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Jesus' idea; a study of the real Jesus online

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puts Himself into line, if we may so speak, with the laws of

The Church and the Kingdom 185

Any great Idea indeed, or thought born into the world of men
attracts to itself kindred spirits, and usually becomes an organiz-
ing force. History is replete with such movements. It is in-
evitable, therefore, apart from any direct action of the Master,
that such great ideas as those of Jesus of Nazareth should be-
come an organizing principle in the life of the world. How
naturally too would this be brought about when the fundamental
thoughts of Our Lord were the fatherhood of God and the
brotherhood of man. That this truth was present to the master-
intellect of Jesus we fully believe, and to it we attribute that
characteristic optimism which impelled Him to form only the
nucleus of a society in the persons of the Twelve ; and, to quote
the words of England's foremost New Testament scholar, Dr.
Sanday, "After the manner of the divine operations in nature,
he was rather content to plant a germ with indefinite capacities
of growth, than thought it necessary to fix in advance the details
of organization." ^

nature, and consciously cooperates with them, or, better, makes
them serve His ends.

^ Exhaustive study of the life of Jesus has revealed the falsity
of the claim that He established a form of ecclesiastical govern-
ment, and Historical Criticism and Research are ever revealing
more fully that the form or forms which subsequently arose were a
gradual growth, and in their origin and development shaped by
actual needs and largely borrowed from forms of Organization al-
ready current in both the Jewish and the Gentile worlds until, in the
process of time, the whole approximated closely to the Imperial
form of Organization with the Pope or Csesar at its head. Well-
nigh every form of ecclesiastical organization with which the modern
world is familiar had its counterpart in some stage of this develop-
ment, uniformity being not an initial but a culminating characteristic.
The much-vaunted "Historic Episcopate" represents only a "half-
way house," a half-way stage in the development, and is found in
the beginning only in some places. Hence, while it may prove of
service in the organic reunion of the Christian Church (if such unity
is desirable, and we think the matter open to grave question, since
greater evils are likely to ensue from such unity than those which
now prevail from the divisions of Christendom, for the memories
of the World of one Church are certainly neither pleasant, inspiring
nor alluring), it is at once deprived of all authority as coming
from a command of Christ or as representing a "development"
under the direction of the Holy Spirit since, as we have just said,
that early development issued both logically and actually in the
Papacy. The truth is that neither the intermediate stages nor the

1 86 Jesus^ Idea

Jesus, indeed, at Cesarea-Philippi had a vision, superb and
glorious, of a great nation or brotherhood of men, a family of
God in which the all-important thing should be the sovereignty
of the law of love.

That He had been consistently working toward this end,
however, from the beginning is evident. The organizing power
of His idea, in fact, began to manifest itself when the first two
disciples — Andrew and John — believed on Him by the Jordan
and, turning from the Baptist, followed Him. A little later,
Jesus manifested this social power of His ideal when, by the
Sea of Galilee, He summoned four fishermen to leave all and
follow Him. (St. Mt. 4:18-22; St. Mk. 1:16-19; cf. St. Lu.
5:7-11). Here, and also in the call of Levi (St. Mt. 9:9;
St. Mk. 2:14; St. Lu. 5:27-29), a significant step was taken in
the formation of the brotherhood of men. A more distinctive
and far more significant step was soon taken in the call of the
Twelve Apostles.^

The selection of the Twelve indeed occurred at a critical
moment. Rejected by the authorities, and largely by the people
of Judea, Jesus had sought the less conventional atmosphere of
Galilee. There, however, the inveterate enmity of His foes pur-
sued Him. The Pharisees, with the Herodians, had organized
for His overthrow; the answer of Jesus was the call of the
Twelve. His enemies have advanced a step; He too will advance
a step. As they seek the ruin of His cause, He seeks to insure
its success. "Yes, him they may destroy, but in his room there
shall be Twelve; and from the Twelve how many more!"

final form of this early development are essentially permanent or
binding; they are simply accidents of Christianity's development,
and the super-abounding life of Christianity may at any time
develop new or better forms ; the new wine may demand new
bottles or new channels of expression.

