of logic, it would not be sensible. "God
forbid, how shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein ?"
(Rom.6:2). "The love of Christ constraineth us."
(2 Cor. 5: 14).
conviction of our own inability, unaided, to do ※whatsoever§ he has
commanded us, and our grateful acknowledgment that it is "by grace" we
shall be saved (Eph.2:5), do not, if we are true disciples, make us say :
"What is the use ?" but rather makes us say "I can do all things
through Christ that strengtheneth me"
realize with James that though it is the ※law of liberty§, it is a law by
which nevertheless we shall be judged (Jas 1:25, 2:12). Our liberty is not
licence. It is the liberty of the children of God, a liberty to do His will, a
freedom to serve both Him and our brethren.
is one simple ordinance, after our baptism, we must keep. We must break bread
and drink wine in remembrance of our absent Lord, to bring to mind his sacrifice
for us and his triumphant resurrection, looking forward "until he
come" (1 Co.11:26). If we would follow first century practice, we shall do
it every first day of the week and shall allow no trivial hindrance to obstruct
us. In that simple act, for which by reading, prayer and self-examination we
shall prepare ourselves, our fellowship with other disciples will be focused, as
we share the same gratitude, make the same confessions, utter the same
prayers, and look with single eye to the fulfilment of God's purposes in him at
the end of the course.
end of the journey
it is the destination that matters, and the journey will last until the
Teacher's return or until our own earlier death, which, stilling us in sleep,
will close our book until the day of account to which the returning Lord will
raise us. There is no vacation. "He that shall endure to the end, the same
shall be saved"
We must take up the cross daily and follow him.
the end influences all actions and emotions:
the disciple joyful? His joy springs from his anticipation of his Teacher's
return, and for some, as for the apostle Paul, their joy will be full and
exquisite when they see their faithful converts accepted at his hands :
"For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing ? Are not even ye in
the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming ?"
(1 Thess. 2 : 19).
the disciple constrained to preach? He does so in answer to the same kind of
charge that Paul gave Timothy : "I charge thee therefore before God and the
Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and
his kingdom; Preach the word" (2
Tim. 4 : 1-2).
he need patience ? Like the husbandman waiting for the precious fruit of the
earth, he too, says James, must "be patient unto the coming of the
Must he ※purify his ways§? (as Psalm 119:9). The disciple＊s care is that
"when he shall appear he may have confidence, and not be ashamed
before him at his coming (1
John 2 : 28).
So too, each activity of his life has that certain future event as its goal and
"Until" is always in his mind. "As often as" he breaks the
bread and drinks the wine, he shows "the Lord's death till he come" (1
Cor. 11 :26).
disciple judges "nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both
will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and will make manifest the
counsels of the heart" (1
His prayer is that he "may be sincere and without offence till the day of
Christ" (Phil.1:10). He fights "the good fight of faith" in the
endeavour to keep the "commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the
appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1
He can be "confident.., that he which hath begun a good work in" him
"will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ"
disciple in the world
that day dawns, the disciple is a stranger and pilgrim. He lives, in his
Teacher's phrase, "in the world" (John 13:1, 16:33, 17:11,12,13), but
he is not of it (John 15:19, 17:14,16). "The world" for the true
disciple, can be defined as society as it organizes itself apart from God. The
disciple＊s aims are not the world＊s aims, nor his hopes its hopes.
the disciple will pray that he may avoid the irresponsible enthusiasm that made
the Thessalonian believers give up their jobs and become idle busy-bodies until
they were reproved by the Apostle (2 Thess 3:11), and will seek that his heart
may be directed unto "the patient waiting for Christ" (2 Thess 3:5),
he nevertheless knows deep within him that "here he has no continuing
city" (Heb.13:14); he seeks one to come.
knowledge that he is part of a colony of heaven "from whence also he looks
for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ" to come and change his "vile
body" when by his power he subdues all things unto himself
(Phil. 3: 20-21),
affects fundamentally the way in which he discharges all his functions in
this present life.
