"Reception" of Believers.
UNDER the dispensation of law, all things connected with the life, worship, and service of Israel were prescribed in minutest detail. The legislation was for men in the flesh. Eli's sons, although men of Belial, performed priestly functions, being of the seed of Aaron. In contrast to this, under the present dispensation of grace and truth the legislation is for spiritual men, having the Spirit of God dwelling in them, the living Word of God in their hands, and the risen, glorified Son of God controlling all ministries in His Church. Principles, therefore, rather than rules or forms, are the guidance of Christians to-day.
The four Gospels bear a common testimony as to who ought to be received----Matt. x. 40-42, xviii. 5; Luke ix. 48; John xiii. 20. The sum of these Scriptures is: Receive all who belong to Christ. Romans xiv. 3, "God hath received him," and verse 4, "God is able to make him stand," show that, although weak in the faith and deficient in knowledge, all who belong to Christ have been received by God, who is pledged to keep them by His mighty power. It is our bounden duty, and ought to be our most cherished privilege, to receive all such. God was glorified when Christ received us, and we glorify God when we receive one another as Christ received us (Rom. xv. 7).
A sinner who comes to Christ, and is received by Him, is in fellowship "with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ" (1 John i. 4), and has also the witness in himself (1 John v. 10). Received by Christ, received by God, in fellowship with the Father and with the Son, the reception of all such by one another, to share together every privilege and responsibility common to all, is the natural result of the operation of God.
There are those who, whilst bearing the marks of belonging to Christ, may have fallen into moral transgression as enumerated in 1 Cor. v. 11, or doctrinal errors as defined in I Tim. i. 19, 20; 2 Tim. ii. 10, 18; 2 John 9-11, which things are "filthiness of flesh and spirit" (2 Cor. vii. 1). When this has become manifest, and is proved beyond dispute, those who have thus become an offence to Christ, and a grief to their brethren, are to be refused or put away from companying with those calling on the Lord out of a pure heart, but to be welcomed again, after evidence of confession and restoration to God. All others, notwithstanding varying degrees of knowledge, are to be received, and helped as they are able to bear it.
To carry out divine principles requires spiritual power. Alas! here is the root of all our troubles. In the absence of spiritual power, it is so easy to make rules that will operate mechanically. Our true defense against the entrance of the ungodly, or error in any shape or form, is not the setting up of machinery that oftentimes excludes the godly and admits the carnal, but to have the Lord Himself as the glory in the midst, and a wall of fire round about. And this we shall surely prove when we are found walking humbly before God. I don't know of one instance in Scripture of reception as a formal ecclesiastical act.
From Acts xvi. 5, we learn that the churches increased in number daily, thus showing that the Christians of early days recognized that immediately one took his stand as a disciple of Christ, God had also given him such a place amongst them. It could therefore be only a plain, explicit commandment from the Lord that should debar any from the birthright privilege of all who are born of God.
To argue that times have changed, and that what was sufficient at the beginning of Church history will not now suffice, is to forget that the end is as the beginning with God. Although there is a full unfolding of the development of evil in the last days plainly set forth in the Scripture, there is no addition made to the principles first laid down, thus showing their sufficiency for all times and circumstances.
To make anything a matter of discipline to the extent of refusing or putting away without a plain, positive commandment from the Lord has been, and where practiced, will continue to be the occasion of trouble, sorrow, and divisions. It was so in the first division in the Church (3rd John); it was so when what is known as "Exclusivism" took shape; and it has been the cause of almost all divisions since.
Every meeting has a purpose and a character peculiar to itself. The purpose of our coming together at the call of the Lord on the first day of the week to break bread may be expressed in the words, "For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till He come" (1 Cor. xi. 26). This was the whole burden of the prophetic Scripture. ''The sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow" (1 Peter i. 11). It consists of a retrospect and a prospect. Present things are excluded. Here may be two brethren who differ on many things connected with present things in every-day life, but they can sit down side by side, and when rightly exercised, and in the current of the Spirit's leading for the purpose in hand, can have perfect fellowship in the backward and the forward look. What infinite wisdom and perfect love are here shown, in having arranged such a meeting on such a basis as permitted the strong and the weak, the learned and the ignorant, aye, even the spiritual and the carnal, to become partakers of the one bread in figure, and according to their measure, delight in their common possessions in Christ.
"The Witness." 1900 & “Feed My Sheep”