At what point does an assembly rightly close owing to lack of numbers?
It should be stated that the words of the Lord Jesus, "For where two or three are gathered together in (unto, JND) my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Mt 18.20), are often taken out of context. It cannot be assumed that if two or three believers are left meeting together that the testimony should continue; after all, the "two or three" may be women.
There are certain questions which need to be addressed when a local assembly becomes few in number:-
a) Is there a plurality of elders? If the Scriptural pattern is to be followed, there should be brethren manifesting the features that should be seen in overseers.
b) Is there a range of spiritual gifts within the assembly?
c) Is there an effective gospel outreach?
d) Are there younger men in the assembly who would be competent to take on responsibility in the future?
These are just some of the issues that need to be taken into consideration. The mind of the Lord must be sought. It is no light matter for a local assembly to cease to function.
David E West
What is the position then of elderly saints who cannot travel to other assemblies when their assembly closes? If at any time they are able to visit other locations, should they be received as they would not have a letter of commendation?
It would be wise, if such circumstances arose, for a letter of commendation to be written for each of the remaining believers prior to the closure of the testimony, clearly explaining the situation. This would then serve as an introduction to any assembly that might be visited in the future by these "elderly saints". The present writer is confident that a very sympathetic attitude would be shown by the receiving assembly.
Perhaps we ought to consider the phrase "who cannot travel to other assemblies". Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that there is a local assembly within 20 miles (say) of the assembly which has ceased to function. Surely it would not be unreasonable if, from time to time, transport were provided by members of this "neighbouring" assembly to enable these elderly saints to maintain a link with like-minded believers. Certainly, Christians who find themselves in such a situation should not be forgotten.
David E West
What glory is it that the Lord manifested at Cana of Galilee (Jn 2.11)? Was it the same as was displayed on the Mount of Transfiguration?
It is significant that John in recording this first miracle of the Lord Jesus accompanies it with an explanation of its purpose and meaning: "This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him". John uses the word "sign" for the miracles the Lord wrought, and this clearly shows that there was a spiritual meaning in them. Peter refers to the fact that he was an eye witness of His majesty seen on the Mount of Transfiguration (2 Pet 1.16). There the glory was seen in His person, and the change of His appearance was even seen in His raiment which became "white and glistering" (Lk 9.29). The way the Lords glory was manifested in the miracle of John 2 was different, though I believe that on both occasions His deity was clearly proved. I think the glory John speaks of in 1.14 is the same as here (2.11), and perhaps there speaks of that which John beheld on the Mount.
In this miracle the Lord for the first time revealed His divine power and deity. Not only so, but He showed by this miracle the character of His mission which was of a spiritual nature. All the Lords miracles were much more than a wonder, they set forth real spiritual truth for those who had eyes to see. It is interesting that we have this comment of John, "and manifested forth his glory", because the miracle of changing the water into wine I believe has a dispensational significance also and speaks of the joy the Lord will bring to Israel in His millennial reign. If this is so, then in this very period of one thousand years Isaiah says that "the glory of the Lord shall be revealed" (40.5).
John J Stubbs