a citizen of his country he must seek to "render to Caesar the things that
are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's"
He must be subject to principalities and powers, obey magistrates, and submit
himself "to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake" (1 Pet 2:13),
rendering "to all their dues", "tribute to whom tribute is due ;
custom to whom custom ; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour"
(Rom.13:7), being a good, inoffensive, peaceable, law-abiding citizen.
on the other hand, human law conflicts with the divine, he will quietly but
firmly follow Peter's example and say : "We ought to obey God rather than
(Acts 4 : 19)
He will take no active part in helping to create the governments of this world
nor in forming or carrying out their policies. Christ is his true King. It is
for God's kingdom to come that he daily prays. To that kingdom he trusts he
already belongs, and to its King he owes supreme allegiance. Till the
catastrophic end is brought to all human dominion and the "Kingdoms of this
world become the kingdom of our God and of his Christ"
(Rev. 11 : 15),
he will pray, as he was enjoined, that things may be so ordered as to let him
worship his God in peace and quietness, none daring to make him afraid.
will be his great desire but he will seek it from the only source and on the
right conditions. Not for him the wan hopes of peace-treaty or international
pact. No trust for him "in princes or in the son of man in whom there is no
(Psa. 146 : 3).
No confidence for him in desperate, fear-begotten planning to save the
nations from destruction. "So far as in him lies", he himself will
"live peaceably with all men"
and will teach them, if they will hear it, the message of the angels' song :
that only when there is "glory to God in the highest" can there come
"peace on earth" (Luke 2:14).
disciple knows that "The work of righteousness will be peace, and the
effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever＃ a king shall
reign in righteousness and princes shall rule in judgment." (Isa.
32 : 17).
His hope will be in the "Prince of Peace" (Isa 9:6) who alone will
teach the nations to "beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears
for the "glorious appearing" (Titus 2:13) of the Teacher, the disciple
must be vigilant lest the Teacher ※coming suddenly§ he find him
※sleeping" (as Mark 13:36). It encourages soberness inasmuch as we know
the ground of our judgment: "The word that I have spoken unto him, the same
shall judge him in the last day" (John
12 : 48)
than that. Christ gives us a glimpse of that experience and in the parable of
the servants (Luke 12:36-48) points to the danger that besets self-conscious
virtue, the uselessness of last-minute, hurried preparation which is found too
late, and the principle that greater gifts bring greater responsibilities (see
Luke 12:47). Moreover, his whole teaching and behaviour when he was on earth
assure us of the futility of attempting to hide anything from his searching eye
: "All things are naked and opened before the face of him with whom we have
(Heb. 4 : 13).
all his words should make us humble as we look to the end and know that none
will deserve to pass his scrutiny, that even if we had done all we should still
have to acknowledge ourselves unprofitable servants, that only by his mercy
shall any of us be accounted worthy. In this spirit, true disciples "work
out their salvation with fear and trembling ; for it is God that worketh in us
both to will and to do of his good pleasure"
(Phil. 2 : 12-13).
Teacher's present mediation for us brings encouragement, for our High Priest was
"tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin", and "can
be touched with the feelings of our infirmities"
(Heb. 4 : 15).
example leads us on, as we consider that "as he is, so are we in this
(John 4 : 17),
and we should strive like Christ himself to "endure the cross, despising
the shame... for the joy set before" us (Heb.12:2). Our hopes, our life
itself is in him, and he is "in heaven, from whence also we look for the
Saviour who shall change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto his
glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all
things unto himself" (Phil.3:21).
then we shall be learners no longer : we shall know with perfect knowledge. And
our reward will consist chiefly in that: "This is life eternal, that they
might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent" (John
Then we shall know even as we have been known. Those things in our experience
which we have failed fully to understand will then be made clear to us. And not
only shall we know, but we shall become teachers too, to teach the nations
righteousness throughout the millennial reign of Christ.
