Collected Writings of J.N. Darby: Expository 6

Table of Contents

1. Galatians
2. Notes on the Epistle to the Ephesians
3. Substance of a Reading on Ephesians
4. Comparison of the Epistles to the Romans and the Ephesians
5. Comparison of Epistles: Ephesians, Colossians and Peter
6. What God Is to Us in Christ: Ephesians 1
7. The Prayers in Ephesians 1:15-23 and 3:14-21
8. Not of the World: Ephesians 1
9. Elect of God, Holy and Beloved: Ephesians 1:4-14
10. Ephesians 1:9
11. The Power That Works in Us: Ephesians 3:16-21
12. Grace and Government: Ephesians 4
13. Thoughts on Ephesians 4
14. Growing Up in Christ: Ephesians 4:1-16
15. The Christian Walk: Ephesians 4-5
16. Christ Loved the Church: Ephesians 5:22-30
17. Conflict in Heavenly Places: Ephesians 6:10-18
18. Brief Notes on the Epistle to the Philippians
19. The Book of Experience: Philippians 1
20. Thoughts on Philippians 2
21. The Effect of Christ Down Here: Philippians 2
22. The Effect of Christ in Glory: Philippians 3
23. Thoughts on Philippians 4
24. The Superiority of Christ Over Circumstances: Philippians 4:8
25. Notes on the Epistle to the Colossians
26. Notes on the Beginning of Colossians
27. Reconciliation: Colossians 1
28. All in Christ and Christ All: Colossians 2
29. Dead With Christ, Risen With Christ: Colossians 2:20; Colossians 3:1
30. Notes on the Epistles to the Thessalonians
31. I Will Come Again: 1 Thessalonians; Acts 1:11
32. Notes on 1 and 2 Timothy
33. Notes of a Discourse on 1 Timothy 1
34. Propitiation and Substitution: 1 Timothy 2:6
35. On Rule: 1 Timothy 5:17
36. Fragmentary Remarks: 2 Timothy 2
37. Notes of Lecture on Titus 2:11-14
38. Notes From Lectures on Hebrews


It may interest your readers to have brought before them the great principles which constitute the bases of the doctrine of the Epistle to the Galatians. It is upon the face of it elementary, the churches of Galatia being in imminent danger of adding Judaism to Christianity in such a way as to destroy the nature of Christianity itself. Nor was theirs the only age in which liability to do so had existed, and has had to be watched against.
The law is a testing of human nature, to see whether it can produce righteousness for God, and a perfect rule of righteousness for that nature in all it owes to God and to a man's neighbor. So that it claims subjection, and that man should fulfill its requirements under penalty moreover of judgment. The authority of God, the subjection of man to His commandments, and a perfect rule of conduct for man in his present state as a child of Adam are all involved in this system. But man, conscious he ought to fulfill it, his own conscience telling him it is right, and not suspecting his own weakness and the depth of his ruin, and seeing that keeping it would be righteousness for him before God, readily takes it up as the way of having that righteousness, and enjoying divine favor, of being right when judgment comes. When unawakened, observance of its outward claims satisfies the natural conscience; if understood spiritually, it leads to the discovery of that law in our members which hinders all success in the attempt. But God having established the law, it was a very difficult and delicate thing to show that, as a system, it was passed away, not because it was not in its right place, and useful too for its own real purpose, but to make way for a system of grace purposed and promised long before the law was established; and that by the discovery that it was death and condemnation to be under it, that the mind of the flesh (the nature the law dealt with) was not subject to it, and could not be, and that we escape its curse as under it, not by the destruction of its authority, but by dying as so under it, and that by the body of Christ in whom we then found ourselves in a new life beyond its condemnation. The cross makes all things clear. But the credit of the flesh (that is, of himself) is dear to the natural man, and till he had discovered that in him (that is, in his flesh) there was no good thing, he was loth to give up a rule he knew to be right, in the humbling confession that he was such a sinner that it could be only his condemnation, the law of sin so strong in his members, himself so disposed to evil, that the law, weak through the flesh, could only condemn him. Judaizing teachers, proud in their own conceits, zealous of the law as the credit of their nation, could not bear to have it set aside as necessary for the way of righteousness and life with God; and the ministry which judged the flesh in Jew and Gentile, and freed the latter from all subjection to the Jewish system, was intolerable to them. Man always clings to the law, speciously alleging God's claims and holiness, till he experimentally finds (in the discovery of the true character of the flesh) his true state, that as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse.
Hence Paul, both as to his own ministry and the place the law held, was in perpetual conflict with these Judaizing teachers. The more intimate we are with his writings, the more we shall find how he was harassed by it, and how his writings continually bear on the point that you cannot mix the two systems, law and grace. This lay at the root of all his doctrine, and in all its highest developments, as well as in its first elements. The counsels of God, in the second Man, were formed before the world was, or man was responsible at all, and revealed only after that second Man was come, and had accomplished the work on which the bringing all these counsels into effect was founded. The apostle's doctrine, fully unfolded, brought out the ground and scope of these counsels in their full development in Christ, and, as to us, in a new and heavenly position of man in and with Him; while the true state of the first man, responsible for his walk, of which the law was the perfect rule, gave occasion for insisting on the first elements of the truth, and the necessity of setting aside the first man, and thus for the application of the law, which could reach him only as long as he lived, in order to substitute grace and divine righteousness, not because the law was wrong, but because being right it was death and condemnation to man under it. Christ met this responsibility for us on the cross, magnifying the law by bearing its curse, but bringing us, dead to sin and alive in Him, into connection withal with another-Himself raised from the dead. In His death God had condemned sin in the flesh, and brought in what was divine in righteousness and life in place of man, when Christ was for sin a sacrifice for sin on the cross. These elements the Epistle to the Galatians fully instructs us in, without going into the counsels whose accomplishment is based on the cross. These are found elsewhere, most fully in the Ephesians.
The first part of the Epistle to the Galatians is occupied with the independence of Paul's ministry. It was neither of nor by man. From the apostles he received nothing. The revelations he received, and his apostolic authority were immediately from the Lord. But on this part it is not my object now to dwell. At the end of chapter 2 the apostle gives, in earnest and burning words, the whole bearing of the law on the gospel, and how they were related one to another; but of this at the close. I will now show how he sets the law and the gospel over against one another.
Up to the flood, save the testimony of godly men and prophets, God did not interfere after the history of man's perverseness was complete in Adam and Cain. That issued in the judgment of the flood. After that, God began anew to deal with man, to unfold His ways to him in the state in which he was. And they were carried on till the full proof of man's irreclaimable state was given in the rejection of Christ. The first of these dealings, after scattering men into nations and tongues and languages, was His taking Abraham out of them all for Himself, and making him the stock and root of a new family on the earth, God's family fleshy or spiritual: the former Israel; the latter the one seed, Christ. Leaving aside for the moment Israel, the seed according to the flesh, to whom the promises will surely be accomplished in grace, we find the promise made to Abram in chapter 12, and confirmed to the seed in chapter 22. This referred to all nations who were to be blessed in the Seed, the one Seed, typified by Isaac, offered up and raised in figure. On this the apostle insists. The blessing came by promise. This, confirmed as it was to Isaac, could not be disannulled, and (what is more directly to the point) could not be added to. The law could not be annexed to it as a condition. To that there were two parties; but God was only one. The accomplishment of this conditional promise depended on the fidelity of both, and hence had no stability. God's promise depended on Himself alone. His faithfulness was its security, and it could not fail. But the law, coming four hundred and thirty years after, could not invalidate or be added to the confirmed promise. The law is not against the promises of God, but merely came in by the bye till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made, bringing in transgression but not righteousness. The law was not of faith; its blessing was by those who were under it themselves doing it. Promise, and faith in the promise and promised One, went together. The law brought a curse; Christ, the promised Seed, was made a curse for those under it, and when Christianity or faith came they were no longer under it at all. The law was an intermediate added thing whose place ceased when the promised Seed came. The law and grace are contrasted, as the law and promise, faith and the Seed are, first for justification. A man under the law was a debtor himself to do the whole of it; and a Christian taking this ground was fallen from grace: Christ had become of none effect to him. A man who looked to the law frustrated the grace of God: if righteousness came by it, Christ was dead in vain.
But the contrast is applied to godly walk. The Spirit is opposed to the flesh. They are contrary one to the other in their nature. We are to walk after the Spirit, having the things of the Spirit before us, to do its works, to produce its fruits; but if we are led of the Spirit, we are not under law. Life and power and a heavenly object characterize the Spirit, in contrast with the law which deals with flesh, and in vain, instead of taking us out of it. Thus, as to godly walk as well as for righteousness, the law is contrasted with grace. On one side are grace, promise, faith, Christ, and the Spirit, and, I may add, a righteous standing before God; on the other, the law claiming obedience from the flesh, which does not render it, and out of which the law cannot deliver us. It gives no life. If there had been a law which could have given life, then, indeed, righteousness should have been by the law. It is this full contrast which makes the Galatians so striking.
The result is this. Being led of the Spirit we are not under law. What, then, is our state? We through the Spirit wait for the hope that belongs to it, that is, glory. How so? Being righteous in Christ, we have received the Spirit, and in the power of that we wait for what it so richly reveals. The contrast of the flesh and Spirit, and the power of the latter leaves the law functionless as to walk, whether in power or character. Law was a rule for flesh, a perfect one, but not for Spirit. This reveals heavenly things, Christ in glory, and changes us into His image. This was in no way the law's object.
How, then, is its real use and power stated in the epistle? Peter, when certain came from James, would no longer eat with the Gentiles. Paul withstood him to the face, the weakness of one yielding to the presence of Jews, the energetic faith of the other holding fast the truth of the gospel. Peter had left the law as the way of obtaining righteousness, and he was going back to it, building again what he had destroyed; he was then a transgressor in destroying it. Now Christ had led him to it. Christ then was the minister of sin. What was the effect of the law? Ah! we have, through grace, in the earnestness of a holy conscience, its true work. It wrought death. The law had killed Paul (that is, in his conscience before God). He had been alive without it once. But thereby he was dead to it; and this, that in another way, in another life, he might live to God, which the flesh could not do. Had it been simply given effect to in himself, it had been curse and condemnation as well as death, but it was in Christ, who had died under its curse for him, and he was crucified with Christ, being thus dead, dead to law, and to sin at the same time, having done with the old Adam, to which the law applied; he was, nevertheless, now alive. Yet not he (which would have been the flesh) but Christ lived in him.
The law, and condemnation, and the flesh, were gone (so to speak) together as to Paul's position before God, and replaced by Christ and the Spirit, on which last he largely insists in what follows-chapter 3. But there is more; there is the object before the soul. " The life which I live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." This is the great point. That divine Person, who has so loved us and given Himself for us, whom we thus know in perfect grace, in love even unto death, is the sanctifying object of the whole life. We live by it. The law gave no object, any more than it gave life and strength. Here we have the most blessed one, where the heart is filled with love, and led out into confidence with an object that conforms it to itself. The principle of dealing, grace, life, power, object, are all contrasted with law, which afforded none of these, and could therefore no more produce godliness than it could righteousness before God.
The Epistle thus contrasts grace, promise, faith, Christ, the Spirit for righteousness and walk alike, with law and flesh. The law was useful as bringing death on us, that is, on the old man, condemnation being borne by Christ, in whom we have died to it and flesh. A new place, and life, and righteousness, beyond the cross, is that into which we have entered, with Christ in heaven before us. I have written at intervals, and interrupted, as well as weary, and not given in this paper, I fear, what was suggested to my mind. But I trust the great principles of the Epistle, on this point, will be sufficiently clear to be helpful to some in studying the Epistle itself.

