Published in Chicago-Bladet
Published in Chicago-Bladet
November 4, 1884, Page 1
Brother A.N. Sweders, the local pastor, began with the reading of Isa. 55, and reminded us that these were fitting words for all people, especially for those who believe. It is a word for those who suffer from hardships as aliens and for those who are tired since it gives strength and courage; it is a word for the poor since it speaks about buying without money. Yes, it is a word to the foolish who spend their money on that which is not bread. It is the Word of the Lord and shall therefore not return empty, without succeeding and accomplishing what is pleasing to him. Therefore, we know that it is the Lord’s desire to bless us and, of course, we will receive this as we wait upon him. It is important also to discover that the word that accomplishes what he desires, is the word “that goes out from my (God’s) mouth.” We ought to keep this in mind in order to present what the Lord pours out, and to show him as the source of success.
Brother L. Lindquist from Fort Dodge, Iowa, continued by reminding us that this was a meeting not for any particular group of people with great gifts and knowledge, not for any single group of Christian friends; but in purpose for all Christians whether they be weak or strong, whether they see things the same or not. “We are not meeting here on the grounds of looking at things in a similar way but as brothers and sisters, children of the same Father, and members of one body.” He read Eph. 1, and emphasized especially verse 15 and following, where the apostle says that when he heard about their faith and love for all the saints, he thanked God for them and prayed that God would give them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in their knowledge, that they might understand the hope to which they were called, the riches of the glorious inheritance among the saints, his incomparably great power in those who believe in the work of his mighty strength. Without faith in Christ and love towards all-- not merely towards one party of saints where the result is a love of party without all saints-- and this then is not to behold God’s unfathomable wisdom and glorious inheritance. But God may give faith and love, and give still more. Someone may ask, “Can a person go beyond believing and living in communion with Jesus?” The apostle seems to think so since he prayed this for believers, and by this he never intended to lessen or diminish the great and blessed life that one has in God’s Son. No, he does not lessen the one in order to understand the other.
We have now assembled together in order to have in the eyes of God and our Savior, a discussion on our precious subject, namely, the church. For this purpose, we need the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God. Concerning this we ask and express our hope for him to hear our prayer. One part may say, “We don’t have enough time to visit such a meeting.” Yet God says well enough that we are to be a part of his church. Yes, it is true, and we thank God that he says so. Therefore, let us not overlook that this for Paul was a particular subject of prayer, that they might come to a fullness of understanding and comprehend the height, depth, breadth, and length of Christ’s love that exceeds all knowledge. One part may imagine having little or no faith at birth, and yes, having taken hold of it come along farther than the apostle. And now they know all they need, though they say this humbly, and along with David prefer to be a doorkeeper. But it does not stand well for someone to say that he should be merely a doorkeeper and at the same time consider himself so wise that he has no need of anything to learn. Then it is important to heed what David himself does not say; he prefers that he should be the doorkeeper in God’s house rather than living long in the den of the ungodly. And therein is a great difference. May we come here with the mind of a disciple, desiring the knowledge of God, and our meeting will not be in vain. The subject is of great importance, of immense scope, and concerns us all-- yes every member. Let us therefore all join in this prayer of Paul!
The meeting on Monday morning began the day’s meetings with Psalm 111 read by Brother C. H. Lundin from Brooklyn, Dakota. After a few short remarks on every verse, he read Romans 12 where we are reminded of our brotherhood with Paul, and not merely with him but also with Christ. We were also reminded to observe the exhortations. (Read the whole chapter.)
L. Lindquist was selected after this as presiding leader for the discussion, and it was decided that this would last as long as time allowed for conversation on the subject which had been proposed in Chicago-Bladet.
It was further decided that every speaker should try to limit himself to 5 minutes, but with freedom to have an additional 5 minutes, if he needed it; that discussion meetings would be held between 9-12 a.m. and 2-5 p.m., and that the sermon begin at 7:30 in the evening. Additional sermons were scheduled a half hour before every discussion meeting.
We are compelled not to include the sermons although they contained much good content that could be cited, but we will merely give the names of the brothers who during the meetings came and presented testimony at the opening of the public sessions. They were, so long as we were able to remember or reported to us, besides the 3 names already given: A.L. Anderson, Ottumwa; P. Nelson, Boone; E. Hedlind, Madrid; N.J. Nelson, Des Moines; S.J. Bengtson, Angus, Iowa; J. Nyström and [P.A.] Peterson, Kansas; J. W. Strömberg, Orleans; N.E. Nelson, Phelps; Ch. Sandquist, Oakland, Nebraska; E. Thorell, Minnesota; K. Erixon, Moline; P. Lanér, Rockford; J.G. Princell and J. Martenson, Chicago; P.E. Dillner, Knoxville; A. Davis, Princeton, Illinois.
No. 1 The program first taken up for discussion and treatment was: The relationship of the Church to God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit-- the relationship of the Father, the Son and the Spirit to the Church-- what God does directly and indirectly in the Church.
Peterson pointed out that Christ’s church was established by Christ himself. The Father, the Son and the Spirit are one, but God the Father seems to function as the root, the Son as the vine with the church as the branches in the vine, and the Spirit flowing through it all as the life.
C. H. Lundin reminded everyone of the great fact that God is presented as the Father, and that when he conducts himself in this way, then we are children, and should conduct ourselves as such.
L. Lindquist. The church’s conduct may be such that all is taken as grace from God. From him all of salvation goes forth. He has sent the Son (pay attention) to carry out his will, that is, to select a people for his name, to gather a congregation, and to establish a kingdom. All is from God through the Son, since he is executor of God’s means. But in this work that is carried out, the Son has the Spirit whom he gives his people in order to intercede for them. This Spirit is wholly at the Son’s disposal and he distributes through the Spirit gifts to the members of the church just as he pleases. Hence, it is the Spirit who works in us, and without the Spirit we are not able to think one good thought.
J. Nyström read Romans 8:17, “Now if we are children, then we are heirs-- heirs of God and fellow-heirs with Christ,” and so on. Therefore, we stand as children to God the Father, and to the Son as brothers or sisters to one another. To the Holy Spirit we stand subject to him since he moves over and beyond us.
P. A. Peterson. Paul says that we are as near to Jesus as the wife is to the husband in a marriage covenant. In Ephesians 5:23 it says that the man is the head of the wife, “as Christ is the head of the church.” The two are consequently one although Jesus occupies the place as head. In this way, I ought to conduct myself as one betrothed ought to conduct herself toward her coming bridegroom. The work of the Spirit relates in this way to the sanctified church.
N. J. Nelson. The behavior of God and Christ toward the church is one full of love. He loved the world so much that he gave his Son. Jesus loved the church so much that he gave himself for her, that he should sanctify her and this he does through the Spirit.
L. Lindquist. It is great to be children of God and called brothers and sisters of Jesus. But our brotherhood among earthly brothers is categorically different than our brotherhood with Jesus. Our relationship with earthly brothers and sisters means that we have a relationship with them. We are able to love them and depend upon them. But it is not exactly the same with Jesus since we are not able to stand with him in right relation, except as we depend on him; He is himself Savior of the body. Consider how he sought, saved, cleansed, healed and sanctified the church so that her relationship with him is much greater than a mere brotherhood.
E. Thorell pointed out that the Spirit himself relates to the church as a teacher to the unlearned, as a comforter to the grieving. Therefore, we ought to pay attention to his voice, not merely praying for things but obeying the Spirit.
J.G. Princell wished first to express some thoughts on the last part of the stated subject, namely, what God does directly and indirectly in the church. This seems to be a difficult and not so easily understood point but nevertheless can be understood when one examines it closely.
November 11, 1884, Page 1
J.G. Princell: First, what are the means that God uses to awaken and produce spiritual life? The Spirit is the one who is indispensable to the spiritual life of the soul, in every phase and step of its existence and development. We see this in Psalm 104:30; Isaiah 37:4-10; Romans 8:6-9; 1 Corinthians 12:3, etc. Nevertheless, sending the Spirit to and upon the church was the direct and immediate work of God. In his farewell discourse to the disciples (John 14-16) and again before his ascension (Acts 1:4-8), Jesus promised that he would send the Holy Spirit as his Helper, “another Counselor,” who would remain with them forever (John 14:16). Thus, the Spirit was sent to the church of Jesus in this age once for all, as we read in Acts 2 when the Spirit came at Pentecost. And the Spirit has never left- never abandoned the church. Similarly, Jesus has never broken his promise: “Behold, I am with you always” etc. Neither has the Holy Spirit failed to keep Jesus’ promise: “He will remain with you forever.”