is how Christ spoke of discipleship. That is how the first disciples thought of
themselves. So must we, if we would follow in their steps.
way is clear and our duty not difficult to prove from Scripture, but it seems to
be increasingly hard to step out upon the path of discipleship. It is not
uncommon to find quite sincere people who by reading God's Word and hearing
Bible talks have learned the truth of the Gospel and know what they ought to do,
but hesitate for years to do it. In fact some read and listen for years, then
die without having done it.
is no new problem.
knew that Jesus was "a teacher come from God". He had good reasons for
believing so : "no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be
with him" (John 3:2). He was even willing to appeal for justice on his
behalf to the enemies of Jesus: "Doth our law judge any man, before it hear
him, and know what he doeth ?"
(John 7 51).
Yet Nicodemus came to Jesus only by night. "A ruler of the Jews" and
"a teacher in Israel"
he was honest, fair and courageous to a certain extent, but still had affinities
with those leaders many of whom "believed on him ; but because of the
Pharisees they did not confess him lest they should be put out of the synagogue
: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God". (John
12 : 42-43)
of Arimathea also was a "good man and a just", "an honourable
counsellor", who "waited for the kingdom of God" (Luke
23 : 50-51).
He had taken no part in the decision of the Lord's enemies to conspire for his
death. In front of the Roman government he showed courage, and after the
crucifixion went in "boldly unto Pilate and craved the body of Jesus"
(Mark 15 : 43),
which with loving care he buried in his own new tomb. He too, however, at one
period at least, was "a disciple, but secretly for fear of the Jews"
(John 19 : 38).
were these the only cases recorded in the Gospels. In all ages the decision to
follow Jesus has entailed for some a fierce conflict. Those for whom the choice
has been easier or whose struggle is over should show sympathy and understanding
towards those who are torn by divergent loyalties and should prayerfully help
them to win through.
sympathy can indeed be deeply felt in the hearts of many baptized believers who
were themselves at one time attracted towards a less distinctive discipleship by
certain features of the orthodox church, or repelled by some aspects of
not remain ＆Orthodox＊?
can readily be understood that members of any community may find it far from
easy to break strong ties of friendship and fellowship and leave one sphere of
active service to join a smaller group and start afresh : it is especially
difficult for the elderly. But when, in fact, one has ceased to believe as
before, the former fellowship is already broken.
continue as members of a denomination whose foundation principles we no longer
accept is to live a lie. There are families which contrive to live in peace only
by a tacit agreement to only talk of trivialities and never to discuss things
that matter : their ＆unity＊ is a sham and thoroughly unsatisfying.
the same way it is only an outward show of religious ＆communion＊,
＆fellowship＊, which can survive after the end of agreement in belief.
wrench is painful, but many faithful disciples have come to rejoice in a more
satisfying fellowship and a happier life of service amongst those who sincerely
shared their new-found faith. They have proved the truth of Jesus' promise :
"There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father
or mother, or children, or lands, for my sake and the gospel's, but he shall
receive a hundredfold now in this time,
and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands with
persecutions ; and in the world to
come, eternal life." (Mark
certain minds ＆orthodox＊ religion has other attractions, less personal but
no less potent : the call to true discipleship demands that we see these for
what they really are and "seek first God's kingdom and his
some the antiquity of ＆orthodoxy＊ appeals. Respect for the appearance of
historical stability will hardly survive a critical examination of the details
of that history or an honest comparison of its tenets with the Word of God. Age
is no criterion of truth : Judaism is older than Christian ＆orthodoxy＊, and
paganism is older still; a corrupt old man is more to be blamed than a corrupt
youth. Only pure doctrine and the apostolic "form of sound words" (2
Tim 1:13) deserve to win the devotion of those who would be truly Christ's
have been attracted by the promise of ＆peace＊ which complete submission to
the authority of tradition holds out: an end to doubt, uncertainty and
questionings. The critical intelligence is silent; the burden humbly transferred
to the shoulders of those theologians, priests and vicars whose function it is
to know. But what a deceptive calm this is! In the bosom of an authoritarian
church one may find the outward semblance of ＆peace＊ ; but one certainly
falls short of the praiseworthy example of the Berean Jews who "were more
noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all
readiness of mind and searched the Scriptures daily, to see whether those things
others ＆orthodoxy＊ in name must be orthodoxy in fact : the religion of those
who think aright : the majority cannot be wrong. The advantage of such an
attitude is evident: there is no longer any struggle between our
responsibilities as Christians and those which we owe as members of a family or
as citizens. We are ＆normal＊: we do not ＆stick out＊ in the crowd : there
is nothing ＆odd＊ about our
religion ; clearly, a comfortable situation to be in. Yet to seek it is to be
blind to one of the clearest lessons of history, which teaches that the majority
is usually wrong.
