Our Twelfth Anniversary

The number 12 is a very significant number in the Scriptures. We know that there were twelve tribes and twelve apostles. But in reality, how many tribes and apostles were there? There were actually thirteen tribes, if we count Manasseh and Ephraim as two tribes and include Levi as a tribe, as we should. Why then do the Scriptures speak of twelve tribes? Why is it when Moses blessed the twelve tribes in Deuteronomy 33, Simeon was left out, whereas Manasseh and Ephraim were counted as one each so that there were twelve? Why is it in Revelation 7, Simeon is included and Dan is left out to make twelve tribes? Likewise why does the Scripture talk about twelve apostles when there should be thirteen if we include Matthias and Paul? I believe Paul was the Lord’s choice for the twelfth apostle rather than Matthias. But why twelve rather than thirteen?

Well, whatever the reason may be, one thing is clear: the number twelve is an important biblical number. It is the number of the church. That is why we are reminded that there were twelve tribes and twelve apostles. Thus in Revelation 21, when the Bride of Christ, New Jerusalem or the Church comes down from heaven, she is described as having twelve gates and twelve foundations:

“And [she] had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel… And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (Rev 21:12, 14).

Today is our twelfth anniversary. If twelve is the number of the church, then surely this must be a significant anniversary for us as a branch of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ?

Well, every anniversary is significant, for they mark the completion of a year of the Lord’s blessing upon us, and gives us occasion to praise and thank Him for having led us thus far. But on this our twelfth anniversary, I think it is good to remind ourselves of three important things that this number of the church impresses us with.

First, let us remind ourselves that…


1. We Are a Church of Christ

As twelve is the number of the church, let us remember that we are a church of Christ! Or more specifically, let us remind ourselves that we are a branch of the body of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are not merely a social organisation. We are members of Christ’s body who have been redeemed by Him, appointed gifts by His Spirit and joined together by His providence so that we can function as a body to glorify and enjoy God together.

It is easy to forget that this is the purpose of our existence as we grow together and experience the growing pains that sometimes threaten to tear us apart. Indeed sometimes, the joys and sorrows pertaining to our relationship with one another loom so large that they begin to define our thoughts about the church.

But this ought not to be the case. We ought, rather, always to remember that we were brought together by the providence of the Lord to constitute a branch of His body. As such, we must cease to think only of ourselves, but rather to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. The Kingdom of God begins in His Church. Therefore, if we would seek first the Kingdom of God, each one of us must seek the prosperity of this branch of the church that the Lord has joined us to. We must, in other words, consider the well-being and need of the church in all our plans and decisions, if we are to obey the Lord’s instruction to seek first His kingdom.

Secondly, let us remind ourselves that…


2. We are a Living Body of Christ

The apostle Paul likens the church to a body in 1 Corinthians 12—“For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.” Paul is, no doubt, thinking of the Church Universal, for Christ has only one body. However, it is clear that Paul is not describing the Church Universal, at least not in its present manifestation. After all, it can hardly be said that in the Church Universal, there is “no schism in the body” (v. 25) or “whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it” (v. 26). How then should we understand the text? I believe the best way to understand it is to see that Paul is referring to the Church Local as a microcosm of the Church Universal. In other words, the Lord would have each congregation of Christ to function as a united body with all the members that are providentially joined together.

PCC is one such body. And as this is our twelfth anniversary, let us especially remind ourselves that we should be a living body rather than a body that has all the parts, but is dead. It is no coincidence, I believe, that the daughter of Jairus, whom the Lord resurrected, was twelve years of age (Mk 5:42; Lk 8:42). I believe that her age is significant, just as I believe it is significant that woman who bears a child in Revelation 12:1-2 wears “a crown of twelve stars”! It appears to me that the age of the child was so arranged by the wise providence of God as to teach us that the Church of Christ does not have life in herself. But because of Christ, we have been given life individually and corporately. Therefore, as members of the church, we must say with the apostle Paul, “for to me to live is Christ” (Phil 1:21). And we must, as a church, seek to function, or better, live, gratefully for Christ. Christ is the reason for our existence and covenant life as a church. We must not simply exist. We must labour together as lively stones to bear witness of Christ, to magnify His name, to show forth His praise, to serve God in union with Him.

