July 10, 2019

The Unity of the Brethren is the Peace of the Individual


"Thanks be given unto Almighty God therefore, and knowing that it is appointed for all men once to die and after that the judgment [Hebrews 9:27] . . . principally, I give and recommend my soul into the hands of Almighty God who gave it and my body to the earth to be buried in a decent and Christian like manner . . . to receive the same again at the general resurrection by the mighty power of God."

Daily Reading : PSALMS 133 - 139

TEXT : Psa 133:1  A Song of degrees of David. Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! Psa 133:2  It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; Psa 133:3  As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.
Of all the virtues, rare to find in the Church, this is the one - brethren dwelling together in unity. Here, in Psalm 133, among the shortest of the Psalms, God states His will, desire, pleasure, and the blessing He bestows on those who dwell together in the unity of the faith with its bond of peace. What an irony that men and women professing Christ can take so many opportunities to offend Him with bitterness, selfishness, argumentation, disrespect, slander, etc. ad infinitum, ad nauseum. The clear, unmistakable will of the Master was His command to - "love one another. " [Joh_13:34  A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. /Joh_15:12  This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. /Joh_15:17  These things I command you, that ye love one another]
For emphasis, it is worth your time to review the other occasions of this Biblical command so the entire purpose and truth of Psalm 133 is appreciated. [See below][1] Thus, the preeminent preacher Charles Surgeon remarks on the sight of a Church that strives to live in unity.
"Behold." It is a wonder seldom seen, therefore behold it! It may be seen, for it is the characteristic of real saints, - therefore fail not to inspect it! It is well worthy of admiration; pause and gaze upon it! It will charm you into imitation, therefore note it well! God looks on with approval, therefore consider it with attention. "How good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" No one can tell the exceeding excellence of such a condition; a nd so the Psalmist uses the word "how" twice; - Behold how good! and how pleasant! He does not attempt to measure either the good or the pleasure, but invites us to behold for ourselves. The combination of the two adjectives "good" and "pleasant," is more remarkable than the conjunction of two stars of the first magnitude: for a thing to be "good" is good, but for it also to be pleasant is better. All men love pleasant things, and yet it frequently happens that the pleasure is evil; but here the condition is as good as it is pleasant, as pleasant as it is good, for the same "how" is set before each qualifying word.
For brethren according to the flesh to dwell together is not always wise; for experience teaches that they are better a little apart, and it is shameful for them to dwell together in disunion. They had much better part in peace like Abraham and Lot, than dwell together in envy like Joseph's brothers. When brethren can and do dwell together in unity, then is their communion worthy to be gazed upon and sung of in holy psalmody. Such sights ought often to be seen among those who are near of kin, for they are brethren, and therefore should be united in heart and aim; they dwell together, and it is for their mutual comfort that there should be no strife; and yet how many families are rent by fierce feuds, and exhibit a spectacle which is neither good nor pleasant!
As to brethren in spirit, they ought to dwell together in church fellowship, and in that fellowship one essential matter is unity. We can dispense with uniformity if we possess unity: oneness of life, truth, and way; oneness in Christ Jesus; oneness of object and spirit - these we must have, or our assemblies will be synagogues of contention rather than churches of Christ. The closer the unity the better; for the more of the good and the pleasant there will be. Since we are imperfect beings, somewhat of the evil and the unpleasant is sure to intrude; but this will readily be neutralized and easily ejected by the true love of the saints, if it really exists. Christian unity is good in itself, good for ourselves, good for the brethren, good for our converts, good for the outside world; and for certain it is pleasant: for a loving heart must have pleasure and give pleasure in asso ciating with others of like nature. A church united for years in earnest service of the Lord is a well of goodness and joy to all those who dwell round about it." [C.H. Spurgeon]
Without a doubt, as the Scriptures declare, nothing lends more evidence to true conversion by the Holy Spirit [which is the only Christianity recognized by God in the Bible] then love. Specifically, love to the brethren and among the brethren is the salient quality of real Christianity. Therefore, you should strive - with all your might, to promote, establish, and maintain love among the brethren, to do so is proof you love the LORD. [Joh_14:21  He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. /Joh_14:24  He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me./ Joh_15:12  This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.] Nothing could be more apparent than those words of our LORD. If you love Him, you love the brethren.
"We cannot say too much, it were well if enough could be said, to persuade people to live together in peace. It is good for us, for our honour and comfort; and brings constant delight to those who live in unity. The pleasantness of this is likened to the holy anointing oil. This is the fruit of the Spirit, the proof of our union with Christ, and adorns his gospel. It is profitable as well as pleasing; it brings blessings numerous as the drops of dew. It cools the scorching heat of men's passions, as the dews cool the air and refresh the earth. It moistens the heart, and makes it fit to receive the good seed of the word, and to make it fruitful. See the proof of the excellency of brotherly love: where brethren dwell together in unity, the Lord commands the blessing. God commands the blessing; man can but beg a blessing. Believers that live in love and peace, shall have the God of love and peace with them now, and they shall shortly be with him for ever, in the world of endless love and peace. May all who love the Lord forbear and forgive one another, as God, for Christ's sake, hath forgiven them." [Matthew Henry]
Comparing the unity of the brethren to [the] anointing oil - used to consecrate Aaron to the office of High Priest is revealing. The sacred anointing oil, used to anoint the High Priest was prepared from specific guidelines given by the LORD to Moses. It was to be made exactly as described, and under the penalty of being put out of the congregation of the people of God, no one was to duplicate it. In some ways, this command resembles the command given to Israel not to profane the LORD's Name.
Exo 30:30  And thou shalt anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may minister unto me in the priest's office. Exo 30:31  And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, This shall be an holy anointing oil unto me throughout your generations. Exo 30:32  Upon man's flesh shall it not be poured, neither shall ye make any other like it, after the composition of it: it is holy, and it shall be holy unto you. Exo 30:33  Whosoever compoundeth any like it, or whosoever putteth any of it upon a stranger, shall even be cut off from his people.