is more important? To believe that the majority is always right is to ignore the
words of Jesus himself who leaves us in no doubt on the matter: "Not every
one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven ; but
he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in
that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name ? and in thy name have
cast out devils ? and in thy name done many wonderful works ? And then will I
profess unto them, I never knew you : depart from me, ye that work
7 : 21-23).
for the aesthetic appeal of the ＆orthodox＊ church 〞 its architecture,
ceremonies, music, and beautiful language 〞 one can appreciate all that and
even admire the devotion of those whose faith inspired them to create such
magnificent works of art, without admitting that such beauties are a proof of
the truth of the religion. Who would dare to deny that the pagan religion of
Greece produced masterpieces of equal merit, though different in kind ?
things cannot bring us redemption : art, architecture, music, does not hold the
key to our salvation. Indeed, if we allow it to make us satisfied with what man
has accomplished, it will lead us rather to humanism than to faith in Jesus
Christ. It was in Athens, before its monuments and temples, that Paul announced
the truth which alone can save men : "We ought not, to think that the
Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device.
And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere
this is not to say that all minorities must necessarily be right. Far from it:
the Bible holds no brief for non-conformity for its own sake. All sorts of
motives may drive a man to separate himself from the orthodox church : pride,
stubbornness, a rebellious spirit, the desire to be different at all costs, the
hope of notoriety 〞 more readily achieved in a small community by men of
little worth 〞 an unbalanced emphasis on one aspect of truth, or simply the
love of his own cranky aberrations.
existence of bad kinds of non-conformity does not, however, deny that there is a
good kind ; nor can such faults as we have listed be avoided merely by following
the crowd. All the prophets, Jesus himself, and the Apostle Paul, resisted the
claims of those who thought themselves the faithful heirs of the nation's
religious tradition. Similarly they all sought to recall their contemporaries to
older beliefs which were, in fact, true beliefs.
single example must suffice. Saul of Tarsus was orthodox by his birth and
education and by his own choice : "Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock
of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews : as touching the
law a Pharisee ; concerning zeal, persecuting the church ; touching the
righteousness which is by the law, blameless"
(Phil. 3 : 5).
once Saul, who became Paul, was enlightened by the truth, he saw that hitherto
he had been blind and all his ＆orthodox＊ religion fell from him in a moment
with the ※scales§ that fell from his eyes at his baptism (Acts 9:18).
"What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ"
(Phil. 3 : 7).
himself will tell us, before Agrippa, that sincerity is not enough : "After
the most straitest sect of our religion, I lived a Pharisee ... I verily thought
with myself that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of
Nazareth." (Acts 26:5, 9)
was how Paul had begun. He proceeds, however, to recount his conversion on the
Damascus road, and insists that in fact it is he who is truly orthodox,
understanding better than his enemies the real meaning of God's plan : "Now
I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers,
unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope
to come. For which hope's sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews." (Acts
26 : 5, 9, 6-7)
seeks therefore to correct their faulty understanding, to fill in the gaps
of their religious perception, to tear away the veils of tradition which had
obscured the original light, to bring them back to right thought and belief:
"I continue unto this day . . . saying none other things than those which
the prophets and Moses did say should come ; that Christ should suffer, and that
he should be the first that should rise from the dead and should shew light unto
the people and to the Gentiles"
(Acts 26 : 22-23).
