Updated comment on The Exclusive Brethren web site in August 2009:-
The article I am about to comment on is at the time of writing not actually on the Exclusives web site, but it was written by Jackson Wells who the Exclusives point to on the front page of their web site as representing them for media enquiries. One would therefore think that the article represents the Exclusives stance on the matters written about.
I have no intention to write an exhaustive critique of the whole article, but to concentrate on the following sentences:
“Brethren adhere to a doctrine of separation which prevents members from socialising with people with whom they cannot share Holy Communion.
Brethren consider sitting down to a meal to be Holy Communion, so they cannot share a meal with people outside their fellowship.”
I would first of all note that the Brethren refer to members. It was in days gone by a fundamental tenet of Brethren that they had no membership: “I own no membership but of Christ. An assembly composed as such of its members is at once a sect” (JND Letters Vol.3 page 460). Further, the expression Holy Communion does not appear in the Bible, at least not in the AV or Darby translations. This puts us on dubious ground before we go any further.
There are many people with whom one would share the Lord’s supper, but are not available because they do not attend the same meetings as oneself. “There is one true fellowship which is Christian fellowship, and I would not like to assume that all ‘outside’ those with whom we walk are unfit for this.” (JT Snr Letters Vol.1 page 159). “We cannot assume now that all believers not breaking bread are wicked persons.” (JT Snr Letters Vol.1 page 161).
As to sitting down to a meal being Holy Communion I would ask:
(1) Was it Holy Communion when Christ ate with taxgatherers and sinners (Matthew 9:10/11), when He ate with Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:36-50) or the Pharisee in Luke 11:37 ?
(2) Was it Holy Communion when Paul broke bread before all on the ship and invited others to partake of food (Acts 27:33 et seq) or when He accepted the hospitality of Publius (Acts 28:7-10) ?
(3) Is it only sit down meals that are Holy communion ? What about buffet meals ? What about café meals ?
(4) Is it only meals that are given thanks for that are Holy Communion ? What about snacks such as what we get in Luke 6:1 ?
(5) Are all meals eaten throughout the world today or in the past Holy Communion or is it only meals eaten by Exclusives that are Holy Communion ?
What Exclusives actually mean by what they say in the matter considered needs to be explained rather than covered by loose generalisations.
We get communion spoken of in 1 Corinthians 10 verses 16 et seq. Here Paul contrasts the cup of blessing and the bread that represents the body of Christ with food connected with idol worship of which we should not partake. However, he does not condemn the eating of an ordinary meal with an unbeliever (verse 27).
If we go forward to chapter 11 we see that Paul again distinguishes the Lord’s supper from ordinary meals of which he speaks in verses 22 and 34. It appears that at Corinth persons were not eating the Lord’s supper but their own supper. They came to the Supper for a good meal and drank wine to excess. Paul tells them that this is all wrong. At the Lord’s supper a person should partake worthily and prove himself before partaking (verses 27 and 28). If the Lord’s supper is given to little children it is not possible for them to do these things or distinguish the body (verse 29). Paul in verse 26 speaks of “this bread”, thus distinguishing it from the eating of bread generally.
If we go back to the institution of the Supper in the Gospels we find that it was instituted while they were eating the Passover meal. Bread and wine were to hand, but when Christ took them he first of all blessed them and then gave them to his disciples (Mark 14: 22-24). He thus distinguished them from the rest of the meal.
If we go to the Old Testament we find that ordinary meals were distinguished from sacrificial ones (Deuteronomy 12:13-16).
I won’t say more now as to this question, but my dialogues on Separation and articles on The day in which we live, go into the matter in detail.
One would draw attention to the fact that the Exclusives have brought trouble on themselves by their teaching and actions. In the early 1960's, when they had started separating husbands and wives where one was not in fellowship with them, a cartoon appeared in the Daily Telegraph showing a bride and bridegroom making their vows with the caption “until Big Jim do us part” (I think that was the wording). Subsequently, Big Jim was assaulted outside the Dorking Halls where he was taking meetings. He then shot off back to New York without taking the final session. After this Exclusives started building fortress-like structures. In this way one wrong step led to another (Think of David who murdered Uriah the Hittite in an attempt to cover up his adultery). Having shut themselves away it is not surprising that people speculate as to what the Exclusives are up to !
If I belong to a club I have to abide by the rules of the club. If I do not I may be reprimanded and if I persist I may be turned out of the club. This however does not justify club members interfering in my private life and influencing my wife to leave me (or vice versa if the offender is a woman). If they did they would be acting outside their jurisdiction. The same with the Christian assembly; it has no right to influence my wife to leave me if I do not have fellowship in the things of God with it. The rightness or wrongness of my course has to be left to God to deal with (1 Corinthians 5:13). If I am darnel that will be dealt with at the time of harvest (Matthew 13:24-30).
As to answering letters Mr Darby said as to a certain matter; “I have answered to every one who has written to me” (Letters Vol.3 page 377). He did not employ secular firms to write for him !