Notes on the Epistle to the Ephesians

THE apostle seems here to dwell on the purposes of God with regard to us. He does not so much speak of the means which God has made use of in order to reconcile us with Himself (the satisfaction that has been made to His justice, though the Spirit dwells thereon likewise); but the subject is specially the blessedness in which God has placed us in His counsels of grace.
It is certainly a blessed thing for us fully to understand the means which God has made use of, in order to bring us to Himself; but God has made known to us these things, in order that we may be occupied with, the things to which we are called. It is in the enjoyment of these things that we put on the character of the Christian, and that the soul grows. They enter into our very existence; and when the heart has laid hold of them, there is much more of the Christian and of testimony in us, so that, by the power of the Holy Spirit working in us, there results a much clearer and stronger point of attraction for the world.
Those who dwell in Spirit in heaven partake of its spirit, and go on increasing in the things which they find there. They are in relationship with God; they enjoy what God has given, and that is certainly most precious; but above all, they enjoy God Himself: and here is the exceeding grace of Him who desires that we should always dwell near Him, and that we should know His thoughts and His counsels. This is what we should desire and seek after, and thus we shall understand better what is well pleasing to the Lord, and what is worthy of Him. Such are the subjects of which the apostle speaks to us in the chapter which is before us.
Verses 1-3. In Jesus Christ, the Head of the body, we are blessed with all spiritual blessings. It is there God sets us; and we know it, beloved, we know it, but more in theory than in practice.
Verse 4. As I have already said, the apostle here not only speaks to us of the means, but of the source of our blessing in the unspeakable counsels of God, and of the end which God proposes to Himself; for it is said, " That ye may be holy and without blame before him in love." This is the thought of God about us: He wishes to have us before Him, and to have us there happy and for Himself.
There is only one thing in which God does not suffice for Himself, and that is, in His love. His love has need of other beings beside Himself, in order to make them happy. He desires to have before Him beings in harmony with what He is, and He sets us before Him " holy and without blame." This is what He is Himself, He who is the Holy One, He who certainly is without blame; for it is impossible to find any fault in Him. He calls Himself the Holy One; He is love! Well; He sets us holy and without blame before Him in love. Precious and most important thought for us! He has resolved that the church should be such that He could take delight in her, and behold in her before Him the reproduction of Himself, the most perfect happiness possible. He sets before Him beings like to Himself, in order to make them as happy as it is possible; He communicates to us His nature, and takes His delight in us. In order for that, He makes us " holy and without blame in love "; and these things are accomplished here below by the Spirit, though the effects are not fully shown till above in the place of perfectness. So, where is our place even now below? Before Him; and this place is not a joy only, but the most precious thing that can be imagined, to be before Him!
We do not like to be before Him when we are not holy; but when the conscience is cleansed by the blood of Christ, we are truly happy before Him. In order that we may be happy before Him we must be holy, we must understand the tastes of the divine nature-our nature. We ourselves must find our happiness in being " holy and without blame in love." The apostle John shows in his first epistle (chap. 4: 13), that the divine nature is produced in the Christian: the Christian has received God's own Spirit; it is a man who loves, and God is in him and he in God. What is granted is nothing less than the communication of the divine nature, by which we dwell in God, and God in us, " that we might be holy and without blame before him in love."
What we shall be above ought to be our aim here below, not as a task imposed, but as being made partakers of the divine nature to the glory of God. Now if we would realize these things, our thoughts must be above, according to the nature of the grace which we have received. It is most strengthening for us to think of the things which are above-of their source, of Jesus, of the fulfillment of this purpose of God in glory.
Verses 5-7. The apostle has ever this adoption in view; God wills to have us for Himself before Him through Jesus, according to the good pleasure of His will, as His children. Now this is the glory of this grace which has placed us there. In these verses Paul speaks to us of the basis, of the means which God has employed, and on the certainty of which we can count. He speaks of it as a settled thing, as of a thing which we possess, and the possession of which, indeed, is necessary to us, in order that we may partake of all that of which he is about to speak to us.
This is the door by which we have come in; and having passed through the door, in Jesus, I have the certainty of being in the house. But it would be sorrowful to have Jesus only as the door, though it is precious to understand that. If we are not sure of a hearty welcome, and of the love of the Father, we depreciate the riches of His grace, for " we have redemption by his blood, even the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace," v. 7. If in uncertainty we do not enjoy this grace, we do not really acknowledge it; and in order to do so we must give ourselves up entirely to God, to the power of the love of Him who tells us to come inside. Here we may remark, that the Spirit, whilst declaring to us very plainly what is the means of our salvation, does not reason upon it as elsewhere, making known to us its character and its sufficiency; but He speaks of it as of a privilege that we possess; He tells us what we have in Christ, before showing what belongs to those who enjoy the effect of this redemption. We have redemption; and instructed in all things, we wait for the redemption of the body, in order to enjoy it. The only thing that we have to do is to contemplate the riches of the grace of God; this will be a means of drawing us close to Him.
We have seen in the preceding verses the purposes of God with regard to us, and the means which He employs to render us partakers of them, namely, redemption through Christ's blood, according to the riches of His grace. Now what we have before us is the portion we have now here below, the understanding of the mystery of God.
Verses 8, 9. God has given us of His grace in all wisdom and prudence. He is not content with only giving us this portion, by bringing us into it hereafter; but He wishes to give us now, here below, the knowledge of it in all wisdom and prudence, according to His good pleasure. We have not to do with a God who sets us before His justice, but with a God of grace who acts according to His own thoughts. God wills that the church should not be only such before Him, but that it should be also, here below, the depository of all His counsels; that it should have the understanding of the mystery of His will.
Verse 10 gives us the explanation of this mystery. God gathers together in one all things in Christ in the dispensation of the fullness of times. All that which preceded was preparatory; as the law, the prophets, etc. This verse speaks of the fullness of times, when God will arrange all things according to His mind, by setting Christ at the head of all things; and it is by being united to Him that we are made partakers of the inheritance. God acts of His own will to bring about what He wills. All shall be gathered together in one in Christ. It is by Him that all has been created, and by Him all is to be reconciled; and this is set forth here as the result of the counsels of God.
Verses 11, 12. There are two, parts in this mystery: 1, all things shall be put under the headship of Christ; 2, the church, which is His body, will have part in the inheritance. We shall be before God according to the perfection of His nature. Christ having been put to death, God and the sinner have met together. But here it is rather a question of the accomplishment of the mystery of the will of God for the glory of Christ. The church will have part in the inheritance. " in whom," it is said, " we have obtained an inheritance "; but the whole of the mystery is not the church only, and this is very simple if we receive the thoughts of the Bible; not, indeed, that we shall understand the whole extent of the glory, but we shall see that all things created are to be gathered together in one in Christ.
In the Epistle to the Colossians Christ is presented as Creator; the Person of Christ is in the prominent place rather than the counsels of God as to the church. Christ is the first-born of every creature, and the first-born from the dead; Head of His body, which is the church. But here, in the Epistle to the Ephesians, it is the privileges of the church in Him which we are given to know. In verse 6 it is said that what we possess already is to the praise of the glory of His grace; and in verse 12, where he is speaking of the glory to come that is before us, it is said-" that we should be to the praise of his glory" The church has a portion quite apart and most glorious. All things are to be gathered together in one in Christ. The church, being united to Him, is made partaker of the inheritance, that we should be to the praise of His glory. The glory of God is understood by its being seen in us; and the world will then see that we have been loved as Christ is loved.
Verse 12 might seem a difficulty, where it is said, " We who first hoped in Christ "; but he is here speaking of the Jews, who have believed before the revelation of Christ to the nation, at His second coming, and before the national call to the Jews at the end: such of the Jews as have believed, as have hoped beforehand, they are glorified with Him.
Verses 13, 14. Verse 13 is spoken to us; it is not only both Jews and Gentiles who will partake of this inheritance; but the church is given to know the will of God, by the gift of the Holy Spirit. This it is which distinguishes Christians who, having believed, are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. The Holy Spirit becomes a seal. We cannot receive the inheritance before Christ; the Spirit is given to us as earnest, whilst waiting for it. God sets His seal upon us, and this is a proof that a Gentile has part in the promises made to Abraham (for instance, Cornelius).
There is a difference between regeneration by the Spirit and the presence of the Spirit as a seal. A person must have believed, for God to be able to put His seal on him; the Spirit may act before this, as for instance, in breaking up the heart; but it is not as a seal. Sometimes the power of the Spirit produces fruits in us; at other times it humbles us, making us sensible of good and evil; but this is not joy. The fact is, that this work is even more precious than the joy itself, because there are sometimes things in us which are not judged before God on account of the very joy. When God has given us the enjoyment of the true object which we ought to enjoy, He begins to break up the heart in order that the work may be deeper. The Spirit makes us sensible of the things which are not according to God, and this knowledge of one's self is necessary, in order that we may know God. I do not say that, if we were to walk exactly as God would have us, this work could not be carried on without the loss of the joy; but it is not generally so with the Christian. It becomes needful for God to turn us toward Himself, and to work inwardly, that we may discover what our carelessness has prevented us from seeing. Often this exhilarating joy of a Christian is found in one who has not judged things that ought to be judged in the presence of God. The wants and the desires which the Holy Spirit produces by regeneration are not the seal of the Spirit, any more than the joy which flows from the affections being occupied with a new and divine object, nor even the fruits which the Holy Spirit may produce when He dwells in us. The seal is the Holy Spirit Himself, given to that faith which is in Him who is our righteousness, and is the answer to all our wants; and then we have peace and joy. It is the Spirit in us who is the seal.
We ought not to be surprised, if we find it is the intention of God to show us ourselves; at such times we do not see God, because He is making us see ourselves. Many persons think that the full and unwavering assurance of our salvation tends to make us careless as to the state of our souls; but this is a mistake. The Holy Spirit has set His throne in our hearts, and if we will judge ourselves, we shall not be judged. It is He who makes us fully enjoy God, and who makes us judge what is not of God in us; who alone sets us in the truth, and gives us the assurance of what is accomplished for us. God in us, by His Spirit, judges the conduct and the heart; but this does not prevent this Spirit being the seal which God has set upon us, the witness of His perfect and unchangeable love towards us, the strength of a life of liberty, the Spirit of adoption. We partake of it with Jesus; God put His seal upon Jesus Himself when He was in this world, after His baptism by John.
The Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance. And here, let is be observed, that the Word, in the New Testament, always employs the word us, when it speaks of Christians and of the things which concern them. The prophets saw that the things which were revealed to them were not for them, but for us (see 1 Peter 1:11); the Holy Spirit always says us. The possession is not yet granted: the Spirit is the earnest of it.
The possession of the inheritance depends on the redemption of our body. As to our souls, we are united to the Heir even now; this is why we groan, all the while that we have the promises, because of this body, the redemption of which is not yet accomplished; and this redemption will take place at the resurrection. This is the enigma of the Christian; the Spirit gives him the certainty of his personal redemption, and this Spirit is the earnest of the inheritance. We shall be to the praise of His glory. Whilst waiting, the Spirit makes us sympathize with the groans of the creation; He helps our infirmities; working in us, He takes knowledge of the misery with which we are outwardly bound up, and He intercedes for us. The Spirit becomes the fountain of thoughts, the subjects of which are in heaven; and on the earth, the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts; Rom. 5:5. The Spirit searches our hearts and presents our wants before God; Rom. 8:26, 27. In verse 5 of this chapter God gives us a picture of the portion of a Christian. That which is important for us is the description of the person to whom these things belong.
Verse 15. There are two things to observe: 1, Christ was the object of the faith; 2, the saints were the object of the love. Christ being the object of faith, all those who are in Christ become also the objects of our love. The Holy Spirit dwells in the body (the church) as well as in the body of each Christian (1 Cor. 3:16; chap. 6: 19); and He knows all the members of the body: when we can mount up to the privileges of the Christian, we embrace all the body. The flesh does not understand these privileges; but the Holy Spirit understands them; and the consequence of this knowledge will be love towards all the saints.
Verse 16. It is a happy thing when our prayers are givings of thanks: we realize, then, the certainty of our privileges. If we think of the wretchedness of the saints, we are overwhelmed by it; but if we think of what Christ is for the saints, we give thanks; we realize what God will do and does, for them and in them. God cannot be unfaithful to the love we have for all the saints; 1 Cor. 1:4. Paul could handle the sword of the Spirit; he would not have known how to deal with the Corinthians, if he had not begun by taking notice of the good which grace had wrought in them. How different is the Christian's way of acting, thinking, and judging, from the way of the world! There is not an expression more remarkable than that which Paul in this verse makes use of in speaking to the Corinthians. Paul was determined to act according to the Spirit of God. It is not that God can make light of sin, and not judge it: no, He will judge it severely in the saints, if there be evil among them; but it is important for the church to handle it as God handles it.
Verse 17. We find here two names attached to God: 1, He is called the God of our Lord Jesus Christ; 2, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The prayer of chapter 3 is in relationship with the second of these titles, that of Father; that of the seventeenth and the following verses of this chapter, with that of God.
The apostle also presents before us God as the Father of glory, that is to say, as the source, morally and in power, of all true glory. At the same time he sets before us the Lord Jesus entering as man into relationship with God, a bond which causes all the affection of God to rest upon Him, as the object in whom all the divine thoughts center: this is why Paul says, " The God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory."
I can consider Christ as a glorified Man, whose right has been established by God over all things; this is what Peter does in his epistles; he looks at Christ as a Man whom God had regarded in this manner, having raised Him from the dead. John, on the contrary, sees Christ in the glory of His divine Person, one with the Father, and as the sent One. In our Epistle Christ is presented to us as the object of the counsels of God, in whom the power of God is displayed. It is precious for us to see what is our position in Christ, to see that we are placed, as being His body, in the same position as Himself. The counsels of God concerning Christ and His body, are what is contained in this Epistle.
The prayer which begins at this verse expresses the desire that we should enjoy the understanding which is given to us of the counsels of God, of the hope of His calling, of the riches of the glory of His inheritance in His saints, and the power which has placed us in this enjoyment.
Verses 18-23. The union of Christ with the church is a union so real, that the body must be there, in order for Christ to be complete. It is man in resurrection who occupies this place: and this doctrine is essentially practical; as it gives the whole power of God in a life of resurrection here below, which sets us above the flesh. If we do not realize this life, we walk as men; and the lively understanding of this life of resurrection brings death upon all that is not heavenly. The power of faith makes us walk according to heavenly places; and it is nothing less than the power of God (the same power which raised Christ from the dead, and set Him at the right hand of God) which works in us both to will and to do. In these days the church has not miracles for its portion, but the power of the Spirit in the invisible world.
Herein is the understanding of the mystery of Christ. All things will be gathered together in one in Him; and, being united to Him, we likewise enjoy this inheritance. God redeems and inherits all things in Christ, and God establishes Christ the heir over all things as Man; but the church is the body of Christ, united to Him in the enjoyment of this inheritance; therefore it is said, " the inheritance of God in the saints."
In Christ all is manifested-in Christ the Son, Heir of all things; it is on Him that all hangs. But in the counsels of God, it is in us also that these things are manifested-in us, the saints; with whom God surrounds Himself in order to enjoy the fullness of His glory; as it is written, " to the glory of God by us."
But there still remains one thing essentially necessary to our enjoyment of this glorious destiny which belongs to us in the counsels of God; it was not only needful to reveal to us the counsels of God, but also to raise us to the height of that which is given to us by placing us in a position, in a state whereby we are made capable of this enjoyment. Christ is the Heir of all things, and we are His co-heirs. In what way are we associated with Him so as to share in the inheritance of the glory? How did He Himself (the One who in grace partook of the consequences of sin on the cross) become raised to enjoy the glory? God raised Him from the dead, and set Him according to His merits, and according to the dignity of His Person, at His own right hand, in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come. He has taken the Man who was dead, and has set Him at His right hand in the glory. Man, in the Person of Christ, raised above all except the throne, by which He has been raised. And is He alone?-No. The same power which raised Christ, and set Him at the right hand of God; the excellent greatness of that power which raised the Man who was dead to the right hand of God, works with the same might in him who believes.
This is what raises us to the capacity and to the position where we can enjoy, and where we do enjoy, the glory of God in Christ. For if God has set Christ over all, by taking Him from among the dead, He has given Him also as Head to His body, which is the church. We partake in this glory as being the body, the members of Him who inherits it; we partake of it according to the same energy which has set Christ there; Christ thus exalted is Head over all things, and Head of His body, which is the church. The members have their part in the inheritance, by virtue of the working of the same power in them, which wrought in Christ when He was taken from among the dead and set at the right hand of God. The body is complement to the Head; it is in this sense its fullness. Christ fills all in all: this is His glory. It is He who divinely fills the whole universe-the church is the body of Him who does it.
This great and wonderful truth is unfolded practically and morally in chapter 2. But before going farther, let us here remark, that there are two things in which the operation of the Holy Spirit is manifested in the church-these are wisdom and power; but the one is manifested at the present time more than the other. It is said, that Christ is the wisdom and the power of God. If you take the most advanced Christians, you will find in them more of wisdom and knowledge of the ways and counsels of God than of power. In the beginning of the church, the great mass of believers were less enlightened than at present; but the power was greater, for the demons trembled. Though this power is precious, inasmuch as it is a testimony that Jesus, as Man, has conquered Satan; yet the most precious thing is wisdom and so much the more, as what we have now to do is to discern the evil and separate from it, and not to establish a new dispensation. However, God always gives that which suits the need of His church.
And it is the same thing that we see in Joseph; first, when persecuted by his brethren; afterward, when in Egypt. That which characterized him was his wisdom, his knowledge of the thoughts of God. This is what is now given to us, even the thoughts of God. The position of the church is known by spiritual understanding; by wisdom I know what is my portion in Christ; my affections are drawn towards what God has presented to me for eternity. The church, in a special way, has need to understand this; she will then avoid the wiles of Satan. In Israel, when the enemies had the upper hand, it was knowing the thoughts of God which sustained those who were faithful. We see that the prophets of Judah, to whom God had entrusted His thoughts, did not perform a single miracle. Understanding of the thoughts of God will make us humble. It is a lowly position to know that we have nothing but what is in God. The effect spiritually will be to turn our hearts towards Him who is our portion; and this will draw the church away from all that is of the world; because God is about to take her up out of the world, this will force her to find her sources of joy and strength only in Him. Here, however, there is a character of power attached to such knowledge. It is the power of the resurrection which places us in the same position as Christ in heaven. That is our position, if we have spiritual intelligence: how power and wisdom are united! It is a work of power in us, and not our own wisdom.
Verses 1-3. The Gentiles were by sin morally there where Christ actually and outwardly placed Himself for sin; they were dead in their trespasses and in their sins. There they were walking according to the course of this world, floating with the stream according to the powerful and universal influence of Satan, who penetrates everywhere and reigns over everything, like the air, which is his seat; they were walking according to this spirit which is now working in the children of disobedience, in those who still continue far off from the deliverance wrought by the Lord.
But was it only for the Gentiles? Far from it; the apostle tells us, " we also," Jews, we were walking in the same lusts; and by consequence, according to the moral truth of our nature, we were, says he, children of wrath-heirs by nature of the wrath of that God who could not mix Himself up with sin. All were children of wrath. It was their desert, according to their nature, which was opposed to God.
Verses 4-7. The apostle has shown where all men were; he has done away with all distinction, by showing what the nature was which was common to them all; and has reduced all men to the same ground, by bringing down the Jews through the lusts of the flesh to the same level morally as the Gentile, whom the Jew despised. Such was man in himself, Jew or Gentile. But God who is rich in mercy, when we (for all, Jew or Gentile, are now taken together) were dead in our trespasses and in our sins, has quickened us together with Christ. If the sin of their common nature united them all in the same position before God, His grace has set them with Christ, quickened together with Him, and thus together also as to one another. The resurrection unites in one for blessing those whom sin had really put far off from God. Thus God had raised up together, and made sit together in the heavenly places in Christ, believers from among either the Jews or the Gentiles. Thus the church enjoyed the fullness of blessedness in Christ, according to the power of the resurrection and the ascension by which God had set Christ at His right hand in heaven. Sin united sinners down here in one common misery; grace has raised them to one peculiar and common glory, according to the power which had raised up Christ to this glory from the grave.
But if children of wrath, if thieves and Mary Magdalenes are found in the same glory as that conferred on the Son of God as the reward of His service here below; if even we ourselves are found participating in it, it is in order that God may show in the ages to come the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness towards us by Christ Jesus. When angels and principalities see a poor sinner and the whole church in the same glory as the Son of God, they will understand, as much as it is possible for them to understand of, the exceeding riches of the grace which has set us there.
Verses 8, 9. All is the gift of God. It was not even through works that we had part in this glorious salvation, but by faith, and this again the gift of God, that no man might boast. The glory of such a grace must all turn back again to God. He will make us understand that we are, indeed, blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places. What could we have more than to partake in the glory and the inheritance of Christ Himself, according to the power which has set Him there? So we see that the portion and position of the church are heavenly. It is inasmuch as dead and risen with Christ from the dead, that she enjoys all His privileges. It is there above that she enjoys them. She is heavenly by the very fact of her existence.
Verses 10, 11. The Spirit presents to us another aspect of this work in contrast with the thought of any labor on our part, in order to obtain this glory. We are, inasmuch as we partake of that, His work, created by God. The works of man are excluded from it; ourselves are His workmanship. Is it then that works are left, and by the Christian? No: they have their place; we are created for good works which God has before prepared (for all is of Him), that we should walk in them. They are not the works of the law, that the man which does them should live by them; but God, having created in us this new and heavenly nature, had before prepared works- a walk suitable to them. The consequence of this work of Christ is, not only that we are created anew for this heavenly position: but, moreover, it sets us here below in order to make manifest His power. These two great blessings flow from our being considered by God, as being really the body of Christ; that is to say, that we are possessors of the same glory there above, and that we are the dwelling of God here below. The church will be the fullness of Christ in glory, when all things will be subjected to Him; while waiting for it she ought to manifest the power of Christ in this world.
Such is then the order, the ensemble, and the effect of this work of power wrought out by grace, according to the rich mercy of God, which has set us in the heavenly places in Christ, as the body of Christ; the fullness of Him that filleth all in all; for it is no longer question of Jew or Gentile, but of spiritual blessings for those who are quickened and raised up together with Christ, according to the exceeding riches of that grace which has set the sinner in the same glory as the Son of God. What ought we not to be, since we have been made partakers of such privileges; and that according to this great love with which God has loved us?
Verse 12. The Israelites were as far off from God morally; but as to their position they were not without God in the world; God was there, the covenant was there, as also the promises; whilst the Gentiles had nothing. The Gentiles were far off from God: outside the pale of the Jews, there was no way for them to draw near to God in a way that would be pleasing to Him; they were altogether separated from Him. We see, however, through the history of the Jews, that in after times God intended to act otherwise; several signs, obscure certainly, showed that God had another thought, as Rahab and others serve for examples.
Verses 13-16. The blood of Christ does away all difference between those who were far off and those who were nigh. It is evident that the Jews, having put to death the Messiah, had destroyed every link between themselves and God: the middle wall of partition was broken down. They were like the nations, and more guilty than they. All that had belonged to them was entirely destroyed, and set aside by the death of Christ. That which had made the distinction of the Jew consisted in the ordinances by excluding the Gentiles who had no part in them. Now there is no longer need to know whether one is a Jew or a Gentile, for we see in verse 15 that the end of God is to take Jews and Gentiles in order to make one body of both. He has broken down the middle wall of partition, and wishes to form not the commonwealth of Israel again, but a new body in His presence, taken from either by the cross. It is evident that he who approaches to God by the cross has done with the Jewish ground. The apostle insists upon this point, that God, having laid this foundation in Christ, means to have but one body before Him; and then he shows how this is accomplished here below. If I draw near to God through the blood of Christ, I am a member of His body.
Verse 17. God had made peace, through the blood of Christ, between Jews and Gentiles, by reconciling them both to Himself by the cross; it is a new thing, a new man in Christ, in Jesus Himself. The apostle says it is the cross which has done it, by breaking down the middle wall of partition; and this oneness was established in principle, the moment Christ died. It is the cross which has done it; all difference is destroyed. The uppermost thought with God was to gather together in one, one glorious body in His presence; but in order to do so He must make peace and break down the middle wall of partition; this is what was done by the cross of Christ. It is remarkable that it should be said that it is Christ who came to bring us peace, for it is not His spirit but Himself who brings us peace, this peace which is before God, which is accomplished. It is by Him that we have the enjoyment of it. Christ does not only produce good results in us; but He brings to us the good news of the peace which is made, and He brings it with Himself. " He came and preached peace to them which were afar off, and peace to them which were nigh."
Verse 18. In this verse we see what is the way in which we draw nigh to God, the order of the Spirit in the heart being the inverse of that of grace. The Father acts by the Son, the Son in us by the Spirit, and as we now have the Spirit, it is by the Son that we address the Father. I cannot pray to God without the truth of the Trinity being manifested; it is not an abstract doctrine, but enters into the practical relationships of every day. Now it is the Spirit which makes the unity, there where He works, being the bond of the oneness of the body. " Now therefore ye are no more strangers."
Verses 19, 20. It is necessary to observe that the prophets here spoken of are not the prophets of the Old Testament, but those of the New. Paul speaks of the apostles and prophets as forming the foundation. The question here is as to building upon it, not as to laying the foundation. The church is not built upon the prophets of the Old Testament; it is built since the death of the Lord Jesus, and the foundation on which it is built is Christ who was crucified. All the Jewish ordinances barred the way against those who were not of Israel; the Jews had cast themselves away by putting Christ to death. The veil was rent: till then, God's foundation had not been laid, the first stone of the church was not placed. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob saw the promises afar off; they had believed and embraced them, and they will be in the heavenly glory; but the church had not then begun upon earth. It is upon earth that all has taken place: sin entered there, temptation also; the law too was given upon earth; Christ came into this world, the Holy Spirit also. By the Holy Spirit we can enter in within the veil; now that the foundation is laid (that is to say, since the death of Christ), the Holy Spirit, who makes us able to enter, has been given to us. If we leave that, all is confusion, the church has no distinctive feature, nothing which distinguishes it.
The word " prophets " of verse 20 has led many into a mistake. Here it is quite a new revelation that is spoken of, one which could not be spoken of before. It was a hidden mystery. God could not reveal the church during the Jewish dispensation; for the existence of the church then would have denied the special position of this people Israel. God could reveal that the Jews would be rejected and punished, and from the moment He brings out that, He turns back to the mercy which will cause the Jewish nation to return into blessing. This is what will take place when the Jewish people will be the royal people upon earth, when Israel will be restored by a new covenant. But this new man, this new revelation, is that those who now believe and belong to Christ become members of His body; and they are in the blessedness which belongs to it. Verse 19 expresses that we are in the house of God; and from verse 20 it is evident that, in order to begin to build, the corner stone must be laid. This is what we have seen before, and now we come to the results of it. Verse 21. We are not yet the temple of God; the church will be that holy temple in glory.
Verse 22 describes what we are now; we are the habitation, the tabernacle, where God dwells by His Spirit, as of old, in the midst of the camp of Israel; hereafter we shall be a glorious temple. Whilst waiting, we are the habitation, the dwelling of God. The blessedness of the church flows out of that nearness. If we have the consciousness that we are the habitation of God, how can we defile the tabernacle? There is not a blessing more important than this; it is even higher than those which relate to our inheritance in the glory.
When the apostle has spoken of God dwelling in us by the Spirit, he prays that we may be filled with all the fullness of God; and there are here two things to remark: I, the glory to come, and the church having part in this glory; 2, the habitation of God in us being united to Christ, we are the habitation of God by the Spirit. It is our present position: we have what is most blessed in this position. If we grieve the Spirit, we dishonor God who dwells in us: God then cannot act. When Satan by means of error has got entrance into any part, the church is troubled on every side. It is this power of Satan which has invaded the church of Rome. How precious it is that we should be the habitation of God, and how solemn a thing it is to have such a God in the midst of us! From the moment that there was an Achan in the camp, God could not act, He could not go forward; Israel was beaten because God was there. It is the same with the church of God; and if we forget it, God does not forget it. It is a precious thing to remember that, though we are in wretchedness, God is with us; as it is said in Hag. 2:4, when the Jews began to build, " Be of good courage, for I am with you ": whatever be your state of ruin, I am with you; My Spirit is with you as in the day that I caused you to come up out of Egypt. There is nothing but faith which can reconcile these two things-wretchedness and the love of God.
Verses 1-6. The apostle had set forth in the preceding chapters the hope of glory and the oneness of the body of Christ; he had presented the Spirit given as the seal and earnest of the glory, the Spirit as the center of the oneness; and while we wait for this glory, he has presented the church, not only as the co-heir of this glory in hope, but as being the habitation of God by the Spirit during the present time. Paul, in these two chapters, shows us first the glory with Christ; and afterward the church, the bride of Christ and habitation of God by the Spirit.
Now, introducing the Gentiles into the oneness of the body, the apostle says, " I, Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles." All that follows from verse I to the end of the chapter is in parenthesis, as is seen by chapter 4: I, " I, therefore, the prisoner." What is said at the beginning of chapter 4 is connected with the end of chapter 2, where it is seen that we are the habitation of God, the dwelling of God; this is the calling of which it is said, " I beseech you... to walk worthy of the calling with which ye are called." In such a position we are always humble; and this it is which enables us to walk worthy of the calling revealed.
At the beginning of the chapter there are two things to observe: personal humility which leads us to walk in oneness; and the individual gifts. There is one body, one Spirit, and the gifts alone are different in the members of the body. Chapter 3 is an unfolding of this truth, that the Holy Spirit dwells in His habitation, which is the church. Paul says, " I, Paul, prisoner for you Gentiles," etc.; and the consequence was, that since, as to the church, Paul would not place the Jews above the Gentiles, by reason of the malice of this people he became prisoner for the love of the Gentiles; here is the testimony which Paul gives about it. " That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel." It is wonderful how slow Christians are to understand the largeness of the counsels of God; for Paul was obliged to say even to the Ephesians, who were certainly a blessed church, if they had the understanding of the ways of God as to him, Paul; " If so be ye have heard."
In general we are obliged to be much more occupied with the details of the Christian life than with the great principles of this life. God is patient; but it is sorrowful that the state of the church should be such. Because of the want of spirituality, the Spirit cannot go on to unfold the riches of the thoughts of Jesus; He is then forced to be occupied with the walk, that the gospel may not be dishonored. The understanding of the counsels of God depends on the faithfulness of the walk, and what will be the consequence of this faithful walk? It will be a state of struggle with all, especially with all that Judaises. It is impossible but that, in the actual state in which the world is, opposition should not be shown against the one who is faithful; and the fact of having more light excites opposition even with Christians. Paul is a striking example of it.
The apostle often repeats this; that the church has not been revealed in the Old Testament. Certainly, the prophets of the Old Testament confirm the blessed position of the church, inasmuch as this truth is based upon the blessing of God being extended even to the nations blessing which they (the prophets) had testified of. (Psa. 18:49; Deut. 32:43 Psa. 117) There it is the Gentiles who are to rejoice with His people; but what the church is, is never spoken of. In the Colossians it is said of Christ, " Christ the hope of glory "; whilst that Christ whom the Jews expected was to be a Christ personally present-a Christ who was to bring in the glory (this will take place at the end)-so that a Christ who was only a hope when He was there was a thing which could not be understood. It was a mystery, of which the prophets had never said a word: they had spoken of a Christ who was to accomplish such or such things, but never of a Christ in us the hope of glory for the church. Christ as in us is the practical and actual point of this mystery.
In Rom. 16:26 the apostle teaches the same truth, that the church was a mystery, unknown before the death of Christ. God had always had the thought of the church; but it was hidden. Paul, in his communications to the Gentiles, rests upon what the prophets had said of the grace of God towards the Gentiles, and he quotes these prophets; Rom. 15:9-12. It is certain that a Christ promised, and who was to be rejected, is clearly revealed in the prophets; but we know that this was an enigma for the Jews-" We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth forever "-and the thought of a Christ who had other members, and those too among the Gentiles, would have been still more incomprehensible. The church is united to Christ; and if we wish to find it in the Old Testament, we must seek Christ Himself, and see it in Him. See, for example, Isa. 50: 8: " He is near that justifieth me; who will contend with me? let us stand together: who is mine adversary? let him come near to me. Behold, the Lord God will help me; who is he that shall condemn Me? " and Rom. 8:32, 33.
This challenge to all the world (because it is God who justifies us), which in Isaiah is spoken by Christ Himself, is in the Romans applied to the church. God only sees Christ; and these things are applied to us as being united to Christ. We are accepted in the Beloved. The thought of a people united to Christ by a spiritual life, or rather of a people united to Christ by one Spirit who was in Him and them, was never touched upon in the Old Testament. Christ Himself had not this position as Head of the body; and consequently the Spirit was not yet thus given.
The apostles and prophets, the foundation upon which the church is built, are not the prophets of old; for we see here it is things now revealed to these prophets that are spoken of, in contrast with the times past; they are then the prophets of the New Testament. In I Peter 1: 12 it is written, that the ancient prophets knew it was not for them that these things were written; and verse 6 of this chapter explains to us this mystery, namely, that the Gentiles are fellow-heirs. It declares to us the good news, that the middle wall of partition was broken down by the death of Christ; that all that which had made the difference between Jews and Gentiles had disappeared, and that Jews and Gentiles were made one in Christ. We see the difficulty the apostle Peter had in admitting this truth (for example, with Cornelius); Paul was obliged to resist him at Antioch to the face. The ancient Jews had great difficulty in acknowledging this glorious truth, and the oneness of the church.
Verses 7, 8. The apostle, seeing the excellency of that which had been given to him, sees himself less than the least of all saints; and it ought to be the same with us. The sight of these excellent things lessens us in our own eyes; and this humility will be the consequence of the realization of our privileges. What a glorious testimony that all distinction should be done away! Jew and Gentile-all that belongs to man falls when in the presence of the counsels of God in Christ. Paul, while contemplating these counsels, saw that he was nothing. The name Gentiles expresses that all was grace. The promise made when the first Adam had sinned is a promise made to the second Man: the last Adam will bruise the serpent's head.
The unsearchable riches of Christ are those riches of which we cannot fathom the depth, so immense are they; and the glory which God will give to Christ, according to what He is, and according to the worth of His work, this is the measure of these unsearchable riches. All has been done by Christ and for Christ; all has been created by Him and for Him: and the fact of having presented Christ to the Gentiles outside the limited revelation of the ancient prophets, brought out the riches of Christ as unsearchable; God can stand in presence of the power of sin, and in Christ, as Man, display the power of His grace for the manifestation of His glory.
Verses 9-11. These are the counsels of God in Christ, and the position of the church; never before had such wisdom been seen. Man might have been struck with wisdom in the creation; with the interposition of God in the deluge; Noah kept; Abraham called; the law given; other wonders accomplished; the government of God over His Jewish people. In all these, the wisdom of God was manifested; but here is a wisdom altogether different. A heavenly church was not even known to angels.
The Jewish people having rejected the Messiah, God's plan as to the earth was suspended; a new thought is brought in; a people whose position is after such sort that they have no place whatsoever save in heaven. Now God does not punish according to a rule distinctly revealed to man; there is no immediate government of God upon earth, though He still acts in providence; but there is a people, in suffering it may be, but heavenly, in the midst of the world. God's ways are of a new kind.
It is striking to see what is now the position of the church set in sight of heaven; it is in the heavenly places she bears witness; her conflicts (Eph. 6) are in the heavens; her blessings are there also (Eph. 1); and it is there again that she is seated (Eph. 2); the witness borne by the church in the heavenly places, gives importance to the present testimony of the church down here. I do not here speak in thought of the glory to come; but in thought of God's dwelling in the church by the Spirit.
Christ came-He was rejected; quite another wisdom was then manifested. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will be heirs in the glory; but they have not been gathered together in one body in Christ like the Gentiles, according to the purpose of God before the world began. The fact of our election before the world was, adds nothing to the sovereignty of God; if God had elected us in time, His sovereignty would have been the same; but election before time-before the world was, shows that the church is NOT of the world, since she was before the foundation of the world in the counsels of God. Neither the position of the church, nor her life, hang upon anything in this world; the world is but the sphere through which she moves.
Verse 12. This verse is the practical consequence of what has preceded. This position being based upon the love and upon the work of Christ, we are before God with a good conscience; with a conscience perfected forever. I am in Jesus, in the presence of God, by the faith that I have in Him-that is Jesus. Certainly, if I grieve the Spirit, the Spirit will be in me a Spirit of reproof; but Christ has finished all. The work which He has done, is perfectly finished according to the thoughts of God, and He is in God's presence according to the efficiency of these thoughts and of this work.
Verse 13. The apostle begins his address to the Gentiles by saying, " I desire that ye faint not...." In how high a position were the Gentiles placed! Instead of being troubled in seeing the afflictions of Paul, they were to be strengthened by these means; for it was for their sake that Paul suffered as a witness of the privileges which God vouchsafed to them; because he thought of them. The effect of ignominy in the world is to discourage those who are following it more or less; but he who is faithful, like Moses, esteems that the reproach of Christ is better than all the treasures of Egypt, for it is our glory. God might have been pleased to be satisfied with Jews; but He wished also for Gentiles.
Verse 14. This prayer is addressed to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; it hangs on that intimate relationship between the Father and the Son into which we are brought. At the beginning of the epistle there is a prayer of quite a different character; and which is addressed to the God of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Verse 15. This verse includes the whole of intelligent creation, blessed before God; it embraces all the different races, Jews and Gentiles; not only God gathers the Jews in one as He did under the name of God, but, under the name of Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, He gathers in one all the nations dispersed at Babel, and all the hosts of heaven. The Lord Jesus has received, as Man, power over all men; the angels even will be subjected to Him as Son of the Father; therefore it is said, " Let all the angels of God worship him! "
Verses 16, 17. It is more than glory that is spoken of here; it is the fullness of the riches of His glory. This is what the apostle desires for them, in contrast with a Messiah in the midst of the people: " That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith." Christ, set in glory, brings the Gentiles into it, and this is how we have part in these riches; but in order to enjoy them, He must dwell in our hearts. The moment that God exalted Christ, the link with every family in heaven and on the earth was manifested and even formed, for it was new. The portion of the Gentiles, as well as the whole church, is to be united to Christ Himself, of whom every family is named (v. 15); He is the Head of the church, the manifest center of the glory of God. The apostle desires that the efficacy of this power should be in us; not only that grace which comforts and which is most precious, but likewise that we should realize Christ exalted.
As Son of God, Christ is the first name in this family which the Spirit reveals to us, that Spirit by whom we are strengthened in the inner man; for our feeble hearts, though they are converted to God, would be incapable without His help of entering into this glory and the extent of these counsels; the trials of the flesh are not an obstacle to our realizing these things; the more the apostle suffered as prisoner, the more he entered into this mystery of the glory of Christ. His imprisonment was the cause of this epistle, as well as those to the Colossians, Philippians, and others: it is thus that God provides for the needs of His church. We ought so to lay hold of Christ glorified, as that He should be there with us; His presence ought to be realized and acted on constantly in the heart.
Verse 18. The thought from the beginning of the epistle is not of Christ as making satisfaction to the justice of God; but that power, that flow of love for the accomplishing certain counsels of grace, of which He is the fullness for us. Then Paul desires that having understood the accomplishment of this thought in the Person of Christ, we should understand the power of this mighty love which has glorified Christ by linking His glory with the blessing of poor sinners. When we apprehend these things, we understand that all is love, and that we ought to live upon the love which has done all.
It is by entering into the love which is the source of it, that we understand the immeasurable expanse which is spoken of in verse 18; that love of God whose thought is to put all things in subjection to Christ, and to glorify the church with Him. When we have understood this love, we can, in a certain sense, measure the ways of God which have brought us in there where God displays Himself, for it is not told us of what he is describing the length, the breadth, the depth and height, but it is love which has introduced us and orders all things. The Spirit includes the whole church, which is very nigh to God in this glory; it is impossible that any of its members should be set aside.
Verse 19. What is said here is specially for us. The apostle desires that we should realize the love of Christ, which passes knowledge; and that we should be strengthened to understand this love and to be rooted in Him, in order that we may be filled with all the fullness of God. If I am placed in the midst of infinity, I am not at the end of this infinity; I am in infinity which I do not comprehend, which I do not measure, and I have no smaller measure than that: it is nothing less than the fullness of God. God fills all in all, and I am full of Him, and all this by the Spirit; whatever be my littleness, I am in this blessed position. The Jews had no idea of this relationship which is named in heaven and on earth; but as for us, we cannot go outside this wall of enclosure with which God has surrounded us, and which is God Himself; and this depends on the presence of the Spirit, making the church the habitation of God. God cannot be less than Himself; He does not cease to be Himself. The Spirit dwells in the church; she becomes the vessel of that which nothing can contain.
Verse 20. Sometimes when we ask that God would grant us more than we can ask or think, they are blessings outside us which we desire; but here it is blessings in us, it is the power of the Spirit in the church. This it is which sets the church in the height of her position, and makes us feel our littleness.
Verse 21. What is said here does not relate to the fullness of the glory to come. The hope hangs on it; nevertheless, it is not the hope here which is in question, but the realization of the inner man, the habitation of God as a present, real thing. The essential thing exists already; and it is that which is most intimate and most exalted, namely, to be filled with the fullness of God; Christ who has finished all is there, the Spirit of Christ dwells in us. Paul sees in this verse all the extent of the counsels of God.
It is comforting for us, that this realization of the inner man should be wrought out by a power which works in us in the midst of the weakness of the vessel, because it is the will of God. What we have to desire is to be strengthened in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith, that we may seek the glory of Christ in the church, and that all glory should be attributed to Him, if so be we have understood that it belongs to Him. If it be asked, " Isaiah the glory of Christ in the church? " we hardly know how to answer. God grant us to desire this glory!
We have here the present and practical application of the principles which form the subject of this epistle. The beginning of this chapter joins on to the end of chapter 2, where is shown to us what the calling of the Christian is. The apostle beseeches the Ephesians to walk worthy of this vocation. That which is its special mark is, the habitation of God on earth by the Spirit. The whole conduct of the Christian flows from the church being the habitation of the Spirit. When the Spirit is presented as the seal, this is more for the individual: it is not the church which is sealed, but she becomes the habitation of God, as does the individual also. The conduct of the Christian ought to flow out of the presence of God. There is a conduct which becomes this presence: not only ought I to obey God, but there is a manner of acting which flows out of this presence, and which is the expression of this dwelling of God in us. When God was in the temple there was something in particular which was suitable for that presence. We are His temple. The presence of the Spirit in us becomes power as much as motive. There are things which become the temple of God. The estimation that we form of one another depends on the same thing.
Verses 1-3. The apostle does not speak of obedience, but of the Spirit which leads to it; the practical effect of the presence of God by the Spirit, is humility. Love always makes itself nothing. To have bad thoughts about oneself is humiliation, but not humility. Humility is produced by the presence of God; we are occupied with God and not with ourselves; God is there to comfort us and to bless us; the pride of man being broken down there is gentleness. This making nothing of oneself produces patience and love. When we know ourselves to be nothing, we have the consciousness of the strength of God; and more than that, there is the activity of love.
Consciousness of the preciousness of the presence of God, gives us the energy of the Spirit of God, which makes us careful to keep the oneness of the Spirit, that is to say, the union of all the members of Christ as one temple in which God dwells in this world by His Spirit. The moment that I forsake this, the unity is broken. In the flesh we are two, in the Spirit we are one; and when, by the Spirit, we enjoy love, there is this desire to keep the oneness of the Spirit. The flesh is never peaceful, whereas in God all is peace and quietness.
It is remarkable how often God is called the God of peace. See Phil. 4:9; 1 Thess. 5: 23; Heb. 13:20: The bond of peace is indeed the result of being thus in the presence of God; it is on this account that the apostle adds, " There is one body and there is one Spirit." Oneness is a thing which is actually realized on earth, the outward unity of the body in one expresses what there is within. If this bond of peace is wanting, the oneness of the Spirit is not kept.
Verse 4. Paul turns back to the thought put forth in chapter I, " The hope of glory." This same Spirit which has given the same hope, has given the oneness of the body; this outward unity which manifests the Spirit as well as oneness in the glory. There is but one body here below.
Verse 5. This verse describes the circumstances belonging to this oneness-all its interior and exterior relationships. It speaks of baptism as being the expression of the common faith.
Verse 6. The apostle adds, " in you all." One God and Father in us all; that is, His abode in us. " Through all," expresses the thought that He is everywhere in us all; He dwells there; He is there in His power, identifying Himself with His own. Spiritually He is in us, and as Ruler He is everywhere. They who are partakers of this oneness, are united to Christ as Christ is to the Father; thus the Father is in us all. (See John 14:20.) What a bond in this new creation! God Himself dwelling in us, in a body of weakness and of death! This is why we groan, being of the present creation, while at the same time we have the firstfruits of the Spirit; we groan according to God, not only because of the misery which we feel as men, but according to God who will very soon deliver this world.
Verse 7. The apostle now comes to the members of this wonderful body; Christ is the power which unites this body to Himself, and He is also the energy in each one of its members. If I speak of the church as a body, there is more glory; the unity of the body connects itself with nearness to God rather than with our individuality. We ought to look upon the members of the body as in action for the good of this body; evangelization produces also this same end by bringing souls to the Lord.
Verse 8. It is the same expression as is employed (Judg. 5:12) when Barak returned from delivering the captives of Israel, leading captive those who had led them captive. The people of God were captives of Satan; Christ has triumphed over Satan, and has led him captive, and has brought along with Him the church delivered from his chains. Satan was the master, and Christ gains the victory over the strong man and delivers the church. Having delivered it from the power of Satan, He can communicate to us this same power which gains the victory over Satan. God has set this power of victory in man, in order that it may energize. Christ had the title, and when He shall return, even those who are not converted will be delivered, because Satan will be bound; but now he is not so. The church is the place of the manifestation of the Spirit for the destruction of the power of Satan; and this shows the importance of the presence of the Spirit in the body, presence which delivers us from the power of Satan, and makes us grow up into all that which is of the Head, even Christ. In Psa. 68 these gifts are also spoken of in connection with the Jews, when Israel will be re-established in glory; but Paul here makes no mention of the second part of the verse, omitting, " Yea, for the rebellious also," because in the Ephesians all distinction is at an end, and has come to an end in the church. Now it is the whole connection in heaven and on earth; now it is gifts for men; the Jews were " the rebellious " (technical expression for the Jews); but hereafter they will be so no longer, and the Lord God will dwell among them.
Verse 9. This verse sets before us the glory of the Person of Christ, who has gone up on high in order that to faith there should be between God Himself and the power of death nothing which is not filled to faith with the power of redemption. The believer on earth is placed in this power of redemption, finding Christ everywhere. Christ having descended into hades, God has set Him at His right hand in order that He should fill all things. We see by this what will be the perfection of this work when all things will be reconciled by Christ. What an infinitely important position is that of the church, as the body and depository of the power of Christ! How little does she correspond to it!
Verse to. We have seen how Christ has come, then ascended up again, and who will hereafter reconcile all things. In the meanwhile, inasmuch as He is head of the body, He gives these gifts for the accomplishment of this special part of the mystery, namely, the edifying of His body; and it is of this part especially that mention is here made. God has desired to make us know what is the final end, the union of all things in Christ, and that of the body with Him. This great end is the position of the church as the center of the glory; and Christ now employs the power with which He is filled for the edifying of this body. The consequence of this is, that He speaks of its members which serve for the edifying of this body, and of its members, which make it move and act. It is not then miracles, testimony of power borne to the world, which are here spoken of, but the joints of the body, in order that it may grow up into Him.
Verse 11. Paul is not speaking of gifts, but of those who were themselves these gifts; he speaks of the gifts which edify the body, and not here of the Spirit distributing these gifts according to His will: Christ filling all things we are His members, partakers of this blessing. This is the difference between what is taught in I Corinthians 14 and in this chapter.
Verses 12, 13. There is a difficulty which connects itself with this, namely, the duration of these gifts; we might have thought they should have been continued till the perfecting of the body of Christ. In order to be able to apprehend the part of this passage in which this difficulty is, we must enter into the state of the church. The Lord did not return immediately; in the epistles He is always represented as about to return immediately; this is why Paul looked at all the saints in the presence of His coming. He looked at the perfecting of the body for the return of Christ as a thing to be accomplished in the present time. We know that this has not taken place; John 21:22. But in truth the Lord cannot be untrue to the edification of His body; and here the question is not about the manifestation of the Spirit in power, but the communication of blessings on the part of the head by means of its members.
The apostles and the prophets served as foundation, we can perceive this; and the others remained for building up even after these had departed. The ministrations which have lasted are those of evangelists, pastors, and teachers. What is said in the first place in verse 12 is the general and proper end of the gifts. Then follows the manner in which this grace, which flows from the Head, for the perfecting of the saints, ought to act: it is by producing a ministry which is to work in building up the body: an evident proof that ministry is to last until we are all brought into the presence of Christ, and that this is brought about by the principle of the oneness of the body and by its edification as such. It is then important to see the end of this ministry.
Verse 13 speaks of the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God-in the which we have fellowship. Difference of views there may be; but as it was said to the Philippians, " God shall reveal even this unto you." There is, therefore, the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God. Ministry is the means to it, and this ministry always exists. If attention be paid to what is said about ministry, it will be seen that when the apostle speaks of the perfect man, he does not allude to the perfection which follows resurrection, but to the perfection of this knowledge. We have seen that this is connected with the basis which the Spirit has laid for all these truths; that is Christ fulfilling all things and dwelling in us here below. The Holy Spirit, who dwells in the church, makes each member to grow according to that which is in Christ and according to the measure of Christ. As there is unity in the body, there is also the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son. Here, the Spirit's thought is to make all the members grow according to the revelation of the glory of Christ; and this shows us what our desires ought to be, and what we ought to desire for our brethren. Christ has grace enough in Himself for this. We should desire that all Christians near us should be full of knowledge, even to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; and this knowledge of the revelation of the glory of Christ here below, naturally produces fruits. Such is the meaning of the word " perfection." The question is as to knowing Christ. Christ is altogether perfect as risen from the dead: the Christian is so when he has risen up to that position of Christ. Paul said, " Not that I have already attained." But he had attained to that spiritual joy, that knowledge which revealed to him the object set before him. When it is thus with the Christian, he is at peace, and he can grow as to practical conduct; he has the consciousness of being in that which is infinite, of being in the enjoyment of Christ before the Father, according to the accomplishment of all the counsels of God. As to his soul before God, he no longer travails, so to speak, as when he drew nigh to God, conscious in himself of his need of expiation. As to his soul, he has nothing to search after; all being accomplished, he finds himself set before God, in that fullness itself, even in reference to all the circumstances which may befall him; he knows that Christ has all power in heaven and in earth.
Verse 14. If I have nothing to seek, I rest in quietness; the place I am in is the fullness of the knowledge of God, sheltered from the deceivableness of men. The Christian, who possesses Christ, no longer seeks Him as one whom he has yet to find, though he seeks to grow in those things into which he has been brought; but in the church we see souls in a state very different from this, which is indeed sorrowful: generally, Christians need to be brought back to the position which has been purchased for them. A Christian is perhaps blessed with salvation, but he is occupied with the things of the earth; he has cares, and ministry must then be occupied with the sorrows which result thence. But where there are believers whose affections are full of Jesus, they can go onwards, and there is progress; because where souls are living they seek after fresh graces. If we walk in individual faithfulness, we are able to be occupied with the things which are before us; when this is not the case, we must be occupied with our own misery, and it is sorrowful to be occupied with things which are a loss in comparison of the knowledge of Christ. If we walk according to the knowledge that we have, we are lively, and the things which are before us attract us onward; we can, forgetting present things, be occupied with the grace that is in Christ.
Verses 15, 16. Each member acts in its place; each part has its place. This place may be a hidden one, but it is not the less important; the thought presented is that of the growth of the body. A soul which is lively builds up others; the Spirit acts in souls which turn not back; the gospel working produces inward blessing. We see as we have said, in the place where all fullness dwells all becomes grace, even trials; because they make us enjoy with intelligence the counsels of God. If an evil occurs, it becomes only the opportunity for manifesting the love of Jesus, and this serves to strengthen faith. But all consists in our growing up in the Head; this is the only true growth which is in the knowledge of Jesus; because this knowledge is that of grace. The Spirit acts by the word (through faith and understanding of the things of God), all the while it is my life which grows and communicates to me a developed manifestation of life.
But let us go back to what we have a right to expect from the children of God; I am here speaking of the oneness of faith and of the knowledge of Christ. If love dwells in us, and we think of the members of Christ, that will lead us to ask that they may grow according to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. But, alas! many are often more occupied with this present life than seeking the growth of souls. Love is of God, and it is always powerful. If we were in a healthy state, we should grow in God. Faithfulness in the walk is necessary, if we would not grieve the Spirit; there must be the hidden life, that is to say, the heart must abide in Jesus; in a word, Christ should be the end of all our life. There is enough love in Jesus to make His members grow.
If we had sufficient love, we should draw out of Jesus what would produce this growth in others; and we need it in the present time when there are so many things that dim the testimony of the saints. Our part really is to be separate from evil; we must see Christ so clearly as to be able to say, This or that is not of Christ; and if persons are overwhelmed by cares, it is impossible that Christ should be discerned by them so as to deliver them from things which are like Christ, but which still are not Himself. What we have to seek after is to be sufficiently spiritual as to be able to realize what Christ is; the effect of this will be subjects of intercession, which will doubtless cause sorrow of heart, because the faults and failures of the members of the body are borne there; but nevertheless, where love is in action, there will be always joy.
Verse 17. There is a principle here, which it is of importance to have a firm hold of: it is, that the whole conduct of the Christian flows from salvation, and is not in order that he may be saved: it is not that we do not gain something, or that Paul does not exhort us to run towards the mark (1 Cor. 9:24); but the whole walk of the Christian ought to be the manifestation of a new life. The moment that we hear an exhortation as to conduct, and that we do not hear it as addressed to a saved person, the gospel is displaced. All must be addressed to me as a child of God; this is why the apostle says, " I beseech you," etc. It is because of this grace that I beseech you. The moment that I mix up an exhortation with the freeness of salvation, man is not in the position in which Christ has set him; it may have the appearance of piety, but the fact remains, that if I exhort, and at the same time admit a question about salvation, I deny, and I have not a right consciousness of, the state of ruin in which man is, any more than of salvation.
Verses 18, 19. This is the commentary and the center of all that we have just said. Man is alienated from the life of God. In the times in which we live men would be ashamed to do what was then done openly; but this changes nothing as to the fact: whether a man is alienated from the life of God, or a heathen, it is the same thing.
Verses 20-23. This is the truth which is in Jesus ' if we are saved, we are created anew. And the verse which follows explains to us this truth, namely Jesus, who is Himself the new Man.
Verse 24. Here is the truth of the new man in us. The question is not of changing what we were, but God has given us a new life, eternal life. We have seen the manner in which the church is united to Jesus; the truth which is in Jesus is the presence of this life in the Christian. We ought to put off the old man in us, and to put on the new man. This hidden life must manifest itself in all that the man puts on. The old man is in itself a captive, a slave of sin, and a prey to the lusts which lead him away. Moral discernment is wanting. But where the new man is, there is also spiritual intelligence. We are renewed; and this intelligence judges of things according to God. Man is free in the things of God; God is found there. We are capable of seeing things which are suitable for God. " Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." We then have the consciousness of the beauty of the things of God, and it is man who discerns them. The man who does not act by the power of the Spirit acts according to the flesh.
We are created according to God. God is formed in us. Christ was the image of the invisible God: He manifested in His ways the character of God. Also the Christian is a new creation. The apostle speaks, in this verse, of the power of God, which has produced that life in which we enjoy God. God has set His seal upon us; it is quite a new thing; the lusts of the old man are no longer in question, but the energy of the new man-that understanding which speaks according to truth.
Verse 25. In this verse is seen how everything hangs on our union with Christ. There is evidently no bond either of love or of the Spirit with one to whom I lie; but if I lie to my brother, it is as if I deceived myself. The power of the life of Christ is also power in all the details of the Christian's life. We are members one of another.
Verse 26. We see here in the acting of the new man that there may be such a thing as being angry (for example, Christ in the case of the man who had the withered hand, Mark 3:5) it is then indignation against evil. (See 2 Cor. 7:11.) If it is the anger of the new man on account of evil, then, as soon as the evil is removed, the soul returns to its rest; but if anger lasts, then there is bitterness, and the soul not being able to return into its rest, evil is shown to be there; for this reason it is said, " Let not the sun go down upon your wrath."
Verse 27. This verse shows us that we ought not to open the door to Satan. If it is the flesh that is acting, then the wicked one can touch us; but he cannot touch the new man, he cannot entice it; 1 John 5:18. If I give way to a thought which is not of God, then I give place to Satan; if I give way to anger, the enemy is there: we are then hindered in service, troubled in prayer; and that is not to be wondered at. When our thoughts have been filled with present things, when we have been occupied with them not in their connection with God, we have given place to Satan; but if we have been occupied with our work with God before us, then this work in no way takes possession of our hearts as an object; our faculties are free; our affections are fresh; and, when we return to God, we are entirely God's, having only acted in order to fulfill His will. How much time we lose! This is why it is said, " Watch unto prayer." We should do whatever we do, for God.
Verse 28. It is interesting to see how God takes the most difficult materials in order to form something out of them. He takes the heart of man such as it is, in order to make of it a new thing by the life of the new Man, which He introduces there; it is the Spirit which worketh these things, because it is the Spirit of love which is there.
Verse 29. Here is seen the contrast between the old man and the new. It is one or the other which speaks; it is murmuring or giving of thanks. The matured Christian would only speak for edification; the new man, acting under the influence of the Spirit, will only take part in things which are for edification.
Verses 30, 31. It is precious for us to know that the Christian has been sealed for the day of redemption, for the day when his body will be raised. When Christ shall have accomplished all that for which He died, our body (for Christ has redeemed it) will be raised, which has not yet taken place. It is said that Christ has been made to us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption; redemption is put the last. It is not here the price paid for the purchase that is spoken of, but the result of this purchase. There are two things to be remarked in what follows: the new man and the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is not created, He is an independent Being in us; we must not grieve Him. All that which accords not with the Holy Spirit is not suitable for the Christian. On the other hand, we see that we have full assurance: God has set His seal upon us; and this strengthens faith. We enter into the thoughts of God; we find there not only the motives of holiness, but also the power of holiness. That which assures me of redemption puts me on my guard not to grieve the Holy Spirit. If we are in the presence of our Father, His love prevents us from falling. It is thus that the Holy Spirit seals us for the day of redemption, and guards us from evil.
Verse 32. My foundation being what God has done for me, I have the consciousness of the goodness of God.. If I am blessed myself (see I Pet. 3: 9), I can show love to others; feeling that God has pardoned me takes away all bitterness from my life, from my manner of acting. Our Father, having forgiven us, desires that our hearts should be in freedom towards all, and that we should act in peace and love. It is sweet to be thus set with God, representing in ourselves the character of God.
Verses 1, 2. The first verse hangs on the preceding chapter; as God has forgiven you, forgive one another. " Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children." The general principle is-Be ye followers of God, follow Him, walk in His steps, act on the same principles as He does. Inasmuch as we are the family of God, we ought to be like God our Father. There is something very sweet in this principle, and very different from that of the law; it produces in the heart quite other feelings; it is affection, it is the goodness of God which constrains us to walk. The apostle here introduces a principle which flows out of the last verse of the preceding chapter; that is to say, to walk in love, to imitate God, to follow Christ. If God is love, Christ is also the expression of this love toward us; we ought also to leave all for our brethren; 1 John 3:16. The motives of this conduct are expressed in the first and second verses, which we have just read. We ought to imitate God according to the heart of a child; and the effect of this love of God in the heart of a Christian is, that he gives up himself to the needs of his brethren. This is what was seen in Christ. Having the life of Christ, the divine nature and the power of Christ, we ought to offer ourselves up to God; Rom. 12: I. It should also be remarked, that that which descends from God in love re-ascends always to God in love and devotedness to Him. What a blessed thought; and why do we not thus live? for this is what we ought to be in our service for God.
Verse 3. Paul supposes the Christian in that atmosphere of God, in which there are no thoughts but those becoming saints. And we see here the place which money holds: the heart of man thinks that it is pleasanter to be rich than poor; but here it is said that covetousness should not be so much as named among us. We see also to what extent, when in the presence of God, the standard of morality is different from what it would be if we only had regard to men. The apostle considers these things according to the Spirit of God, according to the thoughts of God, according to Christ working in him, Paul. The consequence of this is, that it is according to what becomes saints that we ought to act; we are to be followers of God.
Verse 4. In the presence of Christ we shall find jesting unsuitable. It is not that he who walks in the light of God's countenance is not happy. There is not a cloud on the joy of him who is in the presence of God; but such a Christian feels what the things are which do not become him who is called to imitate God. That the world should find such things suitable is natural enough: but " as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of a fool; this also is vanity," Eccl. 7:6.
Verses 5-7. A covetous person shall not inherit the kingdom of God. The covetous person in 1 Corinthians 5, is placed, as to discipline, in the same position as fornicators, idolaters, etc.; but it is more difficult to act towards a covetous person, because with him the sin is more hidden than seen outside. All these things are the flesh; but for him who walks after the Spirit they are judged. The natural man would rather have two crown-pieces than one; but the new nature is delivered from such lust, it finds not in such things its enjoyment. The apostle says here " The kingdom of God and of Christ." He follows the thoughts which are according to God and to Christ. If I think of God, it is divine light; if of Christ, it is this power manifested in a man. How precious for us to be able to say, It is there where I am, associated with them; I am in the same atmosphere as God and Christ. It is, then, in this position that we judge all things. We ought not to associate with that which is not of God, because God is not there, and because we should no longer be in the atmosphere in which we are able to judge of things.
Verse 8. It is thence that you have come out, says the apostle. It is not said " in darkness," but that those who are now partakers of the divine nature had been darkness; but now ye are light. It is the nature of God, of which we have been made partakers, which makes us see all; and it is thus that we are light in the Lord. Just in so far as we are in Jesus, it is thus that we walk. He that followeth Me, Jesus says, shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life; but he that walketh in the night stumbleth, because there is no light in him. The natural man has no light.
Verse 9. The nature of God and of Christ, when it is manifested in man here below, has for its character gentleness, meekness, practical righteousness, and truth. In the truth, each thought has its place before God: Christ was the truth. Each one of His acts answered to what He Himself was, and to what God Himself was; either He was manifesting God or He was, as man, truth before Him. Each of my actions ought to answer to what I am before God: it is the subjection of the inner man. I ought to consider others in all my relationships with them, according to this righteousness and this truth (that is, according to what one is before God), and there there is neither unrighteousness nor untruthfulness.
Verse 10. This verse is connected with what is said about light in verse 8; verse 9 is in parentheses. This is what we have to learn in our conduct. It is often said, that it is difficult to discover the will of God; but this is because we are not ready to meet with difficulties, and then we cannot find out His will. In this verse we have that moral state of soul which loves to please, which realizes the spirit of the walk, and which realizes the wishes of God in order to be acceptable to Him; it is thus that, as children, we show real thoughtfulness about Him whom we desire to please. In verse 9 it is the fruits which are the natural productions of the life of God in us that are enumerated; but in verse 10 it is the manner in which God works in us, our eyes being turned upon another than ourselves. This work of God in us is thus carried on. A child, while observing his father, learns what is pleasing to him; he learns what are his ways; he knows what he would like in the circumstances which transpire. Thus we prove what is acceptable to the Lord.
Verse 11. The experience of righteousness in us produces an entire separation from evil; it produces fruits of light. Paul insists upon the necessity of having no fellowship with the works of darkness. A Christian cannot join himself with these things, but rather even convict them. Verse 12. By this verse is shown to us to what an extent our evil nature will go.
Verse 13. This is the effect of light in Christ and in the Christian. We see nothing in the dark; but the light manifests all. The natural man would be ashamed to do in the light what he does in the dark-things which would be done openly among the heathen. Christianity has necessarily destroyed, up to a certain point, the grossness of sin even with those who are not yet converted. The Christian is in the light which manifests all. The light applies itself to every connection which he could form with this world.
Verse 14. The men of this world are dead, and the Christian who walks according to the spirit of this world is as if he were dead, slumbering amidst the dead, dreaming, it is true, sometimes about his wretched position; but as to action, he is there amongst the dead; he does not know what to do, and how should he know? The same may be said of all that, in the Christian, which morally can be called sleep. It is a most sorrowful state in contrast with that which is described to us above. Christ cannot enlighten a soul thus placing itself among the dead; He can work in order to awaken such, but He does not give light to them that are asleep, to those who do not awake from among the dead. Since the light makes all manifest, there is a needs-be that the Christian should awake, and Christ will give him light. It is Christ Himself who is the source, the expression, and the measure of light for the soul that is awake. What use is light to him who will walk in darkness?
Verse 15. In heaven there will be no " Take heed "; there we may give free way to perfect joy: there all is holy; but down here in this life, in the midst of evil, we must take need, we must use wisdom. The man of the world, in order to avoid evil, must be skilled in the knowledge of the evil. The Christian has no need to think about evil; he must be wise without the knowledge of evil, as it is written, " Simple concerning evil, wise as to that which is good " (Rom. 16:19), because full and divine knowledge of good in the midst of evil is what Christ gives. What He Himself was here contains no familiar acquaintance with evil; the child of God ought to possess that wisdom which is simple as a dove-spiritual wisdom.
Verse 16. This is likewise wisdom; it is to gain time in order to do good. The same expression is used in speaking of the magicians, the Chaldeans, in Dan. 2:8; they gained time in order to conceal their inability, they had the prudence of this world. We need wisdom in order to be able to do good in spite of Satan, whose power makes the present time one of difficulty. If we have this wisdom for good, we shall escape the wiles of Satan; we shall leave his nets on one side and pass on; we shall do the good that God may give us to do; we shall have time for God. If we are in God's light, we shall walk in the simplicity of that which is good, and God will be with us. Let us think of God as Father and on what Christ did, in order to do like unto Him. If sleep overtake us, we must awake, and Christ will give us light.
Verses 17, 18. Verse 16 had shown us that we must redeem the time. The days are evil when God allows Satan to exercise his power, and they are so in general until Jesus return; but there are times when God permits the enemy to govern more directly, and others when He puts a check on him. The evil days are a chastisement, a humiliation for the church; but he who is faithful has his way pointed out; he ought to redeem the time, to seize the opportunity of doing good; Neh. 6:3. This is why it is said (v. 17), " Be not unwise "; but there is also an energy, a force in the Spirit which is given to us, which is contrasted with the excitement by which the world thinks to produce faith-excitement which is evil-an evil course of life, the true character of which verse 18 shows us. When the Spirit descended upon the one hundred and twenty at Jerusalem, the world said, " They are full of new wine." The power of the Spirit in truth does put a man beyond the power of what is natural to himself; the words rise to his lips as a fruit of the Spirit's action, and he is the subject of a joy which flows over. In him who is full of the Holy Ghost there is what is not natural to man-something altogether extraordinary.
Verses 19, 20. It is quite another life, it is a joy outside of the world's range; it is a company apart, in which the world would have no pleasure, nor enjoyment. The Spirit is. there in power. When Christians have life amongst them, occupying themselves with the things which are properly theirs, instead of hesitating in spiritual things, then the life grows; the consequence is, that we see things according to God, we are able to give thanks for all things; we live and we dwell there.
Verse 21. It is this spirit of gentleness which recognizes Christ in a brother, and that spirit of submission which does not exalt itself; it is when Christians are united and mingle one with another that they realize these things, for individuality is often pride.
Verses 22-24. What is said in these verses is strong: for, as is often the case, the wife may have more wisdom than her husband, but the effect of this wisdom will be for the wife to leave to her husband the place that God has given to him; for if the grace of God acts in the heart, the order which God has established reigns always, and if the wife governs, God is not there. But if this particular wisdom of God is recognized, the order of God is maintained, and blessing is the consequence.
Verses 25, 26. There are always in the word positive directions, and it is never well for us not to follow them. We may remark here three things as to Christ and as to the church, which flow out of the love of Christ for the church: 1, He has loved the church and given Himself for it; 2, that He might sanctify it by the word; 3, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, etc.
Verses 27, 28. Christ will present the church to Himself in glory. The order in which these things are placed gives such assurance. Christ does not sanctify the church before having redeemed it. No, it is when she belongs to Him that He devotes Himself to make her such as He would have her to be. We may remark here, it is not said that God loves the church; nor is mention made of that loving-kindness of God which seeks to save souls, though His goodness is acting towards all men in sending Christ to them. " God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten San, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but should have everlasting life." But there is another thing which is not properly the goodness of God, either in the sense of providence, or in that of the love in His nature. God in His counsels desires to enter into a certain relationship with His own people; God desires to have children, and Christ a spouse. They are affections based upon a relationship which exists. If God has made us His children He cannot do less than love us as such; once this relationship established, He cannot fail in it. It is never said that Christ has loved the world, while we have seen that God has loved the world; John 3:16. See also the character of the providential goodness of God; Jonah 4:11. The goodness of God, which watches over all His works, is precious; we ought to act in the same way as following Him, we ought to love everybody; Matt. 5:44-48.
But there is another thought besides that of this goodness of God; there is a love, the consequence of an established relationship. God having set us in this relationship, the affections of God and of Christ flow forth naturally towards us who are the objects of it. God loves His children with a love which will never deny itself. Christ has made Himself responsible for all the debts of His spouse; and more, the church being the spouse of Christ, she has lost her earthly citizenship and acquired a heavenly one. Christ has become the one responsible for all that His church has done and will do; the church, as the spouse of Christ, has lost her individuality, in order that she may pertain to Christ, her heavenly Bridegroom. Christ, as the anointed Man, felt a distaste for the world; He would none of this world; He would not have His affections there. The Christian, in like manner, ought not to be able to bear the world as to its objects of desire and its walk. Christ has given Himself in order to satisfy the justice of God and to conquer, for the church's sake, the power of Satan; having set her free, He is occupied with her, and, as she is not what He desires, He sanctifies her. The Spirit of God makes allusion here to a practice among the Jews, who purified themselves by washing in pure water. It is by the word that Christ cleanses and sanctifies the church; all the revelation of what God is is thus applied to the heart. This is why Jesus says, " I sanctify myself for their sakes "; I set Myself apart, as being the expression of all the thoughts of God, and I communicate them to Mine, that they also may be sanctified through the truth. Christ is not untrue to the thoughts of God. The word is the means of communicating them, it judges all in us and manifests what is in God. This is what Christ did here below.
The final object of the work of Christ for the church is to present it to Himself " glorious, having neither spot nor wrinkle, nor any such thing."
There is reference here to the last Adam and the church; of which Adam and Eve were the types. Whilst Adam slept, God built for him a wife (this is the literal force of the Hebrew word) and presented her to him when he awoke. It is the same here; whilst Christ is hidden, so to speak, in God, God builds the church; and when it shall be perfected, it will be presented to Christ, or rather He will present it to Himself, being God and last Adam at the same time.
It is a precious thing to see that Christ so well knows how to take His measures that there will not be the least thing in His spouse which will not satisfy His heart; she will not have a wrinkle when He presents her to Himself; and all is based upon this, that He has given Himself for her; not only He has given His body unto death, His life, but also Himself. There is nothing in Christ-not an affection, not an element of wisdom, nor energy of devotedness, not a thought, nor perfection-not one thing in all the self-devotedness of Christ for the church-upon which the Christian may not count.
Verses 29-31. There is in verse 29 something more than that which precedes. Not only Christ purifies the church by the word, but He nourishes and cherishes it; He considers its weakness; He shows tenderness and love towards it to nourish it as being His own body.
Verses 32, 33. It is said in verse 32, " This is a great mystery." What the apostle had at heart was the relationship between Christ and the church. We see in the verses which we have just read, four things: 1, Christ gave Himself for the church; 2, He sanctifies it by the word; 3, He presents it to Himself without wrinkle; 4, He nourishes and cherishes it, by giving all that He has for it, in order to show how dear it is to Him. He loves it as Himself. It is precious to have the inward consciousness of the affection of Christ for the church. This is an important truth, and it is essential to distinguish the difference of this love, which belongs to relationships which God has established, and the goodness of His nature towards all. The consequence of it is that Christ undertakes the whole work; we are only His, entirely His. It is not a law, but a tie -which binds us to another, that is, Christ. The moment that the power of man works, it is no longer Christ who has taken all upon Him for us.
Verse I. We cannot enter into the force of this expression, obedience in the Lord or according to the Lord, unless we take our place before the Lord with spiritual understanding. Christ, when He was with His mother and Joseph, had the power of the relationship in Himself; this power of judging good and evil led Him to obey. It is in like manner with us: we ought to obey as to that which regards our relationships in this world. We must understand our position in Christ, in order to be able to obey. God formed these relationships from the beginning; natural relationships are of God, but sin has corrupted all. Now this is what the Lord does: He does not bring in a remedy for this state of ruin; but He introduces a new man, having given Himself without sin in order to take away sin; and this new man is Christ. It is evident then that this new Man recognizes what God has done in establishing these natural relationships; but in a manner superior to these very relationships. So when Christ began His ministry, He recognized nothing in this world; but He submitted to all as an individual, perfect in the midst of this evil. When He came into this world, He said, " Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business? "
Nevertheless, He submitted to those who stood to Him in the relationship of parents, until God called Him to His own proper service. He acted as from God, as superior to the obligation. The Christian, in like manner, by his union with Christ is superior to his obligations, inasmuch as he has with God a new relationship beyond nature; but he recognizes this obligation according to the intelligence which this new relationship gives to him, and the consequence is that He is infinitely more obedient, because he obeys as from God. But it is impossible that I do evil as from God, or that I prefer anything before the authority of Christ. I am made more subject according to the perfection of God in Christ; and likewise by the introduction of the new man, the strength of the obligation is maintained, but according to God. In order to act as Christ did in the world, we need spiritual discernment. God cannot deny the obligations which He has created; but if I act in these relationships, as being from above and not from below, I shall obey with all my heart, but in a superior position, which does not allow of the evil into which I might be drawn by those with whom I am in this relationship, because I could not do evil " in the Lord ": it is a most simple principle.
Verses 2, 3. Paul refers to this promise, which has often been a difficulty to some, as though temporal promises now belonged to a certain line of conduct. The citation only chews us how much God estimated obedience under the law. However, I believe there is a blessing belonging to obedience to parents. But in the order of the government of God, in the ways of God with us personally in this world, there are important things which modify this. The Jewish system was the expression of the government of God in this world, and the blessing belonged to him who honored his father and mother.
Verse 4. This is an important truth for parents, and which flows from the church being a company apart. It is evident that God desires that the children of Christians should be brought up as Christians. I must act as a Christian with regard to my child, and not otherwise; I must exercise towards him the discipline of God, and bring him up as a disciple-we do very wrong if we act otherwise. If it so happen that parents are converted at the moment their children are growing up, it will then be more difficult for these parents to bring them up in the manner we have just said. But God is faithful to direct these parents, and to guide them according to their need; it will be a subject of prayer for them. In the verse before us the apostle supposes children whom parents are beginning to bring up.
If a Christian mother introduce or allow her child to go into the world, she must expect a strong reaction when her child is in the midst of the world; but God is faithful to the mother who acts faithfully according to the instructions of the Lord. The moment there is a duty, God is there; and God is faithful to make us succeed, though we may have to pass through many a painful hour. But, alas! we like what is most easy; neither is it right for us to use the word as a law to make a child obey. We frequently hear parents say to their children that, if not good, God will punish them, thus putting them under a law; this ought not to be. I ought to be a Christian with my child. God cannot bless parents who make a severe law of the Christian religion with their children; and much less when they allow themselves to go back to worldliness and worldly motives. They ought to be Christian as to their children, and to act towards them according to the truth into which God has brought themselves.
Verses 5, 6. The expression, " as unto Christ," is striking. What is not done according to God ought not to be done; but as to our own will, we must have submission and spiritual discernment to know when submission ought to be absolute. When there is no evil, by submitting myself I act as from God, without asking whether the authority is wise or not; I am wise in obeying: and so, every time that the question is as to obeying my master, I do it without troubling myself about what he tells me; I do what he wishes, no matter what; I do it as in the sight of God and for God.
Verse 7. It little matters where God has placed me in this world, provided I serve Christ; and this principle can be applied to the most ordinary things of life; even if I light a fire, I can do it as for the Lord; and how honorable this makes it! What I do is for Him, and because He wishes me to do it; and I do it with good will for the Lord Jesus, serving Him with love.
Verse 8. The Christian religion has found its way into the midst of evil, and given liberty where there was none; it has given it even to the poor slaves, and that without taking them out of their state of bondage. The gospel does not touch that position. Paul acknowledges slavery as a right, when he sends back Onesimus to his master, telling him that in grace he would treat this slave as a brother. Christ comes in where sin reigns. It is a power superior to all here below, and which subsists in the midst of what is found here.
Verse 9. Ye are slaves of Christ, and servants of Christ, and with Him there is no acceptance of persons; if servants, ye can serve Him, however low your condition be as to this world; and if masters, ye ought to serve Him whatever are your advantages here below.
Verse 10. Here is strength! What joy to be able to say, If I am weak, Christ is my strength! We do not enjoy this strength when we are at a distance from the Lord, and when we parley with circumstances, instead of retiring into Jesus by prayer. If we gave ourselves to prayer, all would soon be overcome.
Verse 11. We must put on the whole armor of God; for if we have only truth and not righteousness, or only righteousness and not truth, the devil may reach us. The first counsel which the Spirit gives us here is to be strong in the Lord; and second, to have the whole armor of God; because the arms of man are useless against spiritual wickedness. The man of the world does not know that he is the object of the attacks of Satan, and in truth he is rather his slave, never having been delivered; but the Christian is the object of his attack, and if he is not clothed with the whole armor of God, the darts of the enemy reach him. None can resist him but the one who is thus clothed, for Satan is always there using wiles and artifices; he is often as a lion, but more habitually as a serpent, and he tries to reach us and introduce the point of his weapon; he seeks to deal his blows wherever he finds a part of the body unprotected, not clothed with this armor of God.
Verse 12. We wrestle not against flesh and blood, that is to say, not against man, as the Israelites who had to fight against the Canaanites. No! but against spiritual wickedness, against the powers of this world. When the flesh acts in the Christian, Satan can attack him; the flesh has no power whatsoever against Satan. " He that is born of God keepeth himself, and the wicked one toucheth him not," 1 John 5:18. We have a perfect example in Jesus. The new man in us is never tempted. These evil powers are in the heavens, whence they are not yet driven out; and in their wickedness they act not in a gross but in a spiritual manner. Christ is still sitting down, and His enemies are not yet put under His feet; but we have the promise, that the God of peace will bruise Satan under our feet shortly. It is of all importance not to be terrified by him, for in Christ we gain the victory over the enemy of our souls: but it is needful for us to be aware of these ambushes, and to know what is acting against us.
That which guards us is the power of the Spirit in the path of obedience. The presence of the enemy in the heavens has spoiled and continues to spoil all the good that God ever committed to man; this is true, even in Christianity here below, because the heavens are not yet changed: the atmosphere is evil. But it is said, " Resist the devil, and he shall flee from you." If Satan meets Christ in us, he flies, for Christ has conquered him; but the flesh does not resist him. If I am in the flesh, the enemy overthrows me, as we have an example in Peter. Peter, after his fall, could strengthen his brethren; because he had learned to know himself and his weakness, as well as the power of the grace of Christ. It is well to remember that, when walking in the Spirit, we are sheltered from the darts of the enemy.
Verse 13. In the preceding verses it is the general position of the child of God, in evil days, that is looked at. Here it is the armor more in detail that is spoken of. We have seen two things: 1, that we must be armed with the whole armor; 2, that we must be armed with the whole armor of God. This armor alone can resist the attacks of the enemy. There are times when we are attacked by the enemy, and when God permits that we should be more or less tried. The whole of this present dispensation is the evil day, during which Satan is allowed to exercise his power; Christ is absent from the earth, and Satan is allowed to exercise his power in it. There are moments when we enjoy in peace communion with the Lord, without being disturbed by the enemy: then all is peace; but there are times also when we are made to feel the power of Satan-the power of Christ also, without doubt, but it is in order to fight. This is the reason it is said, " Take the whole armor of God." It is the resisting the manifest attacks of Satan that is here spoken of; not only, as in the case of the Israelites, of gaining certain victories, of conquering certain territories, and of making progress in the country; this is not the immediate thought of the apostle. Inasmuch as we are filled with the Spirit, we already possess all things; while at the same time we have to carry on a warfare in the heavenly places. Satan tries to destroy our confidence, to withdraw us from enjoying Christ, and to take from us the consciousness that we possess all things in Him. What we have to do then in this position, is to stand firm; all is ours, and if we stand fast, we have all. Satan tries to prevent our standing; this is why we are told to put on our armor and to stand fast.
Verse 14. In this verse the means of resistance are set before me; we must have our loins girded about with truth, or else we shall be like a ship with its sails spread, but no ballast-it would founder; the ballast which produces the equilibrium is necessary. It is written, " Sanctify them by thy truth; thy word is truth...." and further on, " For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified through the truth." Christ set Himself apart as the expression of all the truth of God in man; not that He had only the knowledge of the truth: Christ was Himself the truth. We ought not only to know the truth, but to have our affections filled and governed by it. If our hearts are full of Jesus, we are sanctified by the truth, as it is in Jesus, which sets us free and which sanctifies us.
The word " reins " expresses all that is within. The inner affections, the inmost thoughts, are turned towards God, the heart is with God; all that is not of Him being judged, I am in communion with Him, I am in His presence, taught by Him. The apostle urges that our thoughts, our affections, should be governed by the truth; that that which the Spirit teaches us should reign over our hearts. This is what we must begin with; the heart must be at large, set free from the power of every lust and of every spiritual error; at liberty in the truth. We cannot be happy if we allow our hearts to go after all that presents itself to us; for then, in our service, we are not able to resist Satan. Perhaps we are not aware of the evil; the effect of it is not at first felt, but in an evil day it will discover itself. (See Job.) Satan roams around us, and seeks to overthrow us; this is why we must not allow our hearts to go abroad after everything, without paying attention, or without being on our guard; because Satan will have thereby power over us in the evil day. The established Christian discerns good and evil; his thoughts no longer wander about here below. If our thoughts are in heaven with Jesus, we are in safety. It is impossible for us to be happy here below, if we do not walk in holiness. There, in heaven, we shall be able to let loose our hearts, because nothing will be there but holiness and the glory of God; but here, in the presence of the enemy with such deceitful hearts, we must have truth to govern them: " Having your loins girt about with truth." It is the application of what is in Christ to the affections, in order that the heart may have the understanding of spiritual things, and we may walk according to Christ.
Be it observed, that all we have just said is true of each and every Christian; for he is in the truth, he has righteousness by faith, he possesses the gospel of peace. But the apostle desires that we should use these graces in our practical walk. If our hearts are guided by the Spirit of Jesus, we have the consciousness of walking in practical righteousness in all that concerns us; Satan will have nothing to say against us in the evil day, nothing which will weaken us in our conflicts with him. If the conscience is not good, if righteousness is not realized, we have no strength; we must hide ourselves in the day of battle. When Satan attacks the children of God, he does it according to the holiness of God, and they would be overthrown by having things on their conscience about which a worldly person would feel no uneasiness. The Spirit acting on the conscience cannot but give to holiness all its strength; and for him there is but the holiness of God. Also, the nearer we are to God, the more will Satan seek to surprise us. It is impossible for anyone to have a just estimate of the holiness of God unless standing fast in grace, and unless firm against the attacks of Satan. If we do not walk before God according to the light, which we profess to have, God's strength is not with us; and frequently even God withdraws the light in which we did not choose to walk. If we have failed in anything, we must have recourse to grace. If habitually we walk in the Spirit, as soon as we have stumbled we shall judge ourselves before God, before Satan attacks us; for God is good and faithful in His grace, and we shall be calm. Christ was ever with His Father, and when the evil day came, He was calm. (See for him who has failed, the example of David, Psa. 32:5: " Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin," etc.) That which the Spirit commands is to be clothed with the breastplate of righteousness; because with this armor we have nothing on the conscience. A man cannot handle his sword if he is ill: God begins then, as we have said, by strengthening the man himself; then He speaks of the testimony which he ought to bear. God will have the soldier prepared for the battle.
Verse 15. He who is holy and righteous in his practical walk is the one who is in communion with God, who is at peace and restful in all his connections with God, and vigilant as to that which is good, knowing that Satan goeth about; but he is without fear, knowing that he walks together with God; and having nothing which disquiets him in his walk, the consequence is that he is at peace. This title of peace is one given to God more than any other; 1 Thess. 5:23; Heb. 13:20; Rom. 16:20, etc. If there is one thought which is predominant in the character of God, it is peace. The soul which is thus in God is full of peace; he enjoys fully the gospel of God; he enjoys His grace; his soul is in peace, and coming forth from immediate communion with God to walk through this poor world, in this spirit of peace all his ways are marked with peace; this character sets its impress on all his walk in this world. God having given to the soul this place before Him, He begins to teach it to walk; and the walk of such a one here below partakes of this gospel of peace, of the peace which we first enjoy with God through the gospel, in virtue of the work of Christ, and which, setting us in communion with God, makes us happy in that which is good, and enables us, by this communion, to overcome the sin and rebellion of the heart. All that we meet with makes manifest in our walk by the Spirit the peace which we enjoy. It is beautiful to see a soul which brings the power of such peace into the world.
In this faithful walk the Christian meets with the fiery darts of the wicked one; the more faithful he is, the more also will Satan seek to trouble him; if he can cause a wicked thought to cross the heart, that is a dart; but the soul of the faithful is at peace; nothing can trouble him, though Satan tries to disturb this peace. If secret self-complacency glides unto the heart, it is the enemy who seeks to take away our confidence. We see Christ in this calm and perfect confidence in the midst of His suffering (John 18:11), peace keeping His soul; not that He could feel joy in drinking the cup, but He felt it in receiving the cup from the hand of Him who gave it to Him: nothing could shake His confidence; all the darts of Satan were quenched on the shield of faith. At the moment when He was broken-hearted, crushed by the iniquity of men, He said, " I thank thee, O Father," Matt. 11:25. When we meet with a trial, instead of complaining of others and reproaching them, we ought to take refuge in God; but frequently we do the very opposite, we distrust God; if we meet with difficulties, we reflect on God, and reproach Him with the iniquity of man. Satan seeks to produce mistrust; this is why the apostle says we must take the shield of faith.
Verse 16. Entire confidence in God is needed. From the position we see all the storms below us, we are at peace; but if we have not this confidence, there are things which trouble us. This is our position: we are on the earth, the flesh still in us; Satan is in the heavens, but Christ is still higher, at the right hand of God. Christ (in order that faith may be put to the test) has not yet driven out Satan; but if by faith we lay hold of the truth that Christ has done everything, that He has gained the victory over Satan, and that He is gone up far above all heavens to the right hand of God, we are then above all circumstances. I know Christ; I am near to God; I see things according to God and not according to circumstances. We see in Numbers, when the water failed, Israel threw the blame on God, and Moses thought about himself and his own personal importance. We frequently behave ourselves in the same way in affliction; but it is a want of confidence in God. Satan would like to break the links between us and God; but God has given us evident proofs of His. love by giving us His Son, who has all power in heaven and on earth. Satan cannot take from us His grace; but if our loins are not girded about, our communion is interrupted.
Verse 17. The salvation of a soul once brought nigh to God is a settled thing; it is a helmet, a defense which guards him from the attacks of the enemy. There is a difference between this blessed position and that of working for salvation. In my battles with the enemy, I have on my head the assurance of salvation. He cannot touch me, I have eternal life; Satan cannot break in upon that. This gives boldness in the conflict; having the consciousness that God has saved us, we go on, the head lifted up (not proudly as to the fear of God), but trusting in Him, fearing nothing. Such is the case when we have the affections on Christ; we are so set as to be enabled to go on with boldness, by power being given to us to use the armor of God. This is what God desires for us. It is a blessed position to stand fast in the conflict. Truth applies to the judgment in the inner man. Practical righteousness guards the conscience from the assaults of the enemy; the power of peace gives a character to our walk; confidence in the love of God quenches the poisoned arrows of doubt; the assurance of salvation gives us boldness to go onwards.
We have seen in what precedes, that the apostle begins by setting before us that which gives inward strength, namely, the armor defensive against the attacks of the enemy. Now he speaks of the offensive weapons, and begins with the sword of the Spirit, as the means of resisting the power of Satan in the evil day; he speaks of the sword as a means of standing; the helmet is placed before the sword, because if there is not this confidence, this assurance, we cannot even handle the sword of the Spirit. All the threats, the warnings and precepts as to sanctification, become so many means, in the hands of Satan, to lay hold of us by, if we have not the confidence that God is for us; without this confidence Satan can use even the word of God to overthrow us. This word is called the sword of the Spirit, not of the understanding, but of the Spirit in us. It is the Spirit of God who alone can handle the sword of the word. It is the Spirit who recalls the suitable passage at the moment of temptation (we have a striking example of it in Christ in the hour of His temptation). We may reason about the things of God, but this does nothing for us against the enemy; the Spirit must act in us and apply the word. It is evident that if we have grieved the Spirit, if our loins are not girded, the Spirit cannot be there to handle the word; on the contrary, in that case, Satan employs it against us. If the Christian has not this happy consciousness of being for God, he has nothing to say when Satan presents a temptation before him: the smallest warning of the word troubles and overthrows him, because the word is not through the Spirit a weapon in his hand against the enemy; but it is in the hand of the enemy against him. It is true that God uses the word as a means of convincing of sin, and thus awakes the soul by acting on the conscience; but every time that this word is not made use of on the principle of grace, it is not the work of the Spirit of God. If this conviction of sin leads us to mistrust God, it does not proceed from Him, but from the enemy; the Spirit convinces of sin through the word, but it shows the refuge in Christ; it does not drive to despair.
The word is represented to us as a weapon for us to handle, for it works in two ways: first, the Spirit, in using the word, can act in us by presenting to us the object which fills our hearts with joy and hope; but besides, He can use it when He would convince us of sin. The Spirit will indeed show us what are the consequences of sin, but He will never tell us that Christ is not sufficient for our soul. The Spirit cannot deny the testimony which He bears to the glory and to the work of Jesus in grace; He can use the holiness of God to produce in us the deepest feeling of sin; but He will never tell us that God is not the God of grace towards us. To the Christian who has peace, and to whom the love of the Father has been revealed, it is perfectly clear, that if he has any other feeling about sin, it is not the Spirit of God which produces it. If we have failed, the Spirit will make us sorrowful, but He will never tell us that the Master of the house is not our Lord; this thought would be the fruit of unbelief. But here the apostle goes a little farther; he supposes faith to be in exercise, and he places the word in the hand. Satan will tell us that we are not able to use the sword of the Spirit. Then this same Spirit, who recalls the passage, silences Satan. Again, look at Christ in His temptation, Christ who never lost His confidence. The Spirit was there in power. Christ had His loins girded, and He had on the breastplate of righteousness; He was calm and knew how to use the very passage which was suitable for the circumstance. Paul supposes a Christian who is standing fast in this power of the Spirit, and who completely stops the mouth of Satan, when he tries in a thousand ways to make him fall. Such a Christian, having all the defensive weapons, is able to handle the sword of the Spirit; and when the Spirit in him is not grieved, He bears witness to the favor of God. The word of God is the most powerful of the weapons of the Christian's strength.
Verses 18-20. The second weapon which is given to us is prayer in the Spirit; it is that prayer which springs from the energy of the spiritual life when the Spirit is not grieved in us; the same Spirit, which acting in us, uses the word, becomes a Spirit of intercession and seeks the interposition of God in favor of the saints, and of the work of God in the world. It is a soul at ease in the presence of God-a soul watching, instead of allowing itself to be surprised; and its prayers, instead of being complaints, will be according to the power of the Spirit; we can then use prayer as men who have watched, and who have found in watching subjects for the intervention of God. We may be afflicted, cast down, without being under the power of the enemy.
If I hear bad news, whether relating to the church of God or to a brother, it will make me sorrowful and cast me down, as it did Paul, who had fightings without and fears within. But though thus sorrowful, if Satan has nothing in us, the consequence of this depression will be communion with God, instead of having allowed our affections to wander; we are in the presence of God, we watch with Him in order to speak to Him; but if this is not the case, Satan will take us unawares in moments of carelessness. If we walk with God, this will cause prayers according to the mind of God. The broken heart finds in Jesus the full certainty of God's favor. The Philippians, in their suffering state, had met with God instead of being frightened by it (Phil. 1:28); and though afflicted, if I am in the power of the Spirit, it will only cause more lively intercession. It is precious to see what is produced by affliction, even by chastening; if our walk is spiritual, it will only be an opportunity for gaining the victory, and for driving away Satan. All the members are united to the Head, and by His Spirit interested in all that concerns Him. They cannot always act themselves in such or such a case, but they can, like the centurion, say to Christ, " Speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed."
As we have seen that the word of God is the sword of the Spirit, so also what importance does the Lord attach to prayer! There are two kinds of prayer: that which is the expression of our wants; and that which being made in the energy of the Spirit, is therefore infallibly answered. Whether for handling the sword of the Spirit, or for prayer, the Christian life must already exist; in order to be able to pray for others, our own life must be with God. There. is amongst Christians too little intercession; because they come to a meeting for prayer, after leading a life of languishing, absorbed by present things. The consequence is, their prayers discover the weakness of the individual, and not the work of the Spirit for the good of the church. Too often alas! it is a settling as to our own failures. If we were watchful therein in our daily walk, our prayers would be intercessions, instead of supplications each day for our own faults. What we should desire is, that our individual prayers should be such as to enable us to pray for all saints; without this they will never have this powerful energy of the Spirit. Satan will find some means for overthrowing Christians. How desirable this makes it that there should be some able to bring in the aid of God! The more, whether it be an individual or a body of persons, we are faithful as to our position in this world, the more shall we be exposed to the ambushes of the enemy; and if we do not thus keep close to God, the enemy will find some way of making havoc.
We see here, that the most faithful and advanced Christians feel their dependence upon God, and on all saints. The apostolic gift of Paul depended in one sense on the prayers of the saints: God intended it to be so, in order that the church might be united in its affections; 2 Cor. 1:11 The apostle was in a prominent position, and perhaps he received power through the prayers of a poor bed-ridden woman; but all hidden fruits will be seen in the last day. It is an encouraging thing to see that God honors the hidden members which are the least honorable to the eyes of the flesh. This thought encourages us to walk humbly in our place. Frequently there are persons hidden out of sight, who are the means of blessing for those who are in a very prominent place. We ought to think of the praise which God gives, and not of that of men. The only thing in our service is to glorify God. If my heart, which no one sees, does not beat, I cannot run. There are individuals who are truly the heart of the church; it is not often the things that are seen which are the most precious in the sight of God.
Verses 21-24. In these last verses, we have the expression of the tenderness of Paul in sending Tychicus to the Ephesians. We see how he counted upon the affection of the saints.