P. A. Peterson: In Luke 11:13 we read these words: “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Here it seems to me to say that God gives his Spirit immediately or directly from heaven, and that it is right to ask God for the Spirit. I would, however, like further clarity on this point.
L. Lindquist. Well, it is proper to ask God to give us his Spirit in any case since it is he who gives the Spirit whether it happens directly or indirectly. He can surely take of his Spirit who has once and for all been sent to the church, and give them the Spirit. “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven.” (John 3:27)
Princell. Yes, this giving mentioned here is one of the things that the Lord does indirectly since he once sent the Spirit directly from heaven. Of course, this is altogether how God works in nature. He gives water and causes the earth to bear fruit through means of the soil, rain, etc. Furthermore, notice that Jesus gave his promise to his disciples before sending the Holy Spirit. The disciples then gathered together as it is clearly written in Act 1:4 and 2:1. But after the Spirit came, we see further that he was given indirectly through the apostles and other believers (Acts 8:14-17; 9:17ff.). One particular case was with the first Gentiles who were converted in Cornelius’s house: “The Holy Spirit fell on them, as he had come on us at the beginning,” says Peter (Acts 11:15, 16; 10:44, 45), i.e. the church’s first-fruits of Jews and the church’s first-fruits of Gentiles were equally made by God. Through this work of the Spirit, the two people became one new people (Eph. 2:14-16). This single body-the church- that received the Spirit is not living in a dead body but is a living being, made alive by the Holy Spirit. And as such God does not need to make her alive again. She is sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, a seal that is not broken. Praise be to God! But none of this adds or subtracts from the blessed promise: “The Heavenly Father shall give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” And this is always worth examining and putting into practice. God will more than sufficiently find a way to fulfill his promise that is mentioned here, namely, to give his Spirit whether directly or indirectly (if it is needed).
A. Davis. What God does directly and indirectly is not hard to comprehend but only for those who are able to comprehend it. How blessed it is that God works in both ways. God looked and saw the world in need, and so he sent his own Son as the Savior. Some were soon saved and thus the Savior sent them as witnesses to proclaim the message of salvation but he also sent them his Spirit in order to equip them for this work. The Lord Christ says in his farewell discourse: “When the Comforter comes who I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who goes out from the Father, he will bear witness of me,” and the disciples did not know [they had so much to know (the reporter)] exactly what Jesus meant but had faith in him nonetheless. They did not ask about how this might happen; they believed, and as Jesus said it would happen, it happened.
Many people certainly claim that they are members of Christ’s body, as well as partakers of his life and Spirit. But when it comes to living out God’s Word, their brothers and sisters of the faith say they are not righteous. But I believe they do not have any spiritual life; they do not have the Spirit of Christ. Peter was of another mind and spirit, e.g. when he sinned. He was brought back to a right condition when Jesus looked at him with a glance. It is the character of the Spirit to determine if a person has the Spirit himself. Some people say: “We wait on the Spirit, but we shriek and do not make a dreadful noise.” They say this in order to revile others. But this is neither the mind nor the character of the Spirit that is typical of God’s holy, gentle Spirit. Prayer is certainly a means through which God works, but some in ignorance offer poor advice about prayer. While some suggest that standing is the right position, others suggest that kneeling is the right way to pray. However, is it not marvelous that when the Spirit came upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost, they were sitting! (Acts 2:2) But when the Spirit came upon them, they did not sit for long; there was soon a revival. The Spirit is not a feeling or an emotion of the mind but he is an unexplainable Divine Person who humankind has difficulty resisting when he really begins to move. The church and individuals depend upon his presence and ministry. This can be observed in a couple of congregations that both call themselves Christian, even if the churches are situated in the same city, or just outside the city limits (a block away). From the one, sinners are saved and God’s children are edified; from the other, people are busy with activity working on the sermon, praying, singing, etc. but there is no fruit. What is the reason for the difference? In the former, God is working through the Spirit, and the Spirit of God has room and freedom, and he is received there. In the latter, the church is not receptive to the work of God since there is no room for God’s Spirit, no freedom, and so on.
Princell. When in all seriousness we ask about the means through which God works, it is not a matter of indifference but on the contrary of extraordinary importance to consider the means that God uses; yes it is even important to consider how God uses them. Surely a congregation often fails to experience God’s blessing since there is a lack of openness to the means through which such blessing comes. If there is, for example, wrong motives that lead to disobedience (as in the case of Achan according to Joshua 7), the effect in the church can be one that leads to dead forms, and so God does not work there. If the spiritual soil is rock, sand, or marsh so that God’s seed does not fall on good soil and take root, he must perform another work first.
As it was in Israel during the time of the prophet Haggai, so it is generally in Christendom now. The Lord says through the prophet (Hag. 1): “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much”-much has been preached, many meetings have been held, the scriptures have been delivered, etc.-“but you have harvested little-yes, in truth there is little fruit for eternity!” The churches have a sufficient number of members, but in many places, why is there such lack of urgency to see people converted? “You eat but never have enough”-a person hears and reads what is intended, and is taught to believe God’s Word by faith, but nevertheless remains like a dead man, weak in prayer, and “fast-less” when facing trials in life. “You drink but never have your fill”-one pretends to enjoy salvation in the Lord’s Supper, and in one’s own churchly or religious institution, but is inwardly empty, unsatisfied and discontent. “You put on clothes but are not warm,”-one clothes himself in his theological confession, in his supposedly pure doctrine, in his virtues, but is not warm in the heart through love. “You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it”-there is no blessing in the revenues, commissions, priestly compensation, etc. “Give careful thought to your ways! Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the Lord. “You expected much but look, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Because of my house that remains a ruin while each of you is busy with his own house. Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. I called for a drought on the fields.” Yes, drought, drought, spiritual drought is occurring in many places. This is happening in some instances because many people- although they confess the name of Christ- actually speak disgracefully against the Holy Spirit and his ministry. Of course, we are able to understand in a little way how such talk must grieve the Spirit of peace and goodness, and hinder his work. Even in religious circles, expressions such as these are common: “The Spirit shouts and shrieks within them.” By this expression they mean that they are so “full of the Spirit” that they are able “to burst with the Spirit.” Another sad expression is: “Yes, is it not a beautiful Spirit of God that those people have!” It is sufficient to say that many ascribe to the Holy Spirit’s work some things that he has nothing to do with, whether those things are quiet or noisy. But from my perspective, although much in the spiritual realm seems strange to me, even contrary and wrong in light of God’s Word, I will, nevertheless, not express any scornful or stern condemnation of this. I know that the devil counterfeits God’s work and can distort images of what God is doing, and I want to be on guard so as not to intermingle, even in speech, the work of my dear and true Spirit of God with the foolish tricks of the devil. What is calm and peaceful can become with his foolish tricks turbulent and stormy. In Jude 9 when the archangel Michael was driven to express some words of judgment over the devil, he did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him. Similarly as God’s children, we should not scoff at various spiritual movements in our day, movements that intermingle much of what is both good and evil. Furthermore, God cannot use as means for his work either people or congregations that hold on to narrow-minded forms and ways of thinking. Thoughts of many could now be expressed in pure Swedish in this way: “We have pure doctrine, the right forms and surely the best way of doing things, yet since we will not allow God to work through us, in order to save sinners, they may go to Hell.” With such thinking as this, how God can use or bless such people or congregations?
