THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
Taken from an old book titled
This article was first read onto a cassette tape by, a dear brother in the Lord, Mr. Norman Anderson from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, England.
We are all Holy Priests and Royal Priests. As Peter points out we (Christians saved by grace) are both Holy Priesthood and Royal Priesthood, and there is a service that each of the Lords people can perform. (1 Peter 2:5,9)
Part of that service is God ward (Holy Priests) as in worship and adoration and also part of it is man ward (Royal Priests) as in ministry of edification, exhortation and comfort.
The apostle Paul was given a service from God to do. (Acts 9:15) If any man then told him that he needed to be appointed by men, he would have clearly pointed out the error in their thinking, as he did in Galatians chapter 2.
Likewise it is important to keep in mind that God has chosen each one of His people. (Ephesians 1:4) We do not need to be chosen by man.
Each of the Lords people have been called by God for one kind of service or another, again we do not need to be called by man. (2 Timothy 1:9)
Then we come to the point of membership. We know that all Christians are members of the body of Christ, which is His church. We are never told to become a member of another. (1 Corinthians 12:14)
Paul also was given four direct revelations. One was concerning the remembering of the Lord Jesus Christ in the breaking of bread, and again Paul would have been quick to point out, anything that men have altered in the simplicity of that meeting, anything that differed from the revelation that he received directly from God. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)
It is with real thanks to the Lord that we find that there are gatherings of Christians today that are seeking to function in the liberty that the Lord has given, and according to this simplicity.
Our prayer for our dear brothers and sisters in Christ is four fold.
1. That the Lord will use this for their blessing and encouragement.
2. That the answer to the exercise of the hearts that are searching the scripture to find Gods thoughts about the order of meetings for His people might be found.
3. That many might be able to see the beauty of this scriptural order.
4. That they might understand and seek to maintain the simplicity of the meetings of Christians until the Lord comes.
I do not have the printed version of this article, and the tape that I have is old and is difficult to hear at times. But I believe that the following is a very close rendering of what the unknown writer has come to enjoy.
The Imperial City of the seven hills is looking its very best in the setting sun with its marble palaces, temples, triumphal arches, and statues innumerable along the way. Soon to be dominated by the mighty Coliseum.
It is indeed a city of palaces albeit surrounded with hovels and places of glory and grossness: where pride and poverty, unrighteousness and vice, mirth and misery, callousness and cruelty abound on every hand. A place where Satan’s seat is. (Revelation 2:13)
In a humble quarter of the city where the workers apply their trade, is a house of a certain tentmaker named A-quil-a and his wife Priscilla.
Let us enter there this evening.
The work of the day is done and the largest room in the house had been cleared for company.
Many had already gathered before we arrived and the room is almost full. Fifty or more men and women are there. Mostly seated on rags upon the floor or on the few seats that are available.
They are a mixed company indeed, a few well-dressed folk of the petition class, and some trades men and merchants with their wives.
The majority is poor and meanly clad, with not a few who have the unmistaken badge of slavery.
A couple of oil lamps with floating wicks have been lit and shed an uncertain light on the faces of the guests.
These faces arrest our attention as we enter from the crowded streets without. Among all the multitudes that throng the market places, as we passed through, we saw no such expressions as these. A quiet settled peace and a holy joy marks their looks.
Though upon the brows of many, pain and suffering for Christ sake have left indelible lines. We see that both the host and the hostess bare in their bodies the marks of the Lord Jesus. An-dro-ni-cus and his wife Junia, sitting together there, shared a jail experience with no less a fellow prisoner than Paul the apostle and these have suffered the loss of all things and yet they are happy, obviously radiantly happy, perhaps the only happy people in all that great city that evening.
Who are these people and why are they assembled thus? They are a company of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. And as we learn from the book of the Acts of the Apostles chapter 20 and verse 7, as was the practice in those days, they have come together on the first day of the week to break bread.
It is all wonderfully simple and informal; no one seems to take precedence. The rich and the poor, the cultured and the unlettered, sit together as brethren in Christ.
We see that with them that there is no respect of persons. A man with a gold ring in goodly apparel has just taken his seat quite happily beside a poor man in vile raiment. They are all one in Christ Jesus.
Certain among them however are obviously of note in the assembly and esteemed highly. There is the well beloved Ep-ae-ne-tus, an aged brother, one of the first to believe in the region of A-chi-a. Also Am-pli-as, Ur-bane, Stach-ys are there, and the approved A-pel-les. He-ro-di-on a relative of the great apostle Paul was present and Rufus chosen in the Lord.
Among the women, also, may be noted Try-phe-na and Try-pho-sa, those persistent laborers in the Lord. And there is the beloved Persis who labored much in the Lord. Mary also is there and many another matron and maid.
What will they do now that they have come together? They have no hymnbooks and certainly no prayer books. Nor do they carry Bibles, though one or two have portions of the Old Testament scriptures in manuscript roles with them.
There can be no order of service, as we understand it, yet as we watch we are struck with the orderliness and sense of direction that pervades the gathering.
After a period of silent worship, in itself most moving to the spirit, one present has a Psalm in which all join, to one of the Hebrew melodies. The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. In the pastures of young grass He will lay me down. To the waters of repose will He guide me.