Substance of a Reading on Ephesians

THE nature of the Epistle to the Ephesians is quite distinct from that of Romans. In Ephesians we have nothing to do with the responsibility of man; we have with Christ, and man is looked at as dead in sins, and there is a new creation. Consequently the question of justification is not raised in Ephesians, but acceptance is. We have seen before that these are the two great subjects in connection with the gospel: namely, the meeting of the responsibility of man; and the counsels of God before ever there was a responsible man at all. These counsels are in the second Man, not in the first. The first man was the responsible one; the Lord Jesus is the Man of God's counsels, the last Adam or second Man. In Ephesians these counsels of God are taken up; in Romans the responsible man (in grace, but still responsible), sinners, every mouth stopped, and a propitiation through faith in Christ's blood, the whole question of God's meeting us in grace in our responsibility and failure, is fully brought out. In the Ephesians there is nothing of this. It begins with the counsels and intentions of God, and puts us in Christ.
Now the structure of the epistle is this. In chapter 1 we have these counsels of God as to glory, as to Christ, and as to our inheritance. Only at the end the apostle begins to unfold how far the foundation is laid for their accomplishment in what He has already done. So that, after stating the counsels, he enters on what God has done. That is, He has taken Christ from the dead and set Him up far above all heavens, principalities, and powers, and every name named. He commences, observe, with the raising of Christ from the dead. There you get not merely counsels, but the accomplishment, so far as exalting the second Man into glory above all heavens.
Chapter 2 shows how far God has accomplished that mighty work in us. We have been raised from being dead in sins and put into Christ, sitting in Him (not with Him, we are not there yet) in heavenly places. It is the operation of God putting us into His place. It is in Christ I am sitting, not with Him. This makes us God's workmanship; and then He brings us forth a step farther in making both Jews and Gentiles one. It is still what He has accomplished or is doing so far. He has put down the middle wall of partition, and reconciled us in one body by the cross, that is, down here; and He is not only building a holy temple to the Lord (it is not built yet), but we are builded together, Jews and Gentiles, for the habitation of God by the Spirit down here. This is what God has accomplished. He has raised Christ from the dead, and set Him in glory; He has raised us up spiritually from the dead and put us into Christ; He has abolished all differences of Jew and Gentiles, and He has not only made peace between Jew and Gentile, reconciling them, but He has reconciled them both in one body by the cross. They are reconciled to one another and reconciled to God, and they are going to be a temple, and they are builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit, that is, down here. This is what is accomplished of His purposes, the foundation being laid for them all.
In chapter 3 follows another thing. It is neither God's counsels nor God's operation, but Paul's administration of all these, the dispensation committed to him. As to the substance of it, it is Paul's administration of the mystery, not God's counsels about it, but the apostle's administration of it; and at the end, as it refers to earth, there is the second prayer which is addressed to the Father of our Lord Jesus, where Christ is looked at as Son. The first prayer, which is found in chapter 1, is addressed to the God of our Lord Jesus as the glorified Man; but this is addressed to the Father, and Christ is looked at as Son, a divine Person. Therefore it is here not the object, or the thing objectively, but rather that Christ may dwell in our hearts, that is, power brought in down here according to His counsels. So that there is to be glory to God in the church in all ages. This is a power that works in us, as the other was toward us.
Having the counsels, and the operation, and Paul's administration, the effect is looked for in chapter 4 as regards there being a habitation of God through the Spirit down here; and then, secondly, here too the individual gifts. This goes down to the end of verse 16. Verse 17 begins the ordinary exhortations as to how to walk. They were to walk together. All distinctions of Jew and Gentile have disappeared. He has brought them together as one habitation of God through the Spirit, and now they are to walk together and keep the unity of the Spirit. Then we go on to individual gifts, and in verse 17 we begin the practical exhortation for all saints, which is continued in chapter 5. At the end of chapter 5 occasion is taken from the case of the husband and wife to bring in the relationship of Christ and the church. After going into the different relationships in which saints are to be faithful, the conflict in heavenly places is taken up.
Now another thing may be remarked as to the epistle, that is, that everything refers to heavenly places; not that we are not upon earth, for we are, but that now to principalities and powers in heavenly places may be known through the church the wisdom of God. We are blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places, and we are sitting in heavenly places in Christ, we are a testimony to principalities and powers in heavenly places, and we are fighting with wicked spirits in heavenly places. Our blessing, our place, our testimony, and our conflict are all in these heavenly places. Now you will find that ministry here is connected with all these.
Farther, what God is working in chapter 2 is that the whole building effectually framed together groweth into a holy temple. It is only growing up to this end. But moreover " ye are builded together for a habitation of God." This is taking place. The holy temple will be in glory. They are to be a building for a temple even as Christ said, " I will build my church." The temple that is to be is that spoken of by the Lord in Matt. 16 " Upon the rock I will build my church, and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it." You get it also in Peter, " Ye also as living stones are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood." There they are built up stone after stone. So in Ephesians, " and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone, in whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord." It is growing unto an holy temple, but it is not yet finished. The house that Christ builds is a perfect thing, it is not finished yet, but what people commonly call the invisible church. But then there is an actually manifested thing by the Holy Ghost being here: " Ye are builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit."
In short there are two characters of the assembly, the body of Christ, and the habitation of God now by the Holy Ghost. When we speak of the body of Christ, the members are looked at as united to the Head in heaven, and, spoken of as the house, will be a holy temple; when we speak of the habitation, it is by the Holy Ghost down here. It is the same thing as far as they went, but they soon ceased to be identical.
In verse 21 it is a temple not yet completed; when it is completed, it will be in glory. We are builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit (v. 22); this is the present thing. It is just the confounding of these two things that has made popery and ritualism. That is, they have attributed all the privileges which belong to what Christ is building and has not yet finished to the thing that is built on earth. Now when you get a thing built upon earth, God sets it up all right; but like everything else, like man himself when he was created, it is put into man's responsibility. God carries on His own purpose, and against what Christ builds the gates of hades shall never prevail. But always in the first instance, whatever God sets up, He puts into man's responsibility; and then it is all ruined. Nevertheless God's purpose is all accomplished in Christ. This is true of everything. It is true of Israel. It is true of individual saints, and of the whole church. What Christ is carrying on, the gates of hades shall not prevail against. The administration of it is on earth. In 1 Cor. 3 Paul says, " As a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation and another buildeth thereon. Let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon." This is not Christ's building. It is not Christ carrying out, " I will build my church "; nor the living stones coming and growing into a holy temple. In the latter case there is no agent but Christ. It is He that is building; and therefore, of course, Satan's power cannot prevail against it. In 1 Cor. 3 it is not Christ building; it is man's responsibility, as it is said, " Let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon." Wood and hay and stubble can be built in; and if you attribute to wood and hay and stubble the security of what Christ is doing, you will be making a grave mistake. Papists and Puseyites are taking what has been built by man, and confounding it with Christ's work, saying the gates of hades cannot prevail against it. They confound two different works.
God set up right even what is upon earth: " the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." God's work was right; but soon false brethren came in unawares, Simon Maguses and I know not what, because man was put under responsibility, and the first thing he does is to sin. Noah had the sword put into his hands for governing, and the first thing he does is to get drunk. The law was given, and the first thing the Jews did was to make a golden calf. Priesthood was set up, and the first day they offered strange fire, and Aaron never went into the holy place with the garments of glory and beauty. When royalty was set up, the son of David loved many strange women, and his heart went after their gods. The church was set up, and it failed. Christ will be the perfect Man; Christ will govern the world in righteousness; Christ is the perfect priest; Christ is perfect as the Son of David; He will arise to reign over the Gentiles. He will be glorified in His saints, and admired in all them that believe. Every one of the things put under the responsibility of man will be perfectly carried out. If I confound this accomplishment of purpose in Christ with what is placed under the responsibility of man, and attribute what belongs to the one to the other, I am justifying all the evil and corruption about us. That is the question now in the church of God.
The body is never looked at as incomplete in itself, it would spoil the whole idea. When the purpose of God is brought out, it is looked at as in that purpose. In chapter I He gave Him to be Head over all things to the church, which is His body. There it is looked at as complete when all things are put under Him. All things are not yet put under Him: it is not accomplished yet; it is in counsels. The moment I get it down here, I get both the house and the body.
Chapter 2: 21 contains the same thought as Matt. 16:18, and also the same as 1 Peter 2.
Verse 22 is the house as set up now upon earth: only when God set it up, He set it up all right. " Ye are builded together for a habitation of God." It is a present thing.
The dwelling of God with men down here is a distinct definite fact, and the fruit of redemption. God never dwelt with man apart from redemption. He did not dwell with Adam; He never dwelt with Abraham, He never dwelt with anybody down here until Israel was redeemed out of Egypt. No doubt this was an outward redemption, still it was in a certain sense redemption. God redeemed His people out of the bondage of Egypt, and in the end of Ex. 29 He says, " And they shall know that I am Jehovah their God, that brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them." The moment redemption comes in, He makes the redeemed people His dwelling-place, and He comes down and dwells among them in the tabernacle. This was given up at the captivity when the times of the Gentiles began.
Since Christ's rejection and the accomplishment of the better redemption, the church is established on earth for God to dwell in. This habitation of God through the Spirit was set up, consequent upon redemption, but down here it is trusted to man's responsibility. What it has become now is Christendom.
The increase of the body is spoken of in chapter 4. It is merely the fact that here it grows. You afterward see the different gifts and all of them exercised, and you find the body grows up, just as a child grows up. There are persons brought in; but they come into it all as a complete thing. The individual persons come in and are a part of that growth. You get evangelists as well as pastors and teachers. Still when individuals come in, they are only part of the same body. So when I eat my body grows. Of course, they are mere figures after all.
But in speaking of these things, you get the individual before anything of the body or the house. You will always find the individual has the first place. The individual relationship is with the Father; the corporate relationship is with Christ as a man: and the house relationship is with the Holy Ghost come down. There are the three. The first is that we have the adoption of children (sons) to Himself; and then that He has given Christ to be head over all things to the church, which is His body. Here is our relationship with Christ as raised and glorified, but before that comes all about the individual. Then in the third place there is the Holy Spirit come down to dwell. It makes a wonderful scheme and plan to put all these things together.
If you look further to the application of all this to ministry, you see, when he is beginning, he says, " Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith [it is the ground and basis that is given for ministry], When he ascended upon high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens that he might fill all things. And he gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers." We first get the basis of all these gifts, Christ, but not Christ on earth as the Jew had Messias. All this has disappeared from the apostle's mind; and he sees Him going down into the dust of earth, and then ascending far above all heavens, whereof he takes up the effects. He went down into the lower parts of the earth, the grave, but hades for his soul. He went into the under world, the lower parts of the earth, and then He is far above all heavens. He has been below creation, for death and hades are in a certain sense below it, and then He is above it and in this way He fills all things. We see Christ in His redemption power filling everything. All service and ministry have their place in that, and they flow from it. He has come down where Satan had his power, death and hades (called hell). He goes down where Satan's power was, and breaks it; He leads captivity captive; and He puts man in the glory of God in His own Person far above all heavens; so that He has met on the one hand the power of evil, and on the other set man in the glory of God. As Man He gets these gifts, as we were reading in the Acts, " Being by the right hand of God exalted and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit " (the Holy Spirit is the promise of the Father), " he hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear." He has done that as Man, not merely as God, observe; but Christ, in virtue of this redemption by which He fills all things, receives the Spirit and sends Him to men whom He has rescued out of Satan's hands and builds up His church here. It gives a wonderful place to ministry.
Here in Ephesians we find the individual saints the first object, as it is said, " for (pros) the perfecting of the saints," and then it is added " for (eis) the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." The first thing is that each saint should grow up to Him who is the head, that is, Christ. There are three objects. One object is first of all distinct. There is a different preposition in Greek. He does all things " for the perfecting of the saints " (there He is the first-born of many brethren); and it has these additional characters, it is for work of ministry down here, and for edifying the body as a whole. You must not lose sight of the individual when you get into the body. He carries on the perfecting of the saints to the end of verse 15, and in verse 16 He comes to ministry and building up of the body. " Till we all arrive at the unity of the faith" (that is, each individual, of course) " and of the knowledge of the Son of God, at the full-grown man, at the measure of the stature of the fullness of the Christ " (nothing short of that); " that we be no longer babes, tossed and carried about by every wind of that teaching which is in the sleight of men, in unprincipled cunning with a view to systematized error; but holding the truth in love, we may grow up to him in all things, who is the head, the Christ." There we see individuals, and they grow up to Christ. Then he goes on-" From whom the whole body [now we have the corporate thing] fitted together and connected by every joint of supply, according to the working in its measure of each one part, worketh for itself the increase of the body to itself-building up in love." That is the second thing, or additional aim. First, the individual saints grow up to the Head in everything, and, secondly, the building up of the body. It is the body building itself up; but still it is service and ministry. It is wonderful grace that He who went into the lower parts of the earth has gone to glory and has done this immense thing-put the saints in personal connection with Him.
The prayer in chapter 3 is wonderful, " that he might give you according to the riches of his glory to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man." He asks that the power of the Holy Spirit might work in the heart of the individual, and that Christ might be in the affections, " that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith," that is, that Christ may be realized by faith. I have now got Christ-who is the center of the whole universe of blessedness-dwelling in my heart. Thus I have the center in me, and this is perfect love sure enough, for we are dwelling in God and God in us; and thus rooted and grounded in love. Being there my heart takes in all the saints, " rooted and grounded in love that ye may be able to comprehend with all saints." You cannot leave them out, for they form part of this plan of God, the nearest circle to Christ. Then, getting the whole scene of God's glory and purpose, we apprehend the breadth and length and depth and height, that is, the whole scene of God's glory. All the glory that God surrounds Himself with we have by having Christ in the heart, by faith realized in the power of the Spirit. But as we might be lost in this glory, we get back to Christ with whom we are familiar, and he prays that we may " know the love of Christ which surpasseth knowledge." We find in this galaxy of glory ourselves perfectly intimate with the Person that is the center of it all. He dwells in the heart, and we know the love of Christ. Accordingly this does not narrow, but really quite the contrary, because it passes knowledge. Therefore He says, " to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge, that ye may be filled with all the fullness of God." We have what surrounds God in the glory, and now having known the personal love of Christ we have got to God Himself. " Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us." This passage is generally quoted as referring to what God can do for us. People in their prayers say (piously no doubt; I do not attribute any harm) that God can do more than they ask or think. That is quite true, but it is not what is here. He says, " to him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us." Thus it is a very different thing. " To him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages." We are carried out into all this of which we have been speaking; it is a power that works in us so that He is glorified in the church in all ages and of course now. That is where He sets us before He takes up the question of ministry.
The prayer is not that we might know the hope of His calling and the glory of His inheritance, but that the Father of our Lord Jesus according to the riches of His glory may strengthen us with might. It is according to all this thing in which He is glorified that He strengthens us. In the first prayer he prays that the eyes of our hearts may be opened and we may know the things that are ours. The glory is ours and the inheritance is ours. Here he comes not to what is objective, but to what works in us. The prayer is to the Father, not to God; and He looks for Christ dwelling in our hearts. He is looking for power in us, not objects before us, " that we may be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man." He prays that this power may work in us, but it may not be working. He is not looking that we may know certain things that are ours, but that the things may exist. I may not be strengthened with might in the inner man, though I may have the Spirit. It is a positive state he is praying for.
The first prayer is not a prayer for anything to work in us, but that we may see the things, and He puts the things before us as objects. The things are ours. We have got the calling: we are partakers of the heavenly calling, as it is said in Hebrews, and if we have not got the inheritance actually, we are joint heirs with Christ. He prays that the eyes of our hearts may be opened so that we may look at these things, but they are ours. It is wonderful that the Holy Ghost cannot show us anything of glory that is not ours. The power spoken of at the end of the chapter which does the work in us, is a power that has taken us when dead sinners and put us in the Christ where He is. But this is all settled. " And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come." There we find that you who were dead in sins He has quickened. That is the power that has wrought and made a Christian of me. Here is chapter 3 he is praying that the power may work in us now. Practically it is the realization of it.
In chapter 4 is one of the three " worthys " in the walk. We are called to walk worthy of God who has called us to His kingdom and glory; we are called to walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing; and here we are called to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called, that is, the habitation of God through the Spirit-the whole thing, but specially the last part. They are all brought into unity, reconciled to God, brought together as the habitation of God through the Spirit. Here he tells them to walk worthy of that calling. It is striking how he goes on directly to lowliness and meekness. This is the walk that is worthy of the vocation. We would feel our own nothingness if we thought of this place. It is very simple if we could take it practically. He has made us all one by the Spirit; we are all builded together like stones in a house; and He looks to us walking in that unity and the spirit of peace. We are to walk in the sense of these great things and of our own nothingness.
There is threefold unity, one body, one Spirit, and ourselves called in one hope of our calling. We then get the outward profession, one Lord, one faith, one baptism; and afterward a still greater circle-one God and Father of all, above all, and through all, and in you all. In other words, we get unity of the Spirit, the unity of the lordship, and the unity in connection with one God and Father. It is the Spirit, the Lord, and God, as you find it in 1 Corinthians, where he speaks of gifts, diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit; diversities of administrations, but the same Lord; and diversities of operations, but the same God that worketh all in all. It is not Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; this is not the thought, though it is connected with it, but the Spirit and Lord and God. You have the Spirit, the active agent down here, the Lord under whose authority the work is carried on, and after all, it is a divine thing-the same God that works all in all. So it is in the Corinthians, but just the same principle as here. There is a difference between the gifts there and here, and a very important difference, though here as there the Spirit and the Lord and God. We have the Holy Ghost down here; then Christ as Man in glory (He is more than that, but still He is Man; God has made Him Lord and Christ; He has got an official place. It is not that He has not a human nature, and a divine nature: that is all true; but He has an official place): one Lord, one faith, one baptism. Then follows a wider larger circle, one God, who is above all, through all, and (bringing it back to the internal power) He is in us all. Scripture is remarkably correct. Pantheism puts God into everything, and makes it all God; but Paul gives us the truth.
Next we come to " everyone of us." Each of us has his own special niche; we all fill some little service, whatever it is. " Unto every one of us is given grace ": it is individualized. It is to every member of the body.
" Everyone " is contrasted with that unity. He takes them first all as one thing, and then He takes them separately. It is according to the measure of the gift of Christ. We have Christ the giver now. You do not get this in 1 Cor. 12; and the difference is an important one practically. There it is the Holy Ghost come down and distributing divinely. The Holy Ghost distributes to every man severally as He will, and therefore in the Corinthians they are merely looked at as powers. Must a man necessarily speak with a tongue because he is able to speak with it? No, says Paul, you must think of the building up of the church; everything must be done to edification. If the gift you have does not edify, you must be quiet. If there is no interpreter, you are not to speak. That is, we have power, but power subject to the ordering authority of the Lord in the church of God. They were speaking two or three at a time. They said they were all speaking by the Holy Ghost, and they thought they must utter what they had got to say. " No," says the apostle, " the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets." There must be order. There was power, but this power was restrained and authorized by the God of order. The possession of power was no proof that the person possessing it was to exercise his power; he was only to exercise it when it would edify the church. In consequence we find in the Epistle to the Corinthians what are called sign-gifts. There are no miraculous gifts in Ephesians, whereas in I Corinthians appear healings, miracles, tongues and various signs of power, which you do not get here. There it is the Holy Ghost down here. Here we have Christ on high caring for His own body, and looking for its edification, and hence we have only those gifts which are permanent for its good. The apostles and prophets were the foundation. The foundation is not being laid now; but the other gifts are given till we all come to the unity of the faith, to a full-grown man. That is, it is not a mere question of power, but of the faithfulness of Christ to His own body, the assembly, which He nourishes and cherishes as a man does his own flesh.
The word " gift " has a double sense. If you do not see this, you might be apt to take it in verse 7 as if it was Christ that is given. It denotes the giving as well as the thing given. Grace is merely a favor given, as a special grace conferred in giving a man such a qualification from Christ for service. To every one of us is given grace according to the measure of Christ's gift. That is, I have got this grace, this thing that is conferred upon me, in the measure Christ has given it. You cannot say grace is given me to use a gift when the grace is given according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
The grace is the gift. It is according to the measure of the giving of Christ that He gave this. If grace was given according to the measure of the gift of Christ, everyone would have perfect grace according to the gift He had given.
It is character, it is God's grace given; but it is a gift, whatever it may be. " To me is this grace given that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ."
It is tantamount to every member of the body having a gift. Also He makes a distinction between permanent gifts and what every joint supplies. He does not give pastorship, He gives pastors. This is not unimportant, because Paul a prophet was not always prophesying, though always a prophet, and he was an apostle, though not always exercising his apostleship. Therefore Christ does not give apostleship but apostles. Taking it as such given to him, it is a certain position and place of service given to him, and he is that. Christ ascends up on high and gives him. In Psa. 68 it is said that, when He ascended up on high, He received gifts in man. The point is, that Christ as a man has gone up and is a giver. It is the measure of the gift of Christ, not of the Holy Ghost, though it operates by the Holy Ghost.
Supposing I say I give to you an act of pastorship to-day, and that is all about it. This is not the case here. He gives the man as a pastor, and he is always a pastor, though God might deprive him of it if He liked. The man has that place and function. Paul was always an apostle. It was not a certain thing that came upon him and was gone, but he was an apostle always. When we get to the power of the Holy Ghost in I Corinthians, we read that God " set in the church first apostles, then prophets "; but it is much more an action of the Holy Ghost present down here as power.
Here then we find what we have referred to already-we come to the immense truth, Christ going down to the place of death, His soul to hades, and His body to the grave; and then going far above all heavens and filling everything. Having led captivity captive, He now comes in power, and makes other men the instruments of His power. Then, being so exalted, He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, etc.
There are first the apostles and prophets. They are passed away, but we have their writings, and these are precious. I mean we have not their personal presence, but are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets; and of course there is no foundation to be laid now. Then he takes that which must come first to have the church, for you cannot have pastors and teachers till you have had an evangelist to bring people there to be nourished. You see the foundation must be laid first, whence you have apostles and prophets first. Then how are you to get souls to be taught if there are no evangelists? " How shall they hear without a preacher? " Hence evangelists come next. It is a most blessed gift. I think more of evangelists than of pastors and teachers. They face the world more for Christ. Still I believe a pastor is a rare gift. The work of the evangelist is simpler. He stands in the face of the world for Christ. A pastor must be like a doctor; he must know the right food, and the right medicine, and the right diagnosis, and all the pharmacopoeia, and must know how to apply it too. In one sense it is a rare gift, and very precious.
Pastor and teacher are distinct things, but they are in Greek (and indeed in English) joined. They are connected, but not absolutely one, because a pastor includes in a certain sense the other; whereas a teacher has nothing to do with the office of pastor, so as to care for souls. I might expound the scripture, and yet not really have wisdom to deal with individual souls as a pastor has to do. That of pastor is a wider gift. Still they are closely connected, because you could hardly profit an individual without teaching him in a measure. A person may teach without being a pastor, but you can hardly be a pastor without teaching in a certain sense. The two gifts are closely connected, but you could not say they are the same thing. The pastor does not merely give food as the teacher; the pastor shepherds the sheep, leads them here and there, and takes care of them. I think it is a thing greatly wanted, but I believe it is a rare gift and always was. Pastors must have a heart for the sheep. There are degrees of completeness in it, but that is what the pastor has to do. The testimony is in the evangelist, but his work is simpler. He carries the gospel to the poor sinner, whereas the pastor has saints on his heart and cares for them.
One has taken some comfort out of the thought that the evangelist was not so important, for God would be sure to do the work. But it is not the way the apostle put it, for he says, " How shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach except they be sent? " There is nothing like going to the word of God. God can do anything He pleases in that way, I have no doubt; still His ordinary way is by preaching.
The extent of an evangelist's work is to announce the glad tidings. It extends till they receive Christ and remission of sins. The evangelist throws the net into the sea, and it gathers of every kind, and then the fishermen put the good fish into vessels. It is the same figure in that parable. No distinction is made there. The net is drawn to shore at the close of the dispensation. Their business was good fish. They got a lot of bad ones into the net, and they put the good ones into vessels. Hence it is now a question of sorting. Then an evangelist distinguishes between those truly converted and those not. That parable speaks in general of all. Those that were pulling at the nets were putting in the vessels too.
But the evangelist has nothing to do inside the church as an evangelist. A man may not be a public speaker very much, but there will be evangelizing going on, if there is much life. Saints always rejoice in the truth. There is a great deal of the teaching gospel now. Saints want the gospel very often as much as sinners (I mean the clear plain gospel); and therefore what I call a teaching gospel really has its place. It is another kind of thing from what awakens the sinner.
It is a mixture of a teacher's and evangelist's work. You will hear one man praying and beseeching God to bring in poor sinners, and you will hear another praying that Christ may be glorified in His sheep; the one in principle has a pastor's heart, and the other an evangelist's. You thus see where a man's heart is. The one is for people outside, and the other's desire is that Christ's sheep may glorify Him.
Owing to the perverse teaching which is abroad, you have to get converted people to the gospel. It is not the same thing as going out to the highways and hedges, and compelling them to come in. To such one would preach not only about their sins, but the grace of Christ for them in their sins. Rom. 3 comes before chapter 7; but I was in the seventh before I got to the third, because I had nobody to preach to me. The first thing a person wants to know is that he is guilty, and when he knows his guilt in his conscience and his responsibility, the blood of Christ meets it, and there is forgiveness and cleansing.
Recollect we are talking about preaching the gospel when all the world professes to believe in Christ. When Peter preached the gospel to the Jews, he says, You have crucified and slain Him, and God has raised Him from the dead. You go and tell a sinner in the street that God has raised Him from the dead, and he will say, " I know that as well as you." They preached facts then. I believe that the gospel is really a great deal more powerful when we preach or bring forward the great facts of the gospel. There is immense power in these facts; but at the same time in the ordinary sense they are admitted, and hence you have to press their power and value upon people. When they went to heathens first, they told them that God had sent His Son into the world, that the world had crucified Him, and that God had raised Him. If you tell that to people now, they do not deny it. We have now to take the other part, " Be it known unto you, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins." This is the effect of it. I believe the more facts are brought forward by the evangelist, the more power will be in his testimony.
It is not always knowledge. If a man has just got his soul saved, he is sometimes more in earnest than one who is a long time saved. You find persons just converted in that aspect better evangelists than others. But then you must bear in mind that we are evangelizing in Christendom, we are not going to Hindus or Chinese. If you do not take account of that, you will have a very superficial gospel. Evangelizing in Christendom is not evangelizing in heathendom; it is in worse case if you please.
But take a fact, when a man's sins are brought forward and you press it upon him-you show him Christ. It is not the teaching that does the thing; it is a certain character of gospel that deals with the condition of soul, and after it they cannot go on with what they have got.
The parable in Matt. 13 is descriptive of the kingdom of heaven, how it goes on. You do not get directions how to do it, nor will directions ever do. If you want an evangelist, you must get a man who has love for souls; and counsel as to the manner of it would never do anything. Of course I may suggest to another; that is very well in its place. But the thing to be desired is a fervent spirit and love to souls.
The gospel is the glory of His grace. I get a much clearer gospel in its first elements if I know the glory. It is a more teaching gospel. I may say, How can you stand before God in glory? and Christ is in glory; and if you look to Christ, and He has borne your sins, they must be gone; for He has not got them in glory. This is the thing that gives peace to the conscience. I might take the coming of the Lord and present it as terror, and it might be used to awaken the conscience, and there is nothing done till conscience is awakened. It is a bad sign to receive the word at once with joy, unless there has been a previous work. You must have one consciously brought into God's presence, or you will never have anything real. There is no bringing the soul to God except by the conscience; because a man cannot be in God's presence without his conscience being awakened. What a preacher has to do is to bring the light to bear on a man's conscience, and make him thus find himself out in the light.
There may be a preliminary work-what the old Puritans call the common operations of the Spirit. There may be appeals to the conscience, which may have reached it, and the soul going on as before. The conscience may be reached, and a man may be quickened, or he may not; and the conscience may be reached and bring out the bitterest enmity against God. The consciences of the people whom Stephen addressed were reached, and made them gnash with their teeth. When God quickens, the conscience is reached, and the man is made to feel he is a sinner. The conscience may be reached, however, without that inward work as well as with it.
Whenever the Holy Ghost works, it produces a want. In Nicodemus's case, it went on to quickening. You have the words, " Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost." It is not His work in the sense of saving or quickening, but the conscience is reached. That is the reason why the Puritans call such the common operations Of the Spirit.
There is a conscience in every man. The fall of a tree may alarm a conscience. If God accompanies it in grace as He did in the case of Luther, whose friend was killed by a flash of lightning, the work is effectual. You see men alarmed and plunge into greater wickedness to get rid of it. They are distinct things, though they may go together.
In the last of the seven parables the gospel is the net that takes the fish. But then they caught bad fish as well as good. It is all God's work, but He employs workmen. Not only God works, but He works alone as to everything good. The net is cast into the sea. " How shall they hear without a preacher? " is what God says. I quite admit God will have His own. Scripture is plain upon it, but He has His way of doing things. His ordinary way is by the foolishness of the preaching to save them that believe. " Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." This is the ordinary rule of God. I see two ways of God's love manifested. One is His own essential blessedness in Himself; He gives us to enjoy this in communion by the Spirit. There is another thing in God, and that is, the activity of love towards those that have no communion with Him; and He gives us a part in it too. And the fact that He acts by instrumentality, as He speaks here, is an enormous blessing. He leaves poor creatures like us a part in this activity of saving souls. If it is man's work, it is good for nothing.
Servants are addressed in Luke 14, " Go and compel them to come in." And the point insisted on there is that, when the Jews would not come in, He would have the Gentiles. He first went and took the poor Jews, the poor of the flock, and brought them into His house, but they did not fill it, and then He sends to the Gentiles. He does not speak of whom He sends out.
But I do not think you will ever teach anybody to be a good evangelist; he must have it from God. He must have the love of souls in his heart. If he lean on the Lord, he will win souls.
You cannot have the church without the evangelist. Looked at as an evangelist, you see his point of departure is the church because he is a member. When things were right, the power went from the center and gathered into that center. " The Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." All gifts are independent of the church; they are all dependent on Christ. All service is simply to Christ. I quite admit discipline. If a man teaches wrong, he must be disciplined; but the service is to Christ. They are all for the Lord, and I believe the Lord would add them to the church if things were in order. The church is what is formed upon earth in which He is to be glorified. It is where He glorifies Himself now in the world, and therefore the evangelist gathers people in. This is all true; but when you take the person of an evangelist or pastor, he is Christ's servant. He is a great deal happier if he goes in fellowship with the assembly, but the fact of evangelizing is not the assembly's act. The assembly will not go on well, unless there is a spirit of evangelizing in it, to which the love of Christ will constrain them. I quite admit that which has taken place in connection with revivals: the action which converted, and that which gathered, have been in a measure disconnected. I see clearly in the operations at the beginning that they went together. The Lord then added to the church daily such as should be saved. This was the regular order of things.
At the beginning there was the church which God had set up and power was there. They commend Paul to God, and he comes back and tells what God has done by his means. There is action and reaction, but now this has all got dislocated. You are in an immense thing called the church, which is far indeed from Christ. Therefore there is this difficulty for a man who feels pressed to go and speak to souls, when he does not know there is such a thing as the body of Christ. If a man was a heathen or Jew and became a Christian, he was added to the church, but that is not the case now; and therefore it requires more real power and wisdom to do the work rightly now, and not simple power merely which evangelizes the sinner.
We had most happy exercise of heart about it in -. When they first went out, they did not know anything about the body of Christ. They went and devoted themselves to people that were gathered, some going to the world and some to sects, as they knew no better. The work goes on more slowly, but a great deal more solidly. They did not cease to evangelize, but it was more connected with Christ outside the world. It told more healthfully. After all there is as much real work done and a better kind of work. A difficulty arises that we are not preaching to heathens. If you go to China or India, the persons converted to Christ come amongst those Christians that are there. If you go and convert a man now, and he belongs to the Independents or Presbyterians or Methodists, he goes on with them. The man belongs to Christ, but the whole thing is lost in a morass. By a clear gospel the person will get hold of things that will make it impossible to go on as he had been doing; he will be led to consider that to continue as he had been doing will not do. It is one of the reasons that hindered me from preaching in dissenting places, that the gospel I preached tends to break the whole system to pieces. How can a man who believes me preaching that by one offering he is perfected forever, go and listen to a man that is dinning about the law every day? If he does, the condition of his soul is lowered. I might not have been talking of any particular doctrines or separation from the body to which he belonged-and never would so speak; yet the preaching of a really full gospel would (if received) bring a man necessarily to that center.
If you preach a full gospel, it will tell in the way described. It will gather to Christ without effort or persuasion. Indeed I never could and never did make one Christian leave the systems. I believe that there are people among the poor Roman Catholics that will go to heaven. But there is one thing wrong, and that is all those divisions; for I defy anybody to show me such a thing in the word of God as what is now called the church. One must come out of confusion. But, further, we are told to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
The gift of a pastor is a rare one. Could anyone exercise the office of a pastor without having a gift, that is, do a pastor's work without being specially gifted? He will do it very badly if he has not got the gift. If he does it really, he has got the gift-he cannot do it really without that. It is possible that I did not quite convey what I meant. In the present state of things is the work of a pastor done in any way by any one who has not the gift of a pastor, or can it be? Much depends on the spirit of the thing. You may have him in the place and office, but he cannot do the work of a pastor because he has not got the gift. Supposing a person says, I do not profess to have the gift of a pastor, and yet I must look after souls as well as I can? One has no objection to that, for it is brotherly love. If you get a person in brotherly love doing what he can, it is very well: we all ought to care one for another. A very young Christian cannot do as much as an older one, but in a certain sense everybody ought to care for his brother. In verse 16 after the chief positive gifts, evangelists, pastors and teachers, which go on to the end, you get " from whom," that is, Christ, " the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth." That is what you refer to. One has not a specific gift and office, but he does whatever he can do. " Fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying itself in love." Here then all the members have something or other. They have each their place and service: one may exhort, one may have a little word of wisdom and never appear in public at all. There is that which " every joint supplieth." It is real and approved of Christ.
It is connected with verse 7 of course: only there he spreads that out into these gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers; and then he goes on to what " every joint supplieth." You first get the positive gifts. A person may evangelize, though he be not actually an evangelist; he may take an opportunity of speaking for Christ. Compare Acts 8:4.
I leave every person to his own conscience as to places where he may be free to evangelize. At first I preached in every church or chapel where I was permitted; but I found it was not a good plan. If I saw a man preaching the gospel honestly or fully in the streets and there was opposition, I could identify myself with him without asking who he was or where he came from; but this is a different thing from planning to go out with him. I could not; but I leave every person free. You cannot control any man's conscience; you may advise him. I do not conceal that I am outside the camp. It makes people angry sometimes; but I am deliberately outside the camp, altogether and totally, and I think I know what I am about from Scripture. If I go there, I mix myself up with what is in the camp, and I give an uncertain sound. My deliberate judgment is that in the present state of the church of God one should be outside these connections. I think it is all going on to judgment as fast as it can, and it is not charity to go on with it so as to enfeeble the testimony. I have seen it going on these forty or fifty years nearly, with persons attempting to go on with it; and I have never seen such persons either grow up into the truth or make others clear in their walk. After an experience of many years I am perfectly clear in my judgment about it.
As to how far one could wish God speed to or have fellowship with any work going on outside, if I knew of a person preaching Christ even of contention, I would rejoice as the apostle says. I could not go and join with a man that was doing it in contention, yet I am glad he is preaching Christ.
With certain preachers I would not have fellowship for special reasons. It is a matter of discipline. I separate between having fellowship with Christ preached and co-operating with the men that preach. Do you think I should join with a man that preaches from contention? I am glad he is doing it in one sense, because Christ is made known by it.
In this way I can own all ministry where it is true, apart from recognizing a man in the sense of co-operating. It is the thing that gives a character to the evangelizing itself. My experience is that it is not the way to get souls on. I have seen both done. I have seen brethren doing it; of course they stand or fall to their own Master. I would go with them in preaching the gospel, but not with the camp. I think it is a great thing for our souls to get hold of-you cannot expect the newly converted soul to get hold of it at once-that there is this immense system, " the camp," which is not of God, though there are many people of God in it. Therefore you must leave individuals to judge in each case. But that which associates me with it I cannot do. It would be building again the things I destroyed. If I am to associate myself with it, why did I leave it? I never should attack anybody nor ask anybody to come. I never would and never did; but I am not going to be driven out of what is plain in Scripture.
There is no true Christian that has not something or other given him for service in the body, merely perhaps a little bit of wisdom. Everybody has got something for service to the body, as a hand or foot or eye; but not everybody a prominent gift as a pastor or evangelist. Everybody has got something according to the measure of what Christ has given him; and if he go beyond that measure, it will be mere human action or no good at all.
We now come to the ordinary exhortation as to walk. He shows the state they were in-ignorance and sin. " As the truth is in Jesus "; it is not doctrine, though doctrine is contained in it. The truth as it is in Jesus is the having put off the old man and put on the new-this having been done by faith. Then he adds, " and being renewed in the spirit of your mind " The putting off and the putting on are not in the present tense, whereas being renewed in the spirit of your mind is. The truth is, that you have put off the old man, but you do want renewing. In Colossians (chap. 3) this is distinct: " Lie not one to another, seeing ye have put off the old man with his deeds and have put on the new." In the Epistle to the Ephesians he is not saying directly to them what they have done, but saying what the truth is in Jesus. So it is more abstract. The truth in Jesus is having put off and having put on. Being renewed is present; the renewing of the spirit of your mind is a thing that is always going on.
After this we get another immensely important principle in the new man, which according to God is created in " righteousness and holiness of truth." This is the character of God Himself. The first man was innocent; he was not righteous but innocent. There was no evil in him. To be righteous and holy you must have the knowledge of good and evil. God is perfectly righteous and perfectly holy. He judges with authority what is evil and good; but innocence does not know good and evil. The new man is after God. Another expression is found in the Colossians, which is of great importance" renewed in knowledge according to the image of him that created him." There is a positive knowledge of God. It is not merely that there is an absence of sin, but I have a positive knowledge of God Himself, and it is what God is that is the character and essence of the new man.
So Peter speaks of being " made partakers of the divine nature." It is not merely that a man is born again. It is the truth as it is in Jesus. Of course a man is born again. Abraham had to be born again; but he did not know anything about putting off the old man and putting on the new. You never find this in the Old Testament. You find there the knowledge of sin working, but the Old Testament saints did not make a difference between the old man and the new. The moment that death came in, the believer and man took his place with God in Christ, I get the old man and the new.
We get here the putting on the new man, created after God in righteousness and true holiness. I have put on this new man, but then I have put off the old. It is a totally new thing. It is Christ who has died, so that the old thing is done with. For faith I have done with the flesh. I am not a debtor to the flesh; I am crucified with Christ: the old man is done with. We are quickened together with Christ. This is more than being born of God. Christ quickening as the Son of God, which He does-He quickeneth whom He will-is a different thing from being quickened with Christ as risen; because, when I am quickened with Christ as risen, I have left all that is the old thing behind me and have gone into a resurrection-state. The old man is crucified with Christ. This is of all importance as being one of the two great elements of Christian walk. These are, first, the putting off the old man and the putting on the new; secondly, that the Holy Ghost dwell in us and we are not to grieve Him. These are the two grounds of Christian walk in Ephesians.
To be made partakers of the divine nature is the moral character of it. It is after God; it is the pattern of what God is. God is righteous and God is holy; and now it is not merely setting us up as innocent, but we, being actually partakers of the divine nature, have a character according to what He is. It is after God, created in righteousness and holiness.
It is morally like God's nature, but still, that might be rather a bold way of saying it. Morally it is the same; else you could not delight in Him. He chose us in Christ that we should be " holy and without blame before him in love," which is God's nature. He is holy, He is blameless, He is love. And so it is with Christ. If you look at Him down here, He was holy and blameless, and He was here in love. So in Hebrews " he that sanctifieth," that is Christ, " and they that are sanctified are all of one; for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren."
But the putting off the old man we had better not pass over. The Christian, in virtue of Christ's death and having Christ as his life, as a Christian does not own the flesh at all. The mind of the flesh is enmity against God, but he does not own it. He has not to die to sin but to reckon himself dead, Christ having died and all being available for him. What Christ has done he reckons himself to have done in this respect. How can you be alive? I say I am not, but Christ lives in me. " I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." We have put off the old man (not, are to put it off), that is, if we have heard Him and have been taught of Him. Besides, this new man is after God.
Observe the two in Rom. 8 " The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus " (that is, the new man) " hath made me free from the law of sin and death; for what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh." When Christ was on the cross, He not only bore our sins and put them away, but God condemned sin in the flesh there, so that I see it is all put off. Faith reckons it. Christ died to sin; He is the only Person that died to sin; so God reckons us alive unto God, not in Adam, but in Jesus Christ our Lord. My life in which I live is not flesh: " ye are not in the flesh," but in Christ. When you come to realize it, you take the putting off first; you say I have put off the old man-I am not a child of Adam-and put on the new man, that is, Christ. In short I believe in the testimony of John 5 where it is said, " this is the record [or, testimony] that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." It is entirely a new thing in Christ; and as a proof that eternal life is not in Adam but in Christ, he shows the Spirit, and the water, and the blood-what has living power and what cleanses, what expiates-all coming consequent upon Christ's death. The water came out of His dead side, as did also the blood, while the Spirit came after He was glorified. These are all witnesses that eternal life is not in the first man but in the Second. I reckon myself dead, I am crucified with Christ. Thus it is a nature that is after God Himself. Then we get another element-the Holy Ghost dwells in me, and I am not to grieve Him.
The putting off of the old and the putting on of the new occur at the same time really; but practically, when you come to details, you find you have the one first, and then you realize the other. In real truth you put on the new man first. When you come to practice, you have to treat the old thing as dead, and the other comes free. In point of fact we must get the new man in order to treat the old man as dead. If the old man was treated as dead first, I would have no man at all. When I have got Christ as my life, I come to look at myself, and it is all over with the old man. There are many who own that they must be born again, but they do not recognize that they put off the old man. The moment I have got the death and resurrection of Christ, I say I am not a debtor to the old man. This is not merely the fact of being born again; it is not merely saying I am born again, but the other thing I have put off, that is, to faith.
Of course the old man is part of the old creation. " If any man be in Christ, there is a new creation." We are the firstfruits of His creatures. " He has begotten us that we might be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures." When he speaks of dealing with the condition I am in, which you do not get here but in Colossians, which is a little lower, he does not say, Mortify the old man, but your members which are upon earth.
He does not allow any life but Christ-" Your life is hid with Christ in God." " Ye are dead "; now mortify (that is, put to death) your members. This implies power. It is never dying to sin, but that I am dead to sin and alive to God in Christ, and therefore I can mortify.
Rom. 8:13 (" Ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body "),and Col. 3:5 (" mortify your members ") are but a different way of expressing the same thing. In Romans we are not viewed as risen with Christ, whereas in Colossians and Ephesians we are. In Romans we are presented as dead with Christ, because the object of Romans never is to take us out of our place in this world. It shows us that we are in Christ, but at the same time still here; whereas in Colossians the apostle will not let them be alive in the world. " Why," he says, " as alive in the world, are ye subject to ordinances? " All ritualism flows from not knowing we are dead.
Then we get another immensely important element, namely, that God dwells in us-the Holy Ghost; for we are told, " Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God." The Christian is to do nothing that displeases God who dwells in him. You have no mortifying the members here in Ephesians. It is a new creation and nothing else. The epistle to the Colossians does not go as far as that to the Ephesians. In the former you get us risen, but not sitting in heavenly places as in the latter.
If Romans puts us into Jordan, it does not go on to the coming out of Jordan. Colossians puts us up on the bank; but Ephesians takes us and sets us down in Canaan to eat the old corn of the land where there is no manna any more. You cannot say they are a figure of that, it is going into details, which the figure does not. You get a figure of the whole thing that I have passed through Jordan. I am not in the wilderness, but am in heavenly places, and seated there in Christ; and not till then do I get circumcised. You get this in Colossians. There are two things in the Romans: man is dealt with, looked at as alive in sin; and death is brought in-Christ's death. By Christ's death their guilt is gone, and by it also they died. They are in Christ, but they are looked at as persons that have died, though not risen with Him. In the Ephesians, although the fact is looked at, as to the doctrinal statement, they are not looked at as alive in sin; they are dead in sins, which is another aspect of it, but the same state.
When I am alive in sins I am dead towards God; there is not a single movement of thought, heart, or feeling in that state towards God. God can create me over again spiritually. Ephesians looks at a man as dead in sins, and says we are created in Christ Jesus. It is not justifying sinners there.
The man is justified in Romans; he is a new creation entirely in Ephesians; while in Colossians you get both. In the latter there is death and the new creation, but not yet seated in heaven. They are looked at as on the earth, and there is a hope laid up for them in heaven-" ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God." In chapter 2: 11, 12, we read, " In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; buried with him in baptism [there I get the doctrine of Romans], wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead [I have now got beyond the Romans]. And you being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh hath he quickened together with him." There we get Colossian doctrine, but it does not take us up to heaven. When he speaks of that in Ephesians he says, " He hath quickened us together with Christ, and hath raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." Colossians is, as it were, between Romans and Ephesians. Therefore in Colossians you get, instead of sitting in heavenly places, " set your affections on things above," " the hope that is laid up for you in heaven," and such expressions. He does not talk of the Holy Ghost in Colossians. What we find in Colossians is life, and this is as important in its place as the Holy Ghost dwelling in us. In Ephesians you get the Holy Ghost dwelling in us, and therefore the body; whereas in Colossians you never get the Holy Ghost mentioned except in the expression " your love in the Spirit." For example, in Ephesians we read, " Putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another," whereas in Colossians he says, " Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds." Instead of the Holy Ghost dwelling in us, it is God's nature the measure of how we are to behave ourselves.
The Holy Ghost works in the new nature, but is not said to dwell in it. It is said, that " Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith." The Holy Ghost operates in the new nature. Still the dwelling is never spoken of as in it, but in the body; we need Christ to dwell in our hearts by faith.
I have got a new nature, and of course have not to pray to get one. The effect of this is most striking. In the Ephesians we are brought to sit in heavenly places, we have put off the old man and put on the new, and we have the Holy Spirit of God dwelling in us. In Ephesians it is, " As God in Christ hath forgiven you." We have got the nature, the state that I am in, to be able to walk: we have put off the old and put on the new; and the Holy Ghost dwelling in us, and then we are told to be imitators of God as dear children. If it be said, How can we talk of imitating God (of course it is not Almighty power, but refers to moral things), how can poor worms such as we talk of imitating God? I answer, is not Christ your pattern? You are to follow that. This shows the absurdity of making it merely the law as our rule of life. If a dear child of God, I am to have a sense of it in my soul and exhibit it in my walk; I am " to walk in love as Christ hath loved us, and hath given himself for us as an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor." " Hereby know we love, because he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren "; we are to go and walk as He walked.
We have had the two subjective elements (that is, the state I am in) consisting of the new man, and the old man put off, and the Holy Ghost dwelling in us. Then follow as a measure the two essential names of God-love and light. This is what Christ was in this world. " While I am in the world," He says, " I am the light of the world," and He was the expression of divine love. You are to be an imitator of God, and if you ask, How can that be carried out in man? you get Christ, that is, God manifested in a man How clearly the thing is entirely above law! If law was carried out in the world, we should have the world all happy, and righteous, and peaceful; but this supposes the world to be all right. I am to care for another as much as for myself, but that will not do in this world, and therefore I get this, " He gave himself." It is not taking love to self as the measure of love to my neighbor, but going beyond the law, and giving oneself up for others. If all went on rightly, the law would be your rule now, but it is otherwise. As Christians, when you come to a world of wickedness, you have to follow God.
Let us look at the double character of this love, which is entirely practical. There are two kinds-what I may call love up and love down; and they are entirely different in kind. The care of a father and his child will illustrate the difference. The father loves down, and the child loves up; the one is to something above it, whereas the other is in condescending goodness. If you take a case of loving up, the more excellent the object the more excellent the affection. If one love a base thing, it is a base affection. If one love a man of noble character, it is a noble affection. If one love God, of course, it is the highest of all. Then on the other hand, if you take love down, the baser the object the greater the love. Such is the character of God's love to us. We get both in Christ. He loved His Father perfectly as Man (which was loving up), and He loved us when vile sinners (which was loving down); and we are to go and do likewise. Therefore I read here " as Christ hath loved us and given himself for us, an offering and sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor." He gave Himself for us and to God. This is perfection. He had an infinitely high object, and an infinitely low one, and He was perfect both ways. We have to seek to walk as He walked. There is fellowship also one with another. Of course when we can see, the thing to imitate is Christ walking in love-" as Christ loved us and gave himself for us, an offering and sacrifice to God."
This is the side of love wherein you are imitators of God. Then you get the other essential name of God, and that is, light; which he says we are too. We are partakers of the divine nature-" ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord." God is love, and God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. We were darkness, but now in Christ we are light in the Lord. " Awake, thou that sleepest, and Christ shall give thee light." I get the full light in Christ, also the full love. Thus are the two essential names of God brought out. I am a partaker of the divine nature, and the Spirit of God dwells in me, and I am to act as God acted, and that acting was in Christ. "Awake, thou that sleepest," that is, looking at Christians, not committing sins, but gone to sleep in the world. In the world the people are all dead: but if a man goes to sleep, he is just as much alive as when awake, but he is as much as dead; he does not hear, nor speak, nor think; he is like a dead man. Look at the Christian that is going on with the world-he is with the dead. What am I to do, then? Christ is the light of the world, and " ye are the light of the world," He says to His disciples. It is a wonderful exhibition.
In 1 John it is said, " If we walk in the light," that is, absolutely; but, realizing position, we walk in it. It is position; we are actually there. It is not like standing in righteousness. Here he is looking at practice. Walking is a real thing. It is not as if I say, Christ is my righteousness. It is a real living place we are walking in. Of course he judges in detail all sins. All the Gentiles are walking in darkness-I refer to the passage in Ephesians. " See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools but wise." Uprightness is not sufficient. If I have to go through a bog, I may be perfectly sincere in seeking a house on the other side; but if I do not look about me, I may sink in the bog. I must look about me. It requires wisdom to go through this world, I mean as a Christian.
The expression " redeeming the time " is apt to be always misapplied. It means seizing opportunities. You get it in Dan. 2, where the king speaks to the Magi: " I know ye would gain the time, because ye see the thing is gone from me." They wanted to redeem the time. Here I am to walk in such a way, so full of Christ, that, when an opportunity offers, I can bring Him out. The days are evil. You cannot always have an opportunity; you might be casting pearls before swine; but you must be in a condition to embrace every opportunity. In Daniel it is " gain the time," or as in the margin " buy " the fit moment. A thousand more opportunities would present themselves of bringing Christ before people if we were living in the power of the Spirit of God. The days are evil, we are told. The power of evil is there. You must not complain because the days are evil. The Lord can guide us through one day as well as another.
" Instant in season " is to the saint. The time will come when they will not receive sound doctrine. This applies to the dealing with the saints. It is often applied to the gospel; but the mischief is, that people take passages without reading the context. I am sure we could find a great many more seasons if we were faithful to Christ. " Preach the word, be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine, for the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned into fables." He is evidently looking to Christians. Timothy was to go on earnestly pressing, because soon they would not listen to him. Whether it were seasonable or not, he was to go on with it, because very soon there would be no season at all.
I do not think the apostle here means the gospel. The previous chapter speaks of the departure. He is speaking of the evil days. It is not that we are not to be preaching everywhere we can to sinners, but the special thing he has in his mind is that the church would get into such a state that they would not listen to truth. When we preach the gospel now, we preach to people that call themselves Christians. You may meet infidels, it is true. It is of the last days he is speaking. In John's time they were come in. It was the last time then, though morally developed since. Peter says, " The time is come that judgment will begin at the house of God," and Jude says, that these men " have crept in unawares," and also that these are they that the Lord comes to judge.
The latter times bring it up to the last days, being the more general term: " In the latter days some shall depart from the faith," and in the last days they shall have a form of godliness. It is rather more distinctly characteristic; because in John you get the last days marked by antichrists being there. He does not use them to say they are the last of the latter. In the latter days you get celibacy and asceticism, as it is called; so the apostle shows in Colossians. He speaks of that system which was already dawning. God allowed it all to begin before the apostle went, that we might have scripture upon it. It ripened afterward. Therefore he speaks of the latter days as those coming in after he was gone. They are used in the Old Testament pretty much in the same sense. Still the last days are more definite. " As ye have heard that Antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists."
We had before the oppositions of science, falsely so called, and the forbidding to marry and commanding to abstain from meats, and we all know it is going on since. In England you can hardly go into a cathedral without finding the monument of a bishop who lived forty days without eating anything: I have seen them when I used to go into such places. Now one may fast very profitably if one has occasion to do it. As such I recognize it: but to set about making a virtue of it in the way usually done is wrong because it went upon the principle that matter was an evil thing, and denied the atonement entirely, for they said that Christ could not have a body. This is the reason the apostle John insists He is come in flesh, and that His disciples had handled Him. It was denied that He was really a man in that way, because they thought all matter was a bad thing; and therefore the great thing to be done was to get the Spirit, which was good in everybody away from matter. Therefore they fasted to keep the matter down. This was a torment to the church. Though some of them were very strict, a great many were grossly immoral. It spread everywhere and affected even the orthodox. The Gnostics died out, but they left their taint in the church, and the whole system of celibacy and monasticism continued. I used once to fast in that way myself. On Wednesdays, and Fridays, and Saturdays I did not eat anything at all, but on the other days I did eat a little bread. I said, If I fast three days I can fast four, and if four, five, and if five, better six, and if six, better seven; and what then? I had better die. Thus there was something that made it impossible to go through with the thing. I went on with it, but God delivered me.
The Spirit of God had them in view. They were dawning then, because it says, " The Spirit speaketh expressly that in the latter days some shall depart," etc. You see that evil men and seducers wax worse and worse, and that, when once the evil was introduced, it could not be put out.
It had been among the heathen before. The system of monasteries, and celibacy, and begging friars, was all in existence five hundred and forty years before Christ, and many think it was actually borrowed from the East. Certainly it is the same thing morally, but, as I said, many think it was actually borrowed from the East; as a great many of their doctrines were, I have no doubt. A Roman Catholic priest, when visiting the East, was perfectly astounded, and did not know what to think when he found among the Buddhists exactly the same things as Roman Catholics had at home. He told them he was a Lama from the west, and he was received in all their monasteries and elsewhere.
Returning to our epistle, we see that another element comes in. When we have them all in order, he says, " Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord." Such is the joy they were to have, " Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." There are two things-my own will gone, and the perfect certainty of God's love. " Giving thanks always for all things ": take away my fortune and I say, " Thank God." It is not easy, and of course the will must be broken; but on the other hand, God makes everything to work together for good to those that love Him. Then you get a spirit of grace, " submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of Christ." It is not submitting to do evil if you want me to do it, but that in faith there is no will. If you want me to do wrong, I cannot do it because it is not God's will, but in everything in which my will is concerned I give way to you. We are to submit to one another in the fear of Christ. It is what sitting in heavenly places produces upon earth. Christ, when here, could say He was in heaven, and He is given as our pattern, though to us it is purely by grace.
Next, there are two other main subjects that follow-the love of Christ to His church, and the conflict of the saints with spiritual wickedness in heavenly places. We have passed away from what we are with God, and now we come to the special relationship of Christ with the church. The main thing in His mind is the church. " The husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church; and he is the Savior of the body." This I believe to be our body.
I get two things He does in consequence of His love to the church. He gave Himself for it out and out. This is the first thing He does in consequence of His love to it. Then, having taken it to be His own, He sets about to make it what He likes. He does not make what He likes to be His own, but takes it to be His own to make it what He likes. Next, I get present sanctifying and washing by the word; and afterward His presenting it to Himself as a glorious church. This is special. It is not God loving poor sinners, but the special love of Christ to the church. The purification that we get here is that which we have in heaven; as far as it goes, it is the same nature, and quality, and standard, and measure, and everything else as will be in heaven. He washes it here that it may have no spot there. " Beholding with unveiled face the glory of the Lord, we are being changed into the same image from glory, to glory." Looking at Christ in glory our hearts get filled with the motives that are there, and this effect is produced upon earth. The effect is produced here, but the motives are all above. He " loved the church and gave himself for it." This is the starting-point-" that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water by the word, that he might present the church to himself glorious, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing: but that it should be holy and without blemish." It is a great thing for us to see that the condition we are to be presented in to Christ is the power and measure of our sanctification here.
It is manifest that we find the same thing all through the epistles. For instance, " Beloved, now are we the sons of God: and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; and every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure." I know I shall be perfectly like Christ in glory, and I purify myself according to that standard. It is not that I am pure according to it. I take that measure and apply it now. Every step I take I see it clearer, and I may apply it to something else; but this is the only thing I am looking at to judge by.
In 1 Thess. 3 the same truth comes out in a striking way. " The Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another and toward all men, even as we do toward you; to the end he may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints." This is a. passage that looks perfectly unintelligible until you get hold of what I have been saying. Instead of saying unblameable in holiness before God at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, we should have said, "unblameable in your walk down here." He looks at their realizing their Christian position-" to the end he may establish your hearts," and draws the veil and there they are unblameable when Christ comes. This is where it is all measured.
But it is evidently a very important principle for this day and every other. All the perfection which is spoken of, Wesleyan or whatever it may be called, is clean gone. It does not come into the question, good or bad, because what I am shown is the perfection of Christ in glory. I do not get it till I am in glory, and there is no other object presented to a Christian as the standard but Christ in glory. We are to be " conformed to the image of his Son that he might be the firstborn among many brethren." Again, " As is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly; and as we have borne the image of the earthly, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." Therefore the apostle said that he had not yet attained, but there was no other thing before him. He was always running on to it. We retain in heaven the impress got here; but this is Christ. There may be degrees of realization. We shall be perfectly like Christ when we get there; all of us will be perfectly like Him. We are predestinated to be conformed to the image of God's Son; and as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall bear the image of the heavenly. I am like a person in a straight passage with a light at the end; I have more of the light every step I take, but I do not get the light till I come to the end. When He shall appear, we shall be like Him. I get a sight of this, and say, This is what I am going to be. It sounds strange to 'say that we cannot be as Christ was here, because He was absolutely sinless, and if I say I have no sin I deceive myself. But I shall be like Him there, and this is brought to bear upon me now that I should have no motive working in my soul but Him there. This is what the apostle means when he says, " not looking at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen."
It has been said, indeed, that God would not give a measure that we could not attain to; but I take the bull by the horns and assert that He never gave one that a man could attain to. He made man innocent, and there was no demand necessary; but the moment man becomes a sinner, God put something beyond him, which he is to run after. God gives him a law when he is in the flesh, and he is not subject to the law of God. It is an unattainable measure. Again, " Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect." This is our measure. Are you as perfect as this? When things are fully developed, I get Christ in glory. This is perfectly unattainable here, because God wants me to be always running on and having the one thing always before me. " This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
The meaning of John 17:19 (" For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth ") is, that for their sakes Christ sets Himself apart as a model man (though I do not like the expression), that we might be made into His likeness.
The passage in Heb. 12 (" Let us lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus ") is more the difficulties we have to encounter that he is looking at there. He says, Christ has got there; you take courage and run on. It is just the same race exactly. It is wonderful that we shall really be conformed to the image of God's Son, when we think of what we are. But it has nothing to do with our responsibility as to salvation. You are not set in this path until you are saved. Our responsibility as men, God's creatures, is not affected: as responsible men we are lost. It is over in that sense. Take, by way of illustration, a man in business who has contracted debts; suppose I go to him and tell him how he is to manage not to get into debt, he would only tell me I was mocking his misery, for he had nothing to manage. Responsibility is over in that sense; not that a man is not responsible for all he has done, but that he is ruined already, and of this the cross is the proof, because the highest act of grace is that Christ came to seek and save the lost. As to the history in Scripture, the whole system of probation concluded at the cross. " Now," said Christ, " is the judgment of this world "; as it is also said in Hebrews, " now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself." When it is all over with man, sovereign grace steps in, and saves people out of their ruined condition. A person may get all his debts paid, but be left without a penny to begin the work again. God has not dealt with us in that way. He has paid our debts, and has given us the same glory as His own Son. This was a matter of His counsels before the foundation of the world; and it belongs to all Christians. There is labor which God rewards, for every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor; but in the likeness of Christ every saint will then be.
We shall all be conformed to the image of God's Son in glory. It was God's counsel before the foundation of the world, but never brought out till the cross. He " hath saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works [which is responsibility], but according to his own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, but now is made manifest by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ." It was before the world in God's purpose about His people, but it was never brought out till Christ had laid the foundation for it in the cross. In Titus 1 there is a similar statement, " In hope of eternal life which God that cannot lie promised before the world began; but hath in due times manifested his word through preaching." All this glorious purpose, glorious for us and for God, never was brought out-never hinted at-until Christ laid a righteous ground for it in the cross. Then God brought it out and said, " That is what I am going to do." This with much more is what we find here in Ephesians.
But we have to notice another thing also: " No man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as Christ the church, for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones." There I get not simply this purpose of presenting us to Himself, but how He loves and cherishes us as a man does his own flesh. It is His present care of the church. " We are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones." This shows that the church could not have existed at all till Christ was glorified, because it is with Christ as a man it is connected. It is not that the Son quickened us (though this is true), but that we are members of Christ's body, of His flesh, and of His bones.
After exhortations to children and parents, slaves and masters, there is another great subject in this Epistle, the conflicts of the saint. We do not find the conflict except in Ephesians. It is not a conflict of flesh and spirit, nor is it a conflict of conscience when a man is quickened. The Jews were slaves in Egypt as an unconverted man is in his sins. When God brought them into Canaan, were they at once to have rest? There was conflict; and the proper sense of conflict with Satan is for us in heavenly places.
In the Authorized Bible " high places " is inserted in place of " heavenly places," which shows that the translators were afraid of the truth, and so altered the word. A similar alteration occurs in Rev. 4 There we get One seated on a throne, and the four and twenty elders also seated on thrones; but though the word in the original is quite the same, the translators altered the thrones of the elders into " seats." In our epistle they were afraid to translate " heavenly places," and they made it " high places "; but the word they have translated " high " here is the same as the one they have translated " heavenly " elsewhere, as chapter 1: 3.
People speak of Jordan as death, and quite rightly too, for it is a figure of death; but then is it not strange that, when they crossed over Jordan and got into Canaan, Joshua met a man with a sword drawn in his hand, and they had to fight? Is it not strange that, as soon as heavenly places are entered, conflict has to be entered on? Now what is Jordan? After passing through death into these heavenly places we begin to fight. Thus it does not mean actual rest in heaven as supposed. If I say I have put off the old man, this is the same as that I am dead with Christ. I have passed through death, and been circumcised with the circumcision of Christ, and now I can fight the battles of God with Satan. This is what we get here.
Redemption brought us into the wilderness. The wilderness is our passing through this world where our flesh is tested. Canaan is the other part of the Christian's life, where he reckons himself dead. Christ in spirit is there as the Captain of the Lord's host, and He has to fight the battles of the Lord Himself. That is what we get in Canaan. I sometimes wonder that it does not strike people what an odd thing it is, that if Jordan means death, and Canaan heaven (which they do), fighting should characterize the place in Joshua, for the first thing he meets there is a man with a sword drawn in his hand. The whole book of Joshua is about the battles of the Lord. There we get death brought in, as we have been saying, reckoning ourselves dead-I am crucified with Christ. This is what Jordan is: " If ye be dead with Christ." By-and-by it will be our place of rest. Yes, heaven will be ours. I am not quarreling with the use of the image in that way. Jordan is a type of death, and Canaan of heavenly places. In the account we get in Numbers they are going through the wilderness and tested by God; and in Canaan they fought with flesh and blood, which is a figure of spiritual wickedness in heavenly places. We do not get there till we have passed through Jordan, that is, till we are dead and risen with Christ. This is every Christian's place; but I speak of realizing it.
The Christian is in both at the same time, but not in experience, though his condition down here affects his power of fighting. He must have the armor on. I have to go through the world with the cares of family or business, or meeting the contradiction of sinners. But this is not a moment in which I am fighting God's battles: I am then fighting my own, so to speak. We are with God down here, or God is with us; and we fight with the devil in heavenly places. Until Rev. 12 he is in heaven. It is not where God dwells in unapproachable light; he is not there; but how could he be the accuser of the brethren if he be not in heaven? He went with the sons of God about Job, for we find Satan was amongst them. You could not have him accuser of the brethren, if he were not there. He tempts them down here, but accuses them there.
Suppose a Christian was preaching the gospel: in that would he be in wilderness circumstances? No, he is rather fighting the battle there. He might be in wilderness circumstances as to various things, but he is fighting the battles there, and he must use the wisdom of God against a subtle spiritual adversary. Suppose a man is attacked in the street and abused? You never get the question of the flesh away. When they did not consult Jehovah, they made mistakes, as in the case of Ai and Gibeon. Our contending with Satan would be against heresy, superstition, and other things. Satan may raise up opposition and violence in the streets, and hence the Christian would need wisdom; but you cannot separate the idea from having the flesh, because you will be making blunders. Thus there are doubts, and things of that kind, which Satan brings into the mind-infidelity, for instance. Satan in them acts directly; they are not mere temptations of an ordinary kind.
In this connection he adds, " Be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might." We have no strength of our own. We have nothing to do with any carnal or fleshly weapons. " God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise." As long as the saints lean upon flesh and influence, they are not leaning on God, but flesh. The world has all the upper hand there.
Take an example in our Lord in His conflict in the wilderness. There was no sin in being hungry. This is hardly the kind of conflict; still the Lord overcomes. There was more wilderness work; still it was Satan. He too hindered the apostle from going to the Thessalonians. If one were endeavoring to make void all this truth, brought out up to this point, and say it was not true, it would be Satan's work. Infidelity, and heresies, and things of that kind, are referred to in this warfare. In a case of discipline Paul says, " we are not ignorant of his devices." Satan was trying to divide Paul and the Corinthians, and he says, " If you forgive it, I also forgive it. I see what Satan is at: he wants to make a split between us." Error as to any doctrine is Satan's power. I merely took the other as an example. In Canaan it is not so much as a roaring lion, but he might be. " In nothing terrified by your adversaries." In the case of Paul being prevented by Satan from going to the Thessalonians, God allowed it in His providence, as He allows everything in that dealing. In the case of Job, it was God commenced the matter. He overrules all that. " We would have gone once and again, but Satan hindered us." Opposition was raised up that he could not go. All that is conflict. We do not believe enough that there is such a thing.
The rulers of the darkness of this world are Satan and his angels. The darkness of the world is ignorance of God, who is light. Conflict of Satan is not characteristic of the wilderness. If there is anything of the kind, it is an attempt to go up and get beaten. They might have gone in at Kadeshbarnea, but they did not; and when they found how foolish they were, they attempted and were beaten altogether.
It is not what characterizes the wilderness. God might give them a specimen of what they were to meet. He destroyed them unto Hormah. All our war is with the people that possess the land, that is, the devil and his angels. The wilderness is the patience of going through this world according to God. At Sinai is not the wilderness, it is totally apart. The general character of the wilderness is going through that where they had only manna and the cloud-Christ and the word and Spirit. They were to go through this world dependent on God. It is this characterizes the wilderness, and not fighting. In Canaan they had not any manna. It meant characteristically the heavenly places, and the Lord set them to fight. In the type we get what characterizes it. The first thing is the wiles of the devil; it is not his power here. " Resist the devil and he will flee from you." He has no power if you resist him, so far as we are concerned. His wiles are dangerous enough. " We wrestle not against flesh and blood " as Joshua did; we wrestle against wicked spirits in heavenly places. " And having done all to stand " (that is, to make good your ground), " stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth ": you must have the mind and affections tucked up with the word of God.
" Having on the breastplate of righteousness," that is, practical righteousness. It is not before God, but with Satan here. If I have not practical righteousness, Satan has got something against me: I am afraid. It is a good conscience I must have; my loins thoroughly tucked up and in order. I must have a good conscience and be walking in the spirit of peace.
We have not got the sword yet; the defensive armor comes before the offensive. In that state (having a good conscience, and the spirit of grace and peace) I now come to the shield from Satan. I am to look up to God with entire confidence; this is the shield of faith. Then comes the helmet of salvation. I can hold my head up; and, having got all the offensive armor complete, I take the sword. The sword of the Spirit is God's word.
And then, mark further, when I have got the armor and weapon, I am thrown back in entire dependence on the Lord- praying always. The word is first of all applied to myself- I am girded with truth, and, having got the rest of the armor, the word comes into activity which is the sword of the Spirit. Lastly I am cast entirely upon God.
When I begin to take the sword, it may be service among saints or in the gospel. People have sometimes fancied that the armor of righteousness here described is Christ as our righteousness; but this is with God. He is my righteousness with God; but I do not want armor against God; it is armor against wicked spirits I need. There is only one offensive weapon-the word. It is wonderful how the Lord has provided everything for us in Scripture. There is the love of Christ, who loves us like His own flesh; and the fighting with Satan follows. After we are put in our place, we get the love of Christ, and then follows the conflict with Satan.
Watching is another element in it. He says in this place, watching with prayer. If I am watching in my path in everything with God, it turns to prayer.. If my heart is engaged about the blessing of the saints, I cannot get on without it. Watching in it is perseverance in it. The object of Satan is to keep us from realizing these heavenly things. There is conflict for the benefit of all, as well as for ourselves. We have to put the armor on ourselves, but when we have got it on, we must fight Satan. The first part of verse 18, namely, " Praying always with all prayer and supplication," refers to the individual, then to all saints. It is for themselves, and then it widens out. It is a general principle first. You get this constantly in the Ephesians; as for instance, " That ye may be able to comprehend with all saints." The moment he gets to the thoughts and purposes of God, he cannot leave out the saints.
Confidence is in God known in Himself. I am not likely to go and ask you for something if I have not confidence in you. " The mystery of the gospel," in verse 19, includes not only the church but the whole testimony. Glad tidings take in really everything with Paul. He was a minister of the gospel in the whole creation under heaven, and a minister of the word to complete the word of God.

