"Gather My Saints Together" (continued)
This gathering is a gathering together in prayer-fellowship. One of the last things said in the Epistle which presents for all time and eternity the true nature of the Church as the Body of Christ - the Epistle to the Ephesians - is:
"Praying at all seasons in the Spirit ... for all the saints" (Ephesians 6:18).
If the first thing in spiritual gathering together is "holding fast the Head" (Colossians 2:19), or having the Lord Jesus as the center, the second thing is prayer-fellowship with and for all the saints. "Gather My saints together." This is geographically impossible of full realization, but it is spiritually possible by prayer. There is no space or time in the realm of prayer. A deep and travailing concern in prayer for the spiritual well-being of all the saints has ever marked an end-time movement of God; not alone for those who were true and faithful, and had gone all the way with God; but for all the people of God - although such as were more immediately the objects of satanic malice, by reason of their faithfulness, might provoke a special cry to the Throne.
What we see is the Lord having a prayer-instrument in every end-time, when total destruction threatens that which represents Him. And the very burden of prayer which He lays upon His own in every part of the world is His way of uniting. If we prayed more for all saints we should find many of the things which divide - and wrongly divide - falling away and ceasing to do so. Prayer is a wonderfully 'gathering' factor.
3. Spiritual Food
Another great factor in gathering spiritually is food.
The Old Testament brings before us many an instance of fellowship by feasting. Indeed, feasts were the nature of the fellowship, although not the occasion of it.
The New Testament takes up the spiritual principle, and the Lord Jesus makes the "breaking of bread" not only the remembering and proclaiming of His death and Himself, but the testimony of the "one Loaf - one Body." The Lord's Supper is represented as food and fellowship.
In the first years of the Church, Christ was ministered to the saints by the Holy Spirit through ministering servants who moved from place to place. It was thus that the saints were brought into fellowship with one another. Not - let us say it again - by an organized affiliation, but by a ministration of Christ through His Word in the Spirit. The ministers were "joints of supply" (Ephesians 4:16).
It is all too obvious a thing to say that today there is a very real hunger among the Lord's people. They are not being fed. What so many of them are getting is NOT 'bread'. In every part of the world there are such hungry ones; one here, another there; a little company in one place, another in another, and often unknown to each other. The persistent and perplexing question asked almost everywhere is: "What are we to do? There is no spiritual food where we are."
Will not the Lord raise up a ministry to these? We are persuaded that He will, and that He is now seeking to do so. A method of gathering together according to Christ will be that a ministration of Christ is sent forth and the hungry will be found gathered in spite of everything. For as there is a dissatisfaction with the religious systems of the day on the part of so many who want to go on with the Lord, so there is springing up in the hearts of many of God's servants a longing to be free to minister to the saints irrespective of traditional ties and distinctions.
There is no mistaking the fact that this matter of food as a uniting factor was ministered to the churches through anointed ministries. In the Book of the Acts we see how the scattered churches were held together largely through the ministries of servants of God who were qualified to "build" the body corporate. They were everywhere recognized, accepted and honored, and they were in a very large way a substitute for organized affiliation, government and centralization. As the individual churches were like corporate members of the whole corporate Body, and there was a great gain to all by corporate ministries passing between them.
This all has its own perils, but we cannot fail to see the movement of God at the present day, and it is a gathering movement - to Himself.
The passage in Hebrews (10:25) specially has the local assembling in view. No one can deny that this is the Divine order. The Lord desires to have in every place a representation of and a testimony to His House. His will is to have all such constituted according to Christ. But only the Holy Spirit can do this constituting. We cannot take a New Testament mold and pour people and places into it. We must come into it by the Spirit. This necessitates that the Holy Spirit have absolute sovereignty, clearness and right-of-way; and this, in turn, requires that the flesh be crucified and man be absolutely subject to Christ.
We see nothing in Scripture to lead us to conclude that this can never again be. It may be a "day of small things", but in the hands of God such days are mightier than all the great movements of men.
(continued with # 35 - (God's Methods and Means of Recovery)