P. Lanér. About spiritual gifts, the apostle says in 1 Cor. 12 that they are diverse but the same Spirit. Consequently, God can work through many different gifts but it is he who works, namely, the same Spirit who carries out the whole ministry. It is God who works all in all. Every person may serve with his gifts, and in so doing he himself can benefit, as well as others. But God cannot use those who will not be used or refuse to be a benefit to others. At the end of the chapter mentioned earlier, the apostle suggests “a more excellent way” than, for instance, “the greater gifts,” and what he is speaking about is love-the way of love. This is God’s very best means. May we draw near to Jesus who himself is love. Indeed, receiving his love and putting love into practice is the best way for us to be useful to God.
L. Lindquist. Many great and blessed truths have now been pointed out. However, the discussion of this great subject is wide, like a great plain that stretches out over a region of land. One sees a hill here and there, but there is a lot of space between the valleys that has not been seen before. And so, on this subject there is yet a lot to be discovered that is worth seeking after.
K. Erixon. At the end of one of the previous brother’s remarks, he touched upon a condition to be used by God, namely, the need for an upright attitude if God will bless the works and use someone as his instrument. It was mentioned, thereby, that where some evil entered or once entered and never cleaned out, that it must first be removed. I think that this is the first thing that God will do as a condition for his blessing and wider use. It is through individuals that God works indirectly in the church, why he blesses some rather than others, especially those who demonstrate kindness and speaking lovingly, in contrast to those characterized by much coldness, cutting down persons and societies by their remarks. Oh, how partisan attitudes can lead to talk about parties and partisanship. May we think kindly and speak kindly of others.
A. Davis then wished to move on from the question in its entirety to the next. He suggested that points 6,7 and 8 in the program (that deal with gifts, edification, and ministry in and through the church) be discussed or developed on this subject in detail. He went on to say that often a brother says that God will make a believer more and more holy, useful, and prepared as one of God’s instruments or vessels. So why cannot God do this all at once? It doesn’t take a woman more than five minutes to make a vessel clean enough to be used. It does not take God several months to make the heart clean enough so that he can dwell within it. With respect to the sinful conduct that the previous speaker pointed out, saying that it hinders God from carrying out his work in and through people and congregations, we therefore would like to address this, and recommend means according the Word of the Lord.
A brother mentioned something earlier about space between the valleys that has not been seen before. Isaiah 58 is a remarkable chapter on the subject dealing with “false and true fasting.” However, it is an appropriate text for every case on the matter of doing God’s will, and it pertains, of course, to “the church’s conduct toward God,” etc., and God’s conduct toward the church, as our topic of discussion addresses. (He takes up and reads verses 1 to 11 of the chapter). The passage speaks in the first five verses about what Israel says and does, and what the nation seems to seek, and as God’s Word says, “they want to know God’s ways.” They seem as if they were “a nation that does what is right and have not forsaken God’s law.” However, the Lord says, “Behold, your fasting ends in quarrelling and strife, and in striking each other with the wicked fist”-as though someone might confess and defend Christianity! But the Lord says further: “Is not this the kind of fast that I have chosen: to loose the shackles of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? - even those shackles that humanism and human-confessions form- “that you share your bread with the hungry and provide the poor alien with shelter, and when of course you see the naked, to clothe him and not turn away from your own flesh.” About doing away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing of the finger, how sad it is that many still point at others and say despicably: “Look at them there! They are such people! I am not like them!” Someone says this rather than extending his hand to help the person whom he considers to be just a poor soul. God’s Word call us here in this passage to do away with all “finger pointing and all malicious talk”-yes, Lord God, may it happen! We need to observe the Word carefully, and offer food to the hungry and to clothe the naked. I recently learned this lesson in a practical way at my house. When my wife and I were to travel to Missouri, my wife decided not to take a certain dress with her since she did not think she needed it, and did not feel that there would be an occasion to wear it. She said she would give it to some needy person but the opportunity to give it away never came. Before we left she hung the dress out of the way, and when we came home we discovered that the dress had been eaten by moths, and looked like someone had cut it with a knife into several little pieces. Just like this, God allows those things that are not used for some useful purpose to be destroyed. “Do not store up treasures on earth!” is what those pieces of clothing shouted to us. Well then, may God deal with us now as he in his Word states-whether it is directly by what he does or indirectly through his ways. “Your light shall break forth,” and so on. “Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I- the Lord shall lead you continually and “satisfy your hunger,” etc.
Princell. The church’s relationship to God is this: she belongs to God, is God’s possession, and is thereby called the church of God (Acts 20:28), God’s flock (1 Pet. 5:2), God’s house, God’s dwelling, God’s temple, God’s field, and God’s building (1 Tim. 3:15; Eph. 2:19,22; 1 Cor. 3:9,16,17). Consider the fact that first and foremost a Christian as a member of the church belongs to God. Therefore, a Christian cannot “belong” to someone else. Think also how dreadful it would be to lay claim to what belongs to some else, namely, to God! The church is the body of which Christ is the head (Eph. 1:22,23); she is a bride betrothed to the bridegroom (Eph. 5:23-32), a building that stands in relation to its foundation and cornerstone (1 Cor. 3:11; Eph. 2:20). The church shall therefore conduct herself in this way, namely, subject to him in order to live righteously after his will, and so on. Note that the church is never called in her constitution to be clerical priests, and to observe religious regulations, i.e. such subservience.
At this time in the meeting, it was decided to leave this subject, and on the following day begin with another one. )
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How are the church’s spiritual gifts discovered and offices of service appointed-what is the right manner with respect to calling, maintenance and length of time for service at one place-and what about a chairman, secretary, treasure, and so on?
Princell: There are mainly three passages in the New Testament that speak about the church’s gifts. The first is Rom. 12:6-8. The first gift mentioned there is the gift of prophecy: “If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.” Next comes service: “If it is serving, let him serve.” Service is also a gift. The word is diakonia = diakon (deacon), and denotes service in a higher sense than bond-slave or slave. When it is an issue about our relationship to God, then it is another word, denoting slave, bondman, servant- the higher meaning. When it pertains to service toward one another, to the congregation, the word ‘slave’ is never used since that word expresses servant in the higher sense. Here the meaning is ‘service’ in general, or also the specific deacon-service. The third gift in this text is teaching, “if it is teaching, let him teach.” The apostle makes a distinction between diakon and teacher, yet these words are combined in the case of Stephen. The deacon-servant was used to describe a woman-deaconess-as in the case of Phoebe who served in the church at Cenchrea (“a servant of the church.”) The fourth gift mentioned in this passage is encouragement, “if it is encouraging, let him encourage.” The fifth is giving, “if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously”; the sixth is leadership, “if it is leadership, let him lead diligently.” The seventh: “if it is showing mercy, let him do so cheerfully.” There are seven different gifts numbered here, and all are according to the grace that has been given us.
K. Erixon. It is clear that God has given these gifts to the church in its entirety and by this to every group. Also, since the local church is so small, they will not have all the gifts mentioned here because they do not have as many members.
A. Davis pointed out how people often choose and take the noble and highly exalted positions even though perhaps God has chosen the poor with their spiritual gifts. Such a distinction in rank in used, and it was used in the apostles’ time when it was said to the well-dressed, “Sit up here,” and to the poor, “sit down there.” When this happens, the gifts that are given to us are hindered.
A.L. Anderson eagerly wished to have a fuller answer to the question on how someone can discover and practice the gifts.
P.A. Peterson. I see the gift of healing coming into use in a way that if any in the congregation are sick, then he shall first call for the elders.
A.N. Sweders remarked that it is not necessary that all the elders have the gift in order to heal the sick.
J. Martenson. God gives the gifts and he is the one who works them all. Since he is the one who gives a gift, he will also use it; this is the reason the gift has been given. If you have the gift to heal the sick, then heal those who need healing. If you have the gift to exhort, then exhort the one who needs exhortation. If you have the gift to give, then give to those who are in need. If you have the gift to speak knowledge, then with your gift inform someone. I think it is quite simple: God gives gifts-all for benefit and service-and so he obliges us by his love to serve others who are in need. Now it is true, of course, that Christian discernment is needed in order to use the gifts correctly. As in the spiritual so in the physical realm, I should employ my gifts more to the benefit of others, e.g., if I have money and serve those who have little or no resources, or if I have strength and use it to take a stand in order to defend the weak. So it is in the spiritual realm. For the person who teaches, he should use his gifts as God works through his Spirit to benefit others, as we read, “to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” May we therefore pay attention to the Spirit’s exhortation in the Word and in the heart.