Comparison of the Epistles to the Romans and the Ephesians

AN attentive consideration of the Epistle to the Romans and that to the Ephesians, will afford us some interesting light on the question of the position of the believer in Christ. The whole question of our place in Christ is viewed under a different aspect in the two epistles. I would briefly consider this. The doctrine of redeeming grace may be viewed in two ways. God's own purposes as to His children in glory may be developed on the one hand; or the condition of man portrayed, and met by grace visiting them in mercy to deliver them on the other. The Epistle to the Ephesians follows the first of these methods; the Epistle to the Romans, the second.
In Ephesians we have at once the saints blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ-placed in the blessed image of God before Him, and adopted to be His children. Redemption itself comes as a means in the second place. The knowledge of the mystery-the gathering together in one all things in Christ, and our sealing as heirs till the redemption of the purchased possession follow. The Romans, after some introductory verses, commences by the description of the dreadful state in which fallen man was, unfolding the depravity of the Gentiles, the hypocrisy of those who pretended to moralize and yet were personally no better, and finally the sad condition of the Jews, who, if they had the law, broke it. In chapter 3, at the close, grace meets this state. But this leads to the consideration of the work of grace, in each epistle, in a different way.
To speak first of the Ephesians, the sinner is seen dead in trespasses and sins-walking, doubtless, in them, but, before God, wholly dead. But even here this is not the first object presented. As chapter t presents the position in which the saint is placed, so the second the work which brings him into it. With this view, what is first brought before us is God's power towards us manifested in what was wrought in Christ. God had raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His right hand, far above all principality and power, above and beyond all created glory, not only in this age, but in that to come, where all hierarchies will be in their true glory and unclouded elevation, but He above and out of them all. Divine power in its exceeding greatness had brought Him from death up there.
As the origin of our life is before all worlds (John I; 1 John 1), so our 'place before God is out of and above all worlds and creature powers. It is to be remarked here, however, that Christ Himself is looked at as already dead. The whole work is thus of God; for Christ being dead, is looked at, of course, as Man, and this wondrous power is exerted, and He, as Man, is at God's right hand. Then the saints are brought before us, Gentiles or Jews, as alike children of wrath by nature, and are seen once utterly dead in trespasses and sins, quickened together with Him, and raised up together, and made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ. The whole is entirely God's work. We are created again. It is not living men who have to be dealt with, who are without law and under law, must die with Christ, and are set free by death. They are found dead in sins, and we get the perfect full blessing of the work, because it is entirely God's. Man is for nothing therein, for what has he to do with creation? He is created; all that man (that is, the believer) is is God's work. Hence, also, remark, we have peace, making nigh, reconciling, exalting to sit in heavenly places in Christ, but not justifying; because it is a living, responsible, existing man who has to be justified before God. But we have Christ exalted, and ourselves exalted in Him. It is God's work in Christ and in us, not our being justified before God.
If I turn now to the Romans, it is otherwise. I get Christ alive on the earth, come of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared Son of God with power by resurrection. Still flesh could not live unto God, nor they that are in it please Him. Hence we find Christ as come in grace for them, not dead but dying, and then alive to God. I get the condition and quality of man, not simply the work of God as to one dead. So as to men; I get the means of standing in righteousness before God, and not an absolute work. Nor is this all. In the Romans the exaltation of Christ to the right hand of God is not contemplated, nor the union of the church with Him. Hence we are not said to be quickened together with Him, nor made to sit in heavenly places in Him. His exaltation is just mentioned in chapter 8, with " who even is at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us "-which last thought does not, of course, contemplate union. In chapter 12 the practical effect of union among ourselves is spoken of; but, in general, these topics form no part of the instruction of the epistle. Men are living, guilty beings, the whole world guilty before God; and to learn that, in the remediless state of their nature, death is the only remedy; in itself fatal, doubtless, but perfectly saving when in Christ. It is atonement for all sin, and deliverance from the position in which we were: for death is evidently the end of that, and our life thus wholly new, Christ being risen from the dead, and we are to walk as alive to God through Him. We are justified by His blood; and the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.
But the Romans, as teaching the justification of a sinner, necessarily first views him as a sinner to be justified. Hence it goes through the whole question of law; and we have the experiences of the man not justified, though convinced of sin, and then justified from the sin-alive in conscience without law, dying under law, and alive in Christ, where there is no condemnation. The practical process is gone through. The effect is this, that he is brought up to the point where the Epistle to the Ephesians begins with him. He finds that there is no escape from the condition he is in, as a child of Adam, or a Jew, but by death. Yet, were it his own, it would of course, lead him to judgment, not to justification, but where all guilt is proved. It is Christ who dies, and is set forth as a propitiation through faith in His blood; so that God is just, and the justifier of him that believes in Jesus. That meets the case of guilt, but is not life; for so Christ would be dead, and we brought in Him into death. This could not in any way be. For not only would there be no life, but it would even prove, as the apostle shows in 1 Cor. 15, that there was no remedy. Our faith would be vain; we should be yet in our sins. But we believe that God has raised up our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, who was delivered for our offenses, and raised again for our justification.
The consequence of this different view of things is seen in the practical result in man under the operation of God's Spirit.
In the Romans we have experiences flowing from the conflict of the newly introduced principle of life with flesh, or the effect of deliverance from it, by the knowledge of the power of deliverance in Christ. The former we find in chapter 7, where the conflict of the new nature with the lusts and will of the old under law are depicted; and the second in chapter 8, where the spiritual blessings of one who is made free from the law of sin and death, by the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus, are drawn out before us in a way to produce the profoundest interest in the soul that enters into it.
In the Ephesians the man is dead in sins, and transported into heavenly places by the operation of God; being created anew in Christ Jesus, unto good works, which God has afore prepared, that we might walk in them. The works belong to the new place and condition in which alone we are known in the Ephesians. God has afore prepared works for His new created ones. Hence, we have no experience of passing through conflict, and deliverance, and its results; but there is a demand to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called, and a desire that the saints, being rooted and grounded in love, may realize in their hearts, by Christ's dwelling in them by faith, the full effect, even to filling to all the fullness of God, the greatness of the infinite scene of glory into which they are brought, and know that love of Christ which passeth knowledge.
In result the general principle of the difference is this. In the Romans, the man is found alive in sin, is convicted of it, and has (Christ having died for him to put it away) to come, in the conviction of the hopeless badness of his nature, to death, and then rising again, alive through Jesus Christ, be thus justified before God, and by God, on the one hand, and alive in a new life on the other; then nothing shall separate him from the love of Christ. In the Ephesians the man is found dead in sins; but then he is raised up, and set in heavenly places in Christ (according to the power in which Christ, when dead, was raised of God, and set in the heavenly places, far above principalities and powers, and every name that is named), and brought as a new creation, children withal, and heirs into immediate nearness to God. The additional truth is brought out, that we are united to Christ in this place, as members of His body, and His heavenly bride.
I cannot here-time does not allow it-do more than draw out the great general principles of the different aspects of truth presented by the two epistles. He who searches as a devout learner into the truth of God, will, I am sure, find (in what I here notice in these epistles) elements of deep and profitable instruction, as to his own relationship with God, the Christianity of his soul and of the word, and of his soul according to the word. Perhaps some one, for his own and our edification, may furnish us with further results which flow from it.

Comparison of Epistles: Ephesians, Colossians and Peter

THE comparison of certain epistles illustrates with much interest and instruction the path of the Christian. I send you the thoughts which have suggested the remark. I refer particularly to the Epistle of Peter, Colossians, and Ephesians.
In Peter we have Christ risen, having accomplished redemption; then His own actings, in that resurrection, of that power of life which is the spring of all our hope, and sets it in lively exercise towards its end, which is in heaven, and hence makes a man, and even a Jew (who once had other thoughts), a stranger and a pilgrim here. We will examine this in the statements of the epistles.
But to make my meaning more clear, I will first refer to the Ephesians. There the saints are seen sitting in heaven- there already-not on the way there; their conflicts and position in general flow from this. Hence they are seen risen with Christ, seated in heavenly places in Him, and this, through union with their Head, by the Holy Ghost sent down; on which last great fact their earthly position also depends.
The Epistle to the Colossians is based indeed on the same principle; but there they were in danger of not holding the Head. Hence they are addressed on somewhat lower ground, and urged up to the point which should have been the spring from which their thoughts and feelings flowed.
To turn now to the epistles themselves, remark, in Peter, the ground on which the Spirit of God places the saints, the sojourners of the dispersion, that is, the believing Jews scattered through the provinces. They are " begotten again to a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." It is not that they are not risen with Him. Of course they were; yet they are not viewed under this aspect, but as redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot; traveling through the wilderness towards Canaan-not seated in the land eating of the old corn of it (whatever conflicts were before them there), but through the efficacy of redemption made strangers and pilgrims in the desert. It is the Christian's place here below- not the privilege and joy of faith, but the life of faith; and hence, all through which he passes here become not distractions for his heart, whether painful or pleasant, but trials of his faith. This is exceedingly gracious and loving of our God (and what is not?), and the consequences in many respects exceedingly precious.
In the Ephesians we have, however, the Christian in another point of view. Heaven is not presented as a hope; the Christian is there. It is not that the resurrection of Christ has begotten him to such a hope; the same power which raised Christ, and set Him at the right hand of God, far above all principality and power, has wrought in him; and he is raised up together with Him, quickened together, and sitting in heavenly places in Him. Thus he is viewed as in heaven in Christ the Head, not as hoping to arrive there. Peter views him as toiling along the road, being redeemed by the, precious blood of Christ-as Israel in the desert, with Canaan before them; the Ephesians, as sitting there in his Head, Christ. Hence neither is the coming of Christ presented as a hope in the Ephesians. What is set before us in the way of hope, in the form of intelligence communicated of God, is the gathering together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth-in Him in whom we have received an inheritance. The power which has wrought in Christ has wrought in the believer, God having given Christ to be " the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all." God, of His great love wherewith He has loved us, has, when we were all together children of wrath, quickened us together with Him, and made us sit, raised up together, in heavenly places in Him.
In Colossians, at first sight, we seem to have lost this position. But the epistle does but serve to bring out more distinctly the great and precious truth. The apostle is obliged to bring out heaven prominently before them. They needed this; and we have, as in Peter, " the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before." Why this difference where, nevertheless, Christ is put forward as the Head of the body? They were beginning alas! to be beguiled, and to be subject to ordinances, not holding the Head. But the apostle urges them, as it were, back to the point from which they were slipping away. He presses on them their resurrection with Christ; once dead in trespasses and sins, but buried in baptism with Him, and raised through faith in the operation of God who hath raised Him. If dead with Christ, how could they, as alive, be subject to what related to flesh and perished with it? And then he draws the conclusion, which associates the two practically: " If then ye be risen with Christ, seek the things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God. Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth; for ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God." This was their real position. They were indeed in danger of slipping away from it; but he urges them upward to their privilege and place in Christ.
As regards the coming of the Lord, it is also introduced in a way which remarkably confirms this character of instruction. They were not taught to wait for Him as if they were on earth, and He to appear. Nor is it omitted in order to contemplate their association with Him in heaven. His appearance is spoken of; but then their association with Him, in a life which is with Him now hidden in God, is pressed upon them, by this remarkable truth, that when He appears, so identified were they with Him that they would appear with Him. Their hearts and affections, then, are urged upwards, but it was to lay hold on the consciousness that they were one with Him that was there. Their life was hid with Him there, but they were not holding the Head as they ought. I do not go farther here; perhaps I may, at another time, notice the different way the Lord's coming is spoken of connected with this.
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What God Is to Us in Christ: Ephesians 1

THERE are two ways in which we may look at our relationship to God, and rightly: first, our coming to Him; and secondly, our souls looking at the dealings of God towards us.
Of Abel, it is said, by the Holy Spirit, God had respect unto his gifts-he came with his needed offering. We are looked at in the Epistle to the Hebrews as drawing near to God. Who could draw near unless he could bring Christ as an offering? We must have that sacrifice in order to bring us near, consequently in that case our relationship to God is measured by our need. We come near because we find we cannot do without it, and we accept that offering as needed to accomplish it.
In another way, the measure of God's blessing we never know until we look on our relationship as measured by God's thoughts of us-by all that which He loves to display when He satisfies His own heart of grace with His ways of showing it out. We never enjoy our true blessing unless we see how He thus feels and acts. My mind must rise above what I am, to what God is; then it is my mind is formed by the revelation of what God is. To this we are called.
We must come in by our need, as the prodigal did. Man cannot by searching find out God. There cannot be any knowledge of God in grace by man's competency to know Him. There would be no need of grace if he could know God without it. If I can claim this grace, I do not need grace at all. The way a sinner must come in must be by his need; in that way he learns grace, learns love. But when I have got to God, it is another thing. Then He would form our minds and hearts by what He is Himself. I come as a sinner, because I need it-just as a hungry man needs food; but when brought, I have fellowship with the God who has brought me to Himself. The measure is given in this epistle-" growing up into Christ, in all things." It is a wonderful thing that God has called us into fellowship with Himself-to have the same thoughts, the same feelings as God, and to have them together. All flows down from Him and we are brought into it by grace, and we enjoy it just so far as we are emptied of self.
First, He makes us partakers of the divine nature-the same nature as Himself. This gives the capacity-I do not say power. The new nature is capacity; the Holy Ghost is power. The new nature is entirely dependent and obedient. The Holy Ghost being there gives me power. In the first Epistle of John this capacity is brought out in a remarkable manner (chap. 4). Every one that loveth is born of God- has this nature; and he that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. Then being partakers of His nature, we, by virtue of the blood being sprinkled on us, have received the Holy Ghost which gives power. In order to communion there must be perfect peace as regards the conscience. There is no communion in conscience. I am alone as to my conscience, and so are you. In order to communion, I must have nothing to settle with conscience: a perfectly purged conscience is the basis of communion. We must know that God has settled the whole question of sin. The moment a child of God fails, communion ceases. The Spirit then becomes a reprover to bring him back; but there is no communion. Communion is the full enjoyment of God and of divine things; when there is nothing to think of as regards oneself. God can now let flow into his heart who has a conscience purged, all that He delights in. He loves to communicate what He Himself has joy in. All that Christ is is for us to enjoy. You are called into this place of Christ Himself-He, the Head of the body; and that the delight God has in Christ should flow down into your heart. How rich then the saint must be! but he is entirely dependent on the Spirit of God for power. There is no power to enjoy anything without Him. There must be an emptying from self to enjoy what He gives. The Spirit of God has no place to act where self and imagination are in exercise. It is not the glory at the end that is so much the object of the believer's thoughts, as the source of it-God Himself. There is more happiness in the fact of being in communion with Him than in the things He communicates: and I say again, because of its importance, a soul cannot have the enjoyment of the things of God without having peace, which is connected with the conscience.
The beginning of this chapter shows how we are presented to God. It is a test, whether the judgment-seat brings any terror to your minds. Does it give you any uneasiness? How does the saint get there? Christ comes to fetch him. He said, " I will come again, and receive you unto myself." Do you ever think of your coming before the judgment-seat being the effect of His having come to fetch you? Not sending for you, but coming Himself for you, because of His desire to have you with Him where He is, to be fashioned into the same image. You are to bear the image of the heavenly, as you have borne the image of the earthy. When you are there before the judgment-seat, you will be with Him, and like Him: every trace of God's unwearied hand, all His patience, here brought out. We shall be like the One who is the Judge. You will never (I speak, of course, to saints now) be before the judgment-seat of Christ without His coming to fetch you into the same glory in which you are to be. It is the knowledge of grace, or redemption, that leaves me at perfect liberty; and all my life should be a witness to the enjoyment of this blessedness into which we are being brought. The whole of this is through looking at Christ. He is the Firstborn among many brethren in the Father's house. We shall be with Christ and like Christ before God the Father. There will be the blessedness of being with Christ, in the presence of the Father, loved as He is loved. This is what we have in this chapter-set in the presence of God.
" Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." We are blessed in Christ, and God is the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is " my God and your God," Christ said. There is no measure of any relationship out of Christ-nothing but condemnation out of Christ. If I have known what it is to be condemned, if I have known what sin is, and how God hates sin, I know there can be no hope for me out of Christ. But God has put away sin. God does not look at my sin, but on Christ. Just as I know my condition in Adam as ruined and condemned, so I know my place in Christ-accepted. How it throws us out of self-importance, self-dependence, self-glorying! We enter into the presence of God in Him who has perfectly glorified God. He is the God as well as the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is that wrought in Christ which was hidden from ages and from generations, and He has gone back in virtue of what He has done to vindicate the character of God. We enter into the blessing in Him who has done all. We shall know God in virtue of what the Father bestows upon us. The Father brings many sons unto glory, and brings them back perfect through the work of Christ -" blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ ": none can be wanting; not an affection of God's delight is wanting. He brings us into His presence without one reserve of the affection that Christ has. We are brought back in Christ. Therefore all that Christ has we have.
How he goes on to unfold it! " That we should be holy and without blame before him in love." He is not content with a mere general account, but brings it out in detail that we may know it. Suppose I saw a person with an excellent character, and I felt I could never be like that person, I should not be happy. The fact of the excellency of the person, without the possibility of being like him, would make me miserable; and to have him always before me would be all the worse. But in heaven I shall be with Christ, and see Him, without the possibility of being unlike Him. What divine inventiveness of love to make us happy, infinitely happy! What God does, and is, is infinite; and it is so much the better that He will be always above us.
We shall have perfect freedom of intercourse with Him. Moses and Elias were speaking with Him of His death (it may not be then so much of His death), but there will be communion with Him of all that He has.
" Without blame." Released from all that which would hinder my loving Him; therefore I am made " holy and without blame." There is the proper joy of the heart-" before him in love," but no thought of equality; " wherein he hath abounded towards us in all wisdom and prudence." Then there is another fact-" Chosen in him before the foundation of the world." Thus we have His heart set upon us in eternity. The soul knows there is a personal love from God towards himself, and the heart delights in that. So with Christ. In Rev. 2 there is the white stone He will give-proof of personal delight. There is the individual rejoicing in the love of Christ.
How the Spirit seeks to draw out our affections by all this! He tells it all, and would have us know and enjoy it. He would have us know that we are going to heaven, and why. He would form our hearts by what He is doing, while bringing us in, " having predestinated us unto the adoption of children " -still in Christ and with Christ-" by Jesus Christ unto himself." It is through Him, and in Him, and with Him I find it. It is having my heart fixed on God and the Father, that my affections may be drawn out to Him, and all is because " accepted in the beloved." God has not blessed angels like this. We are not servants only (we should be servants, to be sure), but we are brought into the confidence of children. Ought not a child to have confidence? We have received the Spirit of -adoption whereby we cry " Abba Father." Our heart should answer to God's outgoings of heart in grace, and reflect this grace, " to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved." He has done it all.
Remark here, that there is not as yet a word about the inheritance. I dwell on that, as showing how the affections of the saint are formed. If I speak of the inheritance, it is something below me. All prophecy concerns the inheritance. But I am looking at what is above me, and my own blessedness is in what is above me. Subjects connected with the church, blessed as they are, as prophecy, etc., are below. He will exercise us about these things, but let me first get my relationship with my Father known. Do not talk of me, what I have, but of what Christ is, and what He has. My soul must enjoy the love that has given it all. The love that has saved is more than the things given. It is of importance to the saints to feel this in the presence of God. It is not mental power, but the heart right-a single eye-that is the great thing. Unless a soul gets its intelligence and direction from God, it never understands the ways and affections of God. His own affections must be known and valued. If I have not known my place in the affections of my Father, I am not in a position to have the communion of His thoughts and purposes. When we were dead in sins, His heart was exercised for us. The sinner is here looked at as dead, not " living " in sins (as in Colossians) and chastening, etc., for that, but in Ephesians " dead," not a movement of life, when God comes and creates and blesses according to His own will. When our souls have known the value of Christ's sacrifice bringing us to God, we are seen not in ourselves at all, but only in Christ. Then there is perfect rest.
But afterward he can tell us of the inheritance; and then the prayer is that we may know the hope of His calling (which calling is not the inheritance). He has called us to be " before him in love " (v. 3-6); then verse 11 begins about the inheritance. Now I will show you what Christ's inheritance is, and you are to have it too. I must know I am a child and have the thoughts and affections of the child before I can have to do with the inheritance. The end of the matter is that we are brought in to share the inheritance.
How far are your hearts confiding in God's rest only for your wants, etc.? Rather how far is your confidence and delight in Him for Himself? The heart of the child will delight in the affections of the father. Do your thoughts about God flow from what God has revealed to you of Himself? or are you reasoning about God-will He, or will He not, do it? When it is a settled thing with me that I am a sinner, what have I to reason about? We want to be brought to this simple conviction: I am a sinner; and if I am a sinner, what am I to do? Can I look for anything from God on the ground of righteousness? No. When brought to God I am brought to grace. What He is is the spring and source of the whole matter. We are in Christ. It could not be otherwise. We stand there now, by virtue of the atonement, in that position which makes the sin the very occasion for God to bless. Christ died for my sins, and God is " faithful and just to forgive us our sins."
God is going to take us to heaven, to be happy with Christ there; but He makes us happy out of heaven too. It is a difficult thing, but He does; and He would have the saints living up there where God is, and where we are going, and free from this present evil world.

The Prayers in Ephesians 1:15-23 and 3:14-21

ONE prayer is attached to the name of the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, because He is looked at as Man; the other to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, because He is looked at as Son. The beginning of chapter 1 gave us God's calling, that we should be " holy and without blame before him in love," that we might receive " the adoption of sons." After stating His purpose concerning Christ Himself, that all things are to be gathered together in one in Him, the apostle goes on to the inheritance of which the Holy Ghost is the earnest, and then to the prayer for them on this ground. At the very close of the chapter he adds our relationship to Christ Himself, " the church which is his body." It is always well for us to remember that Christ has purified to Himself a peculiar people, a people of possession, and we cannot rise up to the counsels of God and mind of Christ unless we be brought into these intentions of God. The most immediate and closest object of His thoughts is His saints. I necessarily take in all saints if I am in His thoughts • I cannot have the mind of Christ without taking in all of them; it is the very spirit of Christ Himself.
There are two parts in this prayer of the apostle. The first is, that they might know the place itself; the second, that they should know the power that brought them there. The very fullness of the blessing we have got is that we are blessed with Him. As we were associated with the first Adam in ruin, so we are associated with the second Man in glory. There is nothing He has that He does not bring us into. This is the character of perfect love. Christ gives " not as the world giveth." The world may give generously sometimes, but it has done with what it gives; Christ gives by introducing His own into what He is enjoying Himself. Take glory: " the glory which thou gavest me I have given them." Take joy: " that my joy might remain in you." Take peace: " peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. ' Take love: " that thou hast loved them as thou hast loved me." Having become man and accomplished perfect redemption, He would not take the inheritance without His joint-heirs. He is the source and head of all the glory that is given. " What is the hope of His calling? " Not of your calling-this would not do at all. Here it has the fullest and highest character. He takes the heart up to these thoughts and counsels of God. We are called to be before God holy and without blame; we are called to be in Christ's place before God, before the Father, perfectly answering to His love. He does not pray that they may have it, but that they may know it.
As to His inheritance in the saints, if our minds took in the Jewish place compared with our own, this would be extremely simple. Whose land was Israel's? It was God's inheritance; and those in whom He inherited it were Israel. We are not an inheritance, but we are heirs of God. We have nothing below what God would have in His mind here.
Observe the prayer is, " that the eyes of your understanding may be enlightened." We must not think that we ought not to know these things. The New Testament carefully tells us that we have them laid open to us expressly. " But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit." " Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him "such was the state of the Jews; but it is not our state. These things are not only given to us, but we are given to understand them; we are not in the condition of the Old Testament at all. In 1 Cor. 2 we have the three steps; revelation by the Holy Ghost; communication of the word given by the Holy Ghost; and the reception of the word by the Holy Ghost.
Take the account of the heavenly city in the Apocalypse-it means something. All those images are characteristic in Scripture; I quite admit they are only figures, but they convey thoughts. The more we live in the mind of God, the more intelligent we are. The same things I see through a glass darkly, I shall see more clearly, but not differently. Thus the " white stone " is a symbol full of power. We have common joys, but there is the immediate approbation of Christ to the individual. " Gold " is always the sign of divine righteousness in itself. In the laver the priests were to wash and be clean; but with the sea of glass like crystal I walk upon purity. So " fire " is judgment, as " a sea of glass mingled with fire "; it is perfect purity as the result of judgment. " The street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass." Instead of walking through the dirt of this world, I am to walk in holiness and righteousness according to God. In the Apocalypse we do not go beyond the idea of God in government.
Now we come to the power that brings us into these things. " According to the working of his mighty power which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead." What an immense truth there is in connection with this! The Messiah was not merely the promised Son of David, but the One in whom all God's counsels would be accomplished. He went down below all things, and then goes far above all heavens. This dead Man is raised above all principality and power. He had gone down into the place of death, and men are consequently looked at as dead in sins, not as living in them.
It is well to note here that to look at the sinner as alive in sins, or as dead in them, is just the same state, but a different aspect of it. In Romans man is seen alive in sins, and Christ meeting that state. There is nothing of justification in Ephesians, not a single stir of life there; we were dead in the sins, and Christ died for the sins. God comes in and takes us all up together, looked at as in the mind and counsels of God. God quickens us together with Him. Christ comes down to this place of death, having cleansed our sins on the road, and God raises Him. Man is looked at consequently as united to Christ. This you do not find in the other epistles. The same power has wrought in every individual who believes in Christ that wrought in Him. Christ had gone into death for us, entering into the whole thing in grace and finding us where we were, and, He having wrought the work that entitles Him to take us out of it, we are raised with Him, seated together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. This is your place; He does not ask you what you think about it! There is no person who has the Spirit of Christ without this as his place. We are waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body, but one must be either in Christ or out of Christ. There are never two places for the Christian.
All things are to be put under Christ's feet as Man, for God " gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body "-a short sentence, but the whole mystery is in it. It is a quotation of Psa. 8, " all things are put under his feet." In Psa. 2 He is seen as Son of David, King of Zion, Son of God. Nathanael refers to this psalm; and Jesus says to him, " Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of man." He is rejected, and then comes out Psa. 8 Now He is crowned with glory and honor, but we do not see all things put under His feet yet. He is now sitting on the Father's throne. " To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne." " Sit thou on my right hand," says Jehovah, " till I make thine enemies thy footstool." The day of grace is before that " till." There is our comfort and blessing, that He has finished the work for His friends. " By one offering he hath perfected forever them which are sanctified." We stand therefore between the work which He perfected at His first coming, and His second coming. We are not, like the Jews, waiting to see that His offering is accepted, because the Holy Ghost is come out meanwhile and seals those who believe in Christ. I know the acceptance; I know that He is our forerunner. Then He deals with His enemies. When thus set over all things, the Son Himself will be subject to Him who put all things under Him-a most blessed truth for us. He will reign while He brings all into absolute order for God; when this has been done, He will take His place as Man and never give it up. He is the first-born among many brethren. Over everything He created, He is set as Man: but a head without a body would not be complete. The supplement is wanting; the church is His body.
No one ever mentions the church but Paul. Others may speak of a local church; and Christ said, " On this rock I will build my church "; but I am not speaking of this either. If the church had been revealed before the cross, you must make every Jew who was in it break the law. The essence of the church is that all are one, Jew and Gentile.
The prayer in chapter 3 is addressed to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. There the apostle does not ask that they may know all these thoughts and counsels of God, but that Christ may dwell in their hearts. He is not now looking at them objectively, but at Christ in them. He desires that they should have Christ actually, consciously, by faith dwelling in their hearts, settled in the perfectness of divine love, that they may be able to comprehend the breadth and length and depth and height-he does not say of what-while putting Christ in the center of all that glory. If I look at the breadth and length and depth and height, it is dazzling. If I found my closest friend the center of the Queen's court, I should be at home there at once. Is it that I have lost anything by this, that it is the humble lowly One who is dwelling in my heart? Not a bit.
Thus, if in chapter I we have exterior power bringing up Christ, or ourselves by grace, into a position of glory at God's right hand, in chapter 3 we find divine power in us as in the position, and we sought to be strengthened and filled accordingly, in order to realize what it and God Himself is in the fullness of it. It is not God dealing with man, but Christ's relation as Son and dwelling in us by faith-He, the center and divinely entitled light of the fullness and display, dwelling in us to give competency to enter into all the scene. Rooted and grounded in love we are at the center thus in its moral or rather divine springs, and so embrace all that partake of the divine nature, because it is the action of that nature. Thus we look out into the wide extended scene of glory, whose limit none can tell; yet still this is a display, not a source, a scene, not Himself. In love we are at the source of all. We know the love of Christ that passes knowledge. What I know it in has made it wholly and peculiarly mine, yes, mine as being nothing in it. Christ is divine, infinite in nature. It is so proved in the way it adapts itself to all my wants and weakness, known in adapting itself to them, yet known in itself. As Christ's love it is for man, is manifested in man, and adapts itself to man; yet therein as divine it passes knowledge and brings man, as spiritual (he can feel, think, and apprehend as man), into the enjoyment of the scene, in which God is displayed, and to God Himself according to His own fullness, and this filled with love as in the center of it consciously. It is we, not brought into a scene by power, but filled up to the measure of the fullness of God, Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith. Thus love is the spring of power in us, so that we estimate the scene of that fullness according to the title, character, and nature of God in it, He Himself being the ultimate blessedness of which we are conscious. What makes us familiar there is, that that which is in us, and which is the central light of all, is One we know, who dwells in us by faith, the nearest and most confided in of all, yet the fullness of Deity is in Him. Compare Rev. 21:23.
God " is able to do exceeding abundantly according to the power that worketh in us." This is what we are to look for now: has your heart got hold of this? There is a power that works in us, and He can do exceeding abundantly above all we ask and think according to it. How little faith there is in the power of God!
I believe everything is in ruin or confusion; but there is no ruin or confusion in the power of Christ. I never can think of a power of evil that is not below His power.

Not of the World: Ephesians 1

Eph. 1
WE get here the whole scope of God's thoughts and purposes. The Epistle to the Ephesians takes in two things: the presence and power of the Holy Ghost on earth, and the condition that we are in as the result of it; and what this is founded on, the exaltation of Christ at God's right hand. Ephesians does not speak of the coming of the Lord, because the way our glory is brought about is not its subject, but the present blessing of the saints. There is a distinct part at the end where our conflict with Satan comes in, but the general scope is what I have said: the basis, the exaltation of Christ; then purpose, what is in God's mind; and then the knowledge of it, by the Holy Ghost come down. " He raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand "; this was needed for us to know our place and the most important consequences flowing from it down here. The presence of the Holy Ghost who has come down from heaven, the seal of our being heirs, and the earnest of the inheritance, is our present condition, based upon Christ raised to the right hand of God. A Man is sitting at the right hand of God: a wonderful truth for us. His " delights are with the sons of men." Being a Man, and having died and therein perfectly glorified God, God has raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand; and thereupon the Holy Ghost is come down here, so that we are associated with Him and the things that are on high, in heart and mind, though not yet there as to our bodies. This is where the heart has to be; our conversation is in heaven, for the Lord is there, not here; He is coming to make our bodies like unto His glorious body, but at present we have the Holy Ghost associating us with the place where He is.
God has " blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." That is God's mind. We are not yet there in fact, but it is the thought of God about us, and we ought to have it always before us. Blessings of the Jews in earthly places under Christ will be fulfilled in time, but for us it is " spiritual blessings," and " in heavenly places," and " in Christ " Himself; and our present connection with it all comes through the Holy Ghost.
We next get, in verses 4 and 5, two aspects of these spiritual blessings: they are brought before us in connection with the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. That is, Christ is looked at as Son and looked at as Man. The Father owned Him in manhood as the Son in Matt. 3, " This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." God is called the God of our Lord Jesus Christ as Man; He is called His Father as Son.
This is the great basis of the wonderful place in which we are. It is man that God has in His mind put in this place of glory in His own Son. And this is not without its consequences, and those of the very highest nature.
God's choosing us before the foundation of the world is not what affirms in the time of choosing the sovereignty of grace, for, supposing for a moment that God were to choose us now, it would be just as sovereign an act as doing it then. The practical truth brought out in His choosing us before the foundation of the world is, that it proves that we have nothing whatever to do with the world; before its very foundation we were chosen; we have nothing to do with it but to get through it. God would bring us into this blessedness with Himself which has nothing to do with the world. We have just to go through it " unspotted "; that is all we have to do with it. Our living place was settled with God before ever it existed. God had this thought to have a people in Christ, " holy and without blame before him in love." This is what God Himself is. He thus brings us to be according to His own nature-" holy and without blame " before Himself. We have an infinite object before whom we are, and having the divine nature we can enjoy that object. We are not taken out of the world yet, nor are meant to be; but we are to pass through it as Christ did. If one look at it in another point of view, it is just what Christ was Himself, and that before God. This is the thought of God.
Then (v. 5) I get the Father. He might have had servants like the angels, but this was not His thought: " He predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself." He insists on that, it is the blessed part of it-that it is before God, and to Himself as Father. If it be a relationship, it is to Himself.
Thus we have the nature, " holy and without blame." It does not say there " according to the good pleasure of his will," for God could not have beings in His presence in a sinful state. But when it is relationship, it is "according to the good pleasure of his will ": He chooses to have us as sons. I get love, the nature of God-" in love "-and love of predilection too. The place we get into is one that is according to the good pleasure of His will, and He brings us according to His own nature before Himself; there is not a cloud because He has " made us accepted in the beloved "-Christ assuredly; but He gives that name to Him to mark the full character of the blessedness, and thus brings us into His own presence.
This is the purpose; it does not say here how much of it is accomplished: it will not be fully until we are in the glory. Only in the end of the chapter we get what is accomplished in fact, as the groundwork of all our present enjoyment of it in spirit. God takes Christ out of death and sets Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places. This is an accomplished thing; it is " wrought in Christ ": Christ as Man is in the glory of God.
And then we get the third thing: the Holy Ghost has come down meanwhile. Before the purpose is accomplished, but when the work in Christ is accomplished, the Holy Ghost comes down, the seal with which God has sealed those here who have part in His purpose, and the earnest of their inheritance. We are then competent to see God's plans about Christ Himself, His purpose " to gather together in one all things in him, both which are In heaven and which are on earth." Then it is glory.
The first verses were our calling; now it is our inheritance. And this inheritance is " after the counsel of his own will." It is sovereign grace to poor sinners that brings us into this place. It will not be accomplished until He come; it is in Him we have obtained it, being " predestinated according to his purpose." That which is believed in order to our being sealed is " the gospel of our salvation." John the Baptist was the forerunner of Him who was to accomplish it; but now we have the glad tidings of it consequent on the actual exaltation of Christ, and the seal of the Holy Ghost as the earnest of what is to come.
This is where we are whilst still in the world which is no part of the purpose of God, but in which, passing through discipline, we learn the difference between flesh and spirit; it is His ways, but not part of His purpose. The Holy Ghost comes down from heaven, gives us to know Christ, reveals to us our inheritance, bears witness to us that we are " heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ." He makes us know where we are; that we belong to heaven and not to this earth at all. As we read in Proverbs: " In the beginning of his way, before his works of old, from the beginning or ever the earth was, then I was by him, as one brought up with him, and my delights were with the sons of men," so Christ became Man, and is gone into glory as our forerunner.
I desire that our hearts may feel that in God's thoughts and purposes He has given us a place that is not of the world at all, and that all our business in this world is to keep ourselves unspotted from it. I do not belong to this world; before the foundation of it I was chosen. It is not thus simply the sovereignty that does what it pleases, but that we, as Christians, do not belong to earth at all. Epistle of Christ is what we are; we may not live up to it, but it is what we are called to: to manifest the second Man in the midst of the world that has rejected Him.

Elect of God, Holy and Beloved: Ephesians 1:4-14

GOD has purposed in Himself to have before Himself that which shall reflect His own blessedness-He taking pleasure in us, and we taking pleasure in Him; as it is said here, " that we should be holy, and without blame before Him in love." He will have His people of the same nature as Himself, gathered around Himself, happy here, and for Himself. His thought is not merely that we should have an inheritance; as we read of " the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints." He " hath chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love; having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved."
And this is just the character of this Epistle; the apostle, in speaking of redemption, does so, not so much as of something needed by us, in order to appear before God, as of these purposes of God concerning us. We may look at God as a Judge; but, more than this, God is working for the display of the riches of the glory of His grace.
This lifts up the soul. God has thoughts and intentions about us. As in the case of a young man, whom, a person has (in ordinary language) " taken up," and is about to provide for, it is not a question of what the one was, but of the thoughts and intentions of the other-of what, in a word, he is, and will do, for the young man; so, though in a much more blessed sense, has God " taken up " poor sinners, that He might act towards them worthily of Himself, to the praise of the glory of His grace. The other thing remains true: God is a Judge, and " we have redemption, forgiveness of sins, through his blood " (Christ's); and we must understand this before we can enjoy our privileges in Christ.
God has " taken us up." Our very existence in the new creation, is the fruit of His purpose and thoughts about us. This has a double bearing. It shows how we are to measure what God is doing for us, as a question of God's purpose; and, besides being this measure, it makes us understand the source of it all. And this has a most happy effect: instead of looking at ourselves, and judging from ourselves, we look at God. Nothing but life-giving power could ever have wrought this. Our thoughts about God are, that He is the source of all our blessing. As the young man, before alluded to, would have pleasure in thinking about the friend who had " taken him up," so this thought about God is a happy thought, and, moreover, one of great sanctifying power.
God has " predestinated us unto the adoption of children." It is not here, simply, a question of purpose (of God's counsel, and, therefore, sure): that to which He has predestinated us, is the present adoption of children. A poor sinner, a sinner of the Gentiles, having no title whatever to blessing, I trace all my title to God's purpose, which He has purposed in Himself. This is true also of the Jews, though, in a certain sense, they stood on different ground; Christ was " a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers "; but of the Gentiles it is said, " and that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy." It is of grace, of God's free thought about us. He has taken pleasure in us, as Joshua said to Israel: " If the Lord delight in us, then He will bring us into this land, and give it unto us, a land which floweth with milk and honey." We cannot boast in anything; for we have not anything whatever wherein to boast, except in this, that God has taken delight in us to give us the adoption. The effect is most blessed; we know Himself-" after ye have known God, or rather are known of God." What He has predestinated us unto, is not a distant thing, nor yet merely salvation (in the sense of escape from the wrath of God); it is the nearest place He could have put us into, not as with the Jews, " I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn ": we are adopted with the " adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved." Here we get not only the source but the manner-the source, God's love; the manner, in Christ.
" The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us "-the Word that was in the beginning with God, and was God. But the light shone in darkness and the darkness comprehended it not. It is not said that there was want of power, but that men's deeds were evil, and that, therefore, they would not come unto the light. A Christian who is walking carelessly does not like a godly Christian to come into contact with him, he feels condemned; whenever the heart is not with God, light makes it uneasy. But besides being light, " In him was life," and that is what we needed; while He shows us our evil, He is the good we need. Predestinated unto the adoption of children, it is in Him. Called according to God's purpose, we are to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Of His fullness, have all we received, and grace for grace. We are brought into the presence of God in Jesus Christ. Therefore, when Jesus goes away, He says, " I ascend unto my Father, and your Father, unto my God and your God." He has Himself met all our responsibility, otherwise the light would have been terrible. There are two things, substitution, and communication of life. In substitution, He stood alone. But guilt being taken away, we quickened together with Him, He presents us in the Father's presence, as He is.
" In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." But not merely has the Son of God visited us when we were in our sins, nor merely, either, been delivered for our offenses. " Herein is our love [love with us] made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world." We have no life except in Christ; we have no acceptance apart from Christ. He has made us accepted in the Beloved-the measure is just that. It is God's delight to bring us, in Christ, and by Christ, into His own presence. We can go no farther; " truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ," writes John. We may enjoy it more and more, we may delight in it in deepened measure, but we cannot have anything beyond. When God speaks of glorifying Himself, or of our glorifying Him, it means through the display of what He is; it is God's glory to display Himself; therefore, in this, which is to the glory of His grace, we have the display of Himself.
And do not let us suppose that this goes beyond what we may think about (a very natural thought): the apostle says further on, " For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man: that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith: being rooted and grounded in love, that ye may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God," chap. 3: 14-19. It is not a matter of human wisdom, learning, or attainment; in proportion as we become simple as little children, we shall understand these things, through the Holy Ghost. " God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise." It has nothing to do with human learning, except to set it aside; lowliness of mind is what is needed.
" The good pleasure of his will " is not, simply, sovereignty- it is the good pleasure of His will. God is acting in His love, displaying the will of His grace, " taking up " poor, wretched, vile sinners, and unfolding on these objects of His mercy, all the riches of His own goodness. The " good pleasure of his will," that which God takes delight in, is the ministering of the fullness of His blessing to us. Here the soul gets established. It is quite evident, that the measure of His goodness cannot be, in any sense, the measure of what we are, as deserving at His hands; while it is His good pleasure, it is the good pleasure of His grace. And further, whilst I have need, for the establishment of my soul, to learn what He is, to be delighting in the goodness of God, it is this too which sanctifies. If I could be always thinking of what He is, I should be perfectly happy, and there would be the reflection in me of that with which my soul was occupied.
We begin, often, at the wrong end. On what are we resting our acceptance? It is not anything in ourselves that will do. Or, it is a question of sanctification? " beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord " (that is, I look at the Lord, and, as a consequence of my looking at the Lord, I reveal to men what He is). Moses, on coming down from the mount, was not inquiring whether his face shone, in order to know if he had been with God; others saw this.
It is such a comfort, to get to God and feel, that it is in Him, and from Him.
Where, naturally, would our souls rest? It is quite a natural feeling, if we have been convinced of sin, that we should want to get at peace to know there is nothing against us, but the apostle here, is looking at those whom God has " taken up," and He has " made us accepted in the Beloved." That is God's thought about us; He has shown us this grace in a particular way, and in a particular person-Christ. It is not merely a negative thing; He takes as positive delight in us, as He does in Jesus. He is no double-measure God.
" Put on as the elect of God," Paul writes to the Colossians, " holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness," etc., saints, and beloved ones of God, objects of God's love, God's delight (the measure of which is Christ), thus He addresses them. If I am beloved of a person, this draws out love. So the consciousness of God's love, God's delight produces links in affection, that exist not without it. My thought of being accepted is not merely, that my sins are put away, so that I could stand before Him-I am the object of His delight; holy affections are drawn out, and I pass through the world as a beloved one of God. We cannot suppose, in Christ's going through this world (and this shows us our deficiency as Christians), one single thing of it, that acts on our hearts, acting on His; He was the beloved One of God-" This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased," and He was going through the world as such. Thus, too, should the Christian walk through the world with the consciousness of being beloved of God; with this, we do not want the world- without it, we are obliged to turn to something that makes self the center.
Young or old, that is what we are-beloved of God. Perhaps, you will say, " Ah, but I am very proud, very worldly, I do not give up the things of the world." Very likely not, and that is a reason for your being reminded of this, that you may.
" In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace." This is the leading thought in the apostle's mind. And remark, he speaks of that which is positively possessed, not of something we are hoping for, or expecting; He " hath made us accepted in the Beloved," we " have redemption through his blood," etc. This grace of God, this " good pleasure of his will" has planted and set us in it all. We may be practically destitute of the joy of these things, but that is where we are. And He has given to those whom He has set in this place, the knowledge of His purpose as to the glory of Christ, as it goes on to say, " wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence "; the apostle explains it, " having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure, which he hath purposed in himself "; here again it comes from the good pleasure of His will, " that in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one, all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth." Having placed the saints in all this fellowship and blessing, He imparts (as with Abraham-" Shall I hide from Abraham the thing that I am about to do? ") unto them His thoughts. Not only has He accepted us in Christ, but He will have everything brought under Christ's dominion and power. He is to gather together in one, all things in Christ-" even in him, in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: that we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory." We are joint-heirs with Christ. Hence the prayer at the end of the chapter.
We cannot deny, we do not deny (whatever man's efforts to make the best of the world), that sin is in the world; there is not a single thing (take dress for instance) that does not tell us that. There is not a single thing we are buying or selling, a single thing we are looking upon, that is not, in some sort, a proof of sin. All that man does for pleasure, is necessitated by sin; Adam in Paradise had no need of it. What makes the world get on without God? The principle of sin; this is running through everything, it has got, so to speak, into the vital blood, and (though it be God's creation through which it runs) it runs through everything. Man builds his city, invents his instruments of music (Gen. 4), and strives to make the world happy without God. Introduce God, and His amazing work, where men are occupied with gain or with pleasure, it is all wrong and out of place. Whether for pleasure, or for gain, God must be excluded. That is the character of the whole world, and to tack on the name of Christ does not mend it; an avaricious Christian (nominally such) is in nothing better than an avaricious heathen. God is lingering over it, but the existence of the gospel in the world is proof that the world is lost. " We know," says John, " that the whole world lieth in the wicked one "; and again, " All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world." As it is, as a plain matter of fact, it is not God's inheritance. Who is called its god? Satan. God's title cast away, through the lust of men, and the pride and power of Satan, whom they follow, God has designated Satan " the god of this world," and made known to us (those who are of faith) the mystery of His will. The apostle speaks here of hope (v. 18). We have obtained an inheritance in Christ, and all things are going to be put under Christ; meanwhile (like Abraham, who had not so much as whereon to set his foot) " having nothing and yet possessing all things," the Christian walks through the world, as one beloved of God, in the consciousness that he is the object of God's purposes, and of God's delight. But what do we see in the Lord Jesus? Not merely that He has been designated the heir of all things; " the Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand." So too our proper delight is in knowing that we are beloved of God, and that God will have us before Himself, and for Himself-His delight in us, and our delight in Him. It is as a consequence of this love, that we shall have the glory of the inheritance. Where are our hearts? what is our joy? are we journeying, aye journeying, through the world in the blessed, joyful confidence of this secret of God? Then will the world be to us a " dry and thirsty land "; instead of finding delight in things around, we shall have to guard against them as against that which would bring us down to Satan's ground. Are we taking the world, with its pleasures and its gain? If so, we are entering into Cain's portion, and not into that of Abel or Abraham: we are " enemies of the cross of Christ." Through these things Satan is deceiving the world. Are we taking the position (not of Adam before he sinned, not of Christ when He was in the world, neither of Christ in the glory, but) of the " men of the earth? "
The Lord give us to see, and so to estimate that which is God's object, that we may have done with this present evil world.