Thus those who believed themselves orthodox were recalled to a true orthodoxy.
see Isaiah 48:1-2, 58:2-3, for God＊s view of the official religion ; see
58:4-7 and 1:11-15 for the prophet's non-conformity; see 66 : 5 for his
encouragement to all who will follow in his steps ; and 51:1-2 for his
recall to true orthodoxy and the faith of their fathers.
course, in this respect, the apostle Paul and the prophet Isaiah behaved like
Jesus himself. "Hypocrites", "ye fools and blind", "whited
sepulchres", were some of the terms he used of the religious leaders of his
time, whom he reproached for their long, insincere prayers and their concern for
external purity alone
(Matt. 23:13, 17,19, 27).
never expected the conversion of all his people, still less of the whole human
race. He knew that his disciples would always be "a little flock"
(Luke 12 : 32),
hated, persecuted or despised by the world, even by those who believed that in
treating them so they were pleasing God.
we for our part hesitate to obey him for reasons like those we have just
examined we should do well to remember the explanation he gave of their lack of
faith and ask ourselves whether it does not also accuse us : "How can ye
believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour which
cometh from God only?"
(John 5 : 44).
holy examples should teach us that to keep the truth pure one must be a
＆heretic＊ in the eyes of those who, despite believing themselves
＆orthodox＊ in the eyes of men, yet when judged by the teaching of the Bible
are in fact themselves the real heretics.
in the First Century a severe struggle was waged within the church between truth
and falsehood. It is not surprising that once the Apostles' influence had been
removed by their death, the ※living water§ (John 4:10, 7:38) of the
church＊s doctrine became less and less pure. Indeed, to find saving Truth it
has always been necessary to go back to the source, and in all ages a small
remnant of the faithful have endeavoured to rest content with nothing less.
had given warning of the danger to the disciples in Ephesus : "After my
departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also
of your own selves shall men arise speaking perverse things, to draw away
disciples after them" (Acts
20 : 29-30).
too, had predicted the same development : "There shall be false
teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies . . . Many
shall follow their pernicious ways" (2
Peter 2 : 1-2).
this falling away was to become widespread before the Lord's return :
"There shall come a falling away first, and that man of sin shall be
revealed, the son of perdition, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that
is called God, or that is worshipped ; so that he as God sitteth in the
temple of God, shewing himself that he is God ＃＃＃＃. whose coming shall
be after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and
with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish ; because they
received not the love of the truth that they might be saved" (2
Thess. 2 : 3-4, 9-10).
is a very serious warning which we neglect at our peril. How important it is
that we should have that love of the truth and that we should ask God for
courage to do our duty, to "prove all things ; hold fast that which is
Thess. 5 : 21).
a Change of Communion ?
having found what is good, we
often try to avoid the decision which our discovery clearly demands. "Why
can we not stay in the same communion as before ?" we ask. That is
the error we have discovered there is moral and not doctrinal. In such a case,
the Truth of God being accepted as the ground of communion and the original
Christian teaching having remained pure, all the members have a common rule to
guide their conduct ; there is no dispute about the pattern to be followed and
its doctrinal foundation : there is only〞as there must be, human nature being
what it is〞a failure to live up to the highest standards. The responsibility
of such a church is clear :
no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove
(Eph. 5 : 11)
command you, brethren in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw
yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly and not after the
tradition which he received of us" (2
〞 and that, in order, eventually, to be able, if at all possible, to receive
him again into the fold.
when it is a question of a fundamental disagreement in belief, in thought, the
case is quite different. Without unity no enterprise can be successfully
accomplished nor amid strife can the fruit of the spirit be brought forth.