^ St. Lu. 6:12-13 says: "And it came to pass in those days, that he
went out into a mountain to pray and continued all night in prayer
to God. And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples,
and of them he chose twelve, whom, also, he named Apostles" (cf.
St. Mt. 10; St. Lu. 3:14-19). Nowhere, however, were their duties
formally defined; they simply occupied an intimate personal rela-
tionship with Jesus, as companions and ambassadors. We use the
word "ambassador" advisedly. The Apostle is not merely one who
is sent with a message, but one who is also a personal and an ac-
credited representative.

The Church and the Kingdom 187

There had been Twelve Tribes in God's Ancient Kingdom of
Israel ; these had constituted the ancient kahal, or congregation.
So Jesus now selected Twelve Apostles. As from the twelve
sons of Jacob, the nation had descended which was at once the
embodiment of the Kingdom, and its agency of extension, so
from these Twelve spiritual Sons of Jesus, was to descend the
nation or brotherhood which should be the fuller expression of
the Kingdom, and its means for perfect consummation. "And
he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he
might send them forth to preach, and to have power to heal
sickness, and to cast out devils" (St. Mk. 3:14, 15).^

Turning now to the second and last mention of the church

^ In the light of this call, we appreciate an utterance of Jesus
recorded by St. Matthew and St. Luke, although in a different
context. At the Last Supper, the Master is represented by St. Luke
as saying : "And I appoint unto you a kingdom as my Father hath
appointed unto me : That ye may eat and drink at my table in my
kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the Twelve Tribes of Israel"
(22:29, 30). St. Matthew 19: 28 quotes this passage after the inter-
view with the rich young man, and St. Peter's question as to what
the disciples were to have for following Jesus. There twelve thrones
are mentioned; while in St. Luke we have simply "thrones," owing
to the defection of Judas. The Apostles' position, however, would
be a temporary one. (I. Cor. 15:28.) The meaning of the Master
is this: In view of the Apostles' labors, and the perils through
which they had remained constant, Jesus ordained for them, a
sovereignty, as the Father had ordained dominion for Him. They
were selected for unique distinction : to sit at the very tabic of the
Sovereign of the Kingdom in the Messianic Banqueting Hall, and
to occupy thrones as judges of the Twelve Tribes of Israel — the
Ancient Israel perhaps, and the new Spiritual Israel of which they
would be the progenitors. Recruited from the middle class of
Jewish society, the Apostles certainly did not seem destined for
such regal honors. They possessed, however, moral fitness and
spiritual aptitude. Hence, Jesus kept them with himself for some
six months, instructing them in the bonds of closest intimacy, and
subsequently sending them two by two upon a mission to the lost
sheep of Israel, that He might reclaim Israel if possible, and at the
same time test the strength and adaptability of His ambassadors.
Thus, while proclaiming the truths of the Kingdom everywhere,
Jesus was especially busied with the training of the Twelve, whom
He regarded as the first-fruits of the brotherhood which He was
hopeful of establishing, and the reapers in a rich harvest which
was to be garnered. Realizing this, we can understand the great
significance of St. Peter's confession at Cesarea Philippi.

1 88 Jesus' Idea

in the Gospels (St. Mt. iSriyfF.), we see the aspect of brother-
hood more clearly revealed. This utterance presupposes the
earlier utterance. Christianity is nothing if it is not practical.
When a wrong is committed against us by a Christian brother
or sister, Jesus tells us that offended dignity must yield to ardent
desire for reconciliation. The spiritual condition of the offender
must prompt us to the rescue. "Go and tell him his fault
between thee and him alone." Seek a private interview and
understanding. "If he will hear thee, thou hast gained thy
brother;" yes, gained him anew for the brotherhood of man.
"But if he will not hear thee, take with thee one or two more,
that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may
be established." Following the Old Testament precedent of
witnesses, the principle of arbitration is to be utilized. Arbi-
trators, disinterested, whose eyes are not blinded by passion or
self-interest, who can bring moral influence to bear in effecting
a settlement, and who can testify to what has occurred, must
be sought. But should the offender remain obdurate, as the last
resort, "tell it unto the church," the kKKXrjata, the last court of
appeal. It is contended by some — we think unjustifiablj^ —
that €KK\r}aLa here is the Jewish €K/cX7]o-ta, but surely, if this be
true, the principle involved is no less applicable to the Chris-
tian eKKXrjaia or community of believers in Jesus, Should the
brother not hearken to the advice and exhortation of the church,
"let him be for thee" — i. e., in thy estimation — "as a heathen
and a publican." In other words he is self-excommunicated.
There is to be, and there can be, no brotherly intercourse with
him, for he will not act the part of a brother. The church is
also informed that its decisions will be ratified in heaven. And
to render the exercise of this tremendous power credible and
reasonable, Jesus promises to the supplicating church — pleading
for the renewal of brotherhood — divine illumination, so that
the decisions of the congregation may accord with the mind
of God. The ideas of the eKKK'qata are here most clearly
brought out by the Master; they are fellowship with God and
the brotherhood of man. The sin against the church is the
sin against love — love for the brethren.