A voice is lifted in prayer, it is An-dro-ni-cus, rich in experience in the shepherds care that had led him through the valley of the shadow of suffering and prison, who talks aloud to his Lord. While many a deep voiced “AMEN” testified to the unity of the Spirit with him in his prayer.
Then beloved Ep-ae-ne-tus rises with the scroll of Isaiah in his hand and reads, “He is despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. But He was wounded for our transgressions He was bruised for our iniquities the chastisement of our peace was upon Him and with His stripes we are healed.” He sits down and there is a great quietness.
And then the silence is broken. It is A-quil-a who now speaks, wise old A-quil-a who once had taken the eloquent A-pol-los aside and expounded unto him the Word of God more perfectly. The company listens as he, gifted by the Spirit, prophesies to their edification, exhortation and comfort. In the course of time something is revealed to another who sits by, so A-quil-a holds his peace, and thus the prophets speak two or three.
(1 Corinthians 14:29)
How wonderfully the evening passes as each has a psalm, a doctrine, a tongue, a revelation, an interpretation and all decently and in order. For God is not the author of confusion but of peace. (1 Corinthians 14:33)
And then the Breaking of the Bread and the passing of the cup from hand to hand, showing forth the Lord’s death till He come. (1 Corinthians 11:26) What wonder those tear filled eyes, what more moving scene could be imagined the scholar and the slave, petitioner and peasant share the same cup in memory of the same Lord, each filled with the same spirit - and that in the heart of pagan Rome.
Just at the close a thrill stirs the assembled company A-quil-a arises to announce that Phoebe our sister has just arrived from Cen-chre-a bearing a letter from our beloved brother Paul. It is nothing less than the Epistle to the Romans from the hands of the great apostle of the Gentiles.
It is long and the hour is late but no one stirs, as the most wonderful letter ever penned, a letter that was to make its mark on the course of civilization, and nigh 2000 years, and more to come, was read aloud for the first time in history.
They must come together again, and yet again to discuss it and ponder what the apostle has written, in the assemblies.
But it is time to dismiss for it has been, for most a day of heavy toil, no Lord’s Day or Sabbath rest is theirs, and work awaits them on the morrow.
So as the letter closes with, “Greet Priscilla and A-quil-a my helpers in Christ Jesus: Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.
“Likewise greet the church that is in their house.
“Salute my well beloved Ep-ae-ne-tus, the first fruits of A-chai-a unto Christ.
Greet Mary, who bestowed much labor on us.
“Salute An-dro-ni-cus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.
“Greet Am-pli-as my beloved in the Lord.
“Salute Ur-bane, our helper in Christ, and Stach-ys my beloved.
“Salute A-pel-les approved in Christ.
“Salute them which are of A-ris-to-bu-lus' household.
“Salute He-ro-di-on my kinsman.
“Greet them that be of the household of Nar-cis-sus, which are in the Lord.
“Salute Try-phe-na and Try-pho-sa, who labor in the Lord.
“Salute the beloved Persis, which labored much in the Lord.
“Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine.
“Salute A-syn-cri-tus, Phleg-on, Her-mas, Pat-ro-bas, Her-mes, and the brethren which are with them.
“Salute Phi-lol-o-gus, and Julia, Ne-reus, and his sister, and O-lym-pas, and all the saints which are with them.”
Each name sends a thrill through its owner’s breast and they go away to suffer, to labor and to wait for the Lord from heaven, throughout another week.
When the last has gone A-quil-a and Priscilla gather together certain money gifts large and small that had been left by those who had been present. They represent what each had laid by him in store as God has prospered him and they form the collection on the first day of the week.
(1 Corinthians 16:2)
What have we witnessed, a club meeting, a religious debating society, an institution? No, it was none of these indeed. What then?
We have gazed upon the church of God. (1 Corinthians 10:32) Lowly contemptible little company, maybe, but the gates of hell, said Christ, shall not prevail against it. Amen. (Matthew 16:18)
So the article closes, and though it was just the sweet meditation of one that has come to appreciate the word of God and the simple instructions for the different meetings of Gods people, we can truly see that it has merit for the serious Christian to consider and to search the scripture to see if these things are so. (Acts 17:11)
Before we leave, there is one other item that I ask of you to prayerfully consider. There is a name that is above every other name and that is the name Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:9,10) We are told that if we are gathered together unto His name, He has promised to be in the midst. (Matthew 18:20) Would not the heart of every blood bought one respond that I want to be at such a gathering? We do not need any other name but His precious name.
Dear friend, please consider seriously, look through your Bibles, consider how serious a matter it is to add to what His word tells us. (Revelation 22:18) Christ is not divided, (1 Corinthians 1:13) and we are His body (1 Corinthians 12:27) and He would not have us divided, but He would have His people to be one. (John 17:11) That oneness must be according to His precious word. Any other oneness, that is not based on the word of God and according to the mind of God, is not the oneness that He would have us to be marked by. (Revelation 3:8)
May the dear people of God seek for that liberty and simplicity in their meetings that was enjoyed by the early church, where the Spirit of God can draw from the hearts as He sees best.
This liberty and simplicity is truly valuable, be it in worship of the Father or of the Son, or be it in ministry of edification, exhortation and comfort for the blessing of Gods people. Let us learn to value it as the Apostle Paul valued it, along with all that have had the privilege and opportunity to experience it and enjoy it in their local meetings.