The use of [olive] oil was a sign of joy, pleasure, and happiness. EastonR 17;s Bible Dictionary describes the use of anointing oil - "The use of it was a sign of gladness (Psa_92:10; Isa_61:3), and its omission a token of sorrow (2Sa_14:2; Mat_6:17). It was very abundant in Galilee." Olive oil was used to smear on many things as noted in Easton's [see below].[2] However, the anointing of Aaron or his sons to the office of High Priest was special as we read in Exodus chapter 30. Therefore, the comparison - once again, between anointing Aaron and the Church is of great import. The reason is, the love of the brethren is designed by God to be an occasion of great comfort, relief, support, encouragement, rest, refreshment, etc. to all the members of the Body of Christ.  In addition, you and I are members of a [new] priesthood, included in our new birth.
[Rev_1:6  And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. /Rev_5:10&nbs p; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth./ 1Pe_2:9  But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:]
"It is like the precious ointment upon the head - That is, which was poured upon the head of the high priest, when consecrated to the holy office. The Hebrew is, "the good ointment." For a description of the ointment which was used in the consecration of the high priest, and the holy things of the sanctuary, see Exo_30:22-30. Compare the notes at Isa_61:3, on the phrase "oil of joy." Anointing with oil was common on festivals and joyous occasions (see the notes at Psa_23:5), and hence, it became an emblem of anything joyous, happy, beautiful; and the idea seemed to be carried to the highest degree when it was connected with the anointing of a high priest to the sacred duties of his office. There is no other resemblance between the idea of anointing with oil and that of harmony among brethren than this which is derived from the gladness - the joyousness - connected with such an anointing. The psalmist wished to give the highest idea of the pleasantness of such harmony; and he, therefore, compared it with that which was most beautiful to a pious mind - the idea of a solemn consecration to the highest office of religion. The comparison is one which would not unnaturally occur to a Jew.
That ran down upon the beard - Descending from the head upon the long, flowing beard. The idea here is that of copiousness, or abundance - as if so much ointment was poured forth as to descend on the whole person, consecrating the entire man.
Even Aaron's beard - The word "even" here, introduced by our translators, weakens the force and beauty of the comparison. The psalmist had the simple image of Aaron before his mind, without intending to compare him with any other.
That went down to the skirts of his garments - literally, "to the mouth of his garment." The idea is that the anointing oil was abundant enough to flow down so as to fall on his entire robe, diffusing a sweet fragrance all around. It is possible, though it may seem like a conceit, that the psalmist may have had an idea of unity in this, as if in the anointing of the high priest the whole man was consecrated, or was "united" in the consecration. It was not merely the head, but the beard, the raiment, the entire person, that partook of the fragrance of the anointing oil. Thus love in a Christian community is so abundant - so overflowing - that it spreads over all the spiritual body, the church; the same sweet and holy influence, represented by the oil of anointing, pervades all, and combines all in one." [Albert Barnes]
Thus, the unity of the Body of Christ - founded and settled on love to one another, is God's source of joy for His Church here on earth. However, as already noted, this is hard to find in most congregations. The reason for this lack of unity is no doubt due to immaturity in the indiv idual believer[s] and the presence of "tares" [that is, those who profess they belong to Christ, sit amongst those who do belong to Christ, yet they are not His. - Mat 7:20  Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Mat 7:21  Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Mat 7:22  Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? Mat 7:23  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.]
"As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion,.... Hermon was a very high hill beyond Jordan; the Sidonians called it Sirion, and the Amorites Shenir, Deu_3:8; hence Shenir and Hermon are mentioned together, Son_4:8; and sometimes Sion or Seon, Deu_4:48; and is the Zion here intended; for the dew of Hermon could never descend on the mountain of Zion near Jerusalem, which was a hundred miles distant; besides Zion was but one mountain, these many. Hermon was remarkable for its dew, which still continues: a traveller (c), one of our own country, and whose fidelity is to be depended on, lying in tents near this hill one night, says, "we were sufficiently instructed by experience what the holy psalmist means by the dew of Hermon; our tents being as wet with it as if it had rained all night.''
The mountains of Zion were those that were near to Zion, and not the mountain itself, those that were round about Jerusalem, on which the dew also fell in great plenty; and to which unity among brethren is here compared, because it comes from God in heaven, as the dew does. Saints are taught of God to love one another; contentions and quarrels come from lusts within, but this comes from above, from the Father of lights; and, because of its gentle nature, this makes men pure, and peaceable, and gentle, and easy to be entreated; as the dew falls gently in a temperate and moderate air, not in stormy and blustering weather: and because of its cooling nature; it allays the heats and animosities in the minds of men; and because it makes the saints fruitful, and to grow and increase in good works;
for there the Lord commanded the blessing; either in the mountains of Zion; so Kimchi: and if Mount Zion is meant by it, the church, often signified thereby, is the dwelling place of the Lord; here he records his name and blesses; here his word is preached, which is full of blessings; and here ordinances are administered, which are blessed of God to his people. Theodoret thinks some respect is had to the pouring down of the Spirit on the apostles in Jerusalem, on the day of Pentecost: but rather the sense is, where brethren dwell together in unity, there the God of love and peace is; the Gospel of the grace of God is continued; and the ordinances of it made beneficial to the souls of men, they meeting together in peace and concord; see 2Co_13:11. God is said to "command the blessing" when he promises it, and makes it known to his people, or bestows it on them, Psa_105:8;
even life for evermore: the great blessing of all, which includes all others, and in which they issue, the promise of the covenant, the blessing of the Gospel; which is in the hands of Christ, and comes through him to all his people; to the peacemakers particularly, that live in love and peace; these shall live for ever in a happy eternity, and never die, or be hurt of the second death." [John Gill]
The collective unity of the brethren, is the peace of the individual. Put another way, as you practice loving others all of us, that is - each of us, enjoy [inner] peace. Hence, Charles Spurgeon wrote for "more of this rare virtue." God's love does not "come and go," because He IS love! Therefore, your love should not come and go either. It is the peace of God come in the flesh!
"O for more of this rare virtue! Not the love which comes and goes, but that which dwells; not that spirit which separates and secludes, but that which dwells together; not that mind which is all for debate and difference, but that which dwells together in unity. Never shall we know the full power of the anointing till we are of one heart and of one spirit; never will the sacred dew of the spirit descend in all its fulness till we are perfectly joined together in the same mind; never will the covenanted and commanded blessing come forth from the Lord our God till once again we shall have "one Lord, one faith, one baptism." Lord, lead us into this most precious spiritual unity, for thy Son's sake. Amen." [C.H. Spurgeon]

  • [1] Rom_13:8  Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.
1Th_4:9  But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another.
1Pe_1:22  Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:
1Jn_3:11  For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.
1Jn_3:23  And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.
1Jn_4:7  Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
1Jn_4:11  Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.
1Jn_4:12  No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.
2Jn_1:5  And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another.
  • [2] Oil - Only olive oil seems to have been used among the Hebrews. It was used for many purposes: for anointing the body or the hair (Exo_29:7; 2Sa_14:2; Psa_23:5; Psa_92:10; Psa_104:15; Luk_7:46); in some of the offerings (Exo_29:40; Lev_7:12; Num_6:15; Num_15:4), but was excluded from the sin-offering (Lev_5:11) and the jealousy-offering (Num_5:15); for burning in lamps (Exo_25:6; Exo_27:20; Mat_25:3); for medicinal purposes (Isa_1:6; L uk_10:34; Jam_5:14); and for anointing the dead (Mat_26:12; Luk_23:56).; It was one of the most valuable products of the country (Deu_32:13; Eze_16:13), and formed an article of extensive commerce with Tyre (Eze_27:17).; The use of it was a sign of gladness (Psa_92:10; Isa_61:3), and its omission a token of sorrow (2Sa_14:2; Mat_6:17). It was very abundant in Galilee.  [EASTON'S BIBLE DICTIONARY]
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