THE CALL OF THE CHURCH
The Jewish priests were taken from amongst their fellows and especially ordained, or set apart, for their work, to represent their people before God, offering for them both their gifts and their sacrifices for sins. In this arrangement the priests were able to sympathize with the people, because they were subject to the same weaknesses, and also had need of the forgiveness of their own sins. But even amongst these imperfect, blemished, sinful priests, who needed to make offerings for their own sins, none was allowed to take this office of himself. God must call him to the office. Thus it was with Aaron. God called him to be the head priest. So, the Apostle points out, it must be with the antitypical priests on a higher plane. Christ, the High Priest spiritual, and His elect Church, the Royal Priesthood on the spirit plane, must also be called of God. They could not assume the office otherwise. "Christ did not glorify Himself to make Himself a High Priest." God honored Him in this way, however, saying to Him in the prophecy of the Psalms, "Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee"; and again, "Thou art a Priest forever after the Order of Melchizedek."-- Psalm 2:7, 110:4.
MANY CALLED, FEW CHOSEN
There was a great multitude on the shore who heard the Lord's teachings, but not to all of them did his message come with the same force and to the same end (Math.4:18-22). Only a few were specially chosen and called. Doubtless there were elementary conditions in the hearts of these four disciples that constituted them the ones ready and worthy to receive the special message. There may have been Israelites indeed in the multitude on the shore who were not yet ripe for the special invitation of discipleship, just as these same four who now forsook all to follow the Lord had been with him more or less for about a year, yet had not until now reached the place where they were ready to forsake all. All down through the Gospel age the Lord's invitations have been extended chiefly to those in the humbler walks of life -- not many great, not many rich, not many wise, not many learned, not many noble, hath God chosen, but the mean things of the world, the things not esteemed -- mainly the poor of this world rich in faith.(1 Cor.1:26-28; James 2:5). The Lord's dealing is practically the same with all. He does not invite them at first to a full consecration, but rather gives them leading and instruction along lines of justification, and after they have grown in knowledge to some degree they have the privilege of forsaking all to be his special disciples, to be fishers of men.
One difficulty with Christians in general of all denominations is that this second step of full consecration is rarely brought to their attention. Under the false teaching that it is a question respecting heaven or hell that they must decide, the majority seem to feel satisfied that if they are reasonably decent, reasonably honest, they will escape eternal torment, and are not ambitious beyond this. They thus claim themselves to be, and are reckoned by others as disciples of Christ, whereas in reality they still belong to the multitude who hear with more or less of joy and bear witness to the wonderful words proceeding from the Lord's mouth, but who fail to attain the position of special disciples, not appreciating and not taught that to be the Lord's disciples we must "take up our cross and follow him." O, how necessary to the saints is the Truth! How wonderful the Lord's words, "Sanctify them through your truth, your Word is truth!" Error can never sanctify, and in proportion as it is mixed in our minds with the Truth, to that extent is the latter diluted and lacking in power.
TERMS OF DISCIPLESHIP TO FOLLOW CHRIST
1. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. (Math. 16:24)
DENY HIMSELF/ Forsaking ALL to follow Christ.
The important thing decided at the moment and decided positively and permanently was that they accepted the Lord's invitation to enter the Father's service with him -- fishing on a higher and grander scale, for men --gathering them into the Gospel net, with a view to their ultimate glorification as New Creatures in Christ and participants with him in the glory, honor, and immortality of his Kingdom soon to be established. Let us each remember the importance of a positive decision respecting our consecration to the Lord, our acceptance of service under him as our Master and Captain. Let us then as wisely as possible arrange life's affairs so as to be without carefulness respecting earthly things that we may the more readily and more completely give all of our time and energy to the most important of all works, the service of God, tidings of great joy for all people.
With these, however, it is necessary that there be a forsaking of boats and fishing tackle, etc., in the heart from the moment that a full consecration is made to the Lord. We cannot serve God and Mammon. We cannot have two objects in life, both equally prominent to our attention. The Lord will not have it so with those who are to be his joint-heirs in the Kingdom. This class must appreciate the privilege of fellowship in his labor, sufferings and hopes of glory to such an extent that their hearts will no longer be in the ordinary affairs of life, their ambitions will no longer be for wealth or name or fame from the world's standpoint. All such ambitions and hopes we must "forsake" if we would be his disciples. He must be first, joint-heirship with him must be our ambition; otherwise our hearts would not be in a condition that would be pleasing to the Lord or that would not be single for his service; we would be of the kind described as double minded, unstable in all our works and ways -- James 1:8. Undoubtedly this is a difficulty with a large number of those who have named the name of Christ and professed consecration to him and his service.
"So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he has, he cannot be my disciple."--- Luke 14:33. To be a disciple of Christ signifies much more, both in the way of responsibility and of advantage, than many seem to think. Our Lord's words are very explicit in defining the terms of discipleship to be nothing less than a full, complete consecration of all that we have (Deny yourself) and are to him who has bought us with his own precious blood. It must be a consecration to daily cross bearing and to following in the footsteps of Christ, even unto death.
Hear the terms: "He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me” (Mat 10:37-38).
The terms are too plain to be misunderstood. They signify nothing less than, as Paul expresses it, the presenting of our bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is our reasonable service. (Rom.12:1) No one of those failing to do this is recognized of the Lord as his disciple, or enjoys the privileges of that relationship; and, further, only those who do this intelligently and freely are accepted of him. That the Lord would not have any one take upon himself the responsibilities of this relationship without due deliberation and forethought, is shown by his reasoning on the subject, saying, "For which of you, intending to build a tower, sits not down first and counts the cost, whether he hath sufficient to finish it? lest haply, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, saying, this man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to make war against another king, sits not down first and consults whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that comes against him with twenty thousand. And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends an emassage and desires conditions of peace."-- Luke 14:28-32.
Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed; And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:31-32)
The Lord's expression-- "disciples indeed" -- implies a distinction between real and merely nominal disciples. And since we desire to continue to be his real, sincere disciples, let us mark the expressed condition: "If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed." The hypocrisy of merely nominal discipleship is an abomination to the Lord. It is a blessed thing to take the first step in the Christian life -- that of belief in and acceptance of Christ as our Redeemer and Lord; but the reward of this step depends entirely upon our continuance in his Word, in the attitude of true disciples. It is not difficult to do this, yet the disposition of human pride is to wander away from the simplicity of divine truth and to seek out new theories and philosophies of our own, or to pry into those of other men, who desire to be considered wise and great according to this world's estimate.
The reward of continued discipleship is, "You shall know the truth" -- not that we shall be "ever seeking and never coming to a knowledge of the truth" (2 Tim.3:7). Here is the mistake that many make: failing to continue in the Word of the Lord, they delve into various human philosophies which ignore or pervert the Word of the Lord and set up opposing theories. There is no promise, to those who seek for truth among these, that they shall ever find it. And they never do. Divine truth is never found except in the divinely appointed channels: and those channels are the Lord and the apostles and prophets. To continue in the doctrine set forth in their inspired writings, to study and meditate upon them, to trust implicitly in them, and to faithfully conform our characters to them, is what is implied in continuing in the Word of the Lord.
God is a Spirit: and they that worship him MUST worship him in spirit and in TRUTH. (John 4:24)
Sanctify them through your truth: Your word is TRUTH. (John 17:17 KJV). The 66 books of the Bible is the Truth and not men's theories or creed books! Proverbs 20:27 NIV---The lamp of the LORD searches the SPIRIT of a man; it searches out his inmost being. The inner most being of a man being his heart or mind!