But thirdly, let us remind ourselves that…


3. We have Healing in Christ

Again, I believe it is no coincidence that the woman with an issue of blood suffered the disease for twelve years before the Lord healed her (Mk 9:20). Why twelve years? Surely, it must be to remind us that Christ is He who heals His people, the Church.

The Church on earth is not a museum of saints. It is a hospital for needy sinners. Not only does the Lord Jesus give us life, He is our Chief Physician to heal us of all our spiritual diseases. And do we not have many spiritual diseases, not just individually, not just in our families, but in our church?

What are some diseases we suffer as a church? We can think of a few.

General lethargy and spiritual apathy is surely a congregational disease. This disease is manifested by a lack of interest in spiritual things. When a congregation is infected with this disease, the conversations during fellowship tend to centre on the things of the world rather than on the things of God, and attendance at prayer meeting and evening service fluctuate on the low side. Are we, beloved brethren, suffering from this disease?

Pride and hypocrisy is another disease that can infect a congregation. This disease is manifested by an elitist, judgmental and critical spirit that can be sensed by visitors. A congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ which understands that she is what she is only for the mercy and grace of God in Christ ought to manifest a Christ-like humility. Therefore, a congregation that evidences pride and pharisaism has surely backslidden and is in need of the Lord’s chastisement and healing. Are we, beloved brethren, suffering from this disease?

Again, disunity and a lack of love is surely another disease that can infect a congregation of Christ. The Lord Jesus would have us love one another so that all men may know we are His disciples (Jn 13:35). Thus strive, division, schism, enmity, avoidance and all general lack of love are maladies that need to be dealt with (cf. 1Cor 1:10; 3:3). Well, beloved brethren, are we suffering from this disease?

It is not easy to assess the health of a congregation because our judgement will tend to be subjected to the experiences we have with a few members of the congregation rather than with the church as a whole. Nevertheless, it is fair to say, I think, that these diseases that we have highlighted affects every congregation on earth to one degree or another, and we are indeed in need of healing. How shall we be healed? We will not be healed unless we first confess and repent of our sins (2 Chr 7:14) and turn our eyes again to Christ, our Chief Physician. Indeed, there will be no healing unless we individually and corporately seek to imitate Christ and to magnify His name.


Conclusion

The Lord Jesus was twelve years old when he went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast (Lk 2:42). According to Jewish custom, our Lord would have been, at that time styled “a son of the law,” and thereafter accounted responsible to use the means of grace for the cultivation of his soul, whereas before that his parents would have been deemed responsible.

Today, we are twelve years old. But there is no indication in the Word of God that anything would change just because we are twelve! In fact, it is remarkable that the Scripture makes no remark about our Lord becoming a “son of the law.”

So it must be with us. In this short article, we have reminded ourselves that we are a church of the Lord Jesus Christ; we are to function as a living body for Christ and we have healing in Him. We have said nothing new. In fact, so ‘mundane’ is what we have discussed, I wonder how many of us have read to this point. But these are important things which are so easily neglected so that we cease to grow, cease to encourage one another, and cease to magnify Christ.

Oh beloved brethren and children, let us take this opportunity to pray for this church which we are a part of. Let us take this opportunity to renew our covenant to be faithful and fruitful members of this congregation. Let us make it our twelfth anniversary resolution to provoke one another to grow in Christ. We cannot grow alone, else Christ would not have joined us together as He did. We are responsible for each other’s spiritual well-being. Each one of us young and old, and not just the minister, elders and deacons, are responsible for the health and witness of this congregation. May the Lord our King help us. Amen.