In His Name

C. Gahan, Ilminster

Part 3 of 4 of the series Unto Him shall theGathering of the People be

If we have rightly apprehended that which we have already considered, namely, the implications of our Lord's death and resurrection, we shall have little difficulty in un­derstanding the truth connected with His Name. That truth He Himself has set before us in one of His most striking sayings: 'For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them', Matt. 18. 20. Few of our Lord's sayings are so well known, and so little understood as this one. Because it follows a reference to prayer we are apt to overlook its significance and importance; it has a much wider reference than to prayer only. To confine the context to v. 19 is to miss the point and force of these verses; the context is to be found, not in the words about prayer of v. 19, but in the words about the church of v. 17. In this chapter and in v. 18 of ch. 16 of this Gospel, we have the first mention of the Church in the New Testament. The words 'I will build my church' of ch. 16, intimates the whole Church, the Church in its totality; the words 'tell it unto the church' of ch. 18 have in view the local church - the local church exercising its authority in a matter of discipline. Thus in this first mention of the Church a distinction is drawn between the Church and the churches - between the Church in its aggregate, and local companies of believers. From this it will be seen that our Lord was contemplating the advent of the local church or assembly, when He said, 'For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them'. In his Reference Bible, Dr. C. I. Scofield speaks of this verse as setting forth 'the simplest form of a local church'; the fact is, here we have the only form of church constitution envisaged in the New Testament. Rowland C. Edwards in his book New Testament Churches, repre­sents this passage, Matt. 18. 15-20, as being the basis of all New Testament teaching about 'the churches of the saints'. Certain it is, that, in the words of the Lord Jesus now before us, we have the seed-kernel of the Christian assembly. This great saying of our Lord constitutes the foundation on which the glorious structure of local churches is built.

The corner-stone of this structure is set forth in three words: 'For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them'. The name of the Lord Jesus is the corner-stone of New Testament churches, and it is important to a proper understanding of this passage that we keep this in view. The Lord's presence and blessing in the local assemblies of His people is conditional on the place given to His Name. Indeed, it is difficult to see how local churches can be churches in the scriptural sense of the word, if there is no recognition of the claims due to His Name. Nor is this a new thing; long before the advent of the Church it was written: 'In all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee,' Exod. 20. 24. God's presence and blessing in the collective testimony of His people always have been conditioned by what was due to His Name. In the days of Israel the very first of 'the statutes and ordinances which ye shall take heed to' had to do with the place where God would 'set his name', Deut. 12. 4-6. There was to be but one place where God would 'record his name', and it was only in this place - 'in the place where the Lord thy God hath chosen to place his name there' - that Israel could meet with God and God with them. There was no choice or option about this, every solemn assembly had to be in the place of God's choosing - the place where He had 'set his name'. This is equally true today; the Church has superseded Israel, the outward form has changed, but God's principles of gathering remain the same. Viewed in the light of this context Matthew 18. 20 ceases to be merely a promise, it assumes all the force of an absolute decree. God has a people today, and for their holy convocations He still has a chosen place and Name. If believers are to be gathered together according to the thoughts and will of God, it must be in the place and Name of God's choosing. This is not a matter of personal choice or private judgment, it is not for us to choose the principles on which we come together in church fellowship; like Israel we are called to worship, not in a place of our own choosing, but in the place where God 'has set his name'. It was this place our Lord had in mind when He said: 'For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them'; to be gathered together in His Name, is to be in the place of God's choosing. Thus local churches after the order and constitution of the New Testament, now answer to the place where God has 'chosen to record his name'.

With what significance and far-reaching importance does this invest the name of the Lord Jesus! His Name is the gathering name. Believers are rightly gathered, gathered that is in a scriptural way, when they are gathered simply and solely in the name of the Lord Jesus. Paul rebuked the church at Corinth because they were permitting party names to creep in: 'Every one of you saith, I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas, and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?' Let us beware of becoming men and party followers, rather than followers of Christ! His name and not the name of preachers and teachers, no matter how gifted they may be, is the great gathering name of the Church. If it was wrong for believers at Corinth to take sectarian names, it cannot be right for believers to do so today. His Name is the unifying name. In His Name we are 'gathered together', gathered together or knit together into one living unity. Be it noted: it is not 'where two or three gather together', it is 'where two or three are gathered together'. It is not we who gather ourselves together; this 'togetherness' is not of the will of man, it is the work of the Holy Spirit. He it is who gathers us around the Lord Jesus as witnesses to His Name and Word. Local churches or assemblies after the pattern of the Scriptures are formed by the Spirit of God. Such assemblies are indwelt by Him, and are the sphere of His operations in bestowing spiritual gifts and making known the truth of God. His Name is the ruling name. In the days of Israel the name of God was a symbol of authority, and to be in the place where God had 'recorded his name' was to be under His direction and control. This is no less true today: to be gathered together in the name of the Lord Jesus means that we are to be subject to His authority and control. The implications of this are all too often overlooked. How can believers be said to be gathered together in the name of the Lord Jesus, if in their assembly gatherings they set aside His ordinances and disregard His commands! How can that be a church after the New Testa­ment pattern, where the authority of the Lord Jesus and the guidance of the Holy Spirit have been displaced by human arrangements! For the believer, here as elsewhere 'One is your Master, even Christ'; to which our Lord adds by way of emphasis, 'And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven', Matt. 23. 8, 9. Theological masters and ecclesiastical fathers were never prescribed for the Church, and for the offices of such men there is no authority in Scripture. We have one God and Father and one Master and Lord; to be gathered together, therefore, in the name of the Lord Jesus involves, in all matters pertaining to doctrine and practice, subjection to His authority and control. His Name is the displacing name. It abolishes and displaces the 'carnal ordinances' of ritualism, and reduces to a blessed simplicity all our approaches to God. God is no longer with His people symbolically and ceremonially; priestly pomp and Jewish ritual have been for ever done away.

Ritual and ceremonial passed away,

When dawned the Church's glorious day.

The church or assembly of God is to be marked by unworldly simplicity. A striking contrast this to the huge, highly organized religious systems of Christendom today! How slow we are to learn that truth is more simple, beautiful and divine, than the most magnificent ritual, wood and stone, of any earthly shrine. Nor must we forget the holiness of his name. The mere fact of gathering according to the teaching of Scripture is not sufficient; if we are to know the presence of the Lord when we come together there must be a state and condition of things agreeable to His Name. Out­ward correctness is not enough, there must be inward holiness. When we come together everything we say and do should come under the sanctity of His Name. From the foregoing it will be seen that there is more in gathering in the name of the Lord Jesus than many suppose. His Name is not merely a designation to distinguish Him from others, but that which sets forth the essential charac­teristics of local churches as originally constituted. May it be said of us what was said of the church of Philadelphia, 'Thou hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name', Rev. 3. 8.  C. gahan.

{To be concluded)