Ephesians 1:9

WHAT has all failed in the first Adam will all be accomplished in the last Adam, and much more, gloriously fulfilled. In Eph. 1 there are two things as the portion of the church: one is not entirely fulfilled, and the other we have nothing of yet, the calling of God, and God's inheritance. The calling we get in Eph. 1:4, 5. The first part of the calling is what is before God (v. 4), to be holy and without blame, etc. The second part of the calling is in connection with the Father (v. 5) as children. He has not only put us in a certain place, but has made known to us the mystery of His will, that is all His plan for Christ's glory, which is to gather together in one all things in Him. And the moment that comes I get the inheritance-not the calling only, but the inheritance. Of this we have nothing now but the earnest of the Spirit. We have the calling. Colossians presents the same general truth, but more developed as to Christ.
In Col. 1:15-18 I get the two headships of Christ- Head over all things, and Head of the body. He takes as Man what He created as God; and, besides, He takes other men as fellow-heirs with Him. Thus we see in verse 21, that us who not only were in confusion and disorder, but were positively enemies, He reconciles. This consciousness has been lost by the professing church-that we are reconciled. The state of things is not reconciled; but we are reconciled. The inheritance we cannot have, till the true Heir take it. Christ is not sitting on His own throne now, but on His Father's throne. When He sits down on His own throne, He will have us there with Him. He sits on His Father's throne by His title of Son. " To him that overcometh will I give to sit down with me on my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father on his throne." Our present condition is to know that Christ is exalted, and we reconciled. But He has not taken the inheritance, nor, of course, have we. Our place before God is His calling-everything that is created will be our inheritance.
In Psa. 2 you have the counsels of God about Christ, to set Him on Zion as king. Adonai shall have them in derision -not Jehovah as such. These two points, Christ set as king on the holy hill of Zion, and owned to be the Son of God, you find in Psa. 2 In Psa. 8, you do not get Him as Son of God, but as Son of man, put over everything that God has created-that He has created, for He is God. In John 1:49 you hear the Lord applying these two things. There Nathaniel owns Him as King of Israel, according to Psa. 2 and He says as it were, " That is over: I am not going to be King of Israel now." But you shall see greater things, the Son of man according to Psa. 8, with every creature subject. The place the church gets is to be joint-heirs. We take the place of suffering now. We only see half of Psa. 8 fulfilled yet. We see Him at the right hand of God, but not with all things put under Him. He is gathering now the joint-heirs. Nothing is yet fulfilled. For the redemption of the purchased possession He must come again.
Yet in Him we have redemption. There is no such thing recognized in Scripture, as a Christian doubting he is saved. And it is all a totally false pretension of humility. If my Father forgives me, and I doubt His forgiveness, I am not trusting Him. It is doubting God's word, or not receiving the truths He gives us: we have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear. Let a man fear temptation-doubt his own heart, that is another thing; but not doubt God, or dread God. There is no such thing in scripture as a Christian without the Spirit of adoption, crying " Abba, Father." There is no such thing after Christ's death recognized in Scripture as a Christian not knowing he is saved. The thief on the cross was as fit to go to heaven as Paul, and he went there; and none went not fit. I know that there is growth, of course; but there is no meetness or fitness for heaven, except the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not Christianity to doubt, though many a real honest Christian does doubt. It is Christianity to know we are reconciled. If you have not peace, you have not got what Christ left for you. He says,
Come unto me, and I will give you rest." If you have not rest, am I to say either you have not come? or Christ does not speak truth? It may be bad teaching. Many a one will cry " Abba, Father," most heartily in his prayers, who would not own, if you asked him, that he was a child of God. Of course, he has the Spirit of adoption, though he does not know it. It is just selfishness that makes him doubt. In Rom. 7, what is it he is talking about? Just self-not Christ at all. Is that humility? not a word about Christ and the Spirit! and I am told that is a Christian. There is nearly forty times " I " and " me," and not once Christ and the Spirit, just the law and me; and poor things those are to bring together! Very useful for plowing up, bringing down to self-knowledge. Then he sees there is no good in himself, and he gets set free, and it is all at an end. Rom. 7 is just a quickened man, without the knowledge of redemption.
In 2 Cor. 5:18 we are reconciled, but the state of things is not reconciled. After that we have the Spirit of God taking up our infirmities, and sympathizing with us, as we are-taking up our groans.
When the Lord Jesus comes, the first thing He does is to take us up to Himself. He cannot take His inheritance till He get His joint-heirs. The object of Christ's love is to take us into the enjoyment of all that He enjoys Himself. Is He a son? I am a son. Is it life? He is my life. Is it peace? He says, My peace I leave with you. Is it love? As Thou hast loved Me I have loved them. There is nothing He has not taken us into. Of course, I do not mean His incommunicable Godhead. But He takes us into the same place with Himself, and over everything. When He comes again, then, and then only, we get the full fruit, when " he shall see the travail of his soul and shall be satisfied."
Psa. 22 As soon as He is heard from the horns of the unicorns, He says, " I will declare thy name unto my brethren." So in John 20. " I ascend to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God." He is alone in the work of atonement, but as soon as that is accomplished, He says, Now I am going to have others with Me. " In the midst of the church I will sing praise to thee." When all the joint-heirs are gathered, then He comes and takes them all; and after that He begins to take the inheritance. The wilderness is the the place in which we are tested and tried, not for fighting. When we get into heavenly places to possess spiritual privileges, then we must fight Satan. Supposing I can say I am of the Lord's host, I am dead, I have crossed Jordan-not merely redeemed or simply crossed the Red Sea; but if I am dead, crossed Jordan, and become one of the Lord's host, then I need all His armor to fight His enemies; and if I get a wedge of gold, or a Babylonish garment, it will be detected by my want of power, by my being conquered in the fight.
When Christ takes us up there to be with Him, He puts Satan out. We shall be taken up to God and His throne (not the Father's throne, that is the prerogative of Christ), then Satan is cast down. He will be in this world, then, in great rage, knowing his time is short; but we shall be above it all. Satan will never get up there again. When, those years being over, the Lord comes with us (when He appears, we appear with Him), then Satan is put in the bottomless pit, and the kingdom is fulfilled. Satan then is not merely turned out of heaven, but out of earth too. Before judgment begins to be executed, we are in glory in Christ. He that believeth shall not come into judgment, John 5:24. There are two things in the chapter showing Christ's power: first, He quickeneth whom He will, this is, life-giving power; then judicial power, by which the wicked are obliged to own His power in spite of themselves. Christ will not have to make good His power in judgment where He has made it good in life. We are passed from death unto life. There is the resurrection of judgment in John 5. We are raised in glory when He changes our vile bodies, and fashions them like His glorious body. We shall ALL be conformed to the image of God's Son.
But there is another privilege we have now by grace, that of being workers together with Him. So when that time comes, as regards the blessing of Christ I shall have that as much as Paul, but as regards the activity of love and its results, Paul will have fifty thousand times more than I. For instance, Paul will have the Thessalonians for his crown, and I shall not. There comes in every man's little bit of service-in that you will have yours, and I mine. When He appears with us, then He sets up His kingdom. For Christ has a three-fold title. He created everything-that gives Him a title. He is the Son, and consequently the Heir; and He is the Man to whom God has determined to give everything- the title of redemption.
If I look for the worst power of Satan now, I must look for it in the so-called church. The responsible church has totally failed. In 1 Cor. 3 you get three cases: first, a wise master builder, who did his work well; then you get persons who build badly, but who are saved themselves, building with rubbish, as wood, hay, stubble; and lastly, if a man corrupt the church of God, him will God destroy. Think of men bringing in Gnosticism. I will not refer to modern times. This is not merely building badly (all do so) but it is antagonism to the church of God and even to Christ.
Not one of the fathers, so-called, saving Irenaeus, held the full deity of Christ, or held redemption as Irenaeus did, who was a saint. They were affected with Platonic philosophy, which brought out Arianism after. Justin Martyr positively declares that the supreme God could not become a man-that it was a certain inferior Logos who did. People say we must have what was at the beginning. Knowing of nothing more primitive than Peter and Paul, I will therefore have what was at the beginning; but I will not have what was one hundred and forty years after the beginning. Justin Martyr was about so long after.
In the four first of the seven churches we see the history of what is called the Apostolic succession; in the three last, the history of Protestantism. There are three things in the Revelation: " Things thou hast seen," that is, the glory of Christ; " things that are," that is, the seven churches; " things which shall be hereafter," when we are caught up into heaven, and the final judgment of God sets in. In the first four churches, is given the complete history of the church to the end, closing in popery. There are two ways God uses to judge the existing thing by. He contrasts our condition with what He set up at first, and with the readiness to meet the Lord when He comes. The previous churches were referred back to what had been. Thyatira is referred on to His coming; and hence His coming is here first mentioned.
In the last three churches the Lord's coming is already named, and is kept before them till Laodicea, which is spued out. First, we have the Protestant warning, " a name to live and are dead." To Sardis He threatens what in Thessalonians is spoken of as only belonging to the world, His coming as a thief, that is, I will treat you just like the world. Philadelphia is a solemn word to us. It is the character of Christ which we are to suit ourselves to-" He that is holy, he that is true." After Thyatira we never get a reference to what he had seen walking among the golden candlesticks. There is no ecclesiastical position after that. What marks the thing the Lord owns now is, the absence of infidelity, or of ecclesiastical pretension: Christ's word against all such pretensions, and Christ's name against all infidelity. " Kept my word, and not denied my name ": the promise to these is complete identification with Himself-" a pillar in the temple of my God-the name of my God-the city of my God-my new name." To those who keep the word of His patience He says not now, " I will come to you as a thief, and ye shall not know when I come," but, " Ye have had patience: have a little more, I will soon be with you." Those who had a little strength are made pillars in the temple of His God.
We never get the direct work of God in the seven churches, because God cannot judge His own work. He walks through and sees how this thing has turned out and how that has; but you never get a direct intervention of God all through. Isaiah's prophecy, " the heart of this people is waxed fat," etc., was spoken nearly eight hundred years before the judgment was executed in nearly the last piece of New Testament history. Paul says in Acts 28, " Well did Isaiah say, the heart of this people is waxed fat "; " be it known unto you that the salvation of God is sent to the Gentiles," etc. It is more than eighteen hundred years since it was said of the church, judgment must begin at the house of God; and for all this time God has borne with it, but assuredly the judgment of the church will come.

The Power That Works in Us: Ephesians 3:16-21

THE subject of prayer here is that there might be an inward power put forth by the Holy Ghost. Paul's heart was desiring to see these saints in a deepening enjoyment of Christ, and this by an operation of the Spirit unlimited in its measure.
They had the inner man. the divine nature communicated to them. God had looked upon them in His great love, not only quickened them, but given them out of His fullness. They were in a family every member of which is purged from sin. " I write unto you, children, because your sins are forgiven you." The incorruptible seed is not the word of God, but that which is communicated by the word of God. The Christian is thus put into a position in which the creature does not stand. The first Adam was innocent but corruptible. The Second man was pure and incorruptible. The believer now (in spite of that which is corruptible in him) has received this incorruptible seed, and that by the word of God. This they had: yet the heart of the apostle was not satisfied, but must go forth with energy that God the Holy Ghost might act in them according to their individual need, and that " according to the riches of his glory," not only eventually to be enjoyed, but a spring of power now to be given, and that without measure. It is the same Spirit to quicken and to strengthen now as will fill the whole bride. Paul put no limit short of this.
" That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith " (v. 17). This is not having happy feelings, or suavity of character, etc. It is one thing to be safe in the ark on the Ararat of God, and another thing for Christ to dwell in the heart by faith. Oh what a quantity of care goes out when Christ is there! If Christ is the master of the house, and dwelling in it, He does not let the dust and cobwebs accumulate, but He fills it altogether: and should a sudden start come to the heart, there will be found not fear, but Christ.
Some people make love among believers into a commandment. This is not the secret. If Christ is master of heart and conscience, He will teach brotherly love, and then will be comprehended " with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height," v. 18. See the connection of understanding with being rooted, etc., here and in Col. 2:2. I shall not understand, save as divine (not human) affections are in exercise. Breadth, etc., of what? Soon after Christianity was launched, philosophy came in with progression. Paul knew no length, breadth, etc., save what was in Christ; Satan knows many, but they are only his depths and can be detected.
Next, we are set in the fullness of God. Thus we have had first the inward strengthening by the Spirit; next, this is shown by Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith, rooted and grounded in love, that they might comprehend with all saints what is the length, and breadth, and depth, and height; thirdly, by this they might be filled with all the fullness of God; and fourthly, this is described as the power that works " in us." This fullness of God calls for something back. All that God gives Christ is yours: then I must praise Him. Can I be silent? Why not lift your voice to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all you ask or think? We cannot expect too much.
Observe the distinct superscriptions of the prayers. The first is to God the Father of glory, the second is to the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. The glory of Christ as the servant of God and the glory of the only begotten of the Father are quite separate. It is very different for Christ to say, " My Father and your Father," and " My God and your God." When Christ took the servant's place, God was the Father of glory to Him.
Christ's sympathy flows out according to need down here. We have His sympathies. If we knew more of Christ's sympathies, the children of God might have more for one another. If full of sorrow yourself, go and sympathize with another, and your own will be gone.
Many a saint, if he knew what Christ's sympathy was, would wish to be left alone. Christ does not sympathize with my fleshly thoughts, but what He does is for the glory of God. He may have to break my will, and bring it to His. He will take up all the good, and He can make the face to shine; but it is of no use for us to ask for sympathy, if not set on the glory of God.
Our sympathy with Him is another thing: but He cares for us; John 16.
Let me ask (as exhortation) whether you pray for the acting of the Spirit as prayed for here. One of the reasons why the light and knowledge given connected with God and His Christ is so little entered into is connected with lack of prayer for the operation of the Spirit in this way. Christ is in heaven now. He was the center of the thoughts of the little company who followed Him in Galilee. Why should not you and I have Him practically as the center of our minds and hearts? All with them was simply done in the light and at the word of their Master. Had they boats to launch, nets to let down, all was at His word. This is a challenge to our hearts as to every-day circumstances. His presence in our hearts changes everything. It is very hard to be discontented when He is in the heart. How the thoughts of one's mind change with the company one is in! God has put us into a place where we may be sounding the unsoundable depths of the motives that have acted on Christ.

Grace and Government: Ephesians 4

As soon as our hearts have personally found Christ connected with the glory of God, there are two things which we are called to enter into and distinguish. The first is the place of grace in which we stand as the children of God; in other words, the church's or Christian's position. The second is the government of God. This last unfolds itself in various ways. There is the millennial time, when a " Prince shall reign in righteousness ": and it shall be said of the Lord, " Thou hast taken to thee thy great power." Then shall " the trees of the wood rejoice before the Lord." All this blessing will be the effect of the government of God.
In another sense God is always governing in providence now. " The hairs of your head are all numbered." But do we not see a righteous person often put into the greatest trouble? This is not the normal effect of God's government. In the millennial time there will be the proper natural results of the Lord reigning. In another sense, for us now, " the Father judgeth every man's work." He has, no doubt, committed all judgment to the Son; but yet He chastens His children; Heb. 12. Christ says, " If any man will serve me, him will my Father honor." " He that loveth me shall be loved of my Father," etc. This refers to the consequences of the child's conduct. It is the Father's government of His children; it is the Father's care watching over His children for their good, and is not like the government of the world in providence. God is dealing with the wicked now in grace.
I have said this of the children's position with the Father, that we may more undistractedly look to the Christian's position. The position of the church shows the fullness of God's grace. If I am one with Christ, there is no question of being accepted. If I am one with the Judge, I cannot look forward to the judgment with the thought of being condemned. Now it is certain that the church is the body of Christ, " the fullness of him that filleth all in all." " We are members of his body," etc. You must see the amazing bearing and import of this truth-one with Christ, to realize the privileges it brings us into. It carries us into a place unlike any other, as to acceptance, righteousness, etc. When once we have this divine teaching in our souls, all is simple. It becomes a matter of faith, and this produces a consciousness of relationship. If it is merely objective truth, it is of no value to me. I must be in it to know it and use it: and so with all these truths, you must be in them. You find the very prayers of a man betray where he is. A man cannot say " Father " in his soul, if he has not the consciousness of relationship. We cannot and ought not to have the enjoyment and feelings and affections belonging to it, if we have not it. The moment that through the teaching of God I have got into it, all is mine; not merely knowledge, but all peaceful and holy affections flow.
So with the church of God. We shall never enter into it, if not on the ground of grace. I cannot suppose too much and too great blessings when I see them flowing from God Himself. If from ourselves, what could you or I expect? I should be ashamed to think of anything I can have if I bring myself in; but if I bring Christ in, then I see nothing too much for Him.
In every possible way God had put man to the test; and now all is done with, as to myself (not as to the Father's government), and God is dealing in the way of grace.
In Scripture we have the fullest, and most detailed history of all that our hearts are, the history of Israel, etc. All was the proving of sin, but now it is the putting away of sin. Righteousness was not yet declared when God was proving man. It was not accomplished. Where was righteousness to be found before? Never, till Christ sat down on the throne of God. Innocency there had been-grace there had been, for He was spit upon, etc., but righteousness there was not. It was prophesied of, promised, but not one righteous could be found. All that the trial of man resulted in was, that weighed in the balance, he was found wanting.
See Jacob's sons, law given, and the calf made before Moses came down from the mount. See priest, prophet, king. All flesh was grass. At last God's Son came, and then they said, " Here is the heir, come let us kill him." The end of that was, " now is the judgment of this world." It is not executed yet, of course, but the consequence of this is that the righteous One has sat down above. It is all over with the world. They see Him no more, except when He comes in the glory of His power. Christ the new Man is accepted, according to His prayer " glorify thou me "-" I have glorified thee on the earth," and He was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father. There is our righteousness: all God's ways having found man a sinner, even to the putting Christ to death, the righteousness of God is now declared-it is " unto all, and upon all them that believe."
Man has come short; man is set aside, root and branch, irreclaimable: but there is another Man. Thus it is all grace from beginning to end. He is the Source of the life and Accomplisher of the righteousness, and He has taken His place on the throne of God, and that is the foundation of the church of God. So that now it is not merely the fact that a person who believes is saved, but he is one with the Head in heaven. This is the immense privilege of our position, and now is sent down that " other Comforter " to dwell in us and to abide with us forever. We are one spirit with the Lord. The Spirit unites us to Him, the Head, and we are one with another also-one body.
Here we discover the leading truth of what the church really is-" raised up together and made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ." In this epistle there is nothing said of men living in sins, as in other places; but it speaks of being " dead in trespasses and sins " before this movement in the soul by God, who comes and finds the soul dead in sins, but He quickens it together with Christ. It is the whole power and working of the grace of God. We must get at the source, the perfect grace of God, before we can see where the church is set. We must be brought to that. Flesh can have no part. " They that are in the flesh cannot please God." " We are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit." We have conflict with it indeed, but we are not in it; and now " henceforth know we no man after the flesh," etc. The place of Christ at God's right hand is our place. Workings within to the humbling of the soul must go on till we come to this; no good thing is in us" dead in trespasses and sins." Then, as of Israel, it can be said, " What hath God wrought? " Where and how am I to learn it? When I was dead, without any movement, Christ comes down. Not only is He come, but " made sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." He has come down; and now what are we to expect? According to what God is: let us not reason from what we are of ourselves. " If God is for us, who can be against us? " If God " spared not his own Son," etc. We may reason from what He has done to what He will do; and if I say, How can He save me from my sins? May I not say He must, when He has done that-given His Son, and raised Him from the dead? Set down at God's right hand is the key, as well as the ground, of the church's place. What has God done all this for? For my sins. Christ was dead; He died for my sins; but why does He go up again? He is righteous, and has taken His place in heaven. The one righteous One was rejected on earth, and the one righteous One is taken to heaven. God was not ruling in righteousness on earth, and it would have been no adequate testimony to Him, the only righteous Man, for Him to have taken the righteous rule on earth then; but He would give Him a place in heaven, far above " principalities and powers," etc.
It is an accomplished righteousness, and therefore a preached righteousness. Because He was accepted, He could send down the Holy Ghost, which we received after He went up. He had been sealed Himself as the righteous One down here; but now the Holy Ghost comes down and seals us, because we " are made the righteousness of God in him."
Two things we have in consequence of this-the Spirit of adoption in our hearts, and union with Christ. We are not only blessed by Christ, but we are raised up together with, and made to sit together in, Him in heavenly places. All this is to show we have it with Christ. Thus we are more than children of the Father, we are members of Christ. The Spirit was sent down to unite all the members in one body to the Head. If I am in the Spirit and not in the flesh (and you are in the Spirit and not in the flesh), how many Spirits are there? One. It is one Spirit in you and in me. One Holy Ghost has been sent down, uniting the members to the Head in heaven. There is not only life (that was given to Christ), but the Holy Ghost is sent down to gather together in one body. The other form of our relationship to Christ is the bride, united thus with Him in all He is and has. Is He righteous? so am I. Has He life? so have I. I cannot think of having any life, any righteousness, any glory, but what Christ has. What a place this gives us! We were dead, but now are put into the same place with Christ. " As he is, so are we in this world." This gives boldness in the day of judgment. In the earthen vessel surely we are, but " as he is, so are we "-" bone of my bone." There is an allusion in Eph. 5 to Gen. 2 -We have entire association with Christ; not only as a man cherishes his own flesh does Christ care for us.
Eve was not lord in the garden of Eden, but Adam was. She was not the inheritance. What was she then? A helpmeet, dependent on him, taken out of him, enjoying what her husband had as her portion. So is the church with Christ. The title is in Him, but it is His delight to confer it on her. He has more delight in her having it than Himself. Not only then is the church safe-of course that-but who will be the Judge? Christ. How does He judge? According to the righteousness He has given me. I get before the judgment-seat by being glorified. What does the apostle say? " Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord "-does he speak of himself? No! " We persuade men." If I see the terror of the Lord, I shall persuade others to take care and not despise the gospel. The glory of that day is the means of our present manifestation before God.
How entirely different our thoughts when we see this as our portion! There, in Him, is in principle what the church is-righteousness accepted, and not that we have accepted it, but God has accepted it, and then the Holy Ghost has been sent down. The bride is not yet complete. There are souls yet to be gathered in, while His long-suffering continues. When complete we shall be no longer here. There is another aspect of the church; " Builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit." This is the earthly character (Eph. 2): and however man may have spoiled it all, it does not alter the fact on God's part. God has a dwelling in His church. In paradise on earth God did not dwell. God was in heaven and man upon earth. Adam could not say, " How amiable are thy tabernacles," etc.; but directly God works in grace, He brings man into His house.
Man is to dwell with God, God will dwell with man; Ex. 15:17; chap. 29: 45. God has given us a " promise of entering into his rest." God has a rest in grace. The fruit of grace is that He is going to bring us into this. If I can fathom God's heart, I can fathom grace. There is something in the blessed God we can never measure. Jesus is the measure. He has come down here, and He is gone into that blessed dwelling-place of God; and therefore He says, " Let not your heart be troubled. I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am," etc. There is a man gone before into the place where He will have us with Him. God cannot rest here, for He cannot rest where all is not according to His mind and heart; but there all will be according to Himself; (Ex. 29, and afterward Solomon's temple, but see Acts 7:48). God had a house till they sinned it away; but now God would have a house-the church, the habitation of God through the Spirit.
Man having been placed in responsibility and in all failed, God now brings in all the blessedness of what He has done by His own power. Is He glorified in His saints? He will be admired in all them that believe. Is the church now what it was at first, when " great grace was upon them all? " If you get half-a-dozen people together really in the Spirit, it is a triumph of grace-great occasion for thankfulness. It may indeed be said, Where is the beautiful flock? But God will have it. Down here, in its earthly character there is failure, but in the body there is no failure; it is not yet complete, for when the church is gathered, the long-suffering will be over. Therefore we know it is not all gathered; but the church at Jerusalem at the beginning was as much the habitation of God as when complete. There was no Achan in the camp then. Now " false brethren have crept in unawares " (Jude), and these are specially the objects of the judgment of God. But all this does not alter the character of the habitation of God.
Eph. 4 gives administration of grace, in the gifts bestowed for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith, the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. The apostles and prophets are the foundation, and then all that is needed is given. We may see weakness now, but there is nourishment in Christ the Head, and that cannot fail.
In 1 Cor. 12:13, is one body, not merely having life: but " we are all baptized into one body," Jew and Gentile. Then he puts the whole train of gifts for the display of power. The apostles and prophets are carefully shown in Eph. 2, 3 and 4, to be the foundation; evangelists, pastors, teachers are to continue till the body is perfect. Whatever may be withheld in a time of ruin, the Lord gives, not what would take His people out of it, but fully and perfectly what they want in it.
Now, having seen the privileges of our position, we must remember the obligation never ceases to be what Christ has set us to be-to walk in holiness. The presence of the Holy Ghost never ceases to be the Comforter who abideth forever.
The power is never absent. How is it then there is such weakness? " Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God," etc. " If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light." If my eye is not single, I cannot tell what to do or how to do it. The power is according to the will and holiness of God. The comfort is when God's thoughts supplant ours.
There is something strange in the want of confidence in divine love amongst saints-no consciousness of relationship. In the midst of failure, which one must and ought to feel, there is the Father's love. Has not God said He would go with the people, because they are a stiff-necked people?
I am in a place of relationship with God, and this nothing touches. The superstitions, etc., of men all around cannot touch us, if one has a sense of God's love. But what of the forgiveness of sins, etc.? Why, I know I had it ever so many years ago. The atonement? Why, this is the ground of it. " He that is born of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not."
Everyone now who has faith in Christ is a member of the body of Christ. Love, then, naturally flows to all.

Thoughts on Ephesians 4

THE first part of this chapter gives ecclesiastical, the second, individual godliness. In the previous chapter this connects itself with it, that we have not the counsels of God simply, but the realization and verification of these counsels in Christ dwelling in the heart by faith.
First of all we see the thought in God before the foundation of the world, but now it has been brought out. God has brought these eternal counsels into actual realization, and this leads, of course, to actual walk. God has brought out now (as soon as ever Christ had laid the foundation for it by the cross) " one body and one Spirit."
Though the vocation looks back at the counsels of God, it is brought into actuality in this world. It is a sorrow to the heart, and it ought to be a much deeper sorrow to us, comparing these thoughts of God and their realization. This is the revelation of God's thought in full blessedness, but we see how little in any sense saints have acted up to the mind of God.
This epistle first gives us the thought of God without reference to how far it has been accomplished or not, the mind of God as it is; though in chapter 3 we have the actual realization of this in the power of the Spirit of God. Then comes the question of how far this is acted out. While Paul was there in the world, a continual struggle was going on; they were Judaizing-dragging down, but the standard was never lowered. You will never find that God lowers the standard, whatever the failure. He never can lower the standard; He may have and has long patience, but He cannot take a lower standard. There are two standards of judgment: one is what God set up at the first; the other is, are they prepared for Christ's coming? There must be the going back to what He gave at the first. Malachi takes the Israelites back to Horeb: " Remember ye the law of Moses my servant which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel." Surely He will accomplish His promises, but He never lowers the standard. There may be a degree of light possessed or not possessed; He deals with this in grace: where there is light, more is given; but the standard is not lowered.
Paul unfolds the vocation, and then calls on us to walk worthy of it, in the first part of chapter 4. The necessary effect of being brought so close to God as we are is lowliness and meekness; how can it be otherwise? The greatness of the grace makes nothing of self. This is not easy. In Christ's life you see it plainly enough, in Philippians also. Then the effect of lowliness and meekness is to manifest the unity of the Spirit. " With lowliness and meekness," that is what we ought to be: then the effect to others will be longsuffering; others may not be lowly and meek. Practically this brings God in and self is gone. The power of love walking with God brings in longsuffering to others. " Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." As servants of Christ, and self being gone, we are looking at others. " Yea, and if I be offered [poured as a libation] upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you all."
The mere fact of their being Jews and Gentiles in the church, and the constant tendency among the Jews to think little of the Gentiles, made this needed, " endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit," not the unity of the body-God keeps that. Then it comes to be jealousy for Christ's glory. What comes from the Spirit is always one; why are we not all agreed? Because our own minds work; if we had only what we have learned from the Scripture, we should be all the same. The body is one that cannot be kept by our endeavors. All this is the practical realization of what is in the purpose of God. If a man has the Spirit of Christ, he is a member of Christ. Jesus was the Christ on earth, but He was a Christ rejected: " Messiah shall be cut off, and shall have nothing." Then a much larger scheme and purpose of God comes out. He that was the Messiah goes down to the lower parts of the earth; the Creator goes below creation, and now He is above all creatures. Having done that, He delivers persons from Satan and makes them vessels of His power for building up those that are delivered. When " he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men." You do not find miracles, tongues, signs of power here, but that which, as immutable and faithful Head, He gives for accomplishing His purpose.
If you take the state of things here, through the unfaithfulness of those to whom service was committed, " the wolf catcheth the sheep and scattereth them," but he cannot touch the power of the Head. You may have everything upset, but everything works together for good; you never can touch that. But for this, if one was to think of the saints, he would break his heart.
" I stand in doubt of you." " I have confidence in you through the Lord." You cannot touch the power and faithfulness of the Head, nor confidence in the Head, though there is disorder all around.
" For the perfecting of the saints "-that is the object. The specific object of ministry is the perfecting of the saints. This never fails: and it is done in various ways. The Corinthians had all sorts of gifts, but they failed in walk. We find various differences among the saints. Individual perfecting is the direct object of Christ-that each individual should grow up to the standard of Christ. Then comes the increase of the body. The first object is, that my heart or your heart is to be up to the measure of Christ; consequent on that comes the increase of the body. It is wonderful if you take the sphere and scope there is here. Christ goes to the lower parts of the earth, then above all heavens; from thence comes ministry.
We now get what the truth is in Jesus. If we have learned Him ourselves, we get this putting off the old man, and putting on the new. This is stated as a fact in Colossians: " Seeing that you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man." The truth as it is in Jesus is the having put off the old man, and having put on the new.
There are two great elements of the Christian life: one is this putting off the old man and putting on the new; the other, that the Holy Ghost dwells in us. " Be ye therefore imitators of God as dear children." Supposing this done, God's conduct is the rule and measure of mine. " Be ye perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect." We are in the new creation, we have Christ. What is Christ? The manifestation of God. The truth of my state and condition, the truth in Christ is that I have put off the old man, and put on the new. Christ is our life: it is a new creation-created after God " in righteousness and true holiness," not as innocent Adam. In Col. 3 it is expressed in another way, " the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him "-that was not Adam's case at all. God is known. I have got now the divine nature fully revealed in Christ, in a Man. We are created now after God; we have the knowledge of what God is, not of what man ought to be.
If as a poor sinner, I am brought to God, I know His love the very first instant; I know the righteousness and love of God. There is growth, of course. I have Christ instead of Adam. I have put off the old man as nothing worth, and put on the new. We have to contend with the old as an enemy. I own nothing but Christ for my life. The knowledge of good and evil has come in, and I cannot take any standard of it (now Christ has revealed Him) but God Himself.
God has made Himself known as Almighty, as Jehovah, and as Father. As Almighty, He said, " Walk before me and be thou perfect "; as Jehovah, " Thou shalt be perfect with Jehovah thy God "; as Father, " Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."
The second great principle is, " Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption." The precious blood of Christ having been sprinkled upon us, the Holy Ghost dwells in us: this is of immense value to us. The new nature cannot reveal anything, the new nature has no power. What we see in Christ (there was power in Him, of course) is dependence and obedience; these are the great leading traits of the new man. The Spirit of God reveals the things of Christ, encourages me, shows me His faithfulness and His love, and is power in me. God is dwelling in me in power, giving me liberty, power, sonship, but at the same time the sense of God's presence. " Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost? " If He is grieved, the effect is that power is gone, and the conscience is bad; the Spirit then becomes a rebuker. If the queen were in the house, every right-minded man and everything would bow to her.
How our hearts cultivate things that are not of Christ! Whatever is not fit for His presence is not fit for my heart. How often things are allowed in the heart which make the heart unwilling (not at the bottom, of course) to let Christ back! It is to me a most striking expression of what the Christian is that he has put off the old man, and put on the new, and that, having the Holy Ghost dwelling in him, he is not to grieve the Holy Spirit. " Be ye imitators of God as dear children." Grace has put us in the place distinctly; and this is the way we are to walk. He takes the two essential names of God (He has many attributes), love and light; both are that in which we have to say to God. However could I imitate God? you may say. But what do you think of Christ?
Is He not God? and God just where we want Him? " Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." Do you look at Christ and see what that light is? Christ is the pattern and model. If you wake up from the sleeping state of soul (sleep is for the time as bad as death), Christ will give you light. " Walk in love as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God, for a sweet-smelling savor." Christ gave Himself up entirely: the law never asked that; the law only said, " love your neighbor as yourself." In a world of sin and sorrow there is another principle, the giving up of self for others; and I get another principle of Christ's love, it was " to God." If as a creature I love an unworthy object, my love is unworthy. Divine love does not want a worthy object. "For us," and "to God!"-if we reached that, we should get the right thing for Christians, the giving up of self and for a worthy object. What a picture of the Christian-the old man gone, the new man put on, the Holy Ghost in us, and Christ the pattern! Surely it is a blessed privilege and a truth. Christ's love went on as a divine source when everybody was against Him. Oh! what a calling, beloved brethren. If we are only babes in Christ, we may be consistent with what we have got. Where a person does walk in that way with God, the soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness in a dry and thirsty land.
If we let Christ practically out of our hearts, it costs a deal to bring Him back again.

Growing Up in Christ: Ephesians 4:1-16

ONE cannot help seeing in such a passage as this the profound interest the Lord takes in blessing. There is profound love in it, as well as that it is a fact that He delights in blessing. His purpose is to bring us into the enjoyment of His own blessedness. His thoughts are blessings; and there is none anywhere else but in Him. If I speak of blessing, it must be what is in the heart of God. A father's thoughts of giving to his children are measured by his love for them. When we see what is in God's heart for us, and that all His thoughts have the form and power of blessing, what must they be for us! He is bringing us to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ-this is to be the result; but it is the principle and spring of blessing that was in my mind to speak upon. He is conforming us as to His own thoughts in blessing at the end. The objects of this love, we, abject sinners taken up by Him, show the greatness of His love.
Christ is the great Workman of it all. It is by Christ that He does it. When God sets about to bless, it is by the Son of His love. It is an immense foundation for us to rest upon- not only strong, but wide and large and deep. " He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things." " He descended first into the lower parts of the earth." What, then, is to escape the power of Him, who has been borne up to the throne of God, after going down to the very lowest place of death under sin? He has been in the lowest place of misery and death, and is taken up to the highest place in glory-the throne of God-and all between is filled up by Christ. This nothing can escape. He went down to the place of death and sin, " made sin for us," and went up to the throne of God! There is strength for me a poor sinner, something to rest on. Yet it is not distant from us, but we have the consciousness of its being in and around us. It is said in Revelation of the " city," "the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof."
The Lamb is nearer to my heart than any. He has known me better than any, better than I know myself; and this Christ who dwells in our hearts by faith is the One we shall meet there. I shall find One in heaven nearer and dearer to my heart, than any one I know on earth. Nothing is so near to us as the Christ that is in us, and nothing is so near to God as Christ. Yet the world is in a man's heart. All that is agreeable and outwardly good in this world finds its echo in a man's heart, and all the evil that has come in finds its place there too. Christ was here amidst it all. He met it all without having the evil in Him, yet He knows it all. Everything we feel, all that passes through the heart of man, Christ has gone through, not by grasping at the thing, but by resisting the evil. With all the sensibilities of the heart to good or evil (and this makes the heart of man such a wonderful thing) Christ can meet all. The center key to all this is Christ: He has power to put away the evil. If there was one thing where my heart could not rest on Christ, it would be dreadful. All have the knowledge of good and evil, even the unconverted man. Without Christ he sets about racking his heart to find any good thing that is under the sun. All the best affections of a man are the 'occasion of his greatest distress, because sin has come in: the heart gets pulled and torn every way, but it must go through it. See a wife losing her husband, a mother her children. The instant I see Christ in all this trial, I find the perfect good God delights in. Divine sympathy is found in God Himself. I may have trial and conflict, I must have it in passing through the wilderness; but I become weaned from the thing that was a snare to me by looking to Christ in it. Present confidence in Christ is needed in trial (losing a near relative, etc.) but the practical effect is that every trial a man goes through gives him (if the heart is thus trusting) to know more and more of what Christ is to meet the need, and more of Christ as possessing Him.
" I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself "; and there we find all the unfoldings of what God is in Christ. I cannot do without Christ. I want manna in the wilderness: God gives it to me; and not only do I get all this, water, manna, etc., but I have Christ Himself in it all. No matter what it is that exercises my heart in the knowledge of good and evil, and the need of the heart in consequence, it makes Christ more known and more enjoyed. Our natural portion as Christians is to enjoy God. Where has God planted us? In the enjoyment of an accomplished redemption; and the result is that love has not only been manifested towards us, but poured out in us. The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which He has given unto us. We dwell in God-for His love is infinite, but I am in it; I dwell in it, and He dwells in me: I, a poor thing, a nothing, dwell in Him. I must learn it, as a sinner, in Christ. A proud sinner will try to prescribe to God this and that, etc., but God will have His way; and blessed it is that it should be so. We are " builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit "-this is the " vocation." What a thought! What a bringing down, not of heaven, but something more, by special blessing bringing Him down to dwell in us. God would not dwell in angels; there is not the same want in them, but He will make Himself better known to angels, through His kindness towards us by Christ Jesus. There is a great deal more for us than the bringing down heaven. " Whosoever shall confess Jesus the Son of God, God dwelleth in him and he in God."
What is the first practical effect of this calling to be " the habitation of God through the Spirit? " " With all lowliness and meekness," etc. (chap. 4: 2). A vessel of God! All the passions of the flesh there, but having the presence of God makes us unspeakably happy; that is our portion! " In all lowliness," etc. A man who is humble needs not to be humbled. There is no safety but in being low. Then what is the consequence if self is not working, and there is lowliness? Why love works. I cannot be happy with you all, if self is working; but if self is not working, love is, and I am full of love towards you all. What a spring of blessedness in communion there is; so far as self is down, broken to pieces, there is an outgoing of perfect love to the brethren. " Love is of God." His nature is at work when we love one another. The spring of the fellowship we find just now is God being here. God is our joy, and love (God's own nature) working, and God our common object. There are trials and difficulties for us all; but there is blessed joy in knowing one another thus, and seeing Christ in one another. " Receive ye one another to the glory of God." If we meet a Christian, though he may be a stranger, we can be more intimate with him than with one's own family who are not. Why? Because God is there.
Another thing observe, there is the consciousness of what this unity is. " There is one body, and one Spirit, one Lord, one faith," etc. We are brought together, not only through being united, but by what we possess together, one Lord, one faith, etc., rich or poor. Another has his particular trials, and I mine; but both have God.
" One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." God is above the world; you cannot tell me of one thing God is not above, and therefore there is not one thing that can separate me from His love. He is "through all." You cannot find yourself in trouble and God not there; you cannot find yourself in any difficulty, perplexity, and not find God through it all. And He is " in you all." He has come to be the spring of all happiness in us. If I know what water is, it is by drinking; if I know what sweetness is, it is by tasting it; if I know God, it is by His being in me. We can look upon one another and see God in us all. Then these light afflictions, what are they? God is come to take possession of us, and He is the spring in our hearts also. He comes to make us love, because He loves. We shall find it is fully so in heaven. If anything is a safeguard against evil, it is that such an one dwells in us; but it is more-it is the spring in the new nature, God's nature.
The perfecting of the saints is before God, and should be before us. Christ is the object of His thoughts. I must have these loved ones like Christ; therefore what God does is to make them grow up unto Christ. In the unity of the body, and in all the communion, and through all the exercise of heart, we have the end of all. In ministering to you or you to me, it is to grow up into Christ, that there may be more of Christ in us. All the flow of Christian affection, all the enjoyment we have here, is for this end. I can look at my brother and know he is going to be in heaven with me. The enjoyment of all this shuts out the world: you are not thinking of your cares and troubles now. Fellowship with the brethren is perfect deliverance from all that is of the flesh; flesh cannot enter into it, all that is of the world is gone. I am dead to it. Every bit of fellowship I have with a brother is a proof that outside things are gone and done with. The more we are individually full of divine things, the more this communion with each other is realized. Two together, if both are spiritual, open the sluices that all the wells in the world cannot dry up. The power of the Holy Ghost, that makes me overcome now, will make me enjoy heaven, where there is nothing else: " they that dwell in thine house will be still praising thee." The power of evil, of the world, of Satan, is all gone. Our common joy now is in Christ, in the communion of His love; and when we are with Him, it will be completely without alloy.

The Christian Walk: Ephesians 4-5

WE find in Eph. 4 and 5, a very seasonable unfolding of the principles of the Christian walk, of the height of the principles which ought to govern it, and of its moral elevation, to which I desire to draw the attention of your readers. In chapter 4 the apostle, after having developed Christian doctrine as to our relations with the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (relations founded on these two names, and afterward the relations of the church with Christ), begins his exhortations to Christians with respect to their walk. They ought not to walk as the rest of the nations in the corruption which was bound up with the state of darkness in which they were found; they had not so learned the Christ, if they really knew what the truth is in Jesus, namely, to have put off the old man and put on the new man, which is created according to God in righteousness and holiness of truth.
For there is the truth such as it is in Jesus; not that we should strip off, but, inasmuch as we are risen with Him, that we have put off the old man and put on the new man. There then is the first principle of the Christian walk: we have put on the new man; and here is its character, created according to God; not only the absence of sin, which was realized in the first Adam, but according to God fully revealed to one who has already the knowledge of good and evil, and created according to the thoughts of God Himself as to good and evil, according to the estimate which God by His very nature has of good and evil. What an immense privilege! The new man, born of God, is, in his nature, the reflection, and the intelligent reflection, of the nature of God Himself. Wherefore the apostle John says he cannot sin because he is born of God. Also we find in the Epistle to the Colossians, which is parallel to this, " renewed into knowledge according to the image of Him who has created him." Such is the first principle of the Christian walk, a nature which comes from God, created as an expression and reflection of what He is in righteousness and holiness of truth. Here it is a life, a nature, that which we are.
The second principle is the presence of the Holy Spirit. " Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God by whom you have been sealed for the day of redemption." It is God Himself who dwells in us by His Spirit. Nothing unworthy of such a guest, unworthy of God Himself, ought to go on in us. Also, our walk should be characterized by that which characterizes God Himself, for His love is active in us. Consequently we find here love also, and not only righteousness and holiness. We forgive one another, even as God in Christ has forgiven us. Christ being ascended on high, and thus the righteousness of God being established, ourselves perfectly purified by the blood of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is come down, and the bodies of the believers are become the temple of God. It is the seal of God put upon their persons, the earnest of their entire redemption and of their part in the inheritance of glory.
The walk of the Christian ought then to be the manifestation of the divine nature, and of the ways of God in grace towards us. Such is the instruction which chapter 4 gives us; but chapter 5 furnishes still more light. Who is it that has been the expression of this nature in man down here below? Evidently it is the Savior, the image of the invisible God. Thus, God Himself becomes the expression of this divine life in man, the model of our conduct. Let us examine our chapter 5 in this point of view, that we may draw from it the instruction it contains.
" Be ye therefore imitators of God." Have I not been right in speaking of the moral elevation of the Christian walk? Be imitators of God! Partakers of His nature and of the indwelling of His Spirit, we are called to imitate Him in the principles of His conduct. But then, as we have said, Christ is the perfect example of it; as the Holy Spirit goes on to say, " And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor." This adds a very precious element to the principles of the Christian walk. Here love has not the character of the divine love which pardons, being above evil, when a wrong is done to us, as God pardons (in virtue of Christ) sin against Him. Here it is devotedness, an offering made of oneself to God. It is no more a law which would have one love his neighbor as himself, which would be blessedness without any remains of evil in the world. It is not loving God with all the heart, which supposes that evil is not there. It is a devotedness, which supposes evil, a necessity which is the occasion for the exercise of love. One is given up for others, one is devoted. But for love in man, there must be a motive, an object. For this love to be perfect, the object, the motive of the love, must be perfect. If one is given up to a man, there may be a noble devotedness in it, but the motive is imperfect: love does not and cannot rise above its object. Just so, that there should be devotedness, there must be needy objects. These two elements are found in Christ. He gave Himself for us, for needy beings, objects of compassion on His part; but He gave Himself to God, infinite and perfect object, which could not have been, had He only given Himself to us and for us.
It is thus we ought to walk, ready to sacrifice ourselves for our brethren, always in self-abnegation to serve them, whilst offering ourselves to God Himself, to Christ whose we are. Thus the measure of our conduct is that of God Himself, Christ being our example in His life here below, in order that we should add love, the bond of perfect action, to brotherly kindness. It is not said that we are love, which is God's prerogative. He is love, and He loves, as to us, without any other motive than what He is • which could not be the case with a creature. We imitate Him in the matter of the wrongs that have been done to us. But the love which acts from itself towards others is of God alone.
Again, light is a quality in itself, a purity which also manifests everything. It is the second name that God gives Himself to express what He is. God is light. So Christ, when He was in this world, was the light of the world. We were in' darkness, we are light in the Lord. Thus in the Epistle to the Philippians we find, respecting Christians, that which might be said in every point of Christ Himself, " blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life." In this pure nature we share, inasmuch as we have Christ for our life-purity in motives, in thoughts according to the divine nature; that which, manifested in this world, manifested the true character of all that is around us. We are light in the Lord.
Thus the two names, the only ones God gives Himself to express what He is, love and light, become the expression of what the Christian ought to be in his walk. He is even light in the Lord.
There exists another sort of motive and of rule, the relationships in which we are found, as father and children, husband and wife, master and slaves. We are in these relationships also with God and with His Christ. But it is another ground on which I do not enter at present. That of which I speak is the Christian character, as having divine life in Christ and the Holy Spirit: so that one has to imitate the conduct of God, and to take Christ for model on the earth.

Christ Loved the Church: Ephesians 5:22-30

Remark, beloved brethren, how the grace of God has associated us with Himself and with Christ, though, of course, remaining Himself meanwhile in the supremacy of infinite Godhead, in which none can be associated with Him; but He has made us partakers of the divine nature, and given us His Spirit to dwell in us, so that we realize what He is, and become one with Christ through being united to Him.
We find, in the early part of Eph. 5, that we are called to be " imitators of God, as dear children, and to walk in love." Love is His nature; and we see this exemplified in a man, if we take Christ as the pattern of it. " Walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us."
Besides this we get another word brought before us, which also expresses God's nature: that is light; and it is said: " Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light." And, here too, Christ is given as the perfect expression of what is put before us. " Awake, thou that sleepest, and rise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." As a man in the world, He was the expression and pattern of light.
But after this he adds, " Be filled with the Spirit "; for, though we are made partakers of this divine nature, which is light, and we are called to love after the pattern of God in Christ, yet after all we are but poor human creatures, powerless in ourselves; and the Spirit is the only power we have for everything.
In God's mind it is everything for us to have fellowship with Himself. He has put us before Himself in love; He has made us His sons and daughters-the objects of His delight; and He should be the object of our delight. So much for the first relationship that we find here. It is with the Father as sons, and in this Christ is the Firstborn among many brethren.
The second is union with Christ now glorified: " We are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones." We are livingly united to Him, as members to a head. I cannot get closer to him than being a member of His body, and in the same glory with Himself. This relationship gives us the indissoluble union of Christ and the church. " Husbands love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it... and let the wife see that she reverence her husband." Though quite true as regards husband and wife, it is a figure of Christ and the church.
But, though we are united to Him, He is ever pre-eminent, and what even gives its value to this relationship is the necessary pre-eminence in it, as in everything, of Christ. When Moses and Elias were on the mount with the Lord, they were in the same glory as He was, and talking with Him of what was nearest His heart, and nearest His Father's heart too; they were in familiar intercourse with Him. But, even then, the moment Peter talks about making three tabernacles, one for each, thus putting them on an equality, the Father's voice comes in and owns His Son, and Moses and Elias at once disappear. I only use this to illustrate what I mean; and so it must always be. There must always be the eternal blessedness and pre-eminence of His Person, and the nearer we get to Him the more conscious we shall be of this. If I know a man indeed intimately, I shall surely get to know his foibles. In Christ, the more I know Him, the more I shall only get to know deeper, and divine, excellence. There is no fear of near acquaintance diminishing respect towards Him: the more I feel His love, the more I shall feel that He is supreme in it. Intimacy with His love only shows out its excellence, and produces more adoration and love in me.
God is supreme in love. It is not said in chapter 5 that we are to be love; we cannot be free and supreme in it; we are said to be light, because the new man partakes in the purity of His nature. And in the love of Christ we find the working of this supreme goodness, and in a man, so that following Him we can walk in it, though we cannot say we are love, as we say we are light.
But, in the case of the church, at the close of chapter 5, we have a love of special relationship, not simply the goodness and sovereign love of God; yet the spring and source of all is in the unsought love of Christ, in which He acts in the thought of His own grace, when there was nothing to draw it out. He has to purchase what He loves, and form it for Himself. He " gave himself for it ": and when He gets it, He cleanses it for Himself.
But there is yet another point of view. He presents it " to himself." When God had made Eve, He presented her to Adam; but here we get the glory of Christ's Person. Being a divine Person He presents the church to Himself, having formed it and perfected it, so as to be suited to. Himself He does all for the church. Let us now see a little of the way in which He does it.
The first thing of all is His own unmotived love. " He loved the church," perfectly, divinely, infinitely; we here find the utterness of His love. " He gave himself." He did not only do something for it: " He gave himself! " And this is constantly repeated in the word; it is even said that " He gave himself for our sins," our sins being that which was in the way between us and God. As I look at Christ's love, I see that it had no motive but in itself, and it gives itself: nothing is held back. He is wholly and altogether mine; He has given Himself, and all is lumped up in that. The self-sacrifice of Christ was absolute: it was Himself, all He is, and all He was in His perfection. The whole motive of His nature was engaged in it: " He gave himself." And this is a wonderful thought, if our hearts could only get hold of it. It is not that He gave His blood, and gave His life, though that is true, and we may speak of it distinctively, for Scripture does; but the point here is the character of His love; so it says, " He gave himself." The motive was self-giving.
Mark here how, as regards the process of fitting the church for Christ, loving it and giving Himself for it goes first. It does not say, He cleansed and washed it so that He might have it, and then loved it because it was cleansed and fit to be loved. No. He gives Himself for it, and possesses it with a perfect title; Himself given for it, in the absolute completeness of His whole heart, according to which He has taken it to Himself. He gives Himself for it because He loved it; and now, He says, it must be cleansed and made fit for me. Not, it must be happy-happy it is, no doubt-but not only so; it must be made fit for Himself. I cannot be satisfied if a person I love is not what I like him to be-my children or wife, for example. It is not a feeling of discontent -I do not mean that-but a want of full satisfaction. So Christ sets about making the church what He would like it to be. He cleanses it by " the washing of water by the word." As He said before: " Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth."
As the word comes from God, it judges all that is contrary to God, by the revelation of what is in God, so that it may make me like what it reveals. " For their sakes," He says, " I sanctify myself." As Man, He set Himself apart as the perfect expression of what is divine in a man, or man according to God. So it is not that I am what I ought to be, but that I am connected with Christ, who is the expression of what I ought to be, and forms me into His likeness. " We all, with open face beholding the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." That is the way it cleanses: it purifies our motives, thoughts, and apprehensions, thus changing us into the same image from glory to glory. But He is the doer; He redeems us, cleanses us, sanctifies us, and presents us.
There is also a thought here which is full of the deepest interest; and that is, that we cannot separate the cleansing from the glory. The cleansing is according to the glory, and, when the body is changed, the state of holiness is according to the glory revealed; see 1 Thess. 3:13, where we should have said " unblameable in holiness " in our walk; but we read, in the presence " of God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." We cannot really get on without looking at Christ in glory. It is said that " He might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing: but that it should be holy and without blemish." That is the cleansing. Practical cleansing is by the power of the revelation of the glory of Christ. But let us always remember that this cleansing is not in order that we may belong to Him, but that it is " Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might cleanse it."
Another thing that we find as regards the church, and this ought to comfort us in these dark days, and in the darker ones which we see coming. He goes on to say: " No man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church." It is not only that He fits it for Himself-makes it according to His own mind; but the same love that fits it, watches over it in the circumstances of weakness in which it is found, as it passes through the world. Why, he says, a man's flesh is himself; Christ takes care of Himself in taking care of the church. As he said to Saul: " Why persecutest thou me? " You are touching Me in persecuting them. Christ does not separate the saints down here from Himself. He is interested in them, cares for them, nourishes and cherishes them as a man does the flesh of his own body. And in this He can never fail. The darkness may be great, and the power of evil strong, and growing stronger (not that God is not working, for He is; and when the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him, and is doing so, and preparing the coming of the Lord), but no more than a man can hate himself, can Christ fail in doing this-nourishing and cherishing the church.
The Lord has long patience with all this growing evil (we may pray that things may go quicker, that He would bring the end on more rapidly, calling in His own; but, if so, it will bring evil out more rapidly too, and the judgments that are coming on the earth, but yet we may desire it); but all through the faith of the saint can reckon on the care and love of Christ. You cannot put me in any circumstances where the love of Christ cannot suit me.
Nor even does the working of unbelief hinder. For, when those who are believers cannot use the power that has been brought in against evil, what is to be done? We read, that when they brought one possessed of a demon to the disciples, and they could not cast him out, the Lord says: " How long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? " If you cannot use the power I have brought in, what is the use of staying with you? But He adds, " Bring him hither to me." Even if the faith of the church fail, and one were alone in the trial, individual faith will always find grace in the Lord Jesus Christ for its want. Just as the father of the child cried out with tears: " Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief." Christ cannot fail; and we on our side must not be like Elijah, saying, " Lord, they have thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life to take it away " (and mark at the moment he had thrown down their altars and slain their prophets), and then run away. What we want to say is: Well, Christ never fails, and there cannot be a want in Christ's church without there being an answer to it in Christ's heart.
All we want, beloved friends, is to have the eye fixed on Christ, from whom all grace and love flow, and to be sanctified in heart and spirit thereby, while waiting for Him, who has given Himself for us, so that we might be like Him even now, while walking through this world.

