You must bring these two things together. Here is someone guilty of remissness in spiritual life. Well, someone go and tell him, and if he does not hear, take one or two more, and if he refuse to hear them, tell it to the Church.
If he refuse to hear the church also, let him be unto thee as the Gentile and the publican. Verily I say unto you, what things soever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and what things soever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father who is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them (Matthew 18:17-20).
The Lord is in the midst in an executive way in the Church's administration, where two or three are gathered together. I am not going to deal with that phase of Church functioning, but I use it to bring out this principle, that there is a specific value bound up with a corporate expression of Christ, and a value of very great importance.
Some Fatal Hindrances to God's Purpose
Now, let me stop here for a parenthesis. There are some fatal mistakes into which Christians have fallen, and one of these is the principle of the individual line in the place of the corporate. I say that has been a fatal mistake. It has been fatal to spiritual growth, fatal to spiritual fullness, to spiritual power, to spiritual light and to spiritual life. There are many Christians who are only concerned with individuals. Concern for the individual is of course right, but the Lord only saves the individual with the Church view, with the corporate Body in mind. We must settle it and be very clear that this dispensation, from the ascension and exaltation of Christ, and the giving of the Holy Spirit, to the taking away of the Church at the end, is marked out by God as the period in all the periods of this world's history for securing, not individuals as so many saved men and women, but as one Body - the Church. Individuals only figure before God in the light of the Church, the one Body, and if you and I fail to recognize that as the governing law of God's dealings with men in this dispensation, we are going to forfeit a great measure of what the Lord intended for us, limit and straiten our spiritual lives and experiences, and cause weakness in the very work of God itself.
I hope you have understood that. It is of very great importance that we should settle this. You will notice that these two things usually go together. It is the salvation of the individual that engages and occupies so many, and when they have got the individual saved, brought to the Lord, they have no further concern but to go and get more individuals and bring them into salvation. These two things go together, individualism and salvation in its merely initial sense of souls being brought to the Lord. After that, there is no more. That has proved a fatal thing in the history of God's interests, and today we are finding it to be one of the things which is representing the greatest difficulty
to Christians themselves and to any fuller work of God. I mean this, that you everywhere meet a large number of people who have just gone that far. All that they have is just their own personal salvation, in the sense of forgiveness of sins, peace with God, those rudiments of the Gospel, and they have been there ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years; and today as you meet them and speak with them, you come up against one of two things.
On the one hand, there is an utter inability now to apprehend anything more than the simple elements of salvation; they have not got ability to do it. All those spiritual senses and faculties which ought to have been developed so that they could receive much larger and fuller revelation from God have been stunted, have never been developed by exercise, and in spiritual faculties they remain simply infants after all those years. I am only giving you the Scripture in saying that You know, Paul had to say that very thing to the Corinthians - "I ... could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, as unto babes in Christ. I fed you with milk, not with meat" (1 Corinthians 3:1). To the Hebrews it was the same: "When by reason of the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need again that some one teach you the rudiments of the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of mile ... solid food is for full grown men, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern good and evil."
Paul had to deplore in his own day that there had been this fatal arrest and he said, in effect, Here I am, just full of Divine light for you, and I have to keep back all this that God has given me for His Church because of that! I say that is fatal for the Church - that the Lord should give abundant revelation for His Church's growth and fullness and functioning, and that there should be, after years and years and years, such a state that people are totally incapable in themselves of receiving it, understanding it. You meet that condition today everywhere. They cannot, after so long a time.
On the other hand, of course, you find those who after a lifetime turn to you and say, Oh, that I had known this before! Oh, that I had been told this before! Oh, that I had had this years ago! Why Not? It has been here all the time. It is because of this fatal individualistic line. For the greater part, the work of God since the early days of the Church, with the exception of very small things here and there, has been just on this line of getting individuals saved and leaving them there. It is fatal in the long run to all that God intended; and then people come up against the fact that it is so. Oh, that I had known it long ago! Well then, while the individual is very important, and has to be dealt with in the light of the other as an individual, we must note that, if the individual is put in the place of the corporate, nothing but the most sorrowful consequences can follow. This is one fatal mistake.
(continued with # 16 - "The Prevailing 'Church System'")