A. Davis. God gives gifts and he also gives the intelligence to select leaders. We see this in Exodus 18 where Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, gives Moses advice, namely, “to select capable men who shun dishonest gain, and to appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.” Here was merely one person who made this selection. In Acts 6 we see that there were several when a selection was made. In Acts 13 Paul and Barnabas selected some prophets and teachers in Antioch in accordance with God’s command.
A.L. Anderson Now I have received some answers. However, I would also like to know if there are only 9 gifts that have been talked about in the church, or are there more that may be used to edify the body of Christ?
Princell. I believe that the total number is given in what was read. I cannot think of any gifts that do not fall under these that are named here. It is important to distinguish gifts and offices. In the world’s churches, they do not make this distinction. In those churches they say: “You do not have the office to preach and so do not go walking into houses and engage in a spiritual work.” Others offer advice crying: “Gifts, gifts!” but they do not have any offices. Both are extremes. A congregation of God is merely one part of his entire body, and they should therefore conduct themselves in this way, seeing themselves as forming a part of the whole. Has the local church any common goods that do not belong to the church in its entirety? If not, then it is not one of God’s congregations. He has the same requirement for membership in all his congregations. Some local churches, whether named Baptist, Lutheran, etc., have certain requirements of doctrine and discipline in order for a believer to become a member. But this is not a church of God although it may certainly have children of God as members-a church of God within a church. But God does not require this in order to become a member of his church. A drip of water has the same qualities as its source. One can clearly take a cup of water from Lake Michigan, and offer someone a drink, saying: “This is water from Lake Michigan.” No, he ought to say that this cup has supplements added to make it entirely different from the water in Lake Michigan, and the flecks satisfy one’s thirst. The point is that qualities of God’s church must be the same with one part as that of all God’s churches. The distinction lies simply in its scope and numbers.
K Erixon. There was a remark earlier that the drop has the same qualities as the source. This is true. Wherever one of God’s children is found, he has the same qualities as a whole group of believers, like a sheep. If a sheep separates, it nevertheless has the same qualities the whole flock. Where two or three are gathered together in the Lord’s name, there he is in the midst of them, is also true for all the church of God. However, employing spiritual gifts is different. In one part of the God’s church, there can be gifts that are more pronounced than in another part. For example, I have heard about a brother in Sweden who was thought to have the gift of healing more than others. I received a letter from a district I know, that an ungodly captain heard about this brother, went to him, was healed both in body and soul, then built a mission house in gratitude to the Lord, and began to minister in the Lord’s work. I mean to say that gifts exercised at one local church are able to have a greater impact than in another local church. And they may manifest there, even though they are not visible to the eye. And there the less honorable parts are treated with honor and not despised or hindered.
A.L. Anderson. When one speaks about the church’s gifts, the language is often too limited, and what comes to mind is those who can preach-those who can speak- and it is as though all the gifts are reduced to one. I would therefore like to emphasize what Brother Princell mentioned when he cited at least 9 spiritual gifts. The preaching gift is only one gift and we should not overlook all the others. Preaching-yes- is valuable as has been stated but one should not elevate it at the expense of the others that are just as beneficial. All God’s gifts are good and well worth being employed. All the gifts are given by the Spirit. Please understand that I do not want to speak disgracefully or negatively about any of the gifts. With regard to the gift of preaching, it is often set aside by a great oratorical ability so that a person who has the natural talent to preach is thought to have the gift of preaching- as though it were given by the Spirit. We should not place little weight on examining this in light of God’s Word. The gifts that come by the Spirit should be sufficiently characterized by this, namely, that their use serves to advance Christ’s kingdom, which natural talents and mere abilities do not do.
Princell. It is apparent that the church of God in one place or another can be without some of the gifts distributed to the whole church. In the letter to the Romans, written at least 7 or 8 years after the letter to the Corinthians, only 7 gifts are numbered, two less than at Corinth. The scriptures speak about speaking in tongues only in two places. It is spoken about at Cornelius’s conversion, and in the letter to the Corinthians. In Corinth, since the gift was widely used they did not ask for it. But the apostle was not afraid to keep it in perspective. He says, “Earnestly seek the greater gifts!” If they had this gift then why would they earnestly seek to get it? He does not say for me to seek what I already have. Do we seek an evangelist if we do not have a need for one? No, I seek after the gifts that I need! And so he comes to the more excellent way-and here may we notice and not strike out the word ‘love.’ Then the apostle returns to the idea of seeking after spiritual gifts, but most of all prophecy. He wishes for the congregation to speak five words with understanding than ten thousand in tongues. He does not want to discourage speaking in tongues, but he lays a cold compress on the practice.
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A. Davis: Brother Princell spoke earlier about calling, and I will simply add that Peter was called to visit Cornelius. In reference to material support, God’s Word speaks about the worker and the ox and advises us not to muzzle the ox while he is threshing. This is written for our sake. The worker deserves his wages, and thus when Jesus sent out his disciples he told them not to take anything in their hands. The man who labors in the Word, as well as teaches is worthy of double honor. In regards to the length of service at a particular location, there is no certain length of time to report. Of course, it may be that one’s gifts might become more beneficial the longer he stays, yet others only know the experience of serving at a place for a little amount of time.
L. Linquist: In reference to material support, the Lord has been very clear in his instructions to us. Paul both worked with his hands and preached. And if someone does this we are greatly thankful to God for such devotion. However, a whole host of God’s children who do not participate in this way in the Lord’s work lose something by not taking part. There was one church that Paul had to ask for support, but in this case they also forfeited the blessing that comes with sharing in the work.
J. Martenson: The elders who work hard at teaching ought to receive their support from this work according to 1 Tim. 5:18. But merely to preach one or two times a week is considered part-time in this work of teaching and preaching the Word, and therefore ought likewise to receive a little support for the week just as another worker receives a comparable amount for a couple hours of work. An elder-and it is written elders and not priests, in 1 Tim. 5:17- are to take care of and tend to the flock, and more is needed to shepherd than to merely stand in the pulpit before the flock once or twice a week.- Concerning “preaching mania,” you can find those who suffer from this sickness. The person who never talks about Jesus and fails to bear his name outside of the pulpit certainly suffers from a “preaching mania.”
P.A. Peterson: In regards to the letter of recommendation, I find that Jesus had no such thing. He traveled from town to town without any such letter. If someone depends on a letter of recommendation then perhaps he will never be able to minister outside of a particular circle of Christians. Once I belonged to a denomination, and they even sent me to their school, but when I decided not to hold the view of the atonement that Christ died in my stead, they did not want me to preach then either. I wasn’t able to get a letter of recommendation from them. I then traveled to Kansas without a letter of recommendation, preached there, and souls were saved. This was a living letter.
E. Thorell: I do not understand much about this subject but according to what I do understand from the Scriptures, a letter of recommendation should not be necessary in order to preach the gospel.
J.G. Princell: Concerning the length of calling, we see from Acts 11:26 that Paul and Barnabas remained in the church at Antioch for a whole year. In Acts 18:11 we know that Paul on his first visit to Corinth stayed there for 18 months, working with his hands. According to what is written in Acts 19:10, Paul stayed for two years in Ephesus. Therefore, the length of time is different according to various circumstances. - With respect to offices, there are three: elders or bishops-which are one and the same. The Jews had elders, and those who exercised oversight were called after the Hebrew practice ‘elders,’ and after the Greek, ‘bishops.’ Then there were deacons who were to administrate, to care for members, to help the sick, etc. The third were evangelists. Timothy was an evangelist, and Paul exhorted him, “Do the work of an evangelist.” Theologians have not always viewed Timothy as an evangelist since he did not write any of the Gospels, holding to the idea that unless one writes a Gospel, he is not an evangelist. Thus, they do not think that evangelists can be chosen or set apart.
L. Lindquist reminded the conference about a practice in the world’s churches. A person gets a letter declaring his right to pastoral ministry, similar to how the state issues a deed for real estate. When the person gets the letter, he thinks that he then has the right to preach the gospel. I believe also that a person has the right to proclaim the good news of Jesus without such a letter or deed, but for the one who devotes himself exclusively to this task, I believe a written or verbal recommendation is fitting.
