THE NECESSITY FOR THE HOUSE OF GOD
It is necessary to all the Lord's purposes which are
gathered up into that which we have been considering -
the bringing of children unto the full meaning of sonship
- to have the House, for all that development takes place
in, and because of, the House of the Lord. Wherever you
fail to get that which truly represents the House of the
Lord, and which is in accordance with the spiritual House
of God, you will get immaturity.
This House of God, fully constituted, is essential to spiritual maturity, and if you have not got it you find that Christians are immature. In what way is it essential? To begin with, there is nothing like a properly, spiritually ordered House for spiritual training. All the lessons that you need to learn can be learned in a properly ordered assembly, and the ordered assembly provides the background for the learning of those lessons. There are spiritual laws which govern the House of God, laws of relationships, laws of position, laws which the Lord enforces and demands shall be observed, which take away from us all our independence, and which definitely hold us into mutual responsibility. There is all the difference between a spiritual assembly as an organism, and the congregation. A congregation is a company of units. They come and go, and may do so for years, for decades, yet responsibility for one another spiritually never arises. But in a spiritually ordered and governed assembly the whole question and law of mutual responsibility for the spiritual lives of one another is demanded, is incumbent, is essential. Everything is relative. In that organism, if one member suffers all the members suffer, so very closely related spiritually are the members. In that organism there is no such thing as independence of action for life. The whole goes with the part, and the part demands the whole. In so far as that law breaks down, then the Testimony breaks down, the life breaks down, and God does not get what He is after, that is, spiritual maturity.
Read the letter to the Ephesians, the Colossian letter and the Corinthian letter, and you will see that that is running strongly through the whole, and wherever that law is not observed there is immaturity. In Corinth it was: "I am of Paul", "I am of Apollos", "I am of Peter". That is sectionalism, departmentalism, independence, detachment, fragmentary-ness, and the fruit is immaturity. The true spiritual fellowship is essential to spiritual growth, to maturity, and that is what is meant spiritually by the House of God.
It is there that we get our training. If you come under the government of the Holy Spirit you immediately are related by that one Spirit - by whom we are all baptized into one Body - and are made responsible for other believers. If something comes up between you and other believers with whom the Holy Spirit has linked you spiritually, you cannot snap your fingers and say: 'Let them get on with it! I go my way and they can go their way.' The Holy Ghost sees to it that you cannot get on! It is like the dislocation of a joint in your physical body. You will be suffering in your soul and in your spirit. There will be an ache, and you will know that you have not got freedom of action and restfulness of heart. There will be something all the time which is working against the free, spontaneous expression of your spiritual life. This thing will be there all the time. What has happened? The Holy Ghost is witnessing against that and life is arrested. Why? Because of the fact that the law of the House of God has been violated. When you come into that realm and know that you are getting some training, you are learning that it is not only necessary to have fellowship and maintain fellowship, but that increase of spiritual life is that way, and increase of spiritual power is that way, that the Body builds itself up in love that way, that prayer becomes mighty that way, testimony becomes effectual that way, and everything for the Lord's ultimate purpose depends upon that. Unless you recognize that, all these things are weakened and destroyed. And so the Lord brings saints together and relates them in groups, smaller or larger, for the spiritual purpose of representing His House, and in order that the spiritual laws of the House should operate there. It is so different from organizing a 'church', and having a 'church' roll and 'church' services. It is something which is a spiritual order, and a representation of a whole heavenly system, or, rather, the heavenly system itself in operation. Can you see the difference between the Body of Christ and what is called 'the church' today? One is an organized system; the other is a spiritual, living organism. The one will pass; the other is eternal, indestructible, heavenly, spiritual. The House of God is essential.
The House of God represents an order. Just as truly and fully as Israel's life was ordered, so is the House of God. If you read the book of Numbers you get but the type and representation of the House of God as ordered. Then you look into the New Testament and you will find the spiritual principles which are embodied in the book of Numbers. You do not organize the Church according to the book of Numbers, but you find that the Holy Ghost orders the Church according to the book of Numbers.
