0n Christ as the Head of The Church and Exhortations to Faithfulness
Written for the Association by Elder J.M. Demaree
The Mt. Pleasant Association of Regular Old School Baptists, in session with Beech Creek Church, Shelby County, Ky., on the Friday before the first Saturday in September, 1879, and two succeeding days, to the churches composing the same sendeth Christian salutations:
Dear Beloved Brethren - The primitive church, or branches thereof, communicated with each other not by word only, but by letter also, and we still think it meet to write you an annual epistle of love and exhortation.
In the church at Jerusalem is presented the model under the Gospel reign. In fact, after the addition of those three thousand souls, it was the only organization composed of thirty-one hundred and twenty, of whom it is recorded. And they continued steadfastly in the Apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, etc. (Acts 2:42). The Apostle Peter preached that day the death and triumphant resurrection of Jesus Christ; or, as Paul presents it, “Jesus and Him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2:2). Such has been the theme of God’s servants to this day, and will be so long as He has use for His witnesses. On that memorable occasion on which Peter preached his first discourse - the simple story of the cross, so unlike modern theologians- wonderful was the display of God’s grace in bringing those devout Jews, gathered from all nations, to see their duty as the quickened children of grace; and thus God added them to the Church, and so continues to add to the Church daily such as should be saved. Verse 47. The theme of Peter was the sure mercies of David or promises of God, saying, “The promise is to you and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Here we have especial calling, connected with election or choice, and God foreknowledge and predestination. (Ephesians 1: 3-5), Romans 8: 29,30). The Psalmist testifies: “With Thee (Jesus) is the fountain of life, and in Thy light we see light.” – Psalm 36:9. John also testifies “that in Him was life, the light of men;” also that “He was full of grace and truth and of His fullness of love we received,” etc. (sic. John 1).
Paul testifies thus: “And have Him (to be) the Head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all.” (Ephesians 1:22,23).
Again, “He is the Head of the body, the Church,” etc. “For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell.” (Col. 1:18,19). As the head is the controlling power of the body, and all the senses are centered, to wit: seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling and feeling, so in Jesus are all spiritual blessings, and He is the controlling power of the Church. His divine power gives us all things that pertains to life and Godliness, etc. (2 Peter 1:2). In a word, He is the life of the Church (Col. 3:4), and always has been in life union indissolubly and eternally identified as one with her (Heb. 11:11). Through this union, He could take her debts unto Himself, and pay the penalty for all her sins. And as such He took a body prepared for Him, and saved her with an everlasting salvation.
But again; Christ and the apostles taught the kingdom or Church was not of this world, and yet in the world, and as such was separate from the world. Peter’s exhortation to those brethren at Jerusalem was to save (or separate) yourselves from this untoward generation (Acts 2:40). Balaam, that wicked prophet, was made to prophecy thus: “Lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations” (Numbers 23:9). As old Jacob’s family as they went up with him from Padan-aram to Canaan, where, coming to the borders thereof, before going up to Bethel (God’s house or dwelling), were required to put away the strange gods which were among them and be clean, and change their garments, etc. (Genesis 35:2). So the children of Zion are required to forsake all; not only professed religious societies, but all other professed benevolent societies, whether secret or otherwise, however remote. Touch not, taste not, handle not; which all are to perish by the using, after the commandments and doctrines of men. (Col. 11:21, 22). Not only the modern missionary scheme in all its phases, but secret societies, such as Masonry, Oddfellowship, etc., should be given up and left behind; for surely they are after the commandments and doctrines of men. Paul says, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers, etc.” Again, “Come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean (thing); and I will receive you” (II Cor. 6:14-17). James says: “Keep yourselves unspotted from the world” (James 1:27). These things are indisputably of the world. And Paul says: “What have we to do with the world? God shall judge this world.”
Therefore, brethren, may we all be found seeking those things that work for the peace and fellowship of our beloved Zion, and in the expression of the poet, have the abiding desire:
“My soul shall pray for Zion still,
While life and breath remains -
Where my best friends, my kindred dwell,
Where God, my Savior, reigns.”
And again, God has thoroughly furnished His Church in every respect. He has given her every needed gift, from the Apostolic to the least gift necessary, and all should be recognized and encouraged by the Church (Ephesians 4:13; 2 Cor. 12:28). And they are to minister as with the ability that God giveth. (I Peter 4:2). And also take the oversight as the Holy Ghost directs. Not as hirelings for filthy lucre’s sake, but of a ready mind. (I Peter 5:2; Acts 21:25). Whilst the Conditionalist of every grade claim the means to build up their so-called churches, as well as to furnish their ministers for that purpose, who first seek a salary, God’s servants are commanded to first seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added, etc. (Matthew 6:34).
Is it not enough that the King of Zion, who has all power, has not only pledged spiritual, but temporal sufferance to His servants? “For the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” He has provided that they shall be provided for as the servants of the Church, and not as “lords over God’s heritage,” and without laying burdens on any- more a privilege than a duty. “First, let a man have a willing mind and let him give according to what he hath, and not according to what he hath not.” Again, “As God has prospered you and put in your heart to give so give liberally and not grudgingly.” If a man has it, and has a willing mind to give it, does it not rather become a comfortable privilege to do so? And as such is done in the spirit of the Gospel as all other “good” works of love, and the only showing forth the in-wrought work of God. For “He worketh in you that which is well-pleasing in His sight.” And we are admonished to work out as God works in. And, as obedient children, we should endeavor to do no more and no less. Let us have a care for the faithful servants of the Church, remembering that, while they feed us in spiritual things, is it any marvel that God has commanded that they partake of our carnal things.
Finally: Whilst we know that the available or perfect work is that wrought by Jesus in saving His Church or body, for “He is the Rock and His work is perfect,” should we not endeavor to shew forth the praises of Him who has done so much for us? (I Peter 2:9). Should we not be found walking in the doctrine and the ordinances of God’s house blameless? Not walking in drunkenness and rioting, but providing the things honest in the sight of God and also of men, and shunning the very appearance of evil. The maintenance of good works, Paul says, is good and profitable to men, and in so walking as far as in us lies, peace and fellowship will abound, and the true works of the Church be presented.
Therefore, brethren, be ye steadfast and immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing your work is not in vain in the Lord.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
[Transcribe by Stanley Phillips, Dec.20, 2008]