Conflict in Heavenly Places: Ephesians 6:10-18

THE very blessings of the church (as in Eph. 1:3) set us into a sort of conflict, which, without such blessings, we should not have. So the church is subject to more failure than either Jews or Gentiles were, because they were not called to the same blessing. A Jew might do many things that would be monstrous in a Christian, and yet find no defilement in his conscience. The veil that was over the knowledge of God being rent, the light shines out; and the consequence is that this light which has come out of the holy place cannot tolerate evil. Christians are in a more dangerous position, if not walking in the light, than Jews. Satan may draw and entice me with many things, which would have no power against me if I were not so favored. " Be strong in the Lord "; here is the place of strength. There is no strength but in Christ-I have none at any time, except as my soul is in secret communion with Him, and through Him with God the Father. The direct power of Satan is toward this point, to keep our souls from living on Christ. Put on the whole armor of God; there is no standing against Satan without this. Strength is always the effect of having to do with God in the spirit of dependence.
We see in 1 Sam. 14 the contrast between Saul and Jonathan; between confidence in God overcoming all obstacles, and self failing with all the resources of royalty. Jonathan clambered up on his hands and feet, confident in God, and the enemies were overcome. Saul, when he saw the work going on, not knowing the Lord's mind, calls for the priest. He had a right intention, but not a simplicity of dependence on God, when inquiring what he should do, and spoils all by his foolish oath. It is said of Jonathan that " he wrought with God." God was with him, and he had strength and liberty, not a humiliation we have often felt, because he wrought with God. When we are walking in dependence on God, there will always be liberty before God. Jonathan knew what he should do, and took some honey, because he went on in liberty, for God was with him, whilst Saul in legality had put himself and the people into bondage.
The word then, after grace in Christ has been fully shown throughout the epistle, is, " Be strong in the Lord," v. 10. We have the privilege here of individual dependence on God. Everything may be dark, but the Lord tells us to be strong. This is always accompanied with lowliness of heart; come what will, when the Lord is rested on, we are strong.
We are called to put on the panoply of God, to take it to us (v. 1-13). And no wonder: the conflict is not with men but with evil spirits (v. 12). Who but an unbeliever can overlook or despise them? They are principalities and authorities; they are the universal lords of this darkness; they are spiritual wickednesses in the heavenly places. Truly to withstand such we need the whole armor of God; which, remember, is not a question of standing but of practical power, and this is in entire dependence.
If we pray, be it observed, without searching the word, or read the word without prayer, we may get no guidance, for Jesus said, " If my words abide in you, ask what ye will," etc.; without this I may be asking some foolish thing that would not be given. We are to stand against the wiles of the devil, not his power. It is not knowing Satan that enables us to discover his wiles, but the keeping in God's presence. It was always so with Christ, because He was always dependent on God. Stand, having your loins girt about with truth. Truth is never really ours but as the affections are ordered by it. If the soul of the hearer be not in communion with God in the truth he hears, his loins are not girt with it. The breastplate of righteousness supposes not merely this, but that we have nothing on the conscience (v. 14). Christ's blood made it good; and walking in the Spirit keeps it so.
Verse 15. The gospel of peace is ours in Christ; but I must have the spirit of peace in my heart, and be sanctified by the God of peace, the soul in communion with God, with Him in the spirit of peace; and without this how can the saint walk as always having peace? He is thus prepared to walk by the gospel.
Verse 16. Whether I look at the sin that made grace necessary, or at the power which caused me to enjoy it, I may walk in perfect peace against every source of sorrow. Every fiery dart is quenched by confidence in God-the shield of faith. It is as essential for the conflict as for saving the soul. We need to cherish confidence in the grace of God all through.
Verse 17. I hold up my head because I know I am safe; salvation is mine. I must first get that which is internal: that which is wrought in me is power. Before I use the sword of the Spirit, I must first have the loins girded about with truth, the heart covered with righteousness, the feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, and then (the shield of faith being up and the helmet of salvation on) I can take the sword of the Spirit. Nothing is more dangerous than to use the word if it has not touched my conscience. I put myself in Satan's hands if I go beyond what I have from God, or what is in possession of my soul. To talk with saints on the things of God, beyond what I hold in communion, is most pernicious; to fight without it is fatal.
Verse 18. The word always must deal with ourselves before others, but prayer is the expression and exercise of dependence. If a person asks me a question, and I answer without speaking to God about it-going direct, it will be more likely to lead him from God than to God. When a question or difficulty comes, do we turn to God? We may have turned to God before, and the thing is answered, and we ought to have such power of prayer, that there would be no difficulty when any circumstance arises. If supplication be thus continual, there would be no occasion to ask Him about particular things when they come before us.
" Supplication in the Spirit." All acceptable prayer is not, I think, prayer in the Spirit. A wish or desire expressed to God, in all the confidence of a child to his father is heard, but this is not necessarily " prayer in the Spirit." It is the power of the Spirit in us looking for blessing as walking in the Spirit of God-that is such prayer; not even a difficulty here when living really in the power of communion. We have that energy of supplication which looks for answers-for all answers, and for myself too-watching thereunto with all perseverance. Suppose you begin the day with a sweet spirit of prayer and confidence in God: in the course of the day, in this wretched world you find a thousand cares and agitations; but if you are spiritually exercised, alive to see the things of God, everything will be a matter of prayer and intercession, according to the mind of God. Thus humbleness and dependence should mark all a saint's actions.
Instead of being full of regret at what we may meet with, if we are walking with Christ we shall see His interests in a brother-in the church. What a blessed thing to carry everything to God! The word in verse 18 refers to a man walking in the whole armor.
The apostle took the love of the saints for granted. We also, if walking in the Spirit, can always count on others being interested in our affairs.

Brief Notes on the Epistle to the Philippians

THE Epistle to the Philippians presents the development of two distinct subjects. On the one hand it shows us the ties of affection which exist between the Lord's servant and those to whom he had been blessed; and, on the other, Christian experience. It is perhaps the only epistle which treats of the experience of the Christian. We thus see the completeness of God's word; in it every subject has its own proper place.
Chapter 1: 5-7. " I have you in my heart " ought rather to be translated, " Ye have me in your hearts." The meaning of this verse is this: " It is righteous for me to think thus as to you (that is, that I should have confidence in the completion of the good work begun in you), since ye have me in your hearts."
" Ye are all partakers of my grace." This signifies that they were all participators in the grace that rested on him. Everyone has not a gift of ministry; but by grace, whoever loves the Lord participates in the gospel.
Verse 10. " That ye may approve things that are excellent" -that is, that differ and so are the best. There may be a regular walk, which does not perhaps show enough of that delicacy and regard which the love of Christ teaches, and by which God is glorified.
Verse 11. " The fruit of righteousness "-that is, such fruit as would have been found in the life of Christ Himself.
Verse 12. " The things which happened unto me... for the furtherance of the gospel." All the difficulties resulting from Paul's absence only turned out for good; Christ was more abundantly preached; the Philippians were taking courage, the gospel was carried before Caesar, etc. And Paul was rejoicing when he saw that the efforts of Satan were contributing to the progress of the gospel.
Verse 16. Who are the preachers pointed out in this verse? All that is said is, that they preached Christ in a bad spirit. They might be persons who had too little spiritually to dare to act when Paul was present, but availed themselves of his absence to come forward.
Verse 19. " For I know that this shall turn to my salvation " -that is, shall contribute to my final victory over the enemy.
Does the apostle refer in these words to the hope he had of being delivered from his bonds? I do not think that he does. The word " salvation " is used for our complete deliverance, and not merely for passing deliverances which we may experience by the way. Salvation is an absolute thing; it is the final result of the race. It is well to maintain the sense of this word; because we have here the key to the whole epistle. If there be not a salvation at the end of the race, of what avail is the priesthood of Christ?
Verses 20, 21 are the same subject. Whatever may be Cesar's decision about me-whatever may await me, be it life or death, it works salvation to me, says the apostle; my race is accomplished through such circumstances. If life be left me, I will labor for the church; if death be my portion, I will die for Christ, for His name; as to this, Christ will decide. As regarded himself, Paul wished to die. Having death before him, he had, so to speak, attained his Gethsemane; and thus he had confidence that the Christ who had been glorified in his life would be also glorified in his death.
Verse 21. " For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Christ was all in Paul's life. If Paul lived, it was by Christ and for Christ. Therefore to die would be better; he would be most entirely with Him.
Verses 25, 26. Paul decides his own case; he decides it in the sense of the good and profit of the church. Neither Caesar nor his court would decide it, but Christ; and He would do it in the interest of the church. Paul in this shows the most elevated faith.
Verse 27. " The faith of the gospel." In this expression Paul personifies the gospel. He sees the gospel carrying on warfare in the world, and the saints carrying on warfare for Christ, associating it with that Person. The epistles of Paul present several instances in which the gospel is thus personified.
Verse 28. " Of salvation." Here again salvation is looked at as the result of the race.
Verses 29, 30. Paul on one side, the Philippians on the other, were in the warfare, and they had-all of them- salvation before them.
Chapter 2. We see further on that the Philippians had sent help to Paul. While expressing his satisfaction, he insinuated, but with caution, that they might have done so sooner; chap. 4:10. Here, with the same delicacy, he says, " If it be true that there are any bowels and mercies, if it be true (which he did not doubt) that ye have my joy at heart, fulfill ye that joy, by thinking the same thing," etc.
Verses 3, 4. Above all else, the heart of Paul desired that unity might be maintained among the saints; and, as a means of maintaining happy harmony, he recommends humility, which teaches the Christian to esteem himself to be least of all.
Verse 5. Paul, doubtless, will find an echo in the hearts of the Philippians, but he wished to give them higher motives than those which related only to himself. To this end he places before their eyes the humiliation of the Lord Jesus, who, being God, yet became man and servant; and was obedient even unto the death of the cross.
Verses 5-11. In these verses, although the thing is not said in express terms, there is, it seems to me, a contrast between Christ and Adam. Adam-man-in wishing to exalt himself to be like God, was disobedient unto death; Christ-who was God-emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondman, and, even when He was in fashion as a man, became obedient and obeyed even unto death. There are two degrees in Christ's humiliation. He first strips Himself of His own glory, and becomes a man: then, being man, He goes down even unto the death of the cross.
Verse 10. " That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow." The name of Jesus is a personal name- jah-Oshua (Jehoshua)-Jehovah-Savior. It is the name of His Person. The name " Christ " expresses a title-that of a man who is appointed. Independently of any title, Jesus possesses His own proper personal claim to supremacy over all things. He is God. The deity of Jesus occupies in the New Testament a much greater place than is generally observed.
But as man Jesus has also a glory which He receives, the glory which results from His humiliation-" God also hath highly exalted him."
All things are subjected under the lordship of Christ- things heavenly, and earthly, and infernal (which are under the earth). This third class has no part in the reconciliation of " all things," as they are mentioned in Col. 1:20.
Verses 12, 13. The emphasis in verse 12 is on these words: " not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence." If, Paul being absent and retained in prison, the Philippians were deprived of him, God would suffice; He is never absent.
" Work out your own salvation "-not your acceptance, but your salvation. Apply yourselves to the things which become persons who look for salvation. Be watchful, lest anything should lead you out of your way, for your path is strewed with difficulties. Here, as in the preceding instances, salvation is looked at as the end of the race. We never find in the Epistle to the Philippians that the Christian is viewed as possessing that which is a matter of faith-a very remarkable thing; unless we discern it in the believer on his way and striving for salvation, it is unintelligible.
Paul, when he was called, saw the Lord in glory. He knew that he would one day be in that glory with his Master, and like Him. Hence, until he reached this, he felt that nothing could entirely satisfy him, and, moved by heavenly affections, he pressed on towards that blessed moment.
The Christian, through grace, is placed on the same road. At the starting-point he is reconciled with God; and that reconciliation has become in its turn the starting-point for his other blessings. Now the Lord, in calling that Christian with a heavenly calling, has put into his heart spiritual affections; grace has formed a relationship between the Christian who is on earth and Jesus who is on high. But if this blessed relationship is not sustained, the heavenly affections in the heart of a child of God become dormant and cold affections. The assurance of salvation might remain perhaps, but isolated; all spiritual affections are lost.
" With fear and trembling." We meet with difficulties on the road, though indeed we are sure to arrive. Although the race be not the title of our acceptance, still that race is none the less a serious and important thing. What a privilege and what an honor to be God's instruments in the conflict engaged with Satan! But what a responsibility also! One cannot stand firm in this conflict if one is careless, if we act in a bad spirit, if we yield to the flesh, etc.
Verse 14. Translate, "Without murmurings and reasonings." Verse 15. Translate, " Ye appear as lights."
Verse 17. It is, " If also I am poured out as a libation."
Verses 25-30. What a contrast between the feelings of Paul, and those which he knew to exist in the Philippians respecting Epaphroditus, with the mass of ice to which Christianity has been reduced in these days! How quick and coldly one says of a departed Christian, " He is happy." Of course Epaphroditus, if he had died of his sickness, would have departed happy to be in the bosom of Jesus. And Paul would assuredly have been resigned in seeing the departure of his brother; but his recovery filled Paul's heart with joy.
Chapter 3. This chapter forms a kind of parenthesis, at least after the first verses. Paul interrupts the subject of brotherly intercourse to give us the beautiful developments of the heavenly calling, which we notice in this portion of the epistle. He then draws from those developments some teaching for the Philippians; and by this he comes to chapter 4, the exhortations and spiritual communications of which form a sequel to those of chapter 2.
Verse 2. " Beware of dogs." That is, of those who do evil shamelessly.
Verse 3. We see in this verse three features which characterize the service of the Christian. One worships God in [by the] Spirit, not in carnal ceremonies; one boasts in Christ Jesus, and not in man; one has the Lord, and therefore has no confidence in the flesh.
Verses 4-6. The flesh finds means, even in the things instituted by God, to do many things in order to exalt oneself.
Verse 7. Paul's doctrine presents the abiding fact, that the last Adam has all superiority over the first, and the Spirit over the flesh. One cannot retain anything of the first Adam without detriment to the last.
Verses 7, 8. Always that which is before-" to gain Christ " -to reach unto Him. Had Paul reached Christ? Not absolutely. As to his soul, he had; he is with the Lord; but not as to the body. The resurrection has not yet taken place.
Verse 8. " I have suffered the loss of all things." What things? Those which the flesh values-things like those which the apostle tells us he had given up.
Verse 9. " Found in him." When? Rather at the end of the race.
Having " the righteousness which is of God." To be in Christ in order to have that righteousness, and not to possess righteousness as a means to get Christ. Such is the order in which things present themselves to Paul when it is a question of the heavenly calling and of the race. Mark well, he wished not for the righteousness of the law, not because he cannot attain to it (which, however, would be true); but because in Christ he had something better than that. The righteousness of the law, had he been able to attain to it, would hinder his possessing Christ-so he will not have it.
Verses 9, 10, present two things-to be in Him, and to know Him.
Verse 10. Paul points out in this verse the means by which he would arrive at the resurrection from among the dead and attain Christ. When he had laid hold of the power of the resurrection, he can pass through death and not before.
Verse 12. A fact which precedes all others is that before taking a single step in this path Paul had been taken possession of by Christ. He had been taken possession of by Christ- for Christ Jesus.
Verse 14. " Toward the mark "-always this aim-the glorious Christ towards whom the race tends.
Verses 15, 16. The degree to which one has attained in the knowledge of Christ is not the rule of unity; the saints must be able to walk together, whatever difference there may be between them as to the extent of that knowledge. Let not the strong in receiving the weak require from him a state to which he has himself attained: and let not the weak lay down the limit unto which he has arrived, as the rule for others. Let us walk together: and as to that which goes beyond the measure to which we have attained, God will teach us.
Could it be that a Christian might not finish his course? In some respects it might so happen: or, at least, the course would not be finished in the way that was intended. Nevertheless such a case was foreseen in God's counsels. Ananias and Sapphira furnish perhaps a similar instance. There are some who make shipwreck, who fail as to faith, as to the doctrine that faith receives, without its being said on that account that they had abandoned their faith. Having in view this danger, Paul recommended Timothy to maintain faith and a good conscience; to hold fast the truth of God as well as that uprightness of heart in which the soul judges itself, and abides in the presence of God, ever open under His eye. If a good conscience fails, the enemy finds an entrance, and faith is in danger.
There is a crown of righteousness promised to those who love the Lord's appearing. Why is it called a crown of righteousness? Because it will be given to those to whom it is righteous to give it, " which the Lord the righteous judge shall give me," 2 Tim. 4:8. " God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love which ye have showed towards his name," Heb. 6:10.
Verses 18, 19. " Who are the many whose walk made Paul weep? " They are rather professors than real Christians; those perhaps in the beginning of the chapter. I should feel a difficulty in saying in an absolute way as applying it to Christians-" whose end is destruction."
These two verses have this importance, that they may indicate the period when Christendom will have gone beyond Christianity. We see in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, that the saints are warned of this danger; chap. to. And in this epistle we find that the very presence of evil is already stated.
Verses 20, 21. Here again salvation is presented as a future thing. " We look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus." He is coming in glory to receive us into that glory. This is the goal towards which we run.
Chapter 4. Paul now returns to exhortations.
Verse 3. " Thee also, true yokefellow." It was, doubtless, the one who carried the letter, Epaphroditus. Literally, " Help them [those] who have contended along with me." It is a recommendation to help the women who had contended in the gospel. Euodia and Syntyche were of that number.
Verse 7. " The peace of God... shall keep your hearts." The peace of God is that peace in which God Himself is. We read, not that our hearts keep that peace, but that it keeps our hearts.
Verses 8, 9. In walking according to the exhortations of the apostle, the Philippians would find God with them-the God of peace.
Verse to. " Your care of me hath flourished again." It is a slight reproach, which Paul softens by adding, " wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity."
Verses 12, 13. It is often in a very abstract way that one says, " I can do all things." While Paul says, " I can do all things," he adds, " I have learned," " I am instructed."
Verse 19. " My God "-that faithful God, whose faithfulness Paul had felt so often. It is with this feeling of gratitude that Paul says, " My God."
In the race which the Lord has opened to faith, the Christian finds himself individually engaged, and his responsibility finds its place. The Christian, it is true, is no longer before God in the condition of a man with his sins. But, in virtue of the new position which grace has made unto him, he has entered upon a new and different responsibility. He has practically to answer all the privileges which are vouchsafed to him. He has to walk in the Spirit, to press towards the goal, to show himself worthy of his calling, and as a child of God to walk in love, etc.
The day of Christ will show in what manner that child of God has run. It is while he runs the race that he has to watch, lest anything should stop him, or turn him aside from his road. He meets with hindrances, and may perhaps find them even in the unfaithful state of God's people. It is for him to watch; the delay of others could not justify His own; the race is an individual, things.
Nevertheless, in the Book of Numbers, which presents the going through the wilderness, do we not see a people on their march? This is true, but we must observe, that in the heavenly calling, of which we are partakers, God has formed a relationship with each of His saints; and that relation-hip is infinitely more developed than it could have been with the Israelites in the wilderness.
The reward at the end of the race is never the motive given to make us enter on the course; it is an encouragement to persevere when one is already engaged therein. Jesus Himself knew these encouragements-" Who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame," Heb. 12.

The Book of Experience: Philippians 1

IN the Epistle to the Ephesians, and even in that to the Colossians, we see our place with Christ; but in Philippians the believer is seen passing through the world-as a Christian walking in it. There is no doctrine in the epistle; the believer is seen pressing toward the mark. And another thing: he looks at this course as run in the power of the Spirit of God: this is what characterizes the Christian, that he is entirely running the race in that power. So there is no sin in this epistle-not the word sin even-and no conflict, in the proper sense of the word. Not that he has attained, but he is never doing anything but one thing-running in the power of the Spirit of God towards the goal. He had not attained, but he was doing nothing but running to attain. He was raised above all in himself, and in the world-entirely above all circumstances.
It is the epistle of experience, but according to the power of the Spirit of God. We learn this lesson, that though we fail, yet there is the possibility of running on in the power of the Spirit of God. Not that flesh is changed, or the thought of having attained admissible (there is no perfection down here); but the possibility of always acting consistently with the calling to get to Christ in glory. There is no looking for points of progress in the world; it sets him above every kind of circumstance, or contradiction, or difficulty, for he sees the path of the Christian entirely above them all.
To have a path shows that man had got out of God's place where He had set him. The moment we have a way it shows that we are not at home. It is blessed to have a way in the wilderness (of course, Christ is the way). Adam wanted no way; he would have stayed in the garden in quietness if he had obeyed God. But we have set out from Egypt, and we are not in Canaan; we go towards the goal. Numbers of things come out on the way, but all we have got to do is to run. We get a great deal more of Christ at every step; like a lamp at the end of a passage, we get more and more of it as we go on; we have not got the lamp yet, though we get more of the light of it every step we take. But there is entire deliverance from self as governing us, and a motive above circumstances, so that, though not insensible to them, they exert no influence over us.
" I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all, making request with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel, from the first day until now." The Philippians had taken a zealous part in the gospel, and had shown a loving spirit. How constant the intercession of the apostle was for them! Every time he prayed he was making mention of them. Mark how he carries the church of God on his heart; and it was the same way with individuals. He was thinking of all the good in them, and thanking God for it. See the kind of interest he had for the saints; he was always thinking of them. Even to the Corinthians he says, " I thank my God always on your behalf."
What Christ thinks of we should think of. If Christ is my life, and by the Spirit the spring of my thoughts, I shall have His thoughts in everything, for there is that which is right according to Christ. I have to be in the midst of circumstances as Christ would be, and that is Christian life. It is never necessary we should do anything wrong-never necessary we should act in the flesh; though it is there, why am I to think by it? I shall not, if I am full of Christ, for it is He who suggests the thoughts to me.
If I get into Christ's mind and thoughts, I shall not bear to see evil in saints; I want them like Christ. He is doing the work now in the heart of the saints-" that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word "-and I must be going along with Him in the same Spirit; and I must be all right myself, or I cannot do that. Christ gives Himself first for His people, and then He sets about to cleanse them, and make them what He would have them; and that should be our heart's desire to do in intercession.
There is plenty of power for this, though we are dreadfully low. He can suit His grace now just as in the brightest days of the apostle. There was much more to delight in when David was hunted as a partridge on the mountains, than in all the glory of Solomon for then there was the power of faith. It is with all saints that we are to " apprehend "; Eph. 3:18. We shorten our own blessing if we do not take them [the saints] all in. There is competency with Christ; and if I go on with Him, I must have peace about them.
Praying for saints gives a person the power of seeing all the good in them. We see this in the epistles, with one exception, that to the Galatians, where the apostle does not speak of what he could commend, but goes straight into all the evil, for they were turning away from the foundation. If we prayed more for the saints we should have more joy in them, and more courage about them. It is always wrong to lose courage about the saints, though it is possible it might come to be like Jeremiah: " Pray no more for this people." The Lord is always there, and love cannot fail; so we can reckon on it with joy, and comfort, and courage. Even when Paul had said to the Galatians, " I am afraid of you," he adds, soon looking to Christ, " I have confidence in you through the Lord." He had the saints under Christ's eye for a blessing. How much are we looking with Christ's heart at all the saints, with comfort and courage that there is grace enough for them? " Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ "; and, as he says further on, " that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God without rebuke."
" Both in my bonds, and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace." We are little aware how real the unity of the Spirit is: we have greatly lost the reality of it, though it is owned as a truth. It is a unity by a living power which is in every saint, so that the thing must be: " if one member suffer," not all ought to, but all do, " suffer with it." The body may be in such a mortified state as to have little feeling left; but, supposing there were a work of the Spirit in India, do you think it would not revive the saints here? So those people who were praying for Paul, when God strengthened him, praise returned to God from them all. The working of the Spirit of God tells in blessing on all who hear. But when he had to say, " All have forsaken me " (they had not forsaken Christ, but they had no courage to go into danger), Paul went on alone. It is plain if I have a pain in my body all my nerves are hurt by it; I cannot read or work so well. There may be a deadening of the spiritual nerves so that there is very little feeling, but it cannot be destroyed.
At verse 8 we get into the tone of the epistle. The apostle was no forgetful person; he remembers every little trait of kindness done to him, and he prays that they might have all kinds of knowledge and spiritual judgment, so that they might do things just fit to be done-that they might know in what one thing differs from another-that they might be connoisseurs in the Christian path; not only not fall into sin, but have the knowledge of just the right thing to do in the circumstances; for the standard is the satisfying the heart of Christ, not " Where is the harm? " The apostle desires that they might discern things now as they will be when brought into the light in that day of Christ. It is as if he said, I want you to think of the Lord Jesus, and know what will please the heart of Christ. There is the delight of pleasing Christ, and the delighting in the thing that pleases Him as well, by the active energy of the Spirit of God.
Then see how he rises above all the trials of his four years of imprisonment, two at Caesarea and two at Rome. " I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel." He might have reasoned: If I had not gone up to Jerusalem, and there listened to these Jews persuading me to things, I might still be at liberty preaching the gospel. He does not do thus; and let me say, beloved friends, there is nothing more foolish than to be looking at second causes. Perhaps we may not have been wise, but the man who lives above things here knows that every one of them works together for good. All would turn to his salvation, he says, " through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ." And we see here that there is the increased activity and energy of the Spirit of God-" the supply," as the apostle speaks; so that, though we cannot look to Him to come (as He has come), we can and ought to be looking for the " supply," and His ministering grace through the word.
" Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death." We see here that perfection in the flesh is all nonsense, for Paul was looking to be like Christ in glory. The heart is always upright when it says, " For me to live is Christ." He had no object but Christ, and he walked day by day by that-Christ as source, Christ as object, Christ as character; all the way through, Christ was his life, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that the rage of man and Satan had no power over him. Self was practically gone. When he looked at himself he did not know what to choose- whether to go and rest with Christ, or to remain and serve Him. To be with Him was better, but then he could no longer labor for Him. Thus self was gone as a motive, and he counts on Christ for the church, and the moment he sees " it is necessary for you that I remain," he says, " I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith." He decides his own trial before Nero. When thinking of himself he did not know which to choose, but when he thinks of those dear to Christ needing his presence he says, " I know I shall abide."
The Lord grant, beloved brethren, that He should be our only object, and that we should not let ourselves be distracted from it, so that we may say, " This one thing I do." The Lord give us grace to be the true epistles of Christ till He come. What a bright and blessed witness the church of God would then be!
If we have less fighting and fears than Paul, it is because we have less energy.
Philippians 2
I desire first to say a little word on the closing verses of chapter 1: " In nothing terrified by your adversaries, which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God. For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake." It is not merely that he wants to guard them against this, but he assures them that conflict is the natural state of the Christian-" Having the same conflict which ye saw in me." Here it was positive trial that they were in; but the whole of the Christian life is one of conflict with Satan; not that we need to be always thinking of it, if we have on the whole armor of God; but if we are not in the consciousness of Christ's victory, we are in danger of being terrified; and though we know little of this conflict, yet in a small degree we do. When Satan is resisted, Christ is then in the conflict, and we know that Christ has bound him, and he has been completely overcome; so it is " resist the devil, and he will flee from you." If we are walking with Christ, the apparent power is much greater with Satan and the world than with us; but it is all nothing; it is all a mistake to be terrified by it. What does it matter if the cities are walled up to heaven, if they tumble down, and you walk in over them?
You see, beloved friends, it is not a question of the difficulties, as we see in the case of Peter walking on the sea. He walked on the water to go to Jesus; but when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid. But if the water had been calm as a mill-pond, he could not have walked on it; you never heard of a man able to walk on water of any kind. It was all a mistake in what he was looking at. What we want to remember is that Christ has bound Satan; so now He can spoil his goods. He allows Satan to cast some into prison to be tried, but Satan gains nothing by that; when he meets a person walking with Christ, he has no power against him at all. We may have suffering, but this is what God has " given "; as we see in Moses, " esteeming-"-he does not say reproach, but-" the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt." So that rough seas or smooth seas are all the same; we sink if Christ is not with us there, and we walk on them if He is.
To turn to chapter 2. It is astonishing the grace which associates us with Christ; we are called to have the same mind as Christ. Here we get the lowliness of the Christian life, as in the next chapter we have the energy of the Christian life. Here it is in following the pattern of Christ, a lowliness shown in esteem of others, and in perfect consideration for others, and in gracious gentleness of demeanor in connection with the things of every-day life. Thus he tells them he would keep Timotheus, and send him to them as soon as he should know how it would go with him-reckoning on their true interest in all that regarded him; but he would not keep Epaphroditus, but send him, for he had been ill, and the Philippians had heard it, and were full of anxiety about him; as a child might say, My mother will be in a terrible way when she hears I am so ill. So Paul would send him that they might see him. In little things this considerateness is seen in Paul, this thorough thoughtfulness for others. Even the world can see it is lovely; their very selfishness delights in it.
The Philippians had shown these things he speaks of in their thoughtfulness for Paul, yet they were not quite united in Christ. But he does not like to come with a rebuke in the midst of all their love for him. He says, I see how you care for me, but if you want to make me thoroughly happy, be of one mind, " fulfill ye my joy." It is in the most delicate way that he rebukes them-a gentle hint; but they needed the exhortation.
Then he goes on to show the principles on which it is founded. " In lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves." It is a kind of impossibility if you look at it in one way; for if you are better than I, it is evident I cannot be better than you. But when the heart is thoroughly lowly, walking with Christ, and delighting in Christ, he thinks himself a poor creature with nothing but the grace of Christ to think of, and never sees anything but defects in himself; all the grace he sees in Christ; and, seeing this grace, even if he is using it, he feels what a poor instrument he is, the flesh hindering and spoiling the vessel, and not letting the light shine out.
But when he looks at his brother, he sees all the grace Christ has poured into him. What the Christian sees is Christ in his brother, and all the good qualities in him. Paul could say even to the Corinthians, who were going on shockingly, " I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ." He begins by recognizing all the good. Love took hold of all the good it could, and thus he got their hearts to listen to the rebukes. I detect the grace in my brother, and I do not see the evil at work in his heart ' • but I do see it in my own. When Moses came down from the mount, he wist not that his face shone. What made it shine was not looking at his own face-of course we know he could not do that-but looking at the glory; and it shines forth from us in the measure in which we look simply and purely at it. I see in my brother all the gentleness, graciousness, courage, faithfulness; and in myself all the defects. As I said, of course, if you are better than I, I cannot be better than you; but it is a question of the spirit in which the Christian walks; vain-glory is gone; and it cannot be otherwise if the heart is on Christ. It is not giving me a false estimate of myself; but when I look at the grace, it is Christ. Of course I must look at myself sometimes, and judge myself; but the best thing is not to have to look at myself at all. " Look not every man on his own things."
Then he turns to the principle on which this is founded: " Let this mind be in you which Was also in Christ Jesus." Here we get the path of Christ from the glory of the Godhead to the cross; He never did anything but go down-the exact opposite of the first Adam. " Being in the form of God, he thought it not robbery to be equal with God "; not only He bore everything patiently; that is true; but another side of the truth-" He made himself of no reputation." He laid aside the form of Godhead, and was found as a man; and, being a man, He took upon Him the form of a servant. True, even coming in the form of a man, there was soon seen, in word and work and spirit and way, all moral glory shining out; but He, having laid glory aside, was always going down in lowliness till there was no lower place. " Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich."
There is the double step in His descent. The first was laying aside the form of God; the second, that, being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient. There is nothing so humble as obedience, for then we have no will at all. He was not only obedient, but obedient unto death (self given up altogether, not only the will); and not only to death, but the death of the cross-the gibbet, as it would be in our day; then for slaves and malefactors only. From the form of God right down to death, obedience and humiliation all the way, the opposite in everything of the first Adam, who was not in the form of God, but set up to be as gods, and was disobedient unto death; the exact opposite to Christ in the spirit and character of his ways.
And as God says, " He that exalteth himself shall be abased," Adam was humbled because he exalted himself. Christ waited till God exalted Him; He humbled Himself, wherefore God also bath highly exalted Him. God sets Him as Man over all the works of His hands. Hence we read, " There is one God, the Father, and one Lord Jesus Christ." This is not a question of His nature, but of the place in which He is set. God has put all things under His feet as Man. All things were created by Him, and for Him, but He will have it all as Man, and thus it is He takes joint-heirs. He is heir of all things as Man, and has all believers as joint-heirs with Him. In Col. 1 we get Him as Creator, as Son of God, as Son of Man, and as Redeemer (the fourth telling us His title—Redeemer—that which has given Him a right over everything). All things are to be reconciled by Him; I do not say justified, because the things had not sinned; but they were all defiled; and, having reconciled all things, He takes us as joint-heirs. Just as Eve was not one of the different animals that Adam gave names to, neither was she lord as Adam, nor was she that over which he was lord; but she was a help-meet or companion with him over the things. And it is under the fourth title, though all remain united in His Person, that He brings in creation unto undefiled blessedness. It never can fail, and we know the redemption already: " you hath he reconciled "; the redemption is accomplished, though the results are not yet produced, as it is said, " that we might be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures."
Then he tells us that the same mind is to be in us as was in Christ. He had " a body prepared," or " ears dug," as it is in Psa. 40:6. He had taken the place of a servant as man. He comes, the fullness of the Godhead, in this body, and exhibits perfect obedience in it; and God has exalted Him to His right hand. He has gone before. We are not there yet; we are left to walk like Him here. It is a blessed thing to see the place He has taken: His path coming always down, and that to be the mind in us. So God says, " that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth " too; that is, infernal things will have to own His title in glory. In that character, that He is exalted, they will have to bow to Him.
The first Adam did not become head of a race till he had sinned; and Christ did not become Head of a new race till He had accomplished redemption, and was Head of righteousness. As man entered Paradise, so He entered the world; each began a race. Sin complete, and the race ended on the one hand; and righteousness complete, and the race begun on the other.
When we talk of coming down, we mean the getting rid of pride in us. It is just the thing the Christian learns, and just the thing the flesh dislikes. Moses killed the Egyptian through the remains of court pride. Satan says, I cannot allow this; you must take the place out and out, or you cannot have it. The world's weapons will not do to fight God's battles with; Moses runs away, and is forty years keeping sheep instead of fighting. Then when God sends him, he cannot go; the extreme of one side and the extreme of the other. Our part in detail is always to wait till God puts us up higher, like the man who took the low place, to whom it was said, " Go up higher." If we are content with the low place, we shall miss ten thousand rebuffs we should otherwise have.
Now there comes a passage which often troubles people, but needlessly, as we shall see. " Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." The mistake people make is putting God's working and our working in contrast. It is not so. The contrast is between Paul and themselves. In losing Paul they had not lost God, who was working. He says, Do it, now that I am absent, for yourselves. Paul had been doing it for them. He had met the wiles of Satan for them in apostolic blessing; his spirit of wisdom had told them what to do. Now he says, My absence does not alter the present power of grace; God works in you Himself. " Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." They were now to meet the enemy without Paul in the front to lead them on. Never mind, he says: " work out your own salvation." I go always down, Himself working in me.
Chapter 2 is the pattern of Christ's lowly walk, the Lord coming down, and always so to the end; chapter 3 is the power and energy of life with Christ, and glory its object. The effect is to produce exactly the character of Christ: " That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life." That is exactly the description of Christ Himself. Take every member of that sentence, and you will see it is Christ. He was all that, and that is just what you are to be. How completely self is put down, God graciously working in us; and the effect is exactly what Christ was-constant self humiliation-and so blameless and harmless, the Son of God without rebuke, the expression of divine grace when there was no will or human exaltation, but the contrary. We see the perfect beauty and blessedness of it. It is not the energy, as in the next chapter; it is the character of the obedience. Wherever the path of obedience led He went. Having taken the form of a servant, His perfection was to obey.
Look what the effect was produced on a creature doing his own will as Adam. What an awful spectacle for angels-the ruin and destruction of God's glory in the world! But, when we had destroyed God's glory, Christ comes, and God is a debtor to man for His glory-not to us, I need not say-just as He had been a debtor to man for His dishonor; for by the cross God was glorified in His very nature. Christ comes, and we see what sin was-deliberate enmity against God's goodness, but all that God is was glorified; His majesty maintained, and all His truth comes out; His righteousness against sin; His perfect love. But the putting away of our sins was a small part of the glory of the cross; it is the foundation of eternal glory and blessedness.
Not only does Christ take the form of a servant, but He will never give it up. As never the place of man will be given up, so He will never give up its true place before God. He took upon Him the form of a man, and served His time on earth, as we have in the figure of the Hebrew servant in Ex. 21, and could have gone out free as man-could have had twelve legions of angels to deliver Him. But He did not. The ear of the servant was bored with an awl to the door when he would not go out free, because he loved his master, his wife, and his children, and he became a servant forever. And that is what Christ is. In John 13, when the blessed Lord was going to glory, we should have said, there is an end of service. It is not so. He gets up from where He was sitting among them as a companion, He gets up and washes their feet; and that is what He is doing now. He says, I cannot stay with you here, but I will not give you up; you must now have part with Me where I am going. If I do not make you clean enough for heaven, you cannot have part with Me there. So this He does by keeping our feet clean. In Luke 12 we learn that He still continues the service in glory-" He shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them." There we get His service in glory. It is His glory in love, though in the form of service. Not only heaven's table for us, but Christ Himself ministering it to us. He never gives up the service. Selfishness likes to be served, but love likes to serve; so Christ never gives up the service, for He never gives up the love. It is His love expressed in ministering that makes everything doubly blessed to us.
When I am brought to God in the spirit of my mind, I can go down like Christ.
Working out your own salvation with fear and trembling is not justification, and our place with God. Salvation in Philippians is always the final result in glory. What was the effect of redemption on Israel? Not to put them in Canaan, but to make them enter on a road through the wilderness. And where were they to get food? and were there not enemies in the way, too? I am to make good my way, maintaining God's name and character, and the devil is trying to hinder me; this is why there is fear and trembling. An Israelite in the wilderness never doubted as to whether he were in Egypt or not. If I find a doubting Christian, he does not yet know that he is redeemed. An Israelite might not gather manna, and would have nothing to eat that day; but he had no thought of being in Egypt. It was only eleven days' journey from Egypt to Canaan, as we get in Deut. 1; but they were forty years journeying before they got to the plains of Moab, except the year they were at Sinai, for they had no courage or faith to take hold.
And so Satan seeks to hinder now. You will not get to your homes to-night without the devil trying to take away the blessing you may have got here. The devil will try to get up pride in you, and thus not let you show out the character of Christ. If you knew that you were charged to carry this character of Christ through the world, and that Satan was trying to hinder you, you would count it a very serious thing. So Peter says, " If ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear." Satan is trying to dirty your feet, or to get you to dishonor Christ in the most awful way. I am in conflict with Satan, the world, and self, but I am in perfect peace with God. It is totally false to confound the working out our salvation with our relationship with God. This is all settled, and my confidence in God enables me to go on working.
Beloved brethren, how far are we doing this? Redemption is complete. How far are our souls making nothing of ourselves, and looking to manifest what Christ was here? It flows out naturally if I am full of Christ. I am not saying I must do this or that like Christ, though that sometimes too; but " he that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure."
You will find the spirit of this graciousness and considerateness running all through the chapter in its details; it all comes out most beautifully.
I would make one remark more: that it is exceedingly blessed to see all this going on when the church was already sinking away into ruin. " All seek their own," he says in this very epistle, and that already. How little we realize its real state when we speak of the primitive church! There it is, all seeking their own; and it was a great deal worse after. I refer to it as a matter of comfort, for he exhorts them to this path in spite of the condition around; as it was when Elijah went up to heaven without dying, at the very time when he could find none but himself who had not bowed the knee to Baal, though God knew where to find them. There were brighter things, too, in David than there ever were in Solomon, who goes to Gibeon (where the ark was not), to sacrifice (2 Chronicles not to teach to sing before the ark on Sion " His mercy endureth forever," 1 Chron. 16. Solomon had never a heart which God could string to play such tunes about Christ as He did in David.
We are told never to be discouraged; to rejoice in all good. If we find that all seek their own, we must only be the more like Christ ourselves. It is a comfort that the Head cannot fail though the members do; you cannot put me in a place in which Christ is not sufficient in full power and grace. All we want is to find ourselves lowly at His feet, He the counselor of our hearts. If we are with God in light we know our own nothingness; and if all seek their own, His grace and blessedness come out the more.
The Lord give us to look to Him as our life and strength.
Phil. 3:1-14.
We saw the apostle in the last chapter bringing our hearts in contact with the Lord Jesus, giving up His divine glory on high, taking the form of a servant, and going down; and then as Man highly exalted. That is exactly what we are to do; we are to have the same mind.
He had closed then, in the last chapter, the state and condition of soul we are to be in, and he now looks before- onward to the glory. The things before will keep the soul from being hindered-Christ set before the soul so as to take complete possession of it. It is not the character of graciousness in the life here, and considerateness for others, as in the last chapter, which looked at Christ emptying Himself of glory and humbling Himself; but the energy of divine life which presses forward to the goal. Sometimes we see a want of energy where there is loveliness of character; or a great deal of energy, on the other hand, when there is a want of softness and considerateness for others. But in the things of God you must get the whole that any part may be right. Satan imitates part, but you never get the whole in what he imitates. When you get both-when Christ is everything, it delivers from selfishness, and shows itself in seeking the good of others; but it will not give way when giving up Christ is in question (I do not mean giving Him up as to the soul's salvation, but in our path here). So the apostle Peter says, " add to brotherly kindness charity," for if God is not brought in, we have no power to walk according to Him in graciousness. Christ has gone up and is everything to us; He is before us as an object, and we cannot give Him up to please the flesh; but we can look for power to press on.
He then gives the starting-point in rejoicing in the Lord. " Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say, rejoice." The effect of the ending of self is that I rejoice. Nothing separates from the love, we know; but there is danger when we are in the enjoyment of present blessing; we are apt to rest in the blessing, and not feel dependent on the Blesser. David said, " I shall never be moved. Lord, by thy favor thou hast made my mountain to stand strong: Thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled." When his mountain was gone, he found he had been trusting in his mountain, and not in the Lord. When he says, " The Lord is my Shepherd," there was no being moved, for he was resting in the Lord Himself. If the heart is emptied of self, it does rest in the Lord; but the heart is so treacherous that a person experiencing great joy as a Christian often gets a fall after it, because of having got away from the place of dependence. He is restored again, we know, as in that Psalm: " He restoreth my soul."
Here Paul was just going to be tried for his life. He had been in prison four years (two of them chained to heathen soldiers), and he says he knew how to be full and to be hungry, how to abound and to suffer need. Pains and sorrows, and joys and comforts-he had gone through all; and he was not discouraged as a man might be who was obliged to be with brutal uncultivated men, and in constant suffering chained to a soldier, and four years in prison. And that was not all; he might have said, I am in prison and cannot do the Lord's work. No, he is with the Lord, and he says, all will " turn to my salvation." Even when Christ was preached of contention, he could say, " I herein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice."
When we are weaned from everything, we are cast on the Lord, and able to rejoice in the Lord, and that is when He leads us.
But what an object, what an energy-producing object, there was in the Lord before him! He looks at everything beyond the wilderness-he a traveler across it, and on the way, always rejoicing in the Lord. Whether he was preaching in public, or quietly in his lodging receiving those who came in, he was rejoicing. It is a great setting aside of self to be always rejoicing in the Lord. He had hoped to go on into Spain after being somewhat filled with the saints' company; but there was now no more about Spain, or being filled with their company either, yet he was still rejoicing. You can never get inside the defenses of the one whose joy is in the Lord. " Nay, in all these things," he says, " we are more than conquerors." All these things are creatures-" angels, principalities, and powers "; but He dwells in us; He is near the heart, and that is the great secret. We get Christ between us and the troubles, we understand how unbelief hinders, but this is the secret that makes everything work for good. The love of God is reckoned upon; His love is shed abroad in the heart. The great starting-point is, " Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord."
We see, too, the simplicity of looking to Christ. The religion of descent, of ordinances, and of works-the moment I get these three, morally speaking, I get a Jew. It was all works, ordinances, and descent. I could boast of all this just the same if Christ had not come. But where does it all end? " Beware of dogs." " Dogs " is a name for a perfectly shameless thing.
I must get the conscience with God, and Christ from God, or I have got nothing. A Jew could bow his head like a bulrush and do all that without his soul being with God, and therefore God puts perfect contempt upon it all. He says, " My son, give me thy heart." " The cattle upon a thousand hills " are Mine. " If I were hungry, I would not tell thee." It is no use your bringing offerings: I want you, not your offerings. Cain had much more trouble in tilling the ground than Abel had about the lamb; but Cain's conscience had never been with God, nor seen the ruin that had come in; we see the hardness of his heart as to sin, and his ignorance as to the holiness of God. He brings what was the sign of the curse- what he had got by the sweat of his face. Abel brought a lamb, and was accepted. If we have got the real knowledge of the work of atonement and acceptance in Him, we are like Abel. The testimony as to righteousness refers to the person of Abel. What it was founded on was his offering, which was a type of Christ. God cannot refuse me when I present Christ to Him; He accepts me according to the pass I bring. I cannot think of going through a process to make my soul up in some way. In coming to God I must come in God's way, which is Christ and nothing else; and with my own conscience, not with ordinances, which are all outward things.
It is remarkable the way in which he treats the subject in this chapter. It is not the conscience with sin on it, but the worthlessness of all ordinances; so he calls it the " concision." Have your hearts circumcised-that is the true ordinance. " We are the circumcision, which worship God in the Spirit "; even as Jeremiah says, " Circumcise your hearts." It must be the flesh totally put down. The flesh has a religion as well as lusts; but the flesh must have a religion that will not kill the flesh. Satisfying the flesh in mortifying the body-a voluntary humility, not sparing the body-that is easy work; but it is not easy work to be done with the flesh.
Suppose I could say, " A Hebrew of the Hebrews," " touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless," perfectly religious-who would be accredited by that? Paul; not God or Christ. It is not worth a farthing, this righteousness. It is giving me a good place. It is " I " all the while, not Christ. And it is in this that it is detected-the moment it accredits the flesh. It may be costly and painful, it may be things by which I punish myself, but it is utterly worthless. I have seen a person irritated to the last degree when told it was not worth anything.
It is striking, the way in which Paul takes it up. It is not as sin, but as something perfectly worthless-legal righteousness, and the true religion as man can see it. " What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ." He was a Hebrew of the Hebrews, and after the strictest sect he lived a Pharisee; that was gain to him. Then he says, " I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ." There was no question of sin; when he speaks of righteousness, it is not as meeting sins, but as contrasted with righteousness according to the law. We can always detect it; all it does is to accredit self-that is the mischief and the evil; for who would have filthy rags (that is what our righteousnesses are called) when he could have Christ for his righteousness? He had such a perception of the excellency of what Christ is in God's sight-what God delights in-that he says, I am not going to keep this wretched righteousness, or add it to that which is of God. The deceitful lusts are bad enough, but this religious flesh is worse. It was not real righteousness; it was self puffed up, not self judged; it was self eked out, and painted over. Now he wants to get rid of self, and have Christ instead of it.
That is the place, and now he unfolds it. Remark, it is not when I was converted I counted all things loss. We find, when a person is converted, Christ is everything; the world is a vain show-vanity, nothing. It has passed from the mind, and things unseen fill the heart. But afterward as the man goes on with his duties and intercourse with his friends, though Christ is still precious, he does not continue to count all things loss; often it is only that he counted. But Paul says, " I do count," not did. It is a great thing to be able to say it. Christ should hold always such a place as He did when salvation was first revealed to our hearts.
Allow me to add a thing which comes into my mind. Of course if a man has not Christ at the bottom, he is no Christian at all; but I mean even where Christ is in a man, and you may find him walking blamelessly, yet, if you speak to him of Christ, there is not an echo in his heart, though his life goes on smoothly. Christ at the bottom, and a fair Christian walk at the top, and, between these two, a hundred and fifty things that Christ has nothing to do with at all. His life is practically passed without Christ. This will not do. It is the terrible levity of the heart that goes on without Christ, until it becomes the highway of whatever the world pours into it.
He now tells us what is the power for this. He wants to win Christ, and it looks like a terrible sacrifice to give up everything for this. But it is just like a baby with a plaything. Try to take the plaything from it, it will hold it the faster; put a prettier before it, and it will let the other drop. He counted everything loss and dung; the things were gone. I shall have temptations, I know; but nine-tenths of the temptations that beset and hinder would not exist if Christ had His place. Things would not tempt and beset us, as gold, and silver, and pretty things, if " the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus " had its place in the heart; that kind of conflict would be gone. We should then know the snares of Satan, and suffer for others; it would not be the struggle to keep my own head above water, but to keep others from being drowned.
Christ having got this place, other things have lost their value. The eye is single, and the whole body is full of light. He had suffered the loss of all things; but he says, " I do count them but dung." He was looking at Christ as such a blessed object that everything was given up for Him. And he kept this place for Him, so that he goes on to win Christ. He had not got Christ yet, but Christ had got hold of him; and he was running the race to get there, and looking at the end of the journey. No matter what the road is; it may be rough, but I am looking to the end.
There are these two things here; first, that I may win Christ; and second, that I may not have my own righteousness. A man with a threadbare coat, if he gets a right good one, is ashamed of the old one. Paul would not thank you for the kind of righteousness he had before. I cannot have my own and God's; I would not have my own if I could. This is blessedly brought out in 1 Cor. 1 " Of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." What we are in life as of God, Christ is of God towards me.
He then goes to the next thing, " That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection."
The first thing was winning Christ; the second, knowing Christ. There is the victory over the whole power of evil- death, and everything else. I want to know Him-His perfect love and life; to have Him as the object before the soul- occupying the soul, and mind, and heart, and so grow up into Him • and to know the power of His resurrection, for then the whole power of Satan was set aside. He had spoken of the righteousness as that which he sought in Christ, not in himself and the law; and now he wanted to know the power of the life expressed in the resurrection of Christ. When he has known Christ as a Person, and victory over death, he can take up the service of love as Christ did, and can know " the fellowship of his sufferings." How different from fearing, and dreading, and creeping on as the apostles did when told of His death, in Mark 10! " They were amazed, and as they followed, they were afraid," instead of rejoicing because death was before them. But, if I know the power of resurrection, death is behind me, all its power is broken. So, when He rose, He said, " All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth "; " Preach the gospel to every creature "; " Be not afraid of them that kill the body," He had said before: they killed His body.
When I have got the power of resurrection I can serve in love. Paul was looking death in the face, and not speaking lightly. Satan says, You want to follow Christ? Yes. There is death in your way. Very well; I shall be all the more like Christ for going through it.
" The fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable to his death, if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead." It should be rather " the resurrection from among the dead." Paul so came into this, that he uses words Christ Himself might use: " I endure all things for the elect's sake." It was all of grace-a totally new place-all pretension to righteousness gone, and what I am as man too, and Christ substituted as righteousness for me. And then Himself-to know Him. That is where progress goes on to; the affections are now engaged. When I see suffering before me, I get the power of His resurrection, and then the privilege of the fellowship of His sufferings. Paul had a large share of this; we have a little. He says, " If by any means I might attain "; that is, Cost what it will, if death is on the road, all right: I shall arrive at what He did-resurrection from among the dead. Resurrection here in Phil. 3:11, is a special word in the Greek, and never even found but here in the New Testament. When we look at the resurrection from the dead, we find it to be a matter of all possible importance. Christ was the first-fruits, not of the wicked dead, of course. What was Christ's resurrection? God raised him from the dead, because His delight was in Him, because of His perfect righteousness and glorifying Him. And it is the same with us. Resurrection is the expression of God's satisfaction in those raised; it is His seal on Christ's work. Christ was the Son He delighted in, and now it is the same with us because of Christ. In Him it was His own perfectness; with us it is because of Him. In power He comes in to take His own out, while the rest are left behind.
" From among," etc.-in that lies the whole force of the expression. So at the transfiguration He charged them not to speak of it " till the Son of man were risen from the dead "; they questioned among themselves " what the rising from the dead should mean." What astonished them? It was " the rising from among the dead." It was this very thing. God intervened in power, and raised Him up, and set Him at His own right hand; and when the time is come, He will raise His saints too. It is an immense act of divine power, for divine righteousness is there. In 1 Corinthians Is there is no reference but to saints; it is not a general resurrection, for the wicked are not raised in glory. I do not know anything that has done more harm to the church than the notion of a general resurrection. If all are raised together, the question of righteousness is not settled; but it is, " if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelled' in you." The whole character, and nature, and meaning, and purpose of this resurrection is entirely distinct. " From among " is the expression of divine delight in the person raised, and we are all raised because of it; else there would be no sense in the expression " attained."
He says, " if by any means "-if it cost me my life-it is all nothing. " That I may win Christ " is the first thing. But, in winning Him at the close of the race, it is also as a present thing " that I may know him." It has been asked whether this refers to the present effect, or to the future glory? I say it is present effect by future glory.
" I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling." The high calling is the calling above. We see the immediate connection of the object with the present effect. He wanted to be like Christ now, not only when he should be dead in his grave and his spirit in paradise. If he were to die, he would be then like Him; but that was not what he was looking for, namely, to be conformed to the image of the Son of God in glory. This he would be of course, but this I never shall be till Christ come and raise the dead; this I wait for. I am conscious of never attaining, but I wait for it, and every day I am more like Him, suffering in the power of the love in which He served the Father; and there is a continual growing likeness to Christ inwardly from looking at Him in the glory. The only thing I care for is to be like Him in glory, and with Him.
The whole of Paul's life was founded on that, and completely formed by that. The Son of God was forming his soul day by day, and he was always running towards Him, and never doing anything else. It was not merely as an apostle that he entered into the fellowship of His sufferings, and conformity to His death, but every Christian ought to be doing the same. A person may say he has forgiveness of sins, but I say, What is governing your heart now? Is your eye resting on Christ in glory? Is the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus so before your soul as to govern everything else, and make you count everything loss that is in the way? Is that where you are? Has this excellent knowledge put out all other things? not only an outwardly blameless walk, and able to say you love Christ; but has the thought of Christ in glory put out all other things? If it were so, you would not be governed by everyday nothings.
If a laboring man has a family, he. does not forget the affections of his children because of his work. On the contrary, when his labor is done, his tools are thrown down, and he returns home with all the more joy because he has been absent from it. His labor did not hinder or enfeeble the affections of his heart.
To be in our daily occupations as to Christ, we have also to watch against another danger; when there are not other objects, there are distractions. We must watch the distractions as well as the objects, and have habits of jealousness of heart for Christ, else there is immediate weakness. And then when we go into God's presence, instead of rejoicing in the Lord, conscience has to be talked to. It is sad indeed when the walk in the world has been such, that, on going back to Christ, we find He had not been thought of in it.
Could you say, as Paul to Agrippa, Would to God you were (not almost, but) altogether such as I am? Are you happy enough to say that? Can you say, I am so rejoicing in Christ, and see such excellency in the knowledge of Him, that I would to God you were like me? What we have to look for in hearts is, not I have counted, but " I do count." Do your hearts count, as a present thing, all things loss? Two things we have to watch against, having another object, and, what is even more subtle, distractions.
The Lord give us to have our eyes so anointed with eyesalve, so to see Him, as to detach our hearts from other things; to have no other object than Himself before them. Perhaps we shall have the cross to take up; but mark, then it is not merely suffering, nor always exactly for Him either, but it is always with Him. The Lord give us (for we have to pass through a place where people do not care about Christ) to have the eye thus fixed on Him, having Him as a sanctuary, as the power and energy which carries us through. The Lord give us-and it is in His heart to give us-to say, " This one thing I do." The Lord give us truth of heart, and diligence of heart too.
Phil. 3:15-21; CH. 4:1-7
We were seeing, beloved brethren, the way in which Christ being before the eye gives earnestness of purpose in running towards the glory. Christ had laid hold on Paul for it, and he wanted to lay hold on Christ in glory. We were seeing too that this epistle looks at the Christian as traveling across the wilderness with everything at the end, but remember this, that, all through, the power of Christ's resurrection being in him, he had already the power in life, and wanted it in glory; and the practical effect was to make him run as a person who had only the glory in view. One single object-winning Him- and being raised up himself into the glory.
That is what we are predestinated to-" to be conformed to the image of his Son "; not looking forward to being like Him when our bodies are in the grave and we in Paradise. True, " when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is "; " but our conversation " is now " in heaven "; our citizenship, though I do not much like the word. It means all our living relationships; as we say, He is an Englishman; that is what distinguishes him. What distinguishes us is, we are of heaven. So he says, " this one thing I do," running towards the place; it has determined my whole life; " I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling." The high calling means the calling above. We can have no notion of perfection but as in that glory.
The moment I have seen Christ come down, obedient to death for me, there is nothing too great to expect as the answer to it, for all is the fruit of the travail of His soul.
The " earnest of his love " is nowhere in Scripture; it has been taken, I think, out of a hymn. The earnest of the glory we have; " the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts." Paul felt the power of the glory on his spirit; and that is how we are to run, but all Christians do not know it. If a man is a Christian at all he must know the cross as that through which he is redeemed; but he may not know that he is going to be with Christ in glory. The " little children " know that their sins are forgiven. This is the common knowledge of all. And the children know the Father-have the Spirit of adoption. But the perfect in Christ, as they are here called, know the evil of their own hearts far better, and at the same time see the perfect love of God in giving Christ on the cross-love come down to the sinner in his sins. They see not only that they are forgiven, but that we are all done with as children of Adam. The little children have not that. They do not know that they are entirely set aside as to their Adam nature. The old nature is dead to faith, and " when Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall we also appear with him in glory "; and faith has got the place now, " Herein is love with us made perfect," " because as he is, so are we in this world." There is the man perfect.
He says, " Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you." He may be at the beginning, and you farther on; if so, you ought only to show him the more grace; however, Christ has laid hold on him, and forgiven him his sins, and he will yet know another thing, even that he has died with Christ-that not only sins are forgiven, but that sin is put away by faith-that he himself is put away- that self which troubled him a great deal more than his sins. They are to be likeminded, as those who know that they are associated with the last Adam. Even if this is not seen by all, they are yet to go thoroughly together; God will reveal it to the others.
He then turns to the contrast, and, in doing so, puts himself forward in a remarkable way as their example. There are those whose " conversation is in heaven," and there are those who " mind earthly things "; the end of the latter is destruction; they are contrary to Christianity. It is now not a question of not seeing clearly, but of having the mind on earthly things. That is not Christ in glory; I cannot mind earthly things and Christ too. " The friendship of the world is enmity with God." " All that is in the world is not of the Father." The children are of the Father. When I was first awakened, I was astonished to find so much about the world in God's word; but I soon saw, when I had to do with Christians, how it dragged them back, always soliciting their hearts.
He says those who mind earthly things are the enemies of the cross of Christ. What was the cross? It had judged all this. I find the Son of God-the spring, and root, and plant, for all glory to grow on. The cross was all He got in this world. And what is the world? The world would not have Christ on any terms; so I have done with it. " The world seeth me no more "; the Holy Ghost is not come to be seen; " whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him, but ye know him, for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you." That is how we know the Holy Ghost.
Evil and good came to an issue at the cross. It was the turning-point; it was where the two met. And now the whole question is, Am I with the world that turned Christ out, or with Christ whom the world turned out? There is nothing like the cross. It is both the righteousness of God against sin, and the righteousness of God in pardoning sin. It is the end of the world of judgment, and the beginning of the world of life. It is the work that put away sin, and yet it is the greatest sin that ever was committed. The more we think of it, the more we see it is the turning-point of everything. So, if a person follows the world, he is an enemy of the cross of Christ. As Christians we have to look into it, how far this vain show puts a spider film over our hearts, so as to hinder us from seeing. If I take the glory of the world that crucified Christ, I am glorying in my shame. Where is a man at home? In his Father's house, not in the dreary desert he has to cross in going there.
The meekness of the path we saw in chapter 2; here we have the power and energy that delivers from the world that would hinder our being like Him.
" Who shall change our vile body "-the body of our humiliation, not vile morally. I have Adam's body now, I shall have Christ's then. All our living associations are where He is. As Savior He will come and accomplish all in changing our body, and conforming it to His glorious body. The price has been paid, but the final deliverance of what has been paid for is not yet come. " He that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God," but we have not yet got it. We are waiting till He come, to get it.
Ah! beloved brethren, if our hearts really felt that God is going to make us like Christ, if we practically believed that He is going to bring us as brethren to be with and like Christ- well, we should have altogether another thought about the world, we should be " perfect " then, pressing towards the mark.
If I die meanwhile, I am always confident. I do not want to die; I want mortality to be swallowed up of life; but if death come, it does not touch my confidence; " absent from the body, present with the Lord."
He first speaks of the hope; that is what I want. Then he looks at the two things that are man's portion: " It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment." As to death, it is gain to me, for to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. But what about the judgment? It is a solemn thing. It is " the terror of the Lord." I think of the poor things not converted, and I " persuade men." It makes him think not of himself but of other people, though he says, " we must all appear "-that is, be manifested" before the judgment-seat of Christ." We persuade men, and are made manifest to God. The day of judgment had its effect on him; it made him feel now the effect of the presence of God, as he will do in the day of judgment. It keeps my conscience awake and alive; it is a sanctifying power, not a terrifying one. Divine power will take us; as Adam had Eve presented to him, Christ, being God, presents His Eve-His church-to Himself, as last Adam.
Persons have asked if this is present or future-" that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection." It is the present power of looking at it objectively. " He that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure." It is the present effect of having the eye fixed on Him and waiting for Him. Final redemption will come, and make good, as to the body, what is true now of the soul. He will make us like Him in the Father's house; and, what I feel is so blessed, He will have us there without even the need of a conscience.
Here I must always have my conscience on the qui vive; if not, I am at once caught in a snare of Satan. There I shall not want it, where all around will be blessedness. We shall have the Holy Ghost then too, and His whole power spent in enabling us to enjoy the glory. Now " the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us," but much of the power is spent in making the ship go.
As a matter of fact, a number of us have cares, and trials, and temptations. God has thought of all these; He has counted the very hairs of our heads, and given us something that takes us out of them all. He thinks of the weather for us even: " Pray ye that your flight be not in the winter." Nay, even a sparrow falls not to the ground without your Father. God thinks of everything, and gives us complete superiority over everything.
It is blessed to see that the apostle goes from the most exalted thoughts of the revelation of God to the commonest things a saint has to pass through. From things so exalted he turns to two women who were not getting on well together. So it is to-day. There is no forgetfulness in grace. It takes up to the third heaven, but goes down to the smallest things. Even when a runaway slave is in question, the delicacy with which Paul deals with it has been admired in all ages.
What was Christ's comfort on the cross? He could not tell the poor thief that he was going to paradise without telling him that He was going there too: " To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise." So Paul, when thinking of the women who labored with him, says, " whose names are in the book of life." God being there, there were divine affections; we are put in the place of divine affections.
There is nothing I feel more in going out to visit, than the desire that Christ should be so there, that the thing should come out that would come out of Christ-not my own thoughts. We do not know half how blessed it is to have the mind of Christ; but the mind of Christ was to go down to the cross.
" Rejoice in the Lord alway." Who was a fit person to say that? The man who had been in the third heaven? No. The man a prisoner at Rome. That was rejoicing always; as we have in the Psalms, " I will bless the Lord at all times." When I get the Lord as the object of my heart, there is more of heaven in the prison than out of it. It is not the green pastures and waters of quietness that make him glad, " The Lord is my Shepherd," not the green pastures, though green pastures are very nice. And even if I wander from them, it is " He restoreth my soul." And if death is in the way, I am not afraid, for " Thou art with me." And though there are dreadful enemies, there is a table spread in their presence. Now he says, " My cup runneth over." He carries him through all the difficulties and trials of his own feebleness. Ah! he says, " surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
The man who trusted in the Lord, the more trouble he was in, the more he proved that all was right. Paul says, I know Him free, and I know Him in prison. He was sufficient when he was in want, and sufficient when he abounded. So he says, " Rejoice in the Lord alway."
What could they do with such a man? If they kill him, they only send him to heaven; if they let him live, he is all devoted to lead people to the Christ they would destroy.
It is more difficult to rejoice in the Lord in prosperity than in trials, for trials cast us on the Lord. There is more danger for us when there are no trials. But delight in the Lord delivers us altogether from the power of present things. We are not aware, until they are taken away, how much the most spiritual of us lean on props. I mean we lean on things around us. But if we are rejoicing in the Lord alway, that strength can never be taken away, nor can we lose the joy of it.
" Let your moderation be known unto all men." Do you think people will think your conversation is in heaven if you are eager about things of earth? They will only think so if there is the testimony that the heart does not stick up for itself. " The Lord is at hand." All will be set right soon. If you pass on in meekness, and subduedness, and unresistingness, how it acts in keeping the heart and affections right; and the world can see when the mind and spirit is not set on it. So he says, let it be " known unto all men."
" Be careful for nothing." I have found that word so often a thorough comfort. Even if it be a great trial, still " be careful for nothing." Oh! you say, it is not my petty circumstances-it is a question of saints going wrong. Well, " be careful for nothing." It is not that you are careless, but you are trying to carry the burden, and so you are racking your heart with it. How often a burden possesses a person's mind, and when he tries in vain to cast it off, it comes back and worries him! But " be careful for nothing " is a command, and it is blessed to have such a command.
What shall I do then? Go to God. " In everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God." Then in the midst of all the care you can give thanks. And we see the exceeding grace of God in this. It is not that you are to wait till you find out if what you want is the will of God. No. " Let your requests be made known." Have you a burden on your heart? Now go with your request to God. He does not say that you will get it. Paul, when he prayed, had for answer, " My grace is sufficient for thee." But peace will keep your heart and mind- not you will keep this peace. Is He ever troubled by the little things that trouble us? Do they shake His throne? He thinks of us, we know, but He is not troubled; and the peace that is in God's heart is to keep ours. I go and carry it all to Him, and I find Him all quiet about it. It is all settled. He knows quite well what He is going to do. I have laid the burden on the throne that never shakes, with the perfect certainty that God takes an interest in me, and the peace He is in keeps my heart, and I can thank Him even before the trouble has passed. I can say, Thank God, He takes an interest in me. It is a blessed thing that I can have this peace, and thus go and make my request-perhaps a very foolish one-and, instead of brooding over trials, that I can be with God about them.
It is sweet to me to see that, while He carries us up to heaven, He comes down and occupies Himself with everything of ours here. While our affections are occupied with heavenly things, we can trust God for earthly things. He comes down to everything. As Paul says, " without were fightings, within were fears. Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us." It was worth being cast down to get that kind of comfort. Is He a God afar off, and not a God nigh at hand? He does not give us to see before us, for then the heart would not be exercised; but, though we see not Him, He sees us, and comes down to give us all that kind of comfort in the trouble.
Phil. 4:8-23.
The first two verses I have read are the last of the exhortation in this epistle.
We have already seen the way in which, in entire superiority to all circumstances, the Christian is to go on. All through the epistle that character of the power of the Spirit of God is brought out. In verse 8 we get the effect of what we were speaking of last time: " Rejoice in the Lord alway "; " let your moderation be known unto all men "; " be careful for nothing; let your requests be made known unto God, and the peace of God which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." The heart is set free, for the peace of God, which is immutable, keeps the heart and mind. There is nothing new or strange to God. He is always in peace, working all things after the counsel of His own will. It is thus that the heart is to be at rest, and then it is free to be occupied with what is lovely and blessed.
It is a great thing for the Christian to have the habit of living in what is good in this world, where we necessarily have to do with what is evil. We were evil ourselves once, and nothing else was in heart, thoughts, and mind; and there is still evil not only in the world but in our hearts, and we have to judge it where it is allowed. But it will not do to be always occupied with it. It defiles even when we judge it; just as when the man had to do with the ashes of the red heifer in Num. 19; he was really doing a service in gathering them up, and laying them up without the camp, yet he was unclean until even, and the same as to him who applied them. It is soiling to our minds, even to be judging evil. There is in some hearts a tendency to be busy about evil, but it will not do to live in. Of course I am not now speaking of living in it actually, but of even in thought judging it.
It is a great thing to have the heart toned and tuned to take delight in the things God delights in. Even in the sense of judging evil as evil, it is not happy. I am to be living now as with God in heaven, and has God to be judging evil in heaven? We know He has not; and it is a great thing for our souls to be above with the Lord, not only doing the things that please Him, but being also in the state of mind in which He can delight. Take one day only and ask yourself, has your mind been living in the things that are lovely and of good report? It is that the apostle speaks of here. Is it the habit of your mind to be dwelling on what is good? Evil forces itself on us in these days, but it will not do to be dwelling on it. It weakens the mind; the mind gets no strength from thinking of it. It may awaken disgust where the mind is in a spiritual state, but even judging it, we are not doing it rightly unless the heart is dwelling on what is good. We might be bringing down fire from heaven, when Christ would merely go to another village.
He walked in the full power of communion in what was good in the midst of evil, though He had to do with it; He had to say, " Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees "; and we may have to do with it too, but it is never done rightly unless we are living in what is good. There would never be softness, and by this I do not mean softness towards evil-we have to judge that peremptorily-but there would be no gracious softness. Paul had to say, " I would they were even cut off which trouble you." There is no softness here: but still even this comes out in love. Supposing we have to judge evil, we have to do it in the power of the good that is in us. Here is the path in which our souls have to walk: " Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." The Lord give us, beloved brethren, to remember them. God may have to judge, but He dwells in what is good.
We then get-and what a blessed thing it is for a man to be able to say it-" Those things which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do." Mark here, that is the way of having the God of peace with us. When our cares are cast on God, he says, " The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus "; but this is more. Paul stood in a special or peculiar place, filled by the Spirit of God, though the chief of sinners, as he says, yet " always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus ": " death worketh in us-life in you." It was a great deal to say. He had to have a thorn in the flesh to enable him to carry it out; it was not that his flesh was naturally any better than yours. He did not only say, I am dead, but he carried about the death in the flesh, so that it did not stir. He was a chosen vessel, we know, and it was through the grace and power of Christ that he did it. But he was doing it, and so, as we remarked in beginning, there is never sin mentioned in this epistle, because it is the proper experience of Christian life; doctrine is scarcely alluded to either. Paul speaks throughout in the consciousness of his experience.
If I look to walk after Christ, I must reckon myself dead. I never say I must die, because this would be to suppose the flesh there working; of course it is there, but I say it is dead. I quite understand a person passing through a state by which he learns what flesh is, and such processes are more or less long. But when brought thoroughly down to say, " In me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing," then God can say, Reckon yourself dead; do not let sin have dominion over you. The spring from which all power comes is that you have died. That is the fundamental truth as to deliverance. Deliverance comes when by the power of the Spirit of God we reckon ourselves dead. It is not so but to faith. Christ is there in power, and I reckon myself dead, and then I can deal in power.
" This is the record that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son." But is that all? No. For supposing life is there, and that the old nature is still alive, there is nothing but conflict between the two, and, unless I have the power of the Spirit of God, no settled freedom from sin; and supposing I have, still there is conflict. Only if I am dead really, my deliverance from the working of the flesh is fully realized. The apostle says, in the power and being of this life, I am dead; and when he comes to carry it out, it is " always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus." I have received Christ as righteousness before God, and as life in me; and I treat the old thing as dead. It is not only that I have life, but I have died, so it is not an even chance between the two, which shall have the upper hand. It is the way till I am brought to the discovery that there is no good in the flesh, and that I have died with Christ. Then I learn that not only I have done bad things, but that the tree itself is bad, and that Christ, who is our life, has died to sin, as well as for sins; and, when I reckon the old thing dead, I find liberty.
I do not say forgiveness, but deliverance. " The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free." Of course I may fail, and may be brought under the power of sin for a moment, but I am not a debtor to it any more. How has He condemned the flesh? In death. Then I am free- in the fact of life treating the old thing as dead. We are always to manifest this life of Jesus. Keeping in faith this dying of Christ, I have got the cross for the flesh. The apostle says, The death of Christ works in me, old Paul, and so nothing but the life of Christ flows out for you; and he says, Go you and do like me; " those things which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you." He Himself will be then present with you.
What a wonderful thing it is, beloved brethren! The life of Christ given-the flesh reckoned dead-and we walking accordingly. Is God then going to keep Himself separate from you? No. " The God of peace shall be with you."
It is wonderful how often He is called " the God of peace," while He is never called the God of joy. Joy is an uneven thing. Joy gives us the thought of hearing good news, and sorrow may be there too. There is joy indeed in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, for that is good news there; but it is not God's nature like peace. It is an emotion of the heart. Man is a poor and weak creature. He hears good news, and he has joy; he hears sad news, and he has sorrow. It is the ups and downs of a creature-nature. But He is " the God of peace." It is a deeper thing. Look at the world and the human heart; do you ever see peace there? Joy we do see in the animal nature even; as in a beast let loose. And we may see a kind of joy in the world, but there is no peace; the heart of man is " like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest "-incessant harassment for amusement, and they call that joy. The world is a restless world, and if it cannot be restless in activity to get what it wants, it is restless because it cannot. We never find peace in this world except when God gives it.
If we are walking in the power of the life of Christ, the God of peace is with us. We have the consciousness of His presence. The heart is at rest; there is no craving after something we have not got. Even among Christians we see persons who have no peace because they are craving after what they have not got. That is not peace. But enjoying what is in Him, though surely craving to know Him better, is blessed rest of heart;-it is peace. It is a blessed thing to have such a sanctuary in this world-" the God of peace " with us.
We then see how Paul is superior to all circumstances. He had been in want, though in a kind of free prison, and his heart felt it. " I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again." He says, " now at the last," as if they had been a little bit careless. But there is a gracious delicacy towards them; he at once withdraws what he had said, by adding, " but ye lacked opportunity." There is never insensibility in the Christian's superiority, else it is no superiority. In all circumstances the heart is free to act according to the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and He was never insensible. We steel ourselves against circumstances; our poor selfish hearts like to get away from suffering. But He was always Himself in the circumstances. So, as has been said, there was no character in Christ. He was always Himself. Perfectly sensitive to all things, but never governed by them, always in them in the strength of His own grace. We never find Him unmoved. When He saw the crowd, He was " moved with compassion towards them "; and when He saw the bier which carried out the only son of the widow, He had pity on her; and at the grave of Lazarus " He groaned in the spirit, and was troubled "-a strong expression, it is, He troubled Himself inwardly. The power of death in the people around Him pressed on His spirit. No matter where He was, He was never insensible, but was Himself in grace for that He was sensible of. On the cross, He had the right word for the thief. Even when He had to say, " How long shall I be with you, and suffer you? " He immediately adds, " Bring thy son hither." He was perfectly sensitive, as we are not, with His grace always ready to be called out. What shows itself in Christ is what we should seek to be; that is, perfectly sensitive to all circumstances, but that they should meet Christ in us, so as to draw Him out.
We have seen how Paul corrects what he had said, " at the last your care of me hath flourished again," by adding, " ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity." We never find the Lord correcting Himself. Paul was a man of like passions as we are. At Troas he could not stop, though a great door was opened to him for preaching the gospel; he had no rest in his spirit because he did not find Titus. In Macedonia, too, his flesh had no rest. And he says of that epistle which gives us inspired directions for the assembly (we could not do without it), that he was not sorry he had written it, though he had been sorry; and yet he had been inspired to write it. His heart had sunk below the place he was in, when he thought all the Corinthians had turned against him. It is blessed in one sense to see that, though he was an apostle, he was so like us: but we would not see it in the blessed Lord. Perfect sensitiveness, but perfection in it, is what we see in Him; while we see the apostle was a man, though it is interesting to see him feeling in that way.
He then goes on to show, that he was superior to all these circumstances. " Not that I speak in respect of want, for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content." " I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." Power has come in for us, beloved friends. People say, Oh! we can do all things through Christ, as a kind of absolute truth. I say, Can you? You cannot. Oh! you say, a person can; and this is perfectly true as an absolute statement, but it is not what the apostle meant. He meant that he could do all things; he had learned it. It was a real state for him, not an abstract proposition. " I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry." If full, He keeps me from being careless, and indifferent, and self-satisfied; if hungry, He keeps me from being cast down and dissatisfied. With him it was not a man can, but I have found Christ so sufficient in every circumstance that I am under the power of none. He had been beaten of rods: five times he had received of the Jews forty stripes, save one; he had been stoned, and he had gone through all sorts of things; but he had found Christ sufficient in them all.
And do not say, Ah! that was when he was a mature Christian; it was very well to say it at the end of his life. If he had not found Christ thus sufficient from the beginning right through to the end, he could not have said what he did at the end. It is that faith reckons on Christ from the starting point of Christian life. It is the principle I was referring to in Psa. 23 When the Psalmist had gone through everything, he says, " Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." Full or hungry I shall always find that He is enough. But to be able to experience this at the end it must be experienced by the way.
Do not say, Oh! he was an apostle! he was a wonderfully blessed man, far above the evil that is torturing me. No such thing! He had a thorn in the flesh while he was writing; and though that was not power, it put him into nothingness where the power could come in. The Lord would not take it away when Paul besought Him. " My grace is sufficient for thee," was His answer. It seemed a hindrance; but, when he preached, Christ's power was seen, not Paul's. I refer to it so that you should not say that he was free from the difficulties and snares of the flesh. God had put him in danger of being exalted above measure by taking him up to the third heaven, and He sent him a thorn to make nothing of him, and then His strength was made perfect in weakness. Divine strength cannot be where human strength is. If it had been human strength, Paul's converts would have been worth nothing; but God's converts were worth eternal life. It is a great thing that we should be made nothing of. If we do not know how to be nothing, God must make us nothing. A humble person does not need to be humbled.
Paul was dependent upon Christ-absolutely dependent on Christ-and we find the infallible faithfulness of Christ to him. But, I repeat, he could not have said it at the end, if he had not experienced it by the way. It is a blessed testimony. He is sufficient for us where we are; but He must bring us to the point of uprightness. The soul must be in the truth of its state before God. Till the conscience get into the place where I really am-till it get the consciousness of distance from God, and unfaithfulness to Him-it is not upright. But when it gets there, Now, says God, I have got you right; I can help you. Job said, " When the ear heard me, then it blessed me, and when the eye saw me, it gave witness to me; because I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help." I did this, I did that. That will not do, says God; that is all I, I, I. So He lets the devil loose upon him till Job curses the day in which he was born, but at last he says, " Now mine eye seeth thee; wherefore I abhor myself." That will do, says God; now I can bless you. And He did bless him.
God would have us not merely holding our heads above water, but going on in the strength of His grace.
" Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity." Love is never forgetful; it treasures up acts of service. And the apostle treasured up in memory the things, wherein he had been cared for. God delights in service done to His saints; even what is done to the world He delights in too.
" But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus." Mark the intimacy there is in " my God." It is emphatic. It is saying, I know Him; I can answer for Him; I have come through all kinds of things, and I can answer for it that He never failed me. I know the way He acts even in the small things of everyday life.
It is a great thing to trust God daily and hourly; not thinking we can provide for ourselves, and secure ourselves against the power of evil, but to trust God thoroughly. And what is the measure of the supply? Nothing short of " his riches in glory by Christ Jesus." He must glorify Himself-even in the falling of a sparrow-for there is nothing great and nothing small with God. He thinks of what His love must glorify itself in.
" My God shall supply all your need." How could Paul tell that? He knew Him. Not that he had not been in a condition of want, but he had felt the preciousness of being met in it by God. Things may look very dark, but we have always found that, if He led us by the wilderness where there was no water, He brought water out of the stony rock for us there. He always exercises faith, but He always meets it. Their coats even did not grow old for forty years. This is a blessed result.
" My God shall supply all your need." He was counting on blessing for others. What a comfort! Instead of walking by sight, to be passing through this world in the blessed consciousness of what God is for oneself, and so able to count on Him for others. We find ourselves sometimes almost dreading to press a person into the path of faith; but we should not dread, but count on grace for them. Faith is always triumphant.
The Lord give us to count on Him always, and we shall then say, " I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."