You will have representative members. In the book of Numbers they are princes and heads of fathers' houses. Carry that into the New Testament and what does that mean? It means men who have been brought to a place of spiritual wealth and spiritual dignity in the House of God, and can take responsibility. Moses (as God, mark you: "Thou shalt be to him - Aaron - as God" - Exodus 4:16) there at the door, and then all the fathers' houses gathered representatively at that door in these princes and these heads of fathers' houses, and God spoke from that door to all the households through these representative members.
Princeliness and headship are spiritual principles. Princeliness speaks of wealth and dignity. Headship speaks of authority and government. In the New Testament the ministry is the ministry of those who already have spiritual wealth and spiritual dignity, and have therefore, by spiritual maturity, come to a place of SPIRITUAL (not ecclesiastical) authority. They are not appointed officially, for you can never appoint people to be full of dignity, nor appoint anyone to spiritual wealth by a formal act.
That is a part of the heavenly order, and God takes great pains, when He gets things into His own hands, to see that that is how things are. The Lord is very jealous for princeliness. His people must be able to look up to those who represent the Lord's higher interests amongst them as their overseers, their leaders. That is a household thing, a Temple thing, a thing which is to have its expression amongst the Lord's people corporately, and a thing which means strength, growth and development. It is a great thing for young Christians to have had the advantage of having seen princeliness in their leaders, when those leaders were under provocation, were in suffering, affliction and trial, and to have seen the wonderful grace, graciousness, steadiness and dignity of the Holy Spirit, of THE PRINCE HIMSELF, reproduced in them. There is no small significance associated with that title of the Lord Jesus: "A PRINCE and a Saviour." Watch Him and see the princeliness! That, by the Holy Spirit, is reproduced in the House of God for the good of the House. It is not enough that there should be only one prince in a household. The Lord wants to develop that as a spiritual thing in all the members of the household - to develop spiritual responsibility. Responsibility only comes to those of spiritual means and spiritual dignity; otherwise it is merely official and will lack something.
The order of God's House is many sided. There are the princes of fathers' houses; there are priests, and Levites, and much more; all signifying the Divine, the heavenly system.
If only the Lord's people would recognize more that they are responsible for one another, there would be development and maturity. That is too long delayed so often. You remember the word which seems to touch this aspect of things most directly, from Ephesians 4: "When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto (or amongst) men... and he gave some apostles; and some prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ." That passage has been grievously mutilated by words being put in which are not there: "He gave some TO BE apostles." The word is: "He gave some apostles", that is, amongst men He gave them apostles, pastors and teachers. What did He give them for? For the perfecting of the saints unto the work of the ministry. If you put a break between those two sentences you upset the sense. It does not say or mean that He gave them for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the building up of the Body of Christ. It says that He gave them for the perfecting of the saints unto the work of the ministry. Leave the responsibility with those gifts, and the building up will not take place. It is only when the saints come into the work of the ministry that the building up takes place. When the saints are growing, being perfected, and taking up the work of ministry, the Body grows. If you use a definite article there and say: 'For the perfecting of the saints for the work of THE ministry', you are in danger of making THE MINISTRY something apart from everything else. It is "...the work of ministering". The ministry is a general thing amongst the saints. All the saints have to be in the ministry, and it is only as they are in it that the Body is built up. Are you in the ministry? Are you leaving the ministry with the people whom you call 'the ministers'? If so, the Body is being deprived of something. If you are growing, in the sense of that word "being perfected", that is simply 'for the making complete of the saints'. If you are being made complete progressively, then that ought to be expressing itself in ministry, and that will result in the building up of the Body of Christ.
You see how the order of God's House is necessary to God's end; how the House is necessary because it embodies an order which is fruitful in the purpose of God.