A. Davis: I know well that it can be both good and not-so-good to have a letter of recommendation. When there is no more than one group, then it is good, but now, of course, there are so many groups that if someone is recommended, the letter may not apply to him preaching to another group, and thus perhaps he is not received. In John’s third letter, I see that it was not merely the humble brothers who were not received but John himself was not received. In Matt. 10, it is written how the disciples should respond when they are not received: “Shake the dust off your feet.” I know a congregation where a brother was eager to rescue the perishing, but they were offended and were of the opinion that he should move on from there. He shook the dust off his feet, and ever since then I have heard the preacher bemoan the fact that none were saved.
J. Martenson: If we examine Acts 18:27, we discover that Apollos was to go from Ephesus to Achaia- “the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to receive him.” In Rom. 16:1-2 we read the recommendation that the sister Phoebe was to be received by the church at Rome. Several examples can be cited. Therefore, such a recommendation is neither unique to the Word of God nor was it looked down on during the days of the apostles. This was also the case in Acts 9:2 where Paul asked for letters of recommendation to the priests of the synagogues. We should not think that we are such great men that we consider it below our dignity to be recommended by other brothers.
K. Erixon: It is altogether true that a recommendation is valid only as long as there is confidence in the person recommended. It is also true that this does not apply among the heathen but to those ministering to a congregation of believers, and of course, there may be reason at times for them not to open their houses and churches. Now a word of advice is in order about living graciously in Jesus. It is common for young souls to want to witness well about the Lord through words and deeds, and that is certainly a reason to rejoice, especially if they have for a long time witnessed poorly for him. But they need to listen and be wise, and not merely focus on the preaching aspect of ministry. Furthermore, they should be compelled both by the love of the Lord and the wellbeing of souls, and have this confidence as they greet one another. If one brother does not have the confidence of another brother who knows him well, then it would not be good for others to accept him either. In regards to a recommendation, it is of course, a means to protect oneself from a deceiver. Yet, it may be that the person is not actually a deceiver but merely lacking in spiritual sense-a matter that one should still protect himself against. It is not that these people want to be deceivers but are merely so untaught in the truth that their teaching and preaching leads to error. In their case, they ought to remain quiet, and better yet they should first seek God’s will before they go out. We ought to heed what the Scriptures say: “Many ought not be teachers, for they will receive a stricter judgment.” While we should observe this warning, it is also important to endure in our love for others, and if we make a mistake in this regard, it is something that we should not overlook for long.
J. Martenson: Concerning the matter of mistakes, I would also like to add that it is important to distinguish a preacher’s mistakes from deceit. A preacher may in one way or another make a mistake and nevertheless it ends in a blessing. It is important that by his making a mistake that he should not be declared a false prophet since this is a quite serious accusation. Rather, correct him in love. And if he is of the mind of Jesus, let him declare this to be so. Another matter is when a person imposes something as his A and O that is not right. In this case, it is not merely a mistake but promoting a strange doctrine and this ought to be dealt with accordingly.
J.G. Princell: When asked about ‘calling,’ I have used four points with my students that I would now like to consider:
December 2, 1884, Page 1
A. Davis reminded everyone that edification is not the same as conversion, and that it is important that congregations nurture converts in faith, love, etc. Jude 20 states: “But you dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith, and pray in the Holy Spirit.” This is spoken to God’s children. So also Col. 2:6,7 reads, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith, as you have been taught, overflowing with thankfulness.”
Ch. Sandquist. A person should not build on the sand, but on solid ground. There are many members but one body, and the Lord is the one who works in all. Edification comes about by the work of his Spirit. Let me read 1 Pet. 2:4,5: “As you come to him, the living Stone-rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him-you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house, to a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices which are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ!”
J. Martenson. The Scriptures have much to say about edification, and the term is used in various ways, such as the building of Babel, the prophets building aggravation, building houses, the temple, and the church. If we take a house, or the temple as an image of God’s church, we are reminded of all that goes into building this structure, and then it is perhaps not as difficult for us to understand. Of course, a building such as this begins with stones that form the foundation and support the structure. These foundation stones must be carried and set in place, where each stone is set stone-to-stone. Both the stone setter and his helper build the building. When we examine the meaning of edification in God’s church, I believe that it demands more than the spiritual growth of believers. It also requires an increase in the flock. How pitiful it is for a house that has been built, for the workers to think that it is sufficiently large enough, and then they only add ornaments. The one aspect of edification is as necessary as the other. Every one of us in this regard should work for the edification of the church. Even if you serve only as a helper and carry stones to the foundation-and labor diligently, you will not be without payment, for every worker will receive payment for his labor.
K. Erixon. Brother Davis read Jude 20, and I would like to point out that this division stands in contrast to edification. The apostle says: “In the latter times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires. These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith.” It seems that division as expressed here is a great hindrance to edification. Furthermore, preaching strange doctrines, devotion to myths, and endless genealogies are hindrances. “These promote controversies rather than God’s work-which is by faith.” (1 Tim. 1:4) In addition, inappropriate speech hinders the church’s edification. “Do not let any unwholesome speech come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs.” (Eph. 4:29) In Rom. 14 we are warned about judging one another in the matter of eating. It speaks of a man who considers one day more sacred than another, and admonishes us to stop passing judgment on one another, and instead, “make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” The edification described here stands in contrast to the loveless and offensive judgment that does not promote peace, but rather strife. Where there is strife, edification is not there. Please note that I do not mean a type of peace that a person finds upon some false premise. I do not mean a peace in the midst of a spirit of death that prevails in many places such as in a church where the priest conducts worship regularly, and some may think everything is fine even though both the priest and listeners are ungodly. This type of “peace” or “calm that should not be interrupted” is not was it meant here. Certainly it is better that before such “peace” is spread that the truth comes. But the peace that should not be interrupted is the kind that is established on mutual love among God’s children. This, for example, can happen within an assembly of believers. They love one another and teach the need for good behavior, and long to come to the truth, and in various ways are able to accept wrongs. But then someone comes professing greater insight and begins to judge them, and clawing like a bear, says: “You call yourselves Christians; and yet I find here things that are not right with you- no, you are hypocrites; do not be deceived.” Then comes strife, and not edification. Therefore, it is important to consider and see accurately those things that can either promote or hinder edification.
J.G. Princell. Eph. 4 has already been read. It says that Jesus has appointed some as apostles, evangelists, etc. in order for the saints to be built up. Let us look at the meaning of edification, namely, that the saints should become mature, that they should become a building- not merely stones laid on the foundation. The church is to be seen in terms broader than a gathering of stones. “Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God,” etc. Unity is important; but it is not simply a question about unity but the kind of unity that comes through the truth. Of course, the better the knowledge we acquire about the Lord, the more faith and unity we confess.
A.L. Anderson believed, according to Heb. 6 that a point is made about the church’s edification and constructing a building. We are not to lay a foundation again but to go on toward maturity. The edification that takes place in the church builds upon salvation-repentance and faith in God. In regards to salvation, this is the foundation- the groundwork that is just a couple feet off the ground-but edification is higher.
L. Lindquist cited 1 Pet. 2:4,5: “As you come to him, the living stone-rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him-you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house,” etc. Edification first begins by coming to Jesus, the living stone. If a fewer number of stones come to the foundation, then the building is smaller. Moreover, a building requires both walls and ornaments. The Spirit, the Word, gifts and prayer are important for edification.
L.A. Kruse. To prepare God’s children is something that we need to take a hold of. If this is not encouraged, the church will merely became a partially prepared building without works of service, and will soon become a haunt of vice. God has given us everything we need for life and godliness, and he wills that we should make use of this, and thus build up the church. The apostle says to encourage one another and build each other up. It does not say to abdicate this role to some other person, and somehow imagine that we are free from this responsibility since we are each to some extent responsible to one another. For the law was given through Moses-given for edification-grace and truth comes through Jesus, and through him we are built up.