Thoughts on Philippians 2

Phil. 3 presents the energy of life and of the Spirit of God in the Christian running toward the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, that he might win Christ. In chapter 2 we find the display of the gracious affections. But in order to this, the Spirit of God fixes our minds upon Christ looked at in this humble condition, or rather when He humbled Himself. It is beautiful, the way in which, toward the end of the chapter, without an effort, we find the apostle's feelings were all drawn out-the spirit elevated really above the circumstances, but free to unfold itself in gracious affections in the midst of them all. And that is just what the Christian ought to be, having Christ as his one object, the power of the Holy Ghost raising him above all around him, that there should be the display of Christ towards all around him. The Christian's life here ought to be the manifestation of Christ in the midst of the world. For this we must be in constant communion with the source of it. The Christian's life as such down here is the display of Christ's life. It is the life of Jesus manifested in his mortal body.
The Philippians had sent to the apostle to help him, when in prison, with a supply of what he needed. His heart had been touched, and he felt the kindness and love. But while owning it, his heart turns to think of them. The Spirit of life in Christ is at work in him, and he immediately thinks of their things. He is comforted of them and can say, " I know how to abound and to suffer need." I am rejoicing that I can get the blessing from you: but the consequence is that it turns back towards them. He says, " If there be, therefore, any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind."
If the love of Christ is in our hearts, the consequence is that things acquire a character entirely different. They had sent to the apostle what he wanted, and he says there is consolation in Christ. It is not merely the things he got, but the comfort of Christ and fellowship of the Spirit. It was the working of the spirit of grace in Jesus, showing itself in this fellowship. He says, If you want me to be perfectly happy, go on well among yourselves. There were some little jealousies at work, such things as do spring up amongst Christians; but he takes occasion, by owning all the grace that was in them, to say, " Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind." And one just sees how these gracious affections are drawn out and in exercise, where the heart, in the power of the Spirit of God, is carried beyond the things which act on the flesh. His heart turns to Christ as the expression of this. He says, " Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind, let each esteem other better than themselves." Now if we are not very near Christ, that is often very difficult. We may see great vanity or pride in another, and one may be going on really better than this or that person. I do not mean that the other may be positively sinning; but I may feel that he is not walking spiritually. Yet, if I am practically close to Christ myself, I see my brother in Christ, and then it is not hard to estimate others better than myself. Where I am walking in nearness to Christ, if there is anything consciously wrong in myself, this is what I feel about and not my goodness.
The best thing is not to be thinking about myself at all, but to have the sense of my own nothingness, which we always have when we are near the Lord. I feel my nothingness in the presence of Christ. But if I look at my brother, I see Christ in him-not his faults. If we are thus close to the Lord, it is natural to esteem others better than ourselves. We judge ourselves in His presence; but we see the workings of Christ in our brother. The thing that is before us in our brother is Christ. See the amazing privilege of the Christian. " Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus." The state here is the fruit of the energy which is brought before us in chapter 3. There he was counting all as dross and dung, and pressing on toward the mark. That is supposed here, and he says, " Let the same mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus." In this passage we get the complete and absolute contrast of all that was in the first Adam and in the flesh now. You are to have the same mind as there was in Christ, looked at from the time that He was in the glory till He came down to the cross. That is what governed all His path from the divine glory down to this nothingness of death, " the dust of death," as it is called. You are to have the same mind as He had all that pathway. And you will see what it is here.
It is a wonderful thing to see that we are called upon to have the same mind which was in Christ Jesus. It is from having His nature, " who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation." If we look at the first Adam, it was exactly the opposite. He was in the form of man, in the condition of man, and he did set about, as a robbery, to be equal with God. He took it in order to get into this place, to exalt himself; and he was abased. Whereas Christ abased Himself, and He is exalted. It is not only that He appears, but He abases Himself. " He made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men." Then there was a second step in this humiliation. " And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." There is nothing so humble as obedience, because we have then no will of our own at all. Adam, besides setting up to be God, was disobedient unto death; whereas Christ, on the contrary, was obedient unto death, as a matter of sorrow and pain. He was " obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."
The thing that I find in Christ exactly opposed to the first Adam and to our flesh is that He humbled Himself-emptied Himself. First, He made Himself of no reputation, and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death. You see it is not merely bearing wrongs- this He did most really. But there is another thing here- perfect love. It was this that brought Him down. He came into the place of obedience, and it was through perfect love to others who wanted it. For love likes to serve; selfishness likes to be served, and thinks itself exalted when other people are waiting upon it. Love likes to serve; and that is what Christ always will do. He will never give it up. He served when He was down here upon the earth. " I am among you as he that serveth." Wretched hearts they had to enter into it! Knowing that He was come from God and went to God, He girds Himself, pours water into a basin and begins to wash the disciples' feet. This is what He is doing now; He is washing our feet; He is servant in that sense still. It is His glory really-the glory of His love towards us.
And when the time comes, it is the same thing. He tells them to be as men that wait for their Lord. " Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord, when he cometh, shall find watching; verily I say unto you that he shall gird himself, and make them sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them." The Lord thus presented Himself in this wonderful way as taking the form of a servant-His ear bored. It was not there His becoming a man; but when He had served the seven years perfectly, He says, I will not go out free. He remains a servant forever. He might have had twelve legions of angels and gone out free; but that is not what He came for. He said, I will be a servant forever.
That is the very thing which Christ all through His path has done. Leaving God in the glory, leaving the form of Godhead in abeyance, He became a servant for the blessing of others. We have got the blessing now and the glory; and the way you show that, is by serving now in that spirit of love that thinks everyone better than oneself; and serves everybody. In the presence of Christ selfishness disappears, and blessed holy affections flow forth without difficulty. I am not thinking of myself. I see what is blessed and good in another, and this is the energy that overcomes all difficulties. Christ humbled Himself: God, therefore, has highly exalted Him, and " given him a name which is above every name," etc.
In verse 13, it is God working in us to will and to do of His good pleasure. We have by grace, God as the worker in us of this willing and doing. That is what is displayed in our life. It showed itself in Christ by His coming down and humbling Himself; and now He says God is working in you the same mind, to will and to do of His good pleasure. You are to be blameless and harmless; that is what Christ was. You are actually manifested down here as Christ was. Did He not shine as the light? That is what you are. He was the word of life, and He was holding it forth; and He says, that is what you are to do too-" holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain." Just see how all these affections come out. " Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you all." It was really manifesting Christ to them.
He was there a prisoner, perhaps going to be put to death; but " I joy and rejoice with you all." Your faith is what I look at as a precious sacrifice; you are going to be in glory with Christ: and if I am offered up, it is for that very reason; I am offered on your faith. The offering was their faith. He says, as it were, I throw myself in, that we may rejoice together. We are all going to heaven in company. He is looking at Christ having these saints, and he is helping them. " For the same cause [he adds] also do ye joy and rejoice with me." What! rejoice when he was going to be put to death! Looking at the blessedness in Christ, he rises above it all.
But we see the same affections coming out still. Even in common things, he cannot be happy till he knows their state. " But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort when I know your state." I cannot rest perfectly happy till I know that all is well with you all. " For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state." It is not that he could trust others for the same love, but it was in him. " For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's." But still he rests in Timothy. " But ye know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he has served with me in the gospel." It is still the same blessed happy feeling. Timothy's affection, too, is brought out. Paul knew that the Philippians would care about him, so he says Timothy shall come and tell you.
" Yet I supposed it necessary to send unto you Epaphrodims, my brother and companion in labor, and fellow-soldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants." Thus he links them all in one. " For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick." The Philippians had heard that he had been sick, and Epaphroditus felt they would be all miserable because of this. How he reckons upon their love! He was full of heaviness, not because of his own sickness, but because they had heard of it. It is the present flowing out of affection. " For indeed he was sick nigh unto death; but God had mercy on him: and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow." What a sorrow it would have been to me, if you had lost this blessed servant of Christ through serving me! " I sent him therefore the more carefully that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful." How all these gracious, blessed affections are drawn out where this mind of Christ is! Look at Christ Himself. " With desire," He says, " I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer." He was about to suffer; He was going to work the work of redemption. Still His soul was always bright instead of being oppressed. Even when He wanted for the last time to have the paschal supper with them. " With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you." It was not to be again. Think of the amount of lowliness, as well as love, that comes out in this affection. " Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus." It cannot be unless we are near to Christ, because the wretched flesh rises and is anxious about itself. But where the soul has, as the single thing before it, the desire to honor Christ, the life of Christ is set free in displaying Christ in the world; and then all these blessed affections are in full play. What do we learn in Christ? He was always going down. We are elevated because we are in Christ. But we are to have the same " mind "; and the way that this shows itself is in self humbling and in obedience. This sets free all the Christian affections, because Christ has set me free from self.
May we so feed upon Him, and have Him for our object, and enter into His spirit, that we may have the mind of Christ, and show Him forth in the world!

The Effect of Christ Down Here: Philippians 2

THE whole of this epistle contains very little doctrine (doctrine being just alluded to in chapter 3); but it gives us, in a remarkable manner, the experience of a Christian life in the power of the Holy Ghost. It is full of blessing in that character -the life above seen down here in a man through the power of the Spirit of God. So much is this the case that the very word " sin " is not found in it. When he speaks of justification and righteousness, it is not in contrast with sin, but rather with human and legal righteousness. The flesh was there. At the very time Paul wrote the epistle he had got the thorn in the flesh to prevent it from acting; but we see in him one rising above the flesh and all hindrances, that Christ might be magnified in him. Whether to live or die, he did not know; he would have like to be gone, but in love to the church he says, Better for you to remain; and so, counting upon Christ and knowing it is better, he knows he will remain. He knows how to abound and how to suffer need; he is pressing towards the mark for the prize-it is the only thing he has to do.
The graciousness of a Christian is in chapter 2, the energy in chapter 3, the absence of care in chapter 4; but it is all by the power of the Spirit of God. It is well for us to lay it to heart. We are the epistle of Christ known and read of all men-an epistle written not in stone, but in the fleshy tables of the heart. We are set as Christians to be a letter of recommendation of Christ before the world. Yet it gives us the fullest and blessedest confidence towards God if we take that ground; for, if we are in the presence of the world for God, Christ is in the presence of God for us. His work has perfectly settled that question, and He is every moment appearing in the presence of God for us.
We are loved as He is loved. In every shape in which we can look at it, all is a fixed settled thing according to the counsels of God in grace; it is in a poor earthen vessel, but our relationship is settled, all that belonged to the old man cleared away, and all that belongs to Christ, the new Man, our positive portion. Not only are our debts paid, but we are to be conformed to the image of His Son, and He has obtained for us the glory which is His own. " The glory which thou halt given me I have given them." He has given Himself on the cross to meet what we were, and He has obtained for us all that He has. This is the way Christ gives-not as the world. If the world gives, they have it not any longer; but Christ never gives in that way-never gives away, but brings us into all He has. If I light up one candle by another, I lose nothing of the first; and such is the way He gives. I speak of blessed principles. "My peace I give unto you" and "that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves." " The words thou hast given me I have given them" and "that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them." He became a Man on purpose to bring us as men into the same glory as Himself. That relationship we are brought into already. " I ascend to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God." If I look at righteousness and holiness, I am as He is; if at the Son, I am before the Father as a son; and, as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall bear the image of the heavenly.
The work that entitles us to this is absolutely and totally finished. The Spirit makes us first feel our need in order to our possessing it, but the work is finished. In order to get our path clear, we must see where He has brought us. I cannot expect anyone to behave as my child, if he is not my child: you must be in the place before you have the conduct suited to that place, or be under the obligations which belong to it; and it is this last part I desire to look at a little here to-night. " You hath he reconciled," not brought half-way: as to relationship, brought into Christ. That is all. Through the work of the cross He put away our sins, and when He had done it, He sat down at the right hand of the majesty in heaven. He finished the work which His Father gave Him to do; and in Hebrews the Spirit contrasts Christ's work with that work of the priests which was never finished, so that they never sat down.
We are perfect as pertaining to the conscience. A blunder often made is confounding perfection as to our state with perfection as to our conscience. When once we have understood the work of Christ, we are perfect as regards the conscience. If I look up to God, I can have no thought of His ever imputing sin to me again, or I could not have peace with God; and this is so true that it is said, if this work was not perfectly done, Christ must suffer again. But He cannot drink that dreadful cup again, the very thought of which made Him sweat great drops of blood. If there is any sin still to be put away (I speak now of believers), Christ must suffer again, and this can never be. God has set Him at His right hand as having finished the work: " I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do; now, O Father, glorify thou me." He will deal with His enemies, no doubt, when He rises up in judgment; but, as to believers, He is sitting down because He has no more to do. I am not speaking now, of course, of the daily grace He ministers to them. It is settled, and settled with this double aspect that, the purpose of God being to bring us into the same glory as His Son, the work of Christ not only cleared away our guilt but obtained that glory for us. We have not got it yet; but the work which is our title to it is finished, though we have not yet the glory to which it is our title. We are anointed and sealed with the Spirit, and He is the earnest of our inheritance. We are to the praise of the glory of His grace, but not yet to the praise of His glory, which will be when He comes the second time to bring us into the glory which His work obtained for us when He came the first time. And our life stands between the two-the cross and the glory.
We are here in this world, beloved friends, in the midst of temptations, snares, and difficulties, everything around us tending to draw us away; but the power of God is in us. We know that we are sons of God, though the world knows us not. " It doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that, when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; and every one that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure." The practical effect of beholding the glory of God is to change us into the same image.
When Moses came down from the mountain, they were afraid to look in his face, because the law required what they had not to give; but now I see the glory which excels-the glory in Christ, which is infinitely brighter. But the glory in the face of Jesus Christ is the witness that all my sins are put away. That which shone in the face of Moses required what man ought to have been as a child of Adam, but it came to man who was a sinner. It required righteousness, and pronounced a curse if it were not there. Now I see it in the face of Him who bore my sins in His own body on the tree. The Christian sees the Man who died for his sins now in the glory as Man, a witness that the work is done, and a testimony to the place unto which He is bringing us; and, meanwhile, we have the testimony of the Holy Ghost that our souls may be perfectly clear as to this.
That is where the believer is set, resting in entire confidence upon the efficacy of the work of Christ, and on the other hand, waiting for God's Son from heaven, converted for this: " Ye yourselves as men who wait for their Lord." Standing here is perfect liberty, for where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty.
And here we have the proper experience of a Christian as led by the Spirit of God. We have in chapter 3 a Christian as to his walk, Christ having laid hold of him for that; as in 2 Cor. 5, " He that hath wrought us for the self-same thing," etc. He has wrought us for that, not only cleared our sins. He sees Christ in glory before him (Paul had really seen Him there), and that was what he was going to get. " This one thing I do... I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." What he was doing was to win Christ. He had not yet obtained Him, or got into glory; but it was the only thing he was doing in the world: his whole life was that.
In chapter 2, on the other hand, Christ is looked at, not as going up to glory, but as coming down to the cross; and here we see the graciousness of His character. By this our hearts and affections are won, and we are formed into the likeness of this graciousness. And thus we have the two great things that govern the Christian: the glory that is before him, and the grace that has been shown him.
One word as to verses 12, 13: " Not as in my presence only," etc. Often this " fear and trembling " is used to cast a doubt upon our relations with God. Yet it is not this we have to fear about. But we are in the midst of temptations, everything around us, the power of Satan distracting and turning the heart from Christ; and he presses upon them that, now he is absent, they must take care. He had worked for them when he was with them, he had met the craft of the enemy in wisdom and apostolic power; but he was in prison when he wrote this. He says, " Therefore, now, you must fight for yourselves "; but this is in contrast with his fighting for them; and they were to do it, for it was Goo that worked in them. The contrast is between (not God and man working, but) Paul and the Philippians. God it was who did work in them, if Paul were there; and, if they had lost Paul, God who wrought in them was still there.
But, then, what a solemn thing for us, beloved friends, if we have the sense of this, that we are left down here to make good our path to glory against Satan and all the difficulties of the way! It is enough to make us grave. A false step will throw me into the snares of Satan. I have to be serious; I have the promise of being kept, but I need to be serious.
I have spoken of the finished work, but there is another thing that exercises us: how far can we look at the flesh and say we have done with it? And this is where the practical difficulty comes, if you are in earnest and desiring to walk in fellowship with the Father and the Son: I ought never to walk after the flesh. The existence of the flesh does not give me a bad conscience, but if I allow it to act, it does. Whenever I let even an evil thought in, communion is interrupted.' It is not that the flesh is gone as a matter of fact; not that there is nothing in us which Satan can tempt, but there is power in us not to let it act. The flesh is not changed. The word is as plain as ever it can be as to what the flesh is. If left to itself, it becomes so bad that God had to destroy the world. Noah, saved out of the old world, gets drunk. The law is given, and the flesh is not subject to it. Christ comes in grace, and the flesh crucifies Him. The Holy Ghost is given, and the flesh lusts against it; and we get the case of one in the third heaven, and the flesh ready to puff him up. The flesh could not be mended, but he gets a thorn in it. But that is no reason why I should ever let it act; it never ought.
Scripture does not speak of our being conformed to Christ here; it says we are to walk as He walked. But the place of conformity to Christ is the glory, and " he that hath this hope in him purifieth himself "; that is to say, he is not pure, he has not attained. The place where I shall be like Christ is in glory. He has obtained it for me; and then, my eye looking upon Him by faith, I am changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Lord the Spirit.
I find this the great truth which Scripture does give me: not only that Christ died for my sins, but that I died with Christ. In the Epistle to the Romans, in the first part, you get all the sins dealt with, the great truth of Christ being substituted for us on the cross-bearing our sins in His own body on the tree, He is delivered for our offenses; and, in the subsequent part taken up, the question is, not of sins, but of sin-not the fruit but the tree, and we are shown not to be in the flesh if the Spirit of Christ is in us.
I do not live by the life of Adam, but by the life of Christ; and this is where the total difference is for the Christian. But it is not only that I have a new life as quickened by Christ, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, nor that He has been crucified for me so that my guilt is removed, but I am crucified with Christ.
In Colossians we read, " Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God "-therefore dead in this world. This is God's declaration of our state as Christians. In Romans, " Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Christ, that the body of sin might be destroyed." " In that he died, he died unto sin... wherefore reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God (not in Adam, but) through (or in) Jesus Christ our Lord." This is faith's estimate of it, and this is where you find real deliverance and freedom from the bondage of sin. It is " no condemnation," not to them whose sins Christ bore, but " to them that are in Christ Jesus." God condemned sin in the flesh; He did not forgive it, He condemned it. If I get the law, it condemns me; but Christ-does He condemn me? No; for He has taken the condemnation for me, and in Him God has condemned sin in the flesh, and I reckon myself dead because it was in death He did so. Christ's death is, as all that He has wrought, available to me; and therefore I reckon myself dead. In 2 Corinthians we get the carrying this out in practice; " Always bearing about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in your mortal bodies." And then he speaks of the exercises which God sends for our good, to test this realization in us and make it effectual: " Alway delivered unto death," etc. We all fail for want of watchfulness, but that is what our life ought to be.
Suppose I have got a man in my house who is always at mischief. I cannot turn him out, but if I lock him up, he can do no harm; he is not changed, but I am free in the house. If I leave the door open, he is at mischief again: but we are to keep him locked up, this is what we are called to do-what God calls us to do. The world will not have this; it will mend and improve man, cultivate the old man, as if it could produce good fruit, because it does not see how bad it is.
The world would dig about it and dung it. That has been tried. God cuts it down and grafts us with Christ. This condemning and cutting down was in the cross of Christ; not, of course, that He had any sin, but as made sin for us; and I know, not only my sins cleared away, but myself crucified with Christ, and my life hid with Him in God.
And this is available for power, if I carry it about in my heart. Supposing we honestly held ourselves dead; can Satan tempt a dead man? But in order for this, it must not be putting one's armor on when the danger is there; hut, living with Christ, my heart is full of Him.
Would a woman who had heard that her child was killed or hurt at the other end of the town be thinking of what she saw in the shop-windows as she ran toward him? No; she would have just enough sense to find her way. If your hearts were fixed like that on Christ, nine-tenths of the temptations that come upon you would be gone: you would be thinking of something else, and outward things would only bring out sweetness, as they did with Christ; for we are never tempted above that which we are able.
Saints, if in earnest, have got to realize not only the putting away of their sins, but also the having died with Christ; and this delivers from the power of sin.
We see in chapter 3 a Christian with one object: knowing Christ has laid hold of him for glory, and his heart is running after Christ. I am to have no other object, though I may have many things to do. He is " in all " as the power of life, and He is " all " as the object of that life. He is all and in all. (See Col. 3:12.) This is again summed up in the latter part of Gal. 2 " Not I, but Christ liveth in me "; and then the object: " I live by the faith of the Son of God." Then there is the sense of His perfect love: " Who loved me and gave himself for me." The heart is fixed on Him, and follows hard after Him.
There is another thing-the spirit and character in which we walk down here; and this we see in Christ coming down. When I have got this blessed place, Christ my life, holy boldness, yea, to know we are sitting in Him in heavenly places, the place a Christian is called to (a wonderful thing, I grant) is to go out from God and be an epistle of Christ. I joy in God, have got the blessedness of what He is, and go on in communion with Him to show out His character in the world. This is in chapter 2.
Ought I to walk as Christ walked? Every Christian will own that: " Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus." Suppose my soul has tasted this perfect love, and it is well we should recollect it, God's love shed abroad in our hearts, and know, be conscious down here, that we are loved as Jesus was loved; for if I really know God as thus revealed in Christ, what do I believe about Him? What put it into God's heart to send Christ down here? He knew how He would be treated. Did the world? It would not have Him when He came. It was all in His own heart! Perfect love in His heart; the unsuggested origin of every blessing. What character did it take in Christ? Was it staying up in heaven and saying, " You behave well and come up here? " No! we all know that. But He who, in the form of God, in the very same glory, thought it no robbery to be equal with God (mark the contrast with the first Adam), made Himself of no reputation; and what brought this about? Purest love, love coming to serve.
For Christ took the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of man. He emptied Himself of all the glory-the very opposite of the first Adam. Divine love came to serve; a new thing for God-the only new thing. And this is what I learn. I know this love, I know that I am made the righteousness of God in Him; so that I stand before Him, and then I come out from Him towards the world to bring out this blessed character. I have learned the love, and now I must come out and show it. " Be ye followers of God as dear children." You are children: that is all settled. Now you go and give yourself as Christ did, in whom this love is known-a sacrifice to God, and for us. The spirit of love is always lowliness, because it makes itself a servant. I get the grace that brought Christ down. It is very difficult for us to bow: I know that, beloved friends. He " went to another village." There was perfect meekness; but it tries men- some more than others; but the moment perfect love is seen, it comes and takes the lowest place to serve others. Paul endured all things for the elect's sake, that they might obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.
And here I find what is entirely beyond law. Law tells me to love others as myself; grace tells me to give myself up entirely for my neighbor or for anybody. Did not God forgive you? You go and forgive your enemies. Is He kind to the unthankful and the evil? You go and be the same. It tests all the fibers of our hearts, all the pride and vanity and selfishness that are in us. You like doing your own will.
" He humbled himself and became obedient to death "; He goes so low down that He could go no lower; " even to the death of the cross." But, then, " God hath highly exalted him." He was the first grand example of " he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."
Blessed be His name! He will never give up His service; it is the very thing He shows us, and in which He would that our hearts should see the perfection of His grace. It is what He is doing in John 13. He had been their servant down here, but now they might think that there was an end of His service. No. He says, I cannot stop with you, but I must have you with Me: " If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me." He does a slave's work; and this is what He does now. We pick up dirt as we go-there is no excuse for it, but then Christ is up there, the Advocate with the Father. And even in the time of glory, " He will gird himself and come forth and serve them "; He will be there to minister the blessing Himself. Our hearts want to learn the perfections of that love in which He came always down, down, till He could come no lower.
Are we willing to walk in that path? No one would deny we ought; but are we disposed to do it? Would our hearts be glad of the power of that grace which, holding the flesh as dead, can say, Here I am in the power of that love to walk as everybody's servant? We are to esteem others better than ourselves. If my heart is full of Christ, I judge myself for everything not like Christ, I judge the evil in myself because I see the blessedness in Christ. But what do I see in my brother? I see Christ in him. The effect of being full of Christ is to make me think little of self and much of my brother: there is no real difficulty about it if one is.
" Do all things without murmuring," etc. If you take every single part of this passage, you will find it a statement of what Christ was here. He was blameless and harmless, the Son of God, without rebuke in the midst of this evil world; He was the light of the world, and He was the word of life.
If I reckon the flesh dead, only the life of Christ comes out; if only this came out, we should be a very wonderfully blessed kind of people! To him that hath shall more be given. If I yield myself to God as one alive from the dead, I have got fruit here unto holiness, as well as fullness of blessing hereafter.
I would ask you, beloved friends, do you purpose to be Christians? Are you willing to yield yourselves to God as not having one bit of will of your own? There is power in Christ, not to say " I am pure," but, always having my eye on Him, to purify myself.