Naturally at the end of the first century the problem was different from
the bulk of each congregation still remained faithful to the form of doctrine
they had received, so that their duty could be clearly defined. The counsel
given to Titus who had been given the task of setting in order the Christian
community in Crete was this: "A man that is an heretick after the first and
second admonition, reject"
the problem is often the opposite of that: the duty of the individual to
separate himself from a church which has abandoned the Truth. The result,
however, is similar: "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the
doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he
hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any with you, and bring not this
doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed; for he
that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds" (2
Bases of Christian Fellowship
other terms, Biblical teaching on the. question of fellowship is clear, as
concerns the principles to be followed; the right way to put them into practice
in any given case is often less evident, in view of the weakness of all the
members of the body without exception and the need to show humility and mercy.
The call to discipleship is a call to separation. If we answer it, we become
members of the church, the ＆ecclesia＊ (in Greek), the community of those who
are "called ..out of darkness into his marvellous light" (1 Peter 2:9)
was the aim of the apostolic preaching, according to James : "God at the
first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name"
(Acts 15 : 14).
could give thanks to God that men and women heard the gospel and obeyed it in
baptism : "Ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart
that form of doctrine which was delivered you"
(Rom. 6 : 17).
act of obedience is first of all, an individual act, owed to God Himself; it is
only secondarily that it associates us with all those scattered throughout the
whole world and all times who have expressed their faith in the Lord Jesus in
the same way.
all such there exists a bond of fellowship which in no way depends on
nationality or any other human affinity. Its ground and condition are the same
now as in the first century : "Then they that gladly received the word were
baptized . . . And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and
fellowship and in breaking of bread, and in prayers"
(Acts 2 : 41-43).
remain in that fellowship, we must be faithful to the apostolic teaching and
must "walk in the light": that is to say, we must submit all our
thoughts, words and actions to the scrutiny of Christ. "If we walk in the
light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood
of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin" (1
John 1 : 7).
doubtless, is the climax of Bible teaching on the fellowship of disciples;
light is its indispensable condition; not moral perfection, but the light of
divine commandment which searches all our conduct and brings us back constantly
into the way of life. To attempt to broaden these conditions' is to invite
disaster: "There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one
hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of
all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all" (Eph.
4 : 4-6).
those who have answered Christ's call and come to know such a fellowship there
is always need for vigilance ; lest the apostolic tradition be neglected or
overgrown by human accretions or lest it should become an empty form, whose
we deny. Not only must fables be eschewed ; divine truth must be treasured and
devotedly preserved, with the conviction that right opinion is not of itself
enough: not only must the disciple seek "rightly to divide the Word of
Tim. 2: 15).
must pray also for grace that he may walk "uprightly according to the truth
of the Gospel"
true aim of Christian non-conformity is transformation, so that we may be
conformed to the image of God's Son.
it be that, if we should be asked, before Christ returns, as Peter was in the
early hours of the first Good Friday, the same question "Art not thou also
one of this man's disciples?" we may all have triumphed over our
hesitations, and enjoying such a fellowship, be able to reply with humility,
with self accusation, but with overwhelming joy and gratitude : "Yes, by
the grace of God I am".
1 : The booklet concludes with the following
First published 1954, Reprinted 1968
pamphlet is issued by the Christadelphian Publishing Office, 404
Shaftmoor Lane, Birmingham 28, from which a catalogue of other Christadelphian pamphlets and books can
by John Goodman & Sons (Printers) Ltd., Cardigan Street, Birmingham 4.
2 : Footnote references in the original have been moved up into the text and
extra references and quotation marks supplied to assist readers and translation.
Other changes, some major, in sentence order and wording have also been made for
the same reason.
3 : The French (and Romanian) booklet ※Disciples de Christ au Vingti豕me
Siecle§ is substantially different from the English version. Since the author
was his own translator, It is not known whether H. A. Twelves wrote the French
version first or the English.