E. Thorell. Edification is necessary. But who will promote it? Yes, I believe that edification comes from overseers, elders, and the whole congregation, and by “congregation” I mean individual members. The individual has much to do with the church being edified. The meeting serves to edify the church; yes, these include the preaching-, discussion- and prayer-meetings. This is true of this meeting today here too, and I am glad to take part and listen to all these truths. Nevertheless, it is also important not to regard it as an error or evil when some people feel the need to call a meeting in order to read, pray, and sing. I remember how in Sweden I was edified, when the elders arranged a meeting. Some of us youths did not always speak so wisely, and yet we dared to open our mouths and did not always say the right things. Rather than push us aside, however, they corrected us instead in the fullness of love.
P. Lanér. I remember a story from Sweden that told of a housewife who had her maidservant clean the house three times, each time after the other. Yet, the maidservant did not discover or figure out the reason for doing this; the housewife had to point it out. Sometimes we too fail to see things and overlook much. I merely want to bring to our attention here Eph. 2:21 and Col. 3:12-13.
A. Davis. The question here pertains to edification, not to building the church. Jesus himself chisels the stones loose from the quarry, and then builds it. We can take Solomon’s temple as an example. As long as the stones were still in the rock, they could not be chiseled or trimmed. But when they are chiseled, then the edifice of stone is built, as a finished building not far from the quarry. We are saved when we are chosen; but consider how ignorant we are about this. Look at Col. 1:9, especially how Paul prays for the Christians, that they might be “filled with the knowledge of his will.” Since the church exists today, it is the same way with her edification. To carry one another’s burdens and thus fulfill the law of Christ pertains to edification. This is especially important for the elders as they care for the younger members. We see in Col. 2 where Paul says that he himself struggled in order to encourage them, that they “may be united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding in order that they may know the mystery of God,” both the Father and Christ. Surely, they were not as well informed as those who had preached for 20 to 30 years or so.
Ch. Sandquist. Edification happens wherever Jesus is precious to someone’s heart. The priests in Jerusalem would always keep a fire burning by the altar. So too, we ought to see that the Spirit’s fire is not extinguished, but burns in us, and when that happens there is edification.
P.E. Dillner. Someone mentioned earlier that there are three kinds of meetings that promote edification: the preaching-, discussion-, and prayer-meetings. However, many disregard the preaching meeting, and say, “I will not preach but simply read.” Yet this is not right because the one activity is as necessary as the other. I see in Acts 19:8 that Paul entered the synagogue in Ephesus and spoke boldly there for three months, teaching and arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. In 1 Cor. 14, it mentions how a meeting should be conducted in order for believers to be edified: “When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the edification of the church!” What blessing the prayer meeting brings, and we see an example of this in Acts 12. In that passage, Peter comes out of prison as a result of the prayer meeting. Nevertheless, such prayer required the unity of the Spirit for such a thing to happen.
A.L. Anderson. When some image appears we ought to pay attention to it as far as it goes. In Eph. 2, it says that believers are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets- Christ. But it says here also: “And in him you too are being built in which God lives by his Spirit.” I believe that the edification of the church is something that happens when a person is built upon the foundation.
J.G. Princell. In 1 Cor. 14:3, it says, “Everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort,” and in verse 4: “he who prophesies edifies the church.” Many take “edification” only to mean becoming high in spirits, or lifted up in spirits, referring to the emotions. But this is a mistake. The emotions are “the music” in the family but they do not provide bread, satisfy hunger, and bring strength. Emotions can bring a degree of pleasure but a person who was satisfied before becomes hungry again, with an empty stomach as before. And so too with the soul’s emotions, they can be a kind of spiritual humor (not spiritual joking) and bring life to the moment but you will hunger again afterwards. Yes, souls can be lifted emotionally but afterwards they do not have any more power to resist sin and temptation than an empty sack. The soul can be propped up with sticks or something else but this will not help. It becomes like bodies that are filled with gas and they always go up and down. This is commonly the situation after someone plays an “Æolian harp.” He anxiously sits there, longing to listen again to the same music. But when no more is played, he becomes quite disheartened, sighing with regret, and this can perhaps become a hindrance to edification.
December 9, 1884, Page 1
K. Erixon. Yes, what he said about eating is good, and at the same time it helps us speak about edification. I also believe that edification can be promoted a lot more if we take seriously encouraging one another- not in the way the youths complained to the elders or quite the opposite. Let us all ask ourselves this question: Have I done everything that I should have done for my brother?- In regards to not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the apostle admonishes, this is something other than gathering for the regular so-called worship services where a preacher gives a sermon and everybody meets in order to hear. The public worship service is geared more for mission in the community, while the assembling together of God’s children is geared more to their spiritual maturity.
J. Nyström. If edification is not the same as a sermon but God’s children coming together for exhortation, comfort and encouragement, then I believe there is no edification when driven by intentional greediness. It must come from a mind filled with love.
J. Martenson. Someone said that this was a question about the edification of the church, not about building the church. Someone remarked that it was a question about edification of a house, not about building the house. Of course, this is merely speaking about different sides of the same issue. The scriptures use both expressions. Jesus builds the church but the scriptures also say that the one who prophesies edifies the church. If the church’s edification is increased through maturity, then it is promoted not only through maturity- obedience of living in faith and holiness- but also through growth in numbers. When a local church grows in numbers, then someone says that it matured. This is also true of God’s church. Thus, edification refers both to the salvation of souls and being rooted in the truth. In addition, I believe that the mission meeting, as well as individual meetings of God’s children promote the edification of the church.
J.G. Princell. Yes, it is obvious that the mission meeting serves to build up the church since it promotes maturity. Someone can certainly say that the church is edified when it grows and increases in faith, love, gifts, etc. This can also be said about the individual believer’s edification. It is truly important that a person pays attention to this matter of edification in order to avoid building only one side of the house. For instance, a person can become one-sided, and put on a happy face even though he is not a child of God. Happiness may be a façade- it appears good, but if someone only has a front wall and no side walls, the whole thing will soon fall. Certainly there are other walls that are necessary such as humility, patience, trust, and so on, and since God wants to build the whole character, he may even bring suffering and sorrow in addition to happiness. There may even be bare walls, but they are necessary for holding in the flock. We should not despise difficult things since it is true as someone has expressed: “God has had one Son without sin, but not without sorrow.”
K. Erixon. This question encompasses the Word, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and even song and music. What are the correct uses of these? Concerning song and music, we need to become clear on their correct use by considering their misuse. Luther said that for no price he wished to be without the teaching he had on this subject. Music and song are powerful mediums in order to lift up opposition, sorrow, etc., and that they should by no means be cast away, and neither should they be despised. Satan knows how to use them, and he even wants to have the Word in his service, even if he burns himself on his fingers. Most pieces of music are secular and not Christian songs, and it ought to be the other way around. A choir should be able to use a lively tune, and if it fails to do so, it misses an opportunity to promote life in God, and forfeits it to the evil one. It is not as important with musicians in the church as with the song, but nevertheless it is best played by an awakened player who can pray: “Lord God, bless my fingers; bless my playing.” I do not know if someone can do anything better than to become awakened, and then be used in the name of the Lord. If a church has a choir that does not know the Lord, then it is best for the members to sit and listen until someone becomes a believer.
Ch. Sandquist. With respect to the act of being baptized and the time for practicing this, it is my conviction that a person must hear the gospel, as well as believe, and then he or she may be baptized. I find nothing written in the scriptures to support infant baptism. Matt. 19:14 as well as Mark 10:14 which are ordinarily used as the principal proof texts for infant baptism seem to apply neither to Christian baptism nor in the church but appropriately to God’s kingdom. Both the Lord Christ himself, and John before him, preached about the kingdom of God, this kingdom which the Jews according to God’s promises anticipated. They expected the Messiah, the King, and with him the kingdom. But when they rejected the King Christ, and crucified him, by doing that act the kingdom was set aside, and then the Jews were further dispersed.