The Effect of Christ in Glory: Philippians 3

There are two ways in which we may look at the Christian: one, according to the counsels and thoughts of God, and the efficacy of the work of the Lord Jesus Christ; " by one offering perfected forever "-accepted in Christ Himself before God, everything that stood against us put away, and the believer cleared completely and forever from his old condition in Adam, taken out of that old condition, and put into the acceptance of Christ Himself; this is the grace wherein we stand. But evidently there is also another condition in which the Christian is seen, and that is as walking in this world.
This walk of the Christian we get in two ways-in the Epistle to the Philippians and in Hebrews. In Hebrews it is looked at in respect to the grace Christ obtains for us as priest on high; not the operation of the Spirit in us, but the work of Christ for us, and grace to help in time of need. But if in Hebrews you get the Christian down here in weakness, needing help and getting it, in Philippians you get him down here, and the energy and power of the Spirit of God working in him. We have to pass through the world, and there are difficulties in our path, temptations to draw us aside; but one walking in the power of God's Spirit rises 'above all the difficulties in the midst of which he is. In Philippians is brought out the power of God's Spirit acting in our walking in the right path, and the result is a person entirely above it all, one who can " rejoice in the Lord alway." We may remember, too, that Paul had been four years in prison at the time, two of them with a soldier chained to him; and, what was still more trying, his work as an apostle put a stop to, his activity all come to an end. He might have reproached himself as to going up to Jerusalem, and so on, but he does not; he rises above it all. It is a remarkable fact that in this epistle sin is never spoken of; nor is the flesh, except as having no confidence in it, in a warning to avoid its religiousness; it is simply a walk in the power of the Spirit. In the previous chapter you get the graciousness, but in this the energy, of the course-the full energy of the Christian going through this world. He does not here speak of the cross as that which puts away sin; it has another character here, being looked at practically; it is being " crucified to the world." Thus it is the book of experience, according to the spirit of the Christian on earth.
Imprisoned, so that he cannot be active, yet Paul says, It will all turn to my salvation; it will all turn to good, and I can rejoice in the Lord always. This comes with power when we remember where he was when he could write thus. He looks back and contrasts his own course with that of those who had made profession, but were still going on with the world.
Let us first look at the character of the energy with which the apostle ran this race. He says he has not yet attained, is not yet perfect; this is because he is looking at his state. We must just see what he means by this. In the first place, he has not a thought of his own righteousness at all. There was a righteousness which he had had; there was a righteousness which he had boasted in; he had had it, all that which depended on himself: " touching the righteousness which was in the law, blameless." But the moment the spiritual character of the law was seen, it was all over; all that flesh could trust in was gone for him. We all know how when he was in the full flush of his career, the Lord met him, and he discovered that all that had been gain to him, all of which he had boasted, had only served to bring him into open enmity with God. All this knowledge, all this energy of character, he had only made use of to try to destroy the name of Christ. It was not a question of his sins; it was that all he had valued as good was gone, his conscience proved to be misdirected, his legal righteousness nothing worth. There, on his way to Damascus, with authority from the high priest, he found himself in the presence of Christ, and in open enmity with Him; and in that presence all that he was as a religious man, " blameless "-in the outward sense, of course, for he found himself to be the chief of sinners-all that Saul could clothe himself with outwardly was smashed, and he himself left to dwell in darkness three days, to go through in his own soul what this terrible revelation had discovered to him. The practical effect of thus seeing the Christ in glory was to put down in the most powerful way all that was of man. The first thing we need as sinners, and get through the cross of the Lord Jesus, is " redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins "; but here it was not sins-it was righteousness put away. What he had stood in before God Was all gone; it was brought out in the strongest way in his own experience what man was in his best estate: the upright, honest, law-keeping Pharisee was only enmity against God. And it was not only that he had failed-this was not the thing-but that the whole structure, the moral structure of man, was brought out in the sight of God and done with. It was the end of the first man; and this not as a doctrine, but practically, for we must learn everything in our own consciences if it is to be a real thing. It was total, entire condemnation of man in the flesh in his best form; the best man in the world was the chief of sinners-best as man goes. This, evidently, is a truth that we can learn in different ways, either as seeing ourselves open sinners in rebellion against God, or by discovering that what we esteem best is utterly valueless before Him. Innocence is gone; man fell from paradise, and that is all over. There is no going back to the tree of life; and from that time forward man must be either an alien from God, an enemy in his mind by wicked works, or else he must have a heavenly place with God. On the road to Damascus, Saul meets the Man in the glory, and then he is judged in his own conscience, and is found to be an open ceaseless enemy of God. It is easy for us to see that our sins must be judged by God, but we do not see at first that the mind and affections of the flesh are enmity against Him. But here you see there is an end of Saul, and of everything that the flesh was in this world-this world which was not paradise, and certainly was not heaven-this world in which the good things were worthless in the sight of God, and certainly the sins were not any use.
Outwardly, Saul was the best man possible-as man goes- conscientious, religious, righteous; and there he was an open enemy against God. There was nothing to be found here: consequently he looked out of this world and saw Christ in glory; he saw Him there where he stood; and the effect was that the old man was perfectly judged, and there was another Man in heaven. All that Saul was was gone. It is not a question of sins, but of righteousness. In another place he says, " I had not known sin but by the law." But supposing there were a righteousness according to the law, no man ever reached it except the blessed Lord Himself; but even if Paul could have reached it, he would not have it now, for he says, I have got another; there was " the righteousness of God " for him now. The law required righteousness from man to God, but that was now all given up; besides, none had attained it. It is, " not having mine own righteousness "; he does not say, not having my own sins. It goes a great deal farther than that, and I press it on you-theoretically, a man blameless; yet he says, I will not have it at all. The whole standing, place, and condition of the first man is a judged thing in his soul, and another Man, Christ in glory, shall be for him, not that which he was. The condition of the first man has been shown out by the revelation of the second Man, and Paul follows Him. Thus we see the whole ground and standing of legal righteousness swept away. Nobody had it, of course: still that was altogether the ground he was on; but now, he says, I will not have my own at all, for I have got Another.
You cannot have the two before God. Seeing this sets aside a thousand things that are floating in the world. A man will have perfection nowadays; he says, I will not go on sinning. And he is quite right: he has no right to go on sinning. But God would not thank me for my righteousness, not when I clothe myself in an Adamic robe, for I have got another thing altogether in Christ. Paul does not speak here of his position in Christ; it is not here: " There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus "; it is the condition of soul of those who possess this " no condemnation." And the condition of Paul's was that the revelation of Jesus Christ had set aside in him all that was of himself; it was the righteousness of God that he had, and that does not go from man to God, but from God to man. When did the prodigal get the best robe? When the Father put it on him. " I know that in me [that is, in my flesh] dwelleth no good thing." The whole nature, the character, and the quality of it is a judged thing. But mark, when this Christ was revealed, his mind, and heart, and desire never stop short of reaching Him, and then what happens? Away goes all your perfection here. He says, The glory I saw in Damascus; that is what I want. It was no longer the judgment of the old man-it was the hopes of the new.
He says to him, " I am Jesus of Nazareth." There was no longer any question about it; that Man was there in the glory-the carpenter's son-the One whom they had rejected. They all fell down at the glory of that light, though they knew not what it meant. And in that light Paul was totally and entirely condemned and done with; Christ took the place of everything. All that he had counted gain was gone. Supposing he were a learned man-well, to whom was that gain? To Paul, not to Christ; it is only building up, and furnishing, and giving credit to, and adorning, that old thing which has been judged as enmity against God.
And it is not only " I counted," but he has gone on with Christ; he adds, " I do count," as a present thing. All that I esteemed best-righteousness, learning, birth, everything" I do count them but dung," for I have seen Christ and I want Him, and the things of this world I count nothing. He has revealed Himself to me in grace; He has proved His love to be above all my enmity, and now I must have Him. Paul was a man whose whole course and career were marked by an object that was before him; and it is the object that is before us that marks our course, and gives it its moral character. Paul followed after Christ. Let us ask ourselves, Are we following Christ in this way? Is this what governs us? I do not say we may not be distracted, but is He the object after which we are running? We cannot have two at the same time. Has there been such a revelation of Christ to our hearts that we have Him as the only object before us?
And I will ask here-for it is very current in some places, called " higher life," and truly alas! for so many Christians follow the world-what is true Christian life? It is " higher life," and no mistake, for our calling is a " calling above "that and no other; I have no calling to anything down in this world. There is no calling for the Christian according to the word of God but the calling to a risen and glorified Christ. What is put before us is a glorified Christ; we are going to be like Him; and you cannot have a right object except as that object is a glorified Christ, because that is the only Christ. Christ down here is a pattern for our walk, but there is no such Christ now to attain to. I cannot win Christ down in this world, because there is no Christ to win. Attempting it only lowers the standard of holiness, and, instead of being " higher Christian life," it is lower. It is the hope of being like Him in glory that makes a man now " purify himself even as he is pure." The object, that I get before my soul in this race that he speaks of, is a glorified Christ, and that only; that is what I am going to attain to; I am going to be like the Christ that I have seen. Whatever progress Paul made, he was so much the nearer to Him, but he had not got Him; he would only get Him when in his glorified body. There is no other Christ to run after or win; not that our affections do not cling to Him in humiliation, but it is a glorified Christ only who is the object of our hearts. I may get to heaven now in spirit, and be happy there with Him, but I never attain to Him, I never win Him, until I am with Him in the glory; it is then I shall have won Christ.
When all that was Paul was judged, it brought him into all kinds of difficulties; for instance, now he was going to be tried for his life; but he had done with Paul-he had the sentence of death in himself. Many may not-none perhaps- so realize it as he did; but the consequence was, he was always " bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus," so that the life of Jesus was made manifest in his body. He had the sentence of death in himself, that he should not trust in himself, but in God, who raises the dead; that is, he says, The God I know has raised Christ from the dead, and therefore I am not afraid of death, of trial, of anything that may come on the road: I can glory in it all.
It is not only patience and hope as in Romans; here it is " the fellowship of his sufferings." We are always called on to suffer with Him here. We hardly know what it is to suffer for His sake-a little trial perhaps now and then; but to suffer with Him we do know, for we cannot go through this world of sin and sorrow without suffering in principle what the heart of Christ suffered. We can rejoice in the saints when they are going on well, but there is nothing else in it to rejoice anyone; it is only the world that crucified Christ, except, of course, poor sinners, and he must speak to them; that is all he saw in the world.
" If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead." That does not imply doubt; but he says, Even if death be on the road, I will go through it, and I shall only be made like Him if I die. Here I get the apostle fixed on an object-Christ in glory, and nothing short of it; and here he will have suffering with Christ, let it cost him life and everything, if but only he may get this place-part in the first resurrection; for he is looking at it here not as our position, but as attainment. It may be a bad road that I tread, but I get refreshment by the way, and it is the road Jesus traveled.
" Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but I follow after." There is the activity of the life. In these days, when people are giving up Christianity on all sides, it is well to know what Christianity is. Christianity is perfect peace, and reconciliation with God: we are perfected forever before Him; and as regards the path in this world, it is the eye on Christ Himself in glory, and one undivided energy to get after Him. Every step we take we get more of Christ, and are more capable of knowing Him, and thus the effect is practically to form one into His likeness. This bringing in of the life of Christ to my soul enables me to see Him in the glory, so that even now I get more like this resurrection I am aiming after. The resurrection from among the dead identifies itself with winning Christ; raising from the dead speaks to us God's perfect delight in us as in Christ.
Then he speaks of perfection: "As many as be perfect." A perfect Christian is a full-grown man, in one sense; it is the same word as the " perfect man, the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." And what is that? It certainly is not being like what Christ was when He was down here, for there was no sin in Him, so the thought of being like Him is a mere delusion. He that gazes on Him up there walks like Him down here, but to be like Him as He was down here is not possible. To walk like Him, I repeat, is said; but to be like Him would be to be absolutely sinless. To be conformed to Him in glory, that we shall be, and therefore the heart desires and runs after it now; and that is what he calls a perfect Christian. It is not one who knows what it is to have got the sins of the old creation cleared away-it is not knowing the work of Christ which puts away sin, hardly measured either by the sin, for it is the whole state of the nature; all is settled, and I know that " by one offering he has perfected forever them that are sanctified," that there is no more a question of anything to be settled between me and God, and I have liberty before Him in the sense of His favor; but then I say, Is that all? All my debts paid, but am I to have nothing to go and buy anything with? Am I henceforth to starve, without possessing a farthing? Then it is that the soul comes to see that, having part in this forgiveness, it has also part with the last Adam: he has got hold by grace of this Man in the glory, and knowing this, I say, my whole soul is in that; I have seen the excellency of Christ Jesus, my Lord, and it has set aside everything here.
I have done with it all; I belong to another place, and no longer own this old man.
It is then the Christian has got to be what he calls a perfect man; he has this object before him, he has got Christ's place before God, and he grows up into the stature of Christ; not that he has not still much to learn, but he has got into his place; he is of full age, he discerns good and evil, he has got hold of his place in Christ, and he knows it. This sets aside the flesh altogether, and also that which is a deceptive thing to many, perfection in the flesh, for Christ in glory is my only perfection. In the world I am running a race, I have not attained yet, but Christ has laid hold of me for it.
He then puts in the strongest contrast those who are not thus perfect: " If in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereunto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing." I can walk with one who only knows his redemption in Christ with just the same love, but I look for him to get hold of this also.
Then he talks of another thing, of those who have the profession of Christianity, but who are " enemies of the cross of Christ "; they are not exactly enemies of Christ, though in the end it comes to the same thing. In paradise God got rid of man as a sinner; at the cross, as far as his will was concerned, man got rid of God in grace. The very disciples ran away: they could not stand it; as He said to Peter, " Thou canst not follow me now, but thou shalt follow me afterward." Amiable or unamiable, all either ran away or banded themselves together against Him. Satan was proved to be the prince of this world. People fancy he is not the prince of it, because the gospel is preached in it; but the gospel never would be preached in it if he were not the prince of it. He brought all the world up against Christ, so the world is judged, and all that is in it. " The world is crucified to me." The cross-really a gibbet-put an end to all human glory. He came down to that to put an end to everything of man. There is no such infamy as the cross; nothing but a slave or a bad criminal was ever put upon it. Thus Satan was proved by his influence over the world to be its prince; such is what the world is, and this is the very reason that the Lord says, " O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee "; and therefore the world is convinced of judgment, and righteousness is proved, how? " Sit thou on my right hand till I make thine enemies thy footstool," is God's answer. And He sits there till the judgment of the world is to be executed; it sees Him no more as the Savior. And now, because He glorified God in that place of sin, we carry out the testimony of the grace that seeks sinners.
These were enemies to the cross of Christ. They carry the name of Christian and go on with the world. Of course, the true Christian may get into the world and be ensnared; it is not that. The enemy of the cross of Christ put Christ there, and now if I look for righteousness, it is not to be found in the world that did that; I must look for it in Christ up there, for righteousness has done with the world.
Then see the place that he puts the Christian in: " for our conversation is in heaven "; our whole relationships in life- all that my life is involved in, and develops itself in-are in heaven; I am to run here having all my relationships up there, because Christ who is my life is up there. What a definite thing the Christian life is-not here at all!
" From whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." Now what is He called " Savior " for here? Christians are all saved in a certain sense-we have eternal life: but in this epistle salvation is the result of redemption, not merely redemption. Practically, Israel was saved out of Egypt as soon as the Red Sea was crossed, but they had not got the place till they had got through the Jordan too. We get in the Red Sea Christ's death and resurrection. The blood upon the lintel gave them safety while God was passing through, destroying the first-born: the question between God and the people as to their sin was settled, still God was in the character of judge there, and He passes them by. Yet it was not deliverance. But when they come to the Red Sea He says, " Stand still, and see the salvation of God." God had now come in as a Savior and taken them out of the place they were in, and now they are delivered. When I get to Jordan, it is yet another thing; the waters open not to bring them out, but to bring them in; not that Christ was dead and risen for them, but that they were dead and risen with Christ. So you get the Red Sea smitten, so to say, whilst in Jordan the ark stays in the water and we go through with it. The reproach of Egypt was never rolled away till they got into Canaan; and so with us: I do not get deliverance and full power in heavenly places until I see that I have died and risen with Christ; I do not get into my place until then.
Now have you got there, beloved friends? If so, all your desire will be there, and you will be longing to be there too. Christ is there, and the Christian's heart is with Christ, his affection is in heaven, and he looks for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He gives character to the Christian as one who has seen Christ in the glory, and who says, That is my hope; my citizenship is in heaven, and here in this world all I am to do is to run after Him as fast as ever I can to get there. " And my hope is not to die, blessed though this be, but to look for the Savior, " who shall change this vile body that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body." We are running the race towards the place where our standing is. We are in Christ, but this is not the thing here. Got it we have; but how far does the cross really tell us the tale of what we are? Not only that our sins, but that we ourselves are put away. Can you say with the apostle, " The life which I now live in flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God? " Is there nothing in the circumstances down here by which we live? We must go through them, but are we living by them? Are we living to Him in that sense? There are many Christians who have no distinct idea that they are to take up their cross and follow Him. May we learn that the times press! May our hearts so really look at Christ that we may be in conscious relationship with Him, our affections there with Him, and because they are there, looking for Him to come from heaven to change this vile body because it will not suit that place! Where are our hearts? Have we the deep blessed sense that He has associated us with Himself? " Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory."
The Lord give us so to have our eye on Him, that we may have all the blessedness of the consciousness that He has taken us to be with Himself in His unutterable love, and that we may thus know real deliverance from the power of sin and the world. The Lord fix our eye on Him with steadiness and earnestness of heart, so that we may say with David, " My soul followeth hard after thee."

Thoughts on Philippians 4

IT is a great thing to rejoice always. It is important to consider the apostle's own history in connection with these epistles. When he was writing this, he was in prison at Rome. He had been cut short in his ministry, and as he looked on, he had to say, " All they which are in Asia, be turned away from me," and " All seek their own," etc.; and yet he had something which lifted his heart above it all; not that he was insensible to it, but he knew a superior power. It was as looking at Christ he could rejoice, not in these circumstances. In one chapter in Galatians he says, " I stand in doubt of you "; in the next, he says, " I have confidence in you through the Lord."
The Lord's own path was the same, meeting with disappointments and distresses, on every hand, and yet He prays that the disciples may have His joy fulfilled in themselves. It is living in a power superior to evil; and if I am not living in that power, I should be depressed and cast down by the stream of evil within and around me, instead of rejoicing always. To do this, it requires that the heart should be with Him who has already overcome and sat down.
The first mark of power is patience. Nothing troubled the peace of the apostle's soul, so that he is free enough to think of individuals-Euodias, etc. (v. 2)-or to write about a runaway slave. He was passing through the valley of Baca, making it a well. It is a more blessed thing to make trials causes for thanksgiving than our own mercies. " I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall be continually in my mouth." In all his many trying circumstances, he was finding that the Lord was sufficient. He possessed that eternal happiness which enabled him to say, when before Festus, " I would to God " that you were " altogether such as I am."
Are you so happy in your soul that you can say that? The young Christian rejoices in what he has got-his salvation, joy, peace, and so on. The old Christian rejoices more in Christ. The young Christian says, I have got this, I have got that; but the old Christian says, Christ is this, and Christ is that. Not that this is wrong in a young Christian: in that sense a young Christian cannot be an old one; but if they walk with God, they will soon ripen. So in 1 John 2:12-14, " I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning "; and while he goes into detail about the young men and babes, he repeats this of the old men.
There is the continual conflict with Amalek, but in the confidence that he has already been overcome. Read John 16:33: " In the world ye shall have tribulation; be of good cheer: I have overcome the world." Run the race " looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of faith; who... is set down," etc. Do not let any evil or any circumstances prevent your rejoicing in the Lord always; but for this you must be with Him.
" Let your moderation," etc. Naturally I like to assert my rights in the world, and if I see injustice done, I like to resent it. Moderation is putting a check upon our own will, for the present content to be put upon this-" The Lord is at hand." When the Lord set His face like a flint to go to Jerusalem, the Samaritans would not receive Him, and the disciples wanted to draw down fire upon them. If you set your face like a flint to go to Jerusalem, you will not be received by those who are half-hearted. " The Lord is at hand."
Do you believe that? The character of my whole life will be governed by this, if I believe it. You may say, I have troubles in my family; the saints are going wrong, etc. Well, " Be careful for nothing; but in everything," etc. What do you want? Go and ask God about it. Instead of harassing your own mind about it, carry it to Him: and it is not said He will give you just what you ask, because this might not be for your good; but He gives you His peace. You put your cares into His heart, and He will put His peace into yours. Do all the things that trouble you disturb the peace of God? " With thanksgiving," etc. When I put my affairs in persons' hands, and ask them to see to it for me, they undertake it, and I say, Thank you, although as yet they have done nothing in it. In this state of soul the heart is free to enjoy what I see in others. There is such a tendency in us to get living in the things of the world, where we could not have the heart of Christ with us.
Verse 9. You walk in the path you have learned of me, and the God of peace Himself shall be with you. Joy is an up and down thing, but peace is something constant and undisturbed. God is never called the God of joy, but the God of peace.
While Christ was with His disciples, during His ministry He never said to them, " Peace be unto you ": it was rather, 2" Fear not." But when He arose, He said, " Peace be unto you." Christ has made peace by the blood of His cross in such a way, that if God rises up in every attribute He possesses, He sees nothing to disturb His peace. I am in the light as He is in the light; and if I have conflict with the world, the flesh, and Satan, I have peace with God.
The test of the true condition of a person's soul is seen in his everyday life. " I have learned," etc. Paul had learned it; it is not merely saying it. It is a much greater snare to abound than to be abased; but Christ was enough. I get not only peace in the circumstances, but also moral power over them.
" My God," etc. That is as much as to say, I know Him well, and I will answer for it that He will supply all your need according to the riches of His glory. What a reality there is in the life of faith! He may put us through trials, because this is good for us, but He will be with us in them all.

The Superiority of Christ Over Circumstances: Philippians 4:8

IT is a great thing to have the spirit so free from everything else, as to be able to be thus occupied with " these things." It is not a healthy thing to be occupied with evil, though of course we must be sometimes.
In Num. 19, if anyone touched the unclean person, whoever had anything to do with it was unclean till even. You cannot have to say to evil, without getting, in a certain sense, away from God. It may not be like the man who had to be cleansed, and wait seven days; but the mind cannot touch sin without a certain removal from direct communion with God.
It may be necessary to go to a brother or sister who is in evil. I do not mean now temptation: there you get positive evil ' • but the man who touches is " unclean till even "-a kind of warning against having to say to it. One sees persons who like to pry into evil; but, if in the power of the Spirit, I am occupied with " these things," which are pure, lovely, etc. I may have to come down, and be occupied for a time, as a duty, with that which God hates.
The principle of Num. 19 remains the same. It was grace, and to restore communion. There a man was actually defiled. Sin is sin in God's sight, whatever way I have to do with it; and sin is hateful to God. Even if a man did not know, still he had to bring an offering. It was not a question of imputation here; the ashes of the red heifer were there, the testimony that the sin had all been consumed when the heifer was burned; but something had come in to destroy communion. The ashes put into the water gave the consciousness there was no imputation: that question was not raised; but the man could not go in to God for worship till he were clean. The very putting the ashes in gave the character that sin was judged for the saint, all done away; but then he may have been doing a thing that Christ had to die for. It is a question of holiness and my state, just because there is no imputation.
What he looks for here (Phil. 4) is, that their souls should be in the peaceful enjoyment of these things, what God likes and loves; and the God of peace should be with them. Now, when we meet in intercourse, are these the kind of things that occupy the mind? It may be mischievous talking-that will not do you any good; or it may be idleness, vanity-that is no good either; or it may be talking about people; but how far can God say, I can go there, for they are talking about things I like? " My heart is inditing a good matter, I will speak of the things I have made touching the king." If the heart is inditing a good matter, we get fellowship and communion; the heart is full, and it comes out.
It is a lovely picture in Luke 1; 2 a despised remnant nobody knew or cared about; yet there they were speaking of Christ.
Verse to. The apostle let slip something here-" now at the last." He thought it rather a long time coming, and then, to correct it, immediately adds, " but ye lacked opportunity." He let out that he had really been in need, and it had come at the last. It is beautiful to see the delicacy of intercourse in that way: we get it amongst ourselves. Like everything else, he just took it up for Christ. At Corinth, where they were rich, and fond of money, he would take nothing; but here he is very glad to have it.
But, going back to what was said about our intercourse when we come together, we find " these things " are not uppermost. There are two things: in the first place, if we are full of the Lord, it will come out; but if there is watchfulness, it will come in. It is just our ordinary intercourse I mean. I may have to go and speak about special things, but that is not the point here.
Paul was the expression of the power of divine grace in that which was committed to him. Here were Gentiles who had to learn everything, and he was sent in their way, the expression of divine life, that they might learn what it was: he could say, " Walk as ye have us for an example."
Truth came only " by Jesus Christ ": that which is " true " characterizes the whole thing. " He has given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true." " Whom I love in the truth." But it is remarkable what the apostle says in verse 12. It characterizes all the epistle. He is above circumstances, and experimentally he had found Christ sufficient in all things. He had been in hunger, cold, and nakedness, and found Him a wonderful source of content. It was not a general principle, but what he had actually learned; " I am instructed." It is more difficult to abound than to be abased. You are cast on God when you are abased; but when all is comfortable around, then is the tendency to be independent of Him. " I can do all things ": not I go on well, but the presence of positive power; not that I get into a better state, not that the circumstance is changed, or the state of my mind; but power has come in, and put, those things away which were pressing upon me. It is " all things " -you cannot get anything for which Christ is not sufficient as a present thing. If we have to die, He is sufficient for us; if we have to live, He is sufficient for us.
These are things to be learned, not known in a moment; but if he had not known what Christ was, he could not have said this. He says, I have learned that all through. It is true Christian experience.
We get the power of the Spirit in all the epistle. Here you have it shown in entire superiority over circumstances. It is not merely known, but " I have learned." Then it is Christ strengthening us, strength made perfect in weakness. That is its nature, the character and kind of strength. " My strength" is not made perfect in people who think they are strong. We must be brought down to nothing as to strength, in order to know where real strength is; that is what people are rather slow to learn.
You have this in 2 Cor. 12 Paul wanted to get rid of the thorn, But the Lord says, No, I must have you incapacitated: and then evidently it is My work and power, not yours. You get the two sides of Christian life in that chapter. One was, " I know a man in Christ "; the other, that Christ's power was known in him. When I come down here, I find myself made nothing of, and then it is Christ in me. You must have weakness: " When I am weak, then am I strong." We may know we can do nothing without Him; but it is a different thing when one comes to say, I can do nothing without Him.
In Col. 1 we get strengthened with all might... unto all patience, etc. Here he is speaking of his circumstances. But it is a very great thing, and one we are slow to learn, that without Him we can do nothing. We all know it as a truth- all Christians do. It is connected with abiding in Christ.
It is not actual service, though true of it; but you get that more in 2 Cor. 12 I do not feel the want of Him so much in joy; we do, but we do not so feel it.
Hence, often a Christian, after a great deal of joy-even spiritual joy, will get a trip. I must have all the armor on before I can take the sword.
" My God shall supply all." A very strong expression, which means a great deal. As I know Him, who has been through all these things, and know what He is to a person in every case. It is not " God," but " my God," the God I know, who taught me to abound, and to be hungry. It could not come down lower than that. I see my need, and He is rich. No matter what need I get into, He is sufficient for me. Paul was in a most trying position, not only kept a prisoner, but all his activity totally stopped-a terrible trial to Paul.
" His riches in glory " meet the need. As in Ephesians, when he speaks of all the thought and purposes of God, he speaks of the glory of His grace; when He speaks of my sins, it is the riches of His grace. All the dealings of God are according to what He is in glory, having taken us up in grace. It is all through Christ Jesus, whatever it is; it all comes down, and all goes up, through Christ.
It is a simple thing, but not simple for us-at least we are not simple enough for it. (See Psa. 23) Jehovah is my shepherd. In Psalm 30 he says, " I shall never be moved. Thou, Jehovah, by thy favor hast made my mountain to stand strong. Thou didst hide thy face "-and where was this fine mountain then? But in Psa. 23 he cannot say, Jehovah is my shepherd, till he has been through all the power of evil. Not Jehovah has given me abundance of green pastures (though He does give them), but He is my shepherd, and then come the green pastures and still waters, but he is not looking at that only. " He restoreth my soul," if he had got into trouble. Then he goes on to death: " I will fear no evil "; Jehovah is the shepherd. If he meets enemies, Jehovah spreads a table for him in their presence, as Joshua did when they went into Canaan. Then he says, " He anointeth my head with oil." He reckoned on Jehovah, and learned to reckon through all the difficulties of the way. For His name's sake He leads in the paths of righteousness, and goodness and mercy follow me all the days of my life; but he did not say that till he had been through all the power of evil. The point is, Jehovah is my shepherd, not, having good things.
When Christ says, " sufficient for thee," it is clear there was something He had to be sufficient for. We need strength made perfect in weakness. God hath chosen the weak things of the world, " that no flesh should glory in His presence." He pulls down all human competency. He makes vessels, it is true, but they are mere vessels. It is weakness here; not failure, but infirmity. What a blessed thing to have Him to go with us, to take care of us, to lift us up, and keep us up!
Restoring the soul is not necessarily after failure, but takes it in. " For his name's sake " He makes good what He is in all His dealings. If I set up to have any strength, that is not according to what He is; and He has to pull me down. He must make the vessel nothing, so that the work shall be His.
It is a great deal to keep self nothing in the heart; we know it is so; but still.... Even a heathen writer said, " You may drive nature out with a pitch-fork, but it will ever slip in." The thorn was not strength, but it made nothing of Paul, and Christ could act, because Paul was put down.
A person gets on, and the flesh takes subtler forms; but I ask the question, Am I just as happy if others are blessed in their service as if I am? All these things are so dreadfully subtle. There might be room for self-judgment if there was no blessing, and quite rightly; but am I content if I know I am doing His will, and there are no results? There is no standard but what becomes Christ and His revelation.
Self can come in everywhere. In 1 Cor. 14 it was the shutting out self to covet the best gifts. They were fond of tongues which made a show, and they were told to covet prophecy.
Anything can puff up the flesh; a man would rather be the best thief in the country than nobody at all! Self is so very subtle, that, unless in God's presence, we do not detect it.

Notes on the Epistle to the Colossians

Two Epistles of the New Testament are occupied with the mystery of the church united to Christ in one body, the Epistle to the Ephesians, and that to the Colossians. There is consequently identity in a measure between the two epistles; but they show the subject each under a particular aspect, presenting as to the details a sensible difference. In the first Paul sees the church in Christ, the saints occupying in Him their place in heaven; in the second he sees Christ in the saints (not them in Him) on the earth.
Chapter 1: 1-3. Paul addresses himself to the Colossians from our God and Father [and the Lord Jesus Christ), that is to say, on the footing of our relationship with God. He blesses the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the first source of all our blessings. This is the manner in which he enters upon his subject. This opening is the same as that of the Epistle to the Ephesians.
Verses 4-12. But here is a difference. In the Epistle to the Ephesians, Paul, before coming to that which concerns the faith of the saints, and their spiritual condition, causes quite a stream of the riches of the grace of God to flow (Ephesians 1:3-14); whilst in the Epistle to the Colossians he is occupied immediately with their condition. This would indicate that these latter were found in a lower moral condition than the former. He could, from the very outset, speak to the Ephesians of the riches of the counsels of God; the Colossians required him to be occupied with them firstly. In verse 4 Paul records their faith, and in verses 5-12 he recalls the work of God in their favor, expressing his desires and his prayers for their prosperity.
Verses 9-12. This introduction presents to us a fine summary of all that one can ask of God for Christians. If we had sufficient confidence in the interest which God takes in His children, we should have greater boldness in asking God, according to the intentions of His grace. We do not live enough by this grace, and that is why our prayers are so constantly stamped with the sense of want. We are often the Abraham of Gen. 15, who asks for himself, saying to God: " What wilt thou give me? " But Paul shows himself here the Abraham of Gen. 18, sitting before God, worshipping Him, and making requests for others.
Verse 10. To walk worthily, is not only not to fall, but rather also to act in a manner so as to be pleasing to the Lord; it is to show Him a walk in harmony with the knowledge He has given us of Himself and of His will.
Verse 11. Strengthened with all might according to the power of His glory; not merely "glorious." The power indicated by these words is that which the glory of God possesses.
Verse 12. Giving thanks to the Father which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints. We inherit from God as children (Rom. 8:17); it is then from our Father that we receive the inheritance. And the Father, who gives us the right to the inheritance, prepares us also to receive it, and to enjoy it.
" In light." He has made us such, that we are capable of dwelling in the light. We can dwell there with joy, where is found absolute holiness.
Verses 13, 14. " Translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love." God does not wish to put His own in absolute purity without giving them an object of affection. This inheritance which He gives is also the kingdom of the Son of His love into which we enter virtually through the redemption accomplished by His Son.
Verses 15-29. Having thus named Christ, Paul goes on now to present Him in the glory of His Person; he goes on to tell what Christ is in Himself, the works He has accomplished, what He is in His own.
As concerns this, we remark in Christ, as elements of His glory; two headships, one in creation, the other in resurrection (v. 15-18); two reconciliations, that of the creation, and that of the saints forming the church (v. 19-22); and two ministries proceeding from Him, the gospel preached to all creation, and the ministry of the church (v. 23-29).
Verse 15. What glory there is in the Person of Christ! He is on one side the image of the invisible God, manifesting in His Person the God that cannot be seen, and on the other He is the Head of all creation.
" First-born." This title indicates that He who bears it is Head over all. One sees an example of this in Psa. 89:27, where Solomon, tenth son of David (1 Chron. 3), receives with the title of " first-born " the right to his father's throne. It is not difficult to conceive that if the Creator-God finds it good to take a place in the creation, the first belongs to Him. The Son took this place in becoming Man.
Verses 14-17. The Son, who is before things, created all things from the beginning, and by the same power which He showed in the formation of the worlds, He holds up all things to-day. Without Him, all in creation would dissolve.
Verse 16. Visible and invisible things, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers, everything powerful depends upon the power of Christ who created all. And not only is it by Him, but for Him, that all things were created.
Verse 18. He is the Head in resurrection, as in creation.
Verse 19. Hitherto we have seen Christ the image of God, and Head of all things. He presents Himself now to us, uniting all fullness in His Person. There dwelt all the fullness. The Gnostics had imagined a fullness in which Jesus occupied one place only. Now to preserve for the Lord His true place, the apostle declares that, far from belonging to a fullness, Jesus is the one in whom all the fullness was pleased to dwell. What is this fullness? It is deity.
Verse 20. It pleased this fullness, which created everything, to reconcile all things, when after the entrance of sin they were found in disorder.
" To reconcile all things," that is, creation outside Himself, and the church in Himself; the reconciliation of the church is already an accomplished fact. " You hath he reconciled."
The general condition of things is complete confusion: all creation is in disorder; Satan is in the heavenly places; and, being the god of this age, leads the course of this world. But this disorder will not always last. God will put His hand to it; the state of things will change. Meanwhile the moral reconciliation is already wrought; we are reconciled to God: as for our bodies which partake of corruption, deliverance will come also, for that we wait, the reconciliation of creation.
When speaking of reconciliation, Paul neither mentions wicked men nor Satan: they are named when it is a question of the subjection of all things to Christ (Phil. 2). But when it is a question of reconciliation, it is evident that they could not be spoken of.
Verse 21. The reconciliation of the saints, composing the church, presents a fact which is special to it. Paul, in looking at it, finds the objects of this reconciliation in the greatest distance from God. He sees the Colossians (their condition is that of every man in the flesh) as not only sharing in the general disorder of creation, but as alienated from God. Such are the beings that Christ has reconciled to God. He has reconciled them in the body of His flesh-in Himself.
Verse 22. It is important to remark that the reconciliation of the church, as well as the headship of Christ in resurrection are in connection with His Person.
Verse 23. " If ye continue in the faith." One may gather from these words that there was not much stability among the Colossians. The words " if ye continue in the faith," indicate a condition. As concerns this, we may remark, that the presentation of our persons to God, to which this condition would seem to be bound up, is very free for us, since it is God who does all that this condition requires (v. 22). But then (v. 23), if we abandoned Christianity we should lose our advantage, seeing that we should thereby have rejected the grace by which we were presented to God. This does not at all touch the election and the perseverance of the saints (one finds this language unceasingly in the epistles); it only proves that God, whose faithfulness guaranteed the accomplishment of His counsel, keeps ourselves, and that He keeps us morally.
Verses 23-25. Observe these two ministries: the preaching of the gospel in all the creation which is under heaven; and the service of Paul as minister of the church. These two ministries are distinct; but we see them combined in the person of Paul. Ministries inferior to the apostleship are in general given for one or other of these two branches of service, though it may happen, too, that God sometimes employs one and the same servant to meet the very varied need of souls.
Verse 25. " To fulfill the word of God." The doctrine of the church completes the word of God-the Scriptures. What was given afterward did not add new truths to the revelation of God. The Apocalypse, for instance, gives many new details on prophecy; it casts much light on the prophets of the Old Testament, etc., but they are not at all new truths.
Verses 26, 27. " The mystery which hath been hid from ages." To declare the coming of Christ on the earth, His sufferings, His departure, His return in glory to establish a kingdom-all this was not a mystery, it was revealed. One may misunderstand these revelations, and in this case there was ignorance or mistake. But a Christ glorious and heavenly, who unites all in His Person-a Christ, Head of His body, forming the same heavenly body of saved Jews and Gentiles- was only revealed in the New Testament. And not only was this mystery hidden, but it does not at all agree with the hopes of the Jews: for a Christ present (by His Spirit) among the Gentiles, who is as yet only the hope of glory, is far from answering to the expectations of the Jews, who looked for the Messiah to come then, bringing them the glory and establishing the kingdom.
" Christ in you," or among you, Gentiles. Such is the side of the mystery which attaches to the presence of Christ come, where He has given the Holy Spirit (Acts 2). " Came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh," Eph. 2:17. This expression " among you " applies consequently in the dispensations of God to this particular period during which Christ is among the Gentiles by His Spirit.
Verses 28, 29. Paul labored to present " every man perfect in Christ Jesus." It is not enough for the spiritual life that one be in Christ without anything more. It is needful, besides, that one should apprehend what Christ is, and that our character should be formed by this knowledge. A Jew or a Gentile who embraced the faith was saved; but he had much to learn with respect to our Savior. He must learn that Jesus is Lord of all, Head over all, as well as to the church, that He is High Priest of good things to come, etc. Paul did not weary in his efforts to make Jesus known. His heart desired in a lively way that every man should become a formed and full-grown Christian. Every man " perfect " means full-grown. The same word reappears in Phil. 3:15, and in Heb. 5:14.
Chapter 2: 2. " Being knit in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding." The New Testament speaks of full assurance of faith in Hebrews to: 22; and " of full assurance of hope " in chapter 6: 11 of the same epistle. But in the passage that we are studying we read, " full assurance of understanding." Paul asked in his prayer for the Colossians that they might joy in this " full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God." This last is more vast and extending; it is all in connection with the glory of Christ. The full assurance of faith and hope is more towards ourselves, and our joy; the full assurance of understanding brings us into the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and this gives us understanding in all His ways. It is astonishing to see how quickly our thoughts turn to the earth, and bring down heavenly things to our own lives. That explains why legality is so often found among Christians, for the elements of the world and law go together. If we live up to our heavenly position, enjoying communion with God in that position, we see things in God, and contemplate from on high His great love.
It is love which gives us this assurance of understanding; love precedes it. In this love we can understand divine things; but if not there we find ourselves led away by self, and selfishness understands nothing of the things of God.
Verses 2, 3. Omit in these verses the words, " and of the Father and of Christ," and read " the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, in which are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." The church is part of the mystery of God, but it embraces more than the church; it is the purpose that God before all time had of uniting all under one Head, Christ, in giving Him, as center of this whole, the church composed of Jews and Gentiles to form one body with Him. Thus, according to the purposes of God, Christ takes His place as Head over all who belong to the second creation having in glory the church as a body.
God's government down here represents the elements of Christ's glory, but they do not form part of the mystery; so the glory of the Messiah among the Jews, and the lordship of the Son of man over the nations do not belong to the mystery of God. These things are revealed in the Old Testament.
Verse 6. It appears the Colossians were inclined to philosophy, legality, etc. To turn them from it the Holy Ghost says, " There are no such elements in the things which ye have received, but hold fast that which ye have received of God, and walk ye in it."
Reasoning is a vain deception. If man does not accept the testimony of the word of God, he understands nothing amidst the confusion which surrounds him. Philosophers say, " All is God " Well, evil being in the world, what is the consequence? Is the evil of God? Admit the fall of man, and these errors will vanish.
For " after the tradition of men," read, " according to the teaching," the word signifies, " transfer to another." The Jews went a good deal into the elements of philosophy; they adopted the form to which they submitted the Jewish elements.
" The rudiments of the world." Philosophy goes no farther: it could not give us anything, much more where the truth of God is in question; anything we find added only tends to destroy. Gnostical inventions reject the divinity of Jesus, and the mystery of the incarnation. Later inventions make other truths disappear. Thus, the mass annuls the perfect sacrifice of the cross; and invoking the intercession of saints does not acknowledge the priesthood of Christ. So the Christian should seek for naught outside Christ. We are in Him in whom all fullness dwells: what can we want more? We are complete and perfected in Him.
Verse 9. " For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." In this verse, as in chapter 1: 19, already noticed, we see that all fullness dwells in Jesus. There this fullness is seen respecting the counsels of God, the goodwill of God; here it represents, rather, the accomplished work of redemption.
Verse 10. " Ye are complete in him." Notice: far from having anyone between us and Christ, we are in Him who is the Head of all principality and power. We lose our standing, if, for example, we allow an angel to come between Christ and us, although as a creature an angel is far superior to us. There is no mediator between us and Christ; there is between us and God, this very mediator being Christ Himself.
Verse H. Paul shows that we have in Christ the reality of things signified in the ordinances. Being in Christ we have life, and this life produces death in the flesh, the true circumcision. To seek life by death would be to wish for death outside of Christ. We are never recommended to die to sin; it is said, we are dead to sin. In practice, it is true, one realizes life according to the measure that he is dead.
In Christ circumcision consists in putting off the body (of the sins) of the flesh. With one gleam of faith one is entirely freed from sin looked at as a whole. This passage does not refer to practical life. It chews a moral condition, which is, in fact, when we receive Christ by faith. Note here, it does not say, " the sins of the body," but " the body of the sins "-sin being looked at as a principal characteristic of the body. The circumcision of Christ exists in the fact that we are constituted dead to sin.
Verse 12. To unfold the subject more fully, Paul adds, " Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him," v. 12, 13. One can look at man in two ways-as living in the world, and as being dead in his sins. Paul, in Rom. 6, sees the Christian out of the first of these two conditions. " Shall we continue in sin? " and in Eph. 2 he sees him out of the second-" Ye were dead." And here we find the grace which corresponds with these two states-" Ye walked according to the course of this world; now ye are buried with Christ.... Ye were dead in your sins; God hath quickened you.
Verse 13. This verse represents a detail, which, I believe, was not remarked in the Ephesians, namely, that God in quickening us pardons our offenses; with one act He does the two things. The knowledge of our sins does not prevent Him from quickening us. In this case the quickening brings of itself the pardon of our sins. If, for example, my child is being punished, and I come and take him for a walk, it is clear he is forgiven. One sees in the light of such grace how man has liberty through Christ.
Verses 13-15. The death of Jesus corresponds in several ways to the condition and wants of sinful man. There are trespasses-Jesus has forgiven them (v. 13); ordinances-He has blotted them out (v. 14); principalities and powers-He has triumphed over them. How valuable it makes the cross! Respecting this deliverance, it all applies to saints individually, not to the church as a body. This body has its existence in Christ alone. The church has never been under the power of death, nor under judgment; it has never needed to be justified, which is all individual. Where the church is named, there is no room for any such question.
But do we not see in Eph. 5:25, that Christ gave Himself for the church? Yes; before Christ formed the church for Himself, He bought it with a price. In this passage the idea is not justification, but the love that Jesus had in giving Himself for the church. Justification, that is to say, the grace that enables a sinner to stand before God, is not brought out in the Epistle to the Ephesians. This epistle speaks of the church as being in the heavenlies, united to Christ, and heir to His glory, according to all the counsels of God; it shows also the love and care of Jesus for His church. Christ, according to this love, gave Himself for it, bought it by His death; and now that it is His, He purifies it by the word before presenting it to Himself glorious. The church in this last case is the object of care, similar to that received by Esther before being presented to king Ahasuerus. But all this is not justification.
Verse 14. The handwriting should be, " the obligation "the obligation that existed in ordinances. An ordinance is all that is given to one in the flesh to accomplish: Peter calls it a yoke that neither we nor our fathers could bear. The ten commandments are presented under the form of an ordinance, but they point to something larger; they trace the conduct of a creature that knows love, and are thus the expression of a great moral principle that even angels obey.
The breaking of bread, is it an ordinance? Not in the sense that we understand ordinance; it is not a commandment, but a privilege granted to us to remember Jesus. The feast of unleavened bread on the contrary was an ordinance to which one must submit under pain of being cut off. Neither is the breaking of bread a sacrament. Originally a sacrament was a faithful oath that the Roman soldiers made to their flag. Fathers of the church called many things by this name; breaking of bread, baptism, and marriage were all sacraments to them. In a time of persecution to break bread was well, in one way, to profess the faithfulness of Christ; but it happened also at a similar time to profess faithfulness was no more than the breaking of bread. This expression " a sacrament " has become so ecclesiastical that it leads the mind away. Breaking of bread and baptism are no more sacraments than the viaticum and marriage. It is well to get clear of these bits of superstition.
Christ has left us two signs: one of His death and resurrection, baptism; the other, the memorial of His death, the breaking of bread. It is sad that it is called an ordinance if more is meant than the Lord's institution. When Jesus said " Do this in remembrance of me," surely He meant that it should be done; but by these words He only gave a motive, and did not establish an ordinance.
The breaking of bread, and baptism, were things practiced by the Jews. They broke bread with the afflicted (Jer. 16:7); they had pools for their baptisms. The Lord adopted the first of these two customs for the breaking of bread; the second for the washing of regeneration. " He took bread, and blessed it " (Luke 24:30) means He gave thanks to God, no more.
Verse is. Having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a show of them openly. Jesus has, as it were, drawn the enemy into a public scene. Speaking historically it is the enemy who has conducted the things in this manner.
Verse 16. There are three results derived from verse 12: " Let no man therefore judge you," etc. (v. 16-19); " Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ," etc. (v. 20-23); " If ye then be risen with Christ," etc. (chap. 3: 1-4).
" Of the sabbath," all the days that they were compelled to rest were called sabbaths.
Verse 18. " Let no man beguile you of your reward." The idea that these words present is to be deprived of the crown after having run. " In a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels intruding into those things which he hath not seen." But the adversary is satisfied; he succeeds in that way to force you to make a diversion, and to turn your thoughts from the object of your faith. As soon as men take this attitude of voluntary humility, they are not " holding the head." How can he that has the right to own himself one with Christ let such a privilege go to turn to other objects?
Verse 19. The Lord, far from having instituted an order of things to come between us and Him, has given the ministry which works to join, and sustain the members of the body united to the Head. This verse shows the direct union of each member with the Head.
Verse 20. Why are ye subject to ordinances? As though living in the world. It is not the simple fact of being in the world that these words infer, but to have lived in it and of it, outside of Christ. It is to this kind of life that ordinances apply themselves. It is remarkable to see how the very things in which Christianity seems to give place to man-baptism and the breaking of bread, of which the flesh would make ordinances, these very institutions declare man to be dead.
Chapter 3: 1-4. Taking part in Christ's resurrection the Christian finds himself a heavenly person. Jesus his life and joy is hidden in heaven; and such a Christian can but have heavenly thoughts and affections.
Verse 4. " When Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory." We have life, we are already quickened, but there is more to expect from this life; God wishes it to shine in glory. The promise is given; and when Christ shall appear, then shall we also appear with Him.
Verse 5. If there are things we should not seek after, there are also others we should fight against.
Verse 6. Some people say unbelief is the only sin on which will fall the judgment of God, but we see by this and the preceding verses that God's judgment will come on the rebellious for other things beside unbelief.
Verse to. The new man is renewed in knowledge, or in other words made new for knowledge. It is the Christian seen in his new nature through the new life. " After the image of him that created him." The renewing that God accomplishes in us is not after the pattern of the first Adam, but a renewing according to Christ. This verse presents two privileges for the Christian, the divine nature in him, the new man; and an object outside himself, Christ, the object of his faith and thoughts.
Verse 11. While awaiting the glory when God will be all in all, Christ dwells already in His saints, He has formed in them the new man, in whom also He is all and in all. The old man can have ordinances and philosophy, but to the new man Christ is all.
Verse 14. Nothing is perfect in our behavior towards others without love, divine love, brotherly love, etc. You must bring God in, God is love. That is why love is the bond of perfectness. Surely, when the first thought of our heart is formed in God, it is perfection.
Verse 15. Read " Let the peace of Christ."
Verse 16. " Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly "; that there should be in your hearts by the effect of the word, an unfolding of the Christ you acknowledge, and that it be perfect.
Chapter 4: 5. " Walk in wisdom: redeeming the time." Verse 16. Read " That from Laodicea," the epistle which will come to you from Laodicea.
The comparison between the Epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians gives rise to the remarks which follow. They both treat of the church united to Christ, as being His body. But the Epistle to the Colossians goes rather to unfold the perfection of the Head, than to show the privileges of the body; while the Epistle to the Ephesians does the reverse. The Ephesians being well grounded in faith and holding fast the truth of their union with Christ, the Holy Ghost could unfold to them the great privileges derived from that union. The Colossians, on the contrary, needed to be established in the faith and to be shown Christ in His fullness, Head of the church. Thus the two subjects are complete, and present at once to us both the perfection of the Head, and the privileges of the body.
In the Epistle to the Ephesians the church, being in a good state, is seen on high in its position in Christ, and from there looking down contemplates what God is doing and going to do. In Colossians Paul shows rather what is on high, directs the Christian's gaze upward, showing him the perfection of Christ, and the hope which is reserved for him in heaven. This position of the Christian awaiting the heavenly glory resembles a little that given him in the course where we see him pressing toward the mark. In this respect the subject of the Colossians approaches that of the Philippians. These two aspects of the Christian's position explain another difference remarked between Ephesians and Colossians. In one Paul says, Christ shall appear; in the other he does not speak of His return. The Ephesians are seen as being already on high. There is another epistle-to the Galatians, where Paul keeps silent as to the coming of Jesus, without doubt for the opposite reason: the moral state of the Galatians was too low.
Many things connected with the Holy Ghost in Ephesians are connected with the new man in Colossians, on account of the difference between the two on the common subject. In the Epistle to the Ephesians, where Paul looks principally at the body, he mentions necessarily the Holy Spirit who is in the body, uniting it all in one. In that to the Colossians, where individuality is more forcibly marked, he sees the new man characterized by the individual. Again two different effects: the Holy Spirit, the power of God which works in us; and the new man, the communicated divine nature, which renders us responsible.

Notes on the Beginning of Colossians

I DESIRE to send you a few remarks from time to time, as the Lord may enable me, on the Epistle to the Colossians, chiefly for the help of the young who have recently been brought, in His great mercy, to know and love the Lord Jesus Christ.
Two things in this epistle make it specially precious to such. The first is the way in which it so fully reveals the glory of Christ's Person, whether as Son of the Father's love, in whom the fullness of the Godhead dwells, or as Creator, and Redeemer, and Head of His body, the church. The second thing is the way in which it unfolds " the mystery " for joy and consolation of the saints-even Christ in them the hope of glory.
These are the two great subjects set before our hearts by the Holy Ghost in this precious epistle; and what can be more strengthening or gladdening than to have the eye and heart filled with the glory of Jesus, and to have the joy and assurance of our intimate union with Him made good in our souls by the Holy Ghost? To walk in the light of His risen glory, and in the consciousness of our individual interest in His love is tile great requirement in these evil days. Nothing else will give courage to confess Him before men; and this alone will deliver from all the snares of Satan, whether of worldliness on the one hand, or of religion on the other, which is not after Christ.
These things will come before us, if the Lord will, by-and-by: meantime, let us follow the course of the epistle from the beginning.
In the first two verses we have the salutation of the apostle, and in the next three his thanksgiving on their behalf. He addresses them as Christ's apostle, clothed with the authority of His name, and charged them with the communication of His grace. Moreover, God had set him apart to this service. In the end of the chapter the apostle tells of a double ministry entrusted to him as the vessel of the grace of God: first, a ministry for the proclamation of the gospel to sinners; and second, a ministry for the church, to make known to the saints the unsearchable riches of Christ. It is in the exercise of this latter ministry that he writes this epistle. It is to bring the hearts of the saints into the assured knowledge and enjoyment of their place and portion in Christ so as to walk in peaceful communion with Him until He shall appear. This ministry he fulfills in the name, and as the apostle, of Jesus Christ. Thus the whole epistle flows directly from Christ through His chosen apostle.
It is to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ he writes, and, as we have seen, on the part of Christ. They were " in Christ," the grand center of the new creation; holy and faithful brethren in Him. Then he ministers the sweet stream of grace and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Just as Jesus was parted from His disciples in the act of blessing them, so here the apostle of Christ begins his epistle to the Colossians, before entering on anything else, by saluting them with the grace or unmingled favor of the Father and the Son, of which they were ever the objects, being in Christ, and with the peace which is the fruit of this favor.
Next we get his thanksgiving. He thanked God, even the Father of " our Lord Jesus Christ," praying always for them, for the hope laid up for them in heaven. Here we see how Paul identified himself with the interests of heaven. He had heard of the faith and love of these Colossians, and his heart at once turned to God in thanksgiving and prayers; thanksgiving that He had linked with heaven this fresh company of believers, and that He had done it. And note well, that it was not what they were delivered from that here occupies him, though he does not forget that, as we see lower down; nor is it what was wrought in them, blessed as that was; but it is what they were called to-that bright and blessed portion in heaven-the hope laid up for them there. Thus he would evidently fill their minds with what they were going to; and in his own sense of its exceeding excellency and glory he thanks God on their behalf as heirs of such an inheritance.
This is a very important point. For there is a great tendency, in the first joy of faith and fervor of feeling, to be occupied with the joy and with the feeling; and when afterward trials and exercises of heart and conscience have to be passed through, to be occupied with them, or with what will give present deliverance and help, and to forget the bright and blessed hope laid up for us in heaven-the place of rest and glory with Himself, which Jesus is gone to prepare. But how can I journey on to Canaan through the trials and exercises of the wilderness if my heart has lost the sense of the blessedness of the Canaan I am going to? We are redeemed, not for the wilderness, but for Canaan; we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And when the glory of God is indeed our joy, we can add, " Not only so, but we glory in tribulations also." For then we know and experience that these very tribulations are all made to work for our good, and to further us on our way. For " tribulation worketh patience." It free us from the restlessness of our own will, which would turn aside, and delivers us, besides, from the fear of what man can do to us. We learn to trust in God. We learn, moreover, how little we can be the authors of our own blessing, and we count more and more on the constant watchfulness and love, and care of a Father in heaven. His love is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us. We know that we are in these tribulations because the objects of His love, the ransomed ones of His grace from the fire that shall never be quenched. And then, besides, we are on our way to God. Thus having the end in view enables us to confess that we are strangers and pilgrims on the earth, and it brightens with hope every step of the way. Otherwise we get weary, becoming faint in our minds. But if living in the midst of things that are unseen and eternal, the inward man is renewed day by day, and that, too, at the very time that the outward world is perishing and falling into decay.
But we now come to a third point, and that is-the ground of this thanksgiving on behalf of these Colossians. How could the apostle give thanks so assuredly on their behalf, having never seen them? Verse 4 tells us. It was because he had heard of their faith in the Lord Jesus, and of their love to all the saints. These were the grand distinguishing features and characteristics of the divine life in man. And these being of God, he well knew that all who possessed them were bound up forever in the bundle of life with the Lord Jesus Christ, and that where He was there should they be also. These were the essentials. In Christ Jesus nothing avails but " faith which worketh by love." First, faith, which came to Jesus with all its load of sin and unworthiness because it had nowhere else to go, and because it saw a love and a holiness in Him which received sinners and made Him their companion and their friend; and then love which, having Him for its object, necessarily had all who were His. Faith not only thus comes to Jesus at the first, but it binds the soul to Him as risen, and is ever receiving of His fullness. And love, having seen the saints as the precious ones of His heart, enfolds them forever in its bosom with a most tender affection. They are dear to Him. This is the motive of love, and it never fails. It clothes with divine comeliness all the objects of His grace. And what it does to them. it does as unto Him; and great is its reward.
In the previous verses we had three points brought before us. First, is the apostle's salutation, in which he regards the saints as the objects of the present favor of the Father, and of the peace which He gives. Happy position! secured to us forever in Christ. And sweet it is thus to be able to view the saints at all times, whatever their practical condition may be, as dear to God, the excellent of the earth, whose present peace and blessing He seeks, even as He has secured it for us forever in Christ. In fellowship with these thoughts of God, the apostle greets them with grace and peace from God their Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Then, secondly, we had his thanksgiving for the hope laid up for them in heaven. Heaven was near to his thoughts. Jesus was there. He had entered in, and He was preparing a place for them. He is to come again to take us to Himself, that we may be forever with Him. And when He shall be manifested then shall we also be manifested with Him in glory. This latter, perhaps, was more especially the hope here before him; Christ in them " the hope of glory." What rest of heart the apostle had in contemplating this issue of Christ's travail on their behalf, their being with Him forever in heaven! Many an exercise he had on their behalf even as to the very condition they were in at the time he was writing to them; they had lost the sense of their place with their risen Head; at any rate it had become much enfeebled, and with the enfeebling of this all else became enfeebled too. He had great agony for them; and this was Christ's Spirit yearning in him over them for their deliverance, and for their entrance in living power into the joy and comfort of the mystery. But when he turned to heaven all was peace; he could give thanks to the Father for the portion He had laid up for them there. Christ was there. The Head was there, and with Him everyone of the members should appear in glory.
Then, thirdly, in verse 4 we had the ground of this thanksgiving as far as they were concerned-even their faith in the Lord Jesus and love to all the saints. Grace had wrought in them already, and he at once connects it with glory.
In the close of verse 5, and in the next, a new subject comes before him-the gospel, " the word of the truth of the gospel." In connection with this he makes three statements, each of them weighty and important, as indeed every word of God is.
First, he connects the hope laid up for them in heaven with the word of the truth of the gospel. The gospel, the good tidings of grace, had wrapped up in it also good tidings of glory. It was in the word of the truth of the gospel that they had heard of the hope laid up for them in heaven. Such was the range and scope of the gospel, at least which they had heard; it was God's good news not only of the forgiveness of sins through the blood of His Son, but of eternal blessedness with Him in heaven.
How could it be otherwise? Christ was in heaven, and we are redeemed to be with Him. The cross put Him in glory, and it puts all there who trust in Him too. Blessed is it to know what we are delivered from-the wages of sin-eternal separation from God, who is love, the fountain of all goodness and joy; and this, too, as the expression of His everlasting displeasure. But how much more blessed to know that His perfect love did not spare His own Son, not only that I might not perish, but that I might know Him and be with Himself forever! Jesus was forsaken for us, that we might be forever brought nigh. This gives the heart an object as well as perfect peace to the conscience. It delivers also from this present evil world; the brightness and blessedness of that One discovering the true condition of this world-far from God and in bondage of Satan, and under wrath because of having rejected Jesus. The word of the truth of the gospel reveals all this-the true condition of man and his world; and the perfect grace of God which has wrought in the cross for us, and which has wrought in them by the gospel, giving them a place even now with Him who bore it for them, and the hope of being with Him forever in heaven. It was the word of the truth of the gospel, and on it they might rely with confidence. Man and his glory was passing away, but the word of the Lord should endure forever. And this was the word which by the gospel was preached unto them.
What firmness of step, and what buoyancy of spirit this heavenly hope gives to him who has it in passing through this world! Then we realize that we are not of it, and that we are on our way to God.
A second characteristic of the gospel was its universality. It had reached them, and was among them, as indeed it was in the world. It was no mere Jewish tidings; it was for man. Offenses abounded among the Jews; but where " sin " abounded, a far wider thing, there grace did much more abound.
Then, thirdly, it was bringing forth fruit in all the world and amongst them too. It was gathering souls to God through Christ wherever it went, but besides, it was bringing forth fruit in those who were gathered. This last point is plainly implied in the clause which follows: " Since the day ye heard it, and knew the grace of God in truth." Ever since it was the power of fruit-bearing, as at the first it was the seed of eternal life. This is a very important point, and one we are apt often to forget. The seed that fell into the good ground brought forth fruit; some thirty, some sixty, and some an hundredfold. We have become dead to the law by the body of Christ, that we should be married to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead, that we might bring forth fruit unto God. This is the simple natural result of union with Jesus risen. And the grace of God, when known in truth, sets us thus before God in Christ, the fruits of which union we are to manifest down here upon the earth. We are to walk in newness of life, that is, of response Godward. In order to do this, we must abide in Him. But when simply holding the Head, everything is fruit, fruit unto God.
What a place of honor and glory this is-of being here in this world the living channels of the affections and virtues of Christ hid in God. Oh! that we esteemed it more. Thus it is we adorn the doctrine of God our Savior, by manifesting in this world of sin and in the trying circumstances of daily life, not what flesh is, but what Christ is; our hearts feeding upon His love, whilst we lean upon His arm and are guided by His eye. What interest He takes in our being fruitful, that His Father may be glorified! Will He fail us in the hour of need? He lets us come into it just that we may prove how abundant are His resources to make us victors over all the power of the enemy.
May He keep us near to Himself that we may be happy in His love, and so be strong to live for Him.

Reconciliation: Colossians 1

IN a certain aspect, the Epistle to the Colossians does not take us up so far as the Ephesians does. The latter takes up very distinctly the purpose and counsels of God and the new creation. Hence the contrast of it with man in the old is presented in a very remarkable way.
In Ephesians we read that God has made us " sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus," and the Holy Ghost as the seal of our state whilst in Colossians we are " risen with Christ," and that life and its place are largely developed, but yet we are upon earth ourselves, and are to " seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God." Hence in Ephesians man is not looked at as a responsible person, to see what can be got out of him, and his responsibility met in grace as in the Romans; it begins with him as dead in sins. It is an entirely new thing. We are created in Christ Jesus. Even as to Christ Himself, it begins with Him as dead-as a man that is raised from the dead-and with man as " dead in trespasses and sins." It is not that man is a living sinner, as we have it in Romans, where the whole question of responsibility is looked at; but the man is dead in trespasses and sins, Christ has come down into the death that he is in. Christ is quickened out of it, and we are quickened together with Him, and raised up together, and seated together in heavenly places. Now Colossians does not go so far as this.
In the Epistle to the Romans man is always looked upon as living in the world; he is alive in his sins; and it takes him up in his responsibