by Eugene Higgins
A lot of companies are suffering during this extended economic shut-down. Airlines are redrawing their flight maps; cruise companies, with all their ships berthed, may not be allowed to sail again for months; travel agents are dying financially; the travel industry as a whole is suffering its worst shock since 9/11. Restaurants are struggling to keep afloat. Hotels and motels are vacant or being used as isolation spots. Myriad small businesses are hanging on by a thread. Apart from the tragic loss of life, the cure may turn out to be worse than the problem, with people continuing to lose their jobs as many, many companies go under.
While we all have individual and varied worries, there is another “company” about which we should be deeply concerned. It is referred to in Acts 4:23 – “And being let go, they went to their owncompany.” This company was, to the released apostles, a distinct and prized group that they “went to” as soon as it was possible; the believers in the Jerusalem assembly were “their own.” “Their own company” believed what the apostles believed; they wanted what the apostles wanted. They were in the same family, shared the same faith, had the same Father, enjoyed the same fellowship, awaited the same future. Perhaps they even used apostolic alliteration to communicate these mutually-enjoyed things. 🙂
There is something significant about the wording: “being let go, they went …” It was as though the only way you could keep the Christians apart in those days was to separate them by jailing them. You could keep them from congregating by capturing them; but as soon as the manacles were off, the meetings were on. Notice that, once again, in chapter 5, the religious leaders arrested the apostles, beat them, and demanded that they desist from preaching. Yet, when they “let them go … they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.” Scourging, beating, threats, punishment – none of these things would keep them from meeting together, let alone their being deterred by headaches, rain drops or weariness. Right now, forced to meet online, we are all going to our own computer. As soon as this isolation ends, I hope we will all be zealous to go to our own company; that when we are “let go,” we will eagerly meet again with one another not virtually but visibly, physically, as believers gathered to the name of the Lord Jesus.
You can’t help but note the repetition of this same English word in connection with Korah’s rebellion against Moses. Five times in Numbers 16 we read about Korah’s “company.” Afterward, it is used twice in the recap given in Numbers 26; then twice in Numbers 27 (by the daughters of Zelophahad explaining to Moses that their father was not part of Korah’s rebellion); and, finally, twice in Psalm 106 referring to the same insurrection. So while God’s people were described as “the company of the children of Israel,” (Num 14:7), four different Bible passages use this word 11 times to describe Korah’s gathering other people around himself in order to have preeminence and leadership.
In wonderful contrast, the company to which the Apostles belonged, and to which many of us belong as well, was a company gathered around the Lord Jesus and giving honor to Him by their lives, testimonies, preaching, and devotion.
Someone drew this analogy: “Honey bees cannot live in isolation. You always keep bees (plural), you never keep a single bee. If you isolate a bee, you can give it the most favorable temperature, you can give it plenty of water and plenty of food . . . but the bee will die within two to three days. There is something about the community of bees that keeps individual bees alive. You can keep bees, but you cannot keep a bee.”
Not being an apiarist, I cannot vouch for that; but if true, I think it illustrates the fact that remote fellowship is fine when that’s all there is, but we need to be together as companies of the Lord’s people.
Once while viewing California’s giant sequoias, a tourist heard the guide say that the giant trees had roots just below the surface. He asked how they could resist strong winds with such seemingly shallow roots. This was the answer: “They grow only in groves and their roots intertwine under the surface of the earth. When the strong winds come they hold each other up.” Sounds like the trees grow in “their own company”!
Governments never seem to shrink or contract; they apparently do not have a reverse gear; they rarely relinquish any power that they are able to arrogate. Frighteningly, the present crisis has revealed how easily a government can flex its political muscles, empty its city streets, and place all its citizenry under virtual house arrest. That this has been possible to effect, in practically the whole world, in less than a month, is something that the most rabid globalist would hardly have dreamed possible a few short weeks ago. How this power might be used (or misused) again, and what this means for the future, and for the future of Gospel work and Christian testimony, remains to be seen. But I hope the temporary deprivation of the privilege of meeting together will endear that privilege to us all the more when we are “let go” and we can once more go to “our own company.”
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Ps 133:1).