If the method of Christ was followed consistently and scru-
pulously, what a vast step toward the peace of the world would
be taken! Exercised in Christian parishes and congregations^

The Church and the Kingdom 189

and everywhere among Christian people, it might offend some;
and others might snap their fingers in the face of all attempts
at reconciliation, seeking refuge in some other parish, or de-
nomination, to be welcomed by some ignoble, perhaps rejoic-
ing, clergyman or minister. Thus the effort would often be
rendered abortive. But should all religious bodies, parishes, and
congregations rise to the height of the Master's teaching, such
unseemly conduct would be impossible, and general Christian
sentiment would compel to godly union and concord. Might
not the so-called Church of Jesus stress this teaching of the
Master, with profit both to itself and to the world, instead
of much of the stuff upon which to-day it places heavy em-
phasis ?

That this is the ideal of Jesus, no one can doubt; but, alas!
it is far from realization. The church of Jesus Christ is to-day
weakest in that w^hich should be its most salient characteristic —
heartfelt, unadulterated brotherhood. Of theoretical brother-
hood, perhaps of latent brotherhood, we have enough; but of
actual, energizing brotherhood we have far too little. Within
the church itself class and social distinctions — wealth, culture,
education, and intelligence, and many other things — enter to
mar the sense of brotherhood. Consequently innumerable in-
dividuals and the masses drift away from the church.^

The spirit of brotherhood, however, is an essential of the
church of Jesus. Orthodoxy of creed and orthodoxy of ministry
are well, but orthodoxy of spirit is better. In interpreting
eKKKrjaia primarily of ministry or creed we commit an egregious
blunder. This splendid word of the Gospel turns the thought

^ The severest indictment ever received by the Christian church is
the existence and the immense popularity of the many fraternal
organizations. Conviviality and selfishness are neither the source
nor the mainstay of these; indeed, theii presence is a mighty
protest against existing conditions, the eloquent witness of the
innate craving of the human heart for brotherhood, the confession
that it cannot be found in the church of Jesus Christ, and the
abundant indication that men have set out to find it for themselves.
Did the church of Jesus even measurably attain its ideal, their
raison d'etre would cease to exist. And, sad to relate, one of the
chief forces militating against the sense of brotherhood arises from
the church's faihire to appreciate the essential meaning of iKKXtjala'
Essential means something that is necessary to the constitution or
existence of a thing.

190 Jesus' Idea

away from the institutional and speaks of the social, the moral,
the ethical; of a brotherhood, not primarily of an organization.
He who best fulfils the terms of human brotherhood belongs
to the true church of Christ. "He that doeth the will of my
Father which is in heaven ; the same is my mother and sister and
brother." To do the will is to belong to the family of God:
the church is the family of God.

That Jesus intended His brotherhood to become, if possible,
coextensive with humanity, is seen in the words addressed to
the Apostles upon the mountain in Galilee: "Go ye therefore,
and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to
observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo,
I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world" (St.
Mt. 28:19-20). Again we meet with a dream of universal
empire. The vision of a Kingdom gained along Satanic lines,
however, is here replaced by a vision of a Kingdom gained along
God-appointed lines. ''Go'' bespeaks aggression. Beginning
from Jerusalem, they were to ffo unto the ends of the earth,
wooing and winning humanity. That which they possessed
could overcome all social, national and racial barriers. And
going, they were to disciple all nations. Man's ideas were to
give way before God's ideas. Further, they were to baptize
the nations of the earth in the name of the Father, and of the
Son, and of the Holy Ghost. The sense of this formula is
primarily that of a declaration of allegiance.

Among the Hebrews, as we have found, the name expressed
the character or nature of the person named. For example, "the
name of Jehovah is used as a succinct expression for the re-
vealed character of God, for all that is known of him." Again,
to have the name called over something, involved the idea of
ownership and protection. It did not mean "that the person
or object referred to will bear the name of that person whose
name is called over it"; it means that it will come under his
authority, pass into his possession.'^

Hence Jesus' expression here bears the Old Testament sig-

^ II Sam. 12 128 may be cited in illustration of this. Joab is anxious
for David to take the city, "lest I take the city, and it be called after
my name," i. e., be regarded as having passed under Joab's

The Church and the Kingdom 191

nificance, and should be interpreted in that sense. Thus to bap-
tize the nations into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and
of the Holy Ghost means to bring them into direct allegiance
to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and to all for which those
names stand. The nations, in other words, pass under the sov-
ereignty of these personalities. When we realize, even meas-
urably, what these names represent, we begin, in some degree,
to fathom the depth of Jesus' intention here. He sees with pro-
phetic vision the nations of the earth acknowledging the sov-
ereignty of the Triune God — become the Kingdom of God —
and representing in every phase of their activity the principles
for which Father, Son, and Holy Ghost live. There is an
intensive power in this formula, as great as the extensive power
involved in the word ''Go," The visible church, however, has
always been fonder of emphasizing the extensive property of
the Kingdom, than its intensive property. It loves always to
follow the line of least resistance.^ Yet these two properties
of the Kingdom should go hand in hand. It is useless, indeed,
for the church to "go," unless in going, there is a genuine bap-
tism into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, instead
of into a veneer of ecclesiasticism, which often makes the bap-
tized, like the Pharisaic proselyte of old, twofold more the
child of Hell than he was before. What men call Holy Baptism
to-day is, indeed, often worse than nothing. The Trinity, into
which Jesus would have humanity baptized, was not outward
and metaphysical, but ethical and inward. He dwelt upon its
manward, not its Godward aspects. This was the important
aspect for the world. His mind was not troubled with the re-
lationship of the Three Persons to the One God, or to one
another, but with the relationship of the Three Persons, and
each Person to every individual, and to the life of the world.
Baptism was not so much into water or into a mere name, as
into a new life of aspiration and of power, of forgiveness and of

*The writer has known, for instance, of a Diocese of the Prot-
estant Episcopal Church, which was famous for its foreign mis-
sionary interest and contributions,, yet which in itself represented
the very acme of Pharisaic exclusivism, social arrogance and hau-

^ As a matter of fact, in the New Testament, there is no mention
of any one being baptized in the name of the Trinity. The

192 Jesus* Idea

Thirdly, the Apostles were to teach all nations to observe
the commandments of Christ. Going, discipling, instructing,
was the threefold obligation imposed upon them. They were
to be primarily preachers and teachers. Jesus sounded no note
of officialdom or of organization whatever.^ Whatever the
Apostles did in the way of organization was due solely to the
exigencies of the situations that confronted them, and to the
vantage which their peculiar relationship to the Master gave

Complying with the obligation imposed, Jesus promises that
He will be with them alway, even unto the end of the world.
"Always'' really means "all the days." "Days of strength and
of weakness, days of success and of failure, of joy and of sor-
row, of youth and of age, days of life and days of death — all
the days." Obeying His command, indeed, they were to feel the
divine benediction of His presence. No product of the ec-
clesiastical imagination is more illy conceived and unsupported
by fact than that which regards this promise as made to a

expressions used are: "in the name of Jesus Christ" (Acts 2:38);
"in the name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts. 8:16; 19:5) ; "in the name
of the Lord" (Acts 10:48), cf. Jam. 2:7; Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27;
L Cor. 1:12; 6:11). Several explanations of this usage are offered,
(i) Baptism in the name of one Person of the Trinity is really in
the name of the Trinity. (2) When "in the name of Jesus" or
kindred expressions are used, it is not necessary to understand
them as formulas, but simply as an indication that the persons
were baptized into allegiance to Jesus, hence the Trinitarian
formula may have been used. (3) The shorter and simpler form
was the earlier and the original. The Trinitarian formula repre-
sents a later development. The latter, in fact, is not met with after
St. Mt. 28:19 until it is found in the writings of Justin Martyr
(Apol. I :6i), and in these it is not identical with the Gospel formula.
(4) In the age of the Apostles there was no fixed formula.