J.G. Princell. The question pertaining to the uses of the Word, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper as means of edification is rather limited-“Are they able to serve as means of edification, and so be used in the church?” The fact that they are to be used for edification is sufficiently revealed. Concerning the Word, Paul says to the overseers at Ephesus, “I commit you to God and the word of his grace, which can edify you all.” We see that God is united with and in the Word. Therefore, when someone drinks in the Word, he is edified since he drinks in that which is of God’s nature, God’s mind, thoughts, emotions, etc. In regards to the use of the Word, it can be read and heard publicly and privately. Where it is read in private or in the home, it should not be limited there but also read publicly so that blessing follows. Yet, since many of the instructions in God’s Word never come out in public gatherings, then private reading is needed. Good Christian books and newspapers are able to help here much also, and they should not be disregarded. Occasionally both preachers and laymen speak with contempt toward Christian books and newspapers, claiming that “they are human.” But is this not ironic since a preacher has the right to preach, and in so doing he practices what he despises? He cannot rightly expect people to obey his message when he despises reading what his brothers and sisters say. To do so is to show contempt for himself. The Word can be set forth on paper, and in many cases it reads more smoothly than when it comes from lips, and it is often heavier on the scale of truth. For me, I need and am anxious to read a sermon by some brother every week. I also recommend that people read testimonies of men of God. When you read a testimony and humbly consider the story, you begin to think the same about the man himself who is presented. Furthermore, it is good to read a piece everyday from a devotional treasury, especially when you prefer such reading. This is helpful for insight into a word of scripture which can be a source of encouragement for the whole day. Let us not think that the sermon is enough for us all. The Word is for our enrichment. I heard in Sweden that they had a meeting there purely for the purpose of reading and not preaching God’s Word, and the Lord blessed it. We need to have such times of reading in the home.
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Concerning baptism, it is of course this use for edification that is the same as the Word. God’s Word gives us clear examples, and I will follow them. With regards to small children, they are surely God’s children in another sense than those who become believers. Yes, if I might express myself, they are children of a greater reconciliation. What power and blessing baptism brings, and I can say this since I have experienced it. When I read God’s Word, I see the need to be baptized. When I was baptized I experienced great blessing, both then and ever since. But what blessing is found in baptizing infants, I do not exactly know. If the baptism is performed properly, then it is joined together with much edification. As for the Lord’s Supper, I have recently experienced much blessing. I do not understand this matter completely but I know that when we are gathered in Jesus’ name, we must consider him present, for he is not in the grave.
P.A. Peterson. From Eph. 4:5 we know that we have one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. Can we somehow justify children’s baptism as right when the scriptures say: “whoever believes and is baptized” etc.? Can a person believe without someone preaching? I do not see how this can happen. I am not insisting that someone should go and exclusively preach baptism, but neither do I think that we should neglect this part of God’s Word. Baptism certainly does not remove dirt from the body but as Peter says, “it is the pledge of a good conscience.”
J.W. Strömberg. The Lord’s Supper is an important means of edification. The apostle speaks of the blessing of the communion cup: Is not the cup a participation in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread a participation in the body of Christ? It is meaningful that God’s children become one. We who are many are one body for we all partake of the one loaf. Therefore, God’s children ought to be aware of eating with the world, for when they do this knowingly, they are defiled by the world. On the other hand, a brother ought never refuse another brother the privilege to eat this meal with him, for if he does, he pushes away of member of Christ.
E. Thorell. I am glad for the day when the truth comes forth, and I thank God for what has already come to light. I wish not to share from my own life about baptism or to make any other points, but merely to offer a proverb from a wise man, namely, Solomon. He has counsel for both young and old, and says: If you receive understanding, you shall keep your way straight and avoid folly. I will ask you, who are wise, not to cut the cord.
J. Martenson. It has already been noted that the baptism question is a delicate subject. However, I am glad that in brotherly love we are able to speak to this subject as brothers, as we have done. Now, I do not hold either to infant or adult baptism since this merely ignites a strange fire in a minor area. Instead, I would like to say something on this subject that might possibly work to cool down one or another and their enthusiasm and zeal over modes of baptism. And what I now have to say is not flippant or casual but something that I have thought about for more than a year. In my fervent study of the Bible I have asked, what would Jesus think and say to this question?
(One brother wished to ask a question: Was not Jesus baptized in water, and it was when he was an adult? Did he not say to his disciples: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and was not the centurion Cornelius and others baptized in water?)
Yes, Jesus was baptized in water, but why? Should we be exactly like him in this respect and not be baptized before we are 30 years of age? We must remember that Jesus was born under the covenant of the Law, and therefore he had to observe all of the Law’s commandments. Why was he circumcised on the eighth day? Yes, the Law of Moses commanded it. Why was he as a child presented in the temple? Yes, this was according to “what the custom of the Law required.” (Luke 2:27) This was the case with his baptism too. John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance, but Jesus did not need to repent. We read in the Old Testament (see, for example Numbers, chap. 4) and see clearly why Jesus was baptized at 30 years of age; it was commanded in the Law. At 30 years of age-and not before-the priests of the Old Covenant were chosen for service, and at their consecration they were brought forward to the entrance to the tent of meeting in order to be cleansed with water, and then they were anointed with the holy consecrated oil (see Exodus 29:4: 30:30). Of course, this was fulfilled in Jesus when he was set apart when the Holy Spirit came upon him instead of oil-something the people understood.
(One brother remarked: Are we to believe that Jesus would not correct them if indeed they held this view?)
Surely he corrected them, although not always immediately. He demanded spiritual obedience before he could tell them everything. “I have much to say to you,” Jesus said, “but you are not yet able to bear it.” Of course, this is still true today and we shall touch upon some church ceremonies. For example, when someone is converted in the state church in Sweden, he can for a rather long time hold onto the church’s old rituals and customs before he attempts in all respects to dedicate himself to the Word. How many still long for a church that serves as a place to observe the Lord’s Supper, and for baptizing? That was the case here too. If at first the Lord had begun to stand against all their ceremonies, then they would have become so frightened that no one would have been able to reach them with the most important news that Jesus was the Messiah. And also, when the disciples might have perhaps become so preoccupied with reforming the outer customs, then they may have forgotten to preach Jesus Christ. But nevertheless in the beginning he explained to the apostles that Moses’ office would not remain, and by no means did they dare go and strive for any Jewish ceremonies, even though at times they practiced several of them.
(One brother wished to know what we should make of such language that says that we through baptism are clothed in Christ, receive a good conscience, and so on.)
We should read and believe these words just as they stand. It really states that we are clothed in Christ through baptism. And those who say that baptism saves do not overstate matter. But what they are mistaken about is when they make baptism equivalent in meaning to water baptism. In Rom. 6, it states that we all who are baptized into Christ are baptized into his death. “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.” It mentions here that through baptism we are buried with Christ into death but not a word is spoken about water. Of course, baptism is synonymous with becoming united in Christ, and not to be united with Christ through water. We read this also in Col. 2:11,12 where it is perhaps more clear on this question of Spirit baptism: “In Jesus you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him” in baptism, etc. Here the baptism is surely “a circumcision without human hands.” Rom. 9:29 declares, “circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit!”
(One brother remarks: In 1 Pet. 3:21, it speaks, however, about water baptism as saving and giving a good conscience).
Yes, I believed so too until I began to read this verse more accurately. It states that Jesus “went to a place and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves us also,” etc. This is far from stating water baptism, but on the contrary, it says that baptism is the anti-type of water. Of course, the anti-type is never the same as the type. The brazen serpent, offerings, and ceremonial purifications were all types. But the anti-types are something other, and so too is the case here. Therefore, I believe that what is meant here is Spirit baptism. And it further states that what saves us is not removal of dirt from the body, but the pledge of a good conscience. Outward cleansing may deal with cleansing the flesh but here it speaks of baptism as much more: “the pledge of a good conscience toward God.” This happens when a person partakes of, or is baptized with, the Spirit of God.
(One brother wished to know if it was not a sin when someone baptized with such uncertainty).
If I were uncertain about it being a sin or not and yet baptized, then it would be a sin to me. But I am not uncertain about this. If it were a sin, the apostles of the Lord would not have practiced it. However, I am merely uncertain about whether it has any blessing in itself, and what blessing it is. Surely we attempt many things where we are uncertain about the blessings they will bring. When I traveled to this meeting, I did not know what blessing it would bring, but I yielded myself to God and traveled anyway, and in so doing I did not sin. Sin becomes sin when I do not do something in faith, but it is not sin when I attempt something. (Cont.)