It is quite possible that Christ did not emphasize a formula at
all. Ideas with him were more valuable than words. The Apostles,
perhaps, saw this, hence their freedom in using other terms. Jesus
probably uttered the words of this Trinitarian formula, as He did
those of the Lord's prayer : as a model and a standard ; to suggest,
not to stereotype. By adhesion to the letter, the spirit of both
prayer and formula have been largely lost. Yet the form is only
valuable as a conserver of the idea. Eternal vigilance, however, is
the price of freedom from the curse of formalism.

^ St. Paul even seems to place but slight emphasis upon the duty
of an Apostle to baptize.

The Church and the Kingdom 193

specific ecclesiastical regime, orthodox in faith, and regular in
ministry. This seems to be the idea often met with among
Anglicans, Episcopalians, and Roman and Greek Catholics;
among those who boast of being Historic churches and of pos-
sessing Historic Ministries. ''Historicity'' may be a very good
thing, but certainly it is worthless in this respect. This theory,
in fact, attains the acme of materialism. The promise of Jesus
is not thus restricted, nor is it absolute. The principle enun-
ciated is universal and eternal, and conditional. The condition
of Christ's presence is compliance with His command. Those
who gOj truly baptize, and teach mankind — be they priest or
minister, layman or clergyman, man or woman. Catholic or
Protestant — are assured of the constant presence of their Lord.
The only sane Apostolic Succession, indeed, is along the line
of altruistic endeavor. To interpret it otherwise is blind ego-
tism, and little short of blasphemy. Most Apostolic is he who
most Apostolic does. The ample evidence for this truth is the
patent divine blessing which has rested, and now rests upon the
Apostolic labors of the Denominational Churches, and the non-
Episcopal Ministries. The Apostolic Succession of Jesus, in-
deed, includes Mackaye of Uganda, the Baptist Judson, and the
Presbyterian Chalmers, no less than the proud occupants of an
"Historic Episcopate," and it includes the latter only as they
''go" truly baptize, and truly teach.

In order that this brotherhood might have permanent ex-
pression, a permanent bond of union, and also a means of fellow-
ship with Himself, Jesus instituted '*The Lord's Supper." On
the eve of the Crucifixion, when reclining at the evening meal,
in the quiet of the upper chamber in Jerusalem, Jesus enacted
the supreme parable of His life. Here His parabolic genius
attains its highest manifestation. Following the example of the
Hebrew prophets, w^ho frequently illustrated and rendered im-
pressive some salient truth by means of dramatic actions, the
Lord "took the two simplest and most universal representa-
tions of sustaining food, bread that strengtheneth man's heart,
and wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and employed
them as the universal representatives of spiritual food, of His
body broken, and His blood poured out." His action is pre-
cisely what we would expect from our knowledge of Him, and
of His idea. What could be more fitting than that He embody

194 Jesus' Idea

the salient purpose and idea for which He stood in some signal
act as a permanent memorial of His aim, now that He was
going away? What more typical of His peculiar genius?
According to St. Mark's account, "As they did eat, Jesus took
bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said,
Take, eat: this is my body. And he took the cup, and when
he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of
it. And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testa-
ment, which is shed for many. Verily I say unto you, I will
drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I
drink it new in the kingdom of God" (St. Mk. 14:22-25).^
Whatever else this action of Jesus involved, it involved at
least the idea of union and of brotherhood. It is well said that
"food has ever been the token of unity — the bond of equal inter-
course." "Refusal to take food together is the symbol of ex-
clusiveness and caste distinction." The Jew could not eat
with the Gentile, we know, yet Jesus makes a common meal the
permanent symbol of the union of His followers without regard
to sex, condition or race.^ This fact is tremendously significant:
the very presupposition of the Lord's Supper, indeed, is the sense

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