December 23, 1884, Page 1
And what follows pertains to the Lord’s Supper during which there are some in Corinth claiming to be of Paul and of Apollos, as well as some behaving in an improper manner of behavior, and we see the consequences at the end of chapter 11: “This is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.” The apostle says that we are not under condemnation of the Lord but discipline, “so that we will not be condemned with the world.” We often see how Christians become sick and die way too early according to our thinking. Perhaps, if we could see as God sees, we would discover that the death of many was caused by the improper observance of the Lord’s Supper. May God help us to prove his will, and for him to correct us. We ought to give him much thanks for his merciful patience which he has shown us, for we have sufficiently in this and in other ways missed the mark. His love is great, and it is the reason that he has not disciplined us with the rod, so that we would be lying in the grave.
What is the correct use of song and music? I cannot illuminate this question much. However, I have done a little observation and I know that both song and music are able to edify others. There are some pieces that if chosen to be sung, I do not think they would be very beneficial. Yet, since there are many in the church who have trained voices and are able to sing in time, to have them sit in the front pews of the church sanctuary and lead the song would be good. In this way, the entire congregation can practice singing and become better little by little. Something that can hinder edification is when there is too much freedom in suggesting songs in the church. When someone suggests a song, although he may like the words, he fails to consider that he and the rest of the people do not know the melody and cannot sing it. When the congregation begins to sing the song, with one person singing one way, and another person in another way, many can become annoyed. Someone may not be able to sing a song and not know if there are others present who are able to sing it. In this case it is best either to ask the congregation if someone can sing the melody, or in some special way to let the desire be known, and to have a leader sing the song. If someone is familiar with the melody, then the person gets his wish satisfied, otherwise it can lead to the congregation making a poor attempt at it, and that is discouraging. To sing with somber voices and long boring songs is not good either. This often puts people to sleep and then boredom splashes over the entire congregation just before the sermon begins. However, a brisk cheerful song can lift the soul so that the preacher’s sermon becomes even more uplifting, but this too must be without somber and boring speech. During all of this everyone must have their eyes on God and sing from the heart.
J.G. Princell. We are disciples and so we are all learning. During this past year I have been able to learn much, and I have even learned something in this way of looking at baptism. During recent years I have thought on the matter that Christian baptism is truly Spirit baptism, and I have noticed that brothers in other places have begun to look at this in the same way. Several weeks ago a letter came to Chicago-Bladet in which a Baptist spoke about how he came to the same conclusion. In the east, thousands of Christians can be found who do not baptize with water since they do not consider this to be Christian baptism. Thus, this view is not new, not even in history, although it has often been characterized as heretical-naturally!-and perhaps has been characterized by some here. And it is, well enough, that even views here are held with certainty.
A.N. Sweders. This was an altogether new matter that I have just heard with my ears. If it is really so, then the boundaries should fall! For whom has this not been a subject of contention? But it is important to hold on to God’s Word here, and not to men. I should think this, if it were so, as was pointed out, but for me I am still far from clear that it is so. I do not want to say that from so and so, I will have it, but I will have it made clear by the Word of God before I attempt to receive it wholeheartedly. It was said that we do not have any certainty to practice water baptism from God’s Word. However, do we think that the apostles, clothed with power from on high, could have been so led astray that they baptized in water without it being the Lord’s will? I cannot see that the scriptures state that John baptized in water, but Jesus with another. Yes, it states: “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit,” not that others should do it. When we look at what is written in Rom. 6, we do not read that it was the baptism in the Holy Spirit either. However, I do not wish to deny that it may be the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, I do not wish to deny that it may suggest water baptism either. I do not think that we should have any preconceived interpretations, but rather search the scriptures for the same way the disciples understood the Word.
At this point the discussion concluded and a committee of L. Lindquist, K. Erixon, J.G. Princell, and J. Martenson was selected, and if God’s will, at an appropriate time and place next year the committee would arrange a similar week of meetings.
After this, the meeting adopted the following resolutions: Without wanting by this to write a confession that should for us or others be binding in any way, or express otherwise what we have found the Divine Word to teach in some matters of great importance to all Christians, we wish to present here as concisely as possible and to make known some of the results that we have come to, after a careful examination of God’s Word according to the grace and insight we received from God:
1) God’s or Christ’s church on earth, or in every particular place, is a whole assembly of converted, born again believers who are baptized in Christ, and who reside and live on this earth, and in particular places.
2) Every so-called local church or number of believers at a particular location must have in their order and conduct, and as a church take on a form in this manner: that she may have the same qualities as the church at large, so that she is in her order of mission, requirements, obligations for membership, etc. neither more nor less than this.
3) With regard to denominations after men, or doctrines, customs and rituals, and with confessions that bind pastors together as members of a particular sect of the church, and thereby establishing itself by the detestable name “party”-a name that characterizes its spirit and attitude, and thus sets itself in the place of God’s Word, along with harlotry, murder, theft, blasphemy and so on, and what Christians should do with respect to a party is exactly the same as with all sin, namely, they should repent and forsake it.
4) When Christians do not belong to any church party, do not work to support and maintain any such party, and do not possess this attitude, then they will not be the cause for any schism among believers, and they will not be unjustly accused of any sectarian activity or partisan attitude.
5) The particular assemblies of believers here and there have the right and duty to work for the salvation of souls and for their own edification in faith, love, unity, etc. employing all spiritual means such as the various gifts and ministries of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12), God’s Word, and Christian discipline, as well as pursuing these activities as simply as possible- using only the most necessary church machinery (or so-called church polity) such as rules, officials, church protocols, and so on, keeping in mind that Christ’s church here on earth is merely a band of pilgrims who work, strive, and move forward to their final home-the heavenly city. The church of God’s glaring need is to spend less effort on organizing and more on spreading God’s Word and saving souls.
6) Always remembering that the church is one in Christ, that he is the head of the church, and the Holy Spirit is her infallible leader into all truth, and that all of God’s Word, especially the New Testament, is her “constitution” or unchanging rule-every assembly of believers must remain steadfast in the freedom with which Christ has made us free (Gal.5:1), i.e. both individually and collectively, and that together we have the right and duty to remain independent of all types of church authorities, as well as to resist all bonds which deprive us of our rights and perfect freedom; but individuals and congregations ought and are able to cooperate together through meetings and through individuals, and societies with whom they have confidence. Every free church has according to God’s Word and the laws of this country, all rights to ordain one or another person for biblical Christian service, and the church may make use of these rights in the fear of the Lord.
7) A good opportunity is now given to us-a wide open door for mission activity among the heathen in India. Brother L.E. Ungert and his wife who have resided and worked there for 6 years, are now living in Sweden, and are available to return to India. Thus, some of our brothers and sisters of the faith in this country have recommended, and we believe that it is God’s will, that Brother Ungert be welcomed here, in order to become more well known in this country, and then, if God leads him to return to the mission field, he can be supported by our prayers and contributions. A committee of three brothers was established at this meeting in order to correspond with Bro. Ungert in this regard.
8) As members of God’s people in this country, we desire, like ancient Israel, blessing upon this country in which we build and live, as well as actively to seek what is best, and therefore we state our desire to work most definitely against all dishonesty, vice and crime, knowing that sin is the ruin of people. We particularly express our disgust toward the barbaric and degrading vices of drunkenness and polygamy-the latter flourishing among the half-pagan sect of Mormonism; the former standing everywhere as a grievous hindrance to the success of the gospel and to the salvation of humankind. We will gladly promote and participate in all activities against these abominations by using every open, honest, and lawful means; and in being so convinced particularly in regard to the temperance issue that should be addressed as a special question without mixing it with other social and political questions here in the city, state and nation. Since the greatest form of success would come in the form of a permanent prohibition on the production, sale and use of intoxicating drinks, hopefully soon God will graciously grant us this success!”
To correspond with Bro. Ungert the following brothers were selected: K. Erixon, Princell and Martenson. “Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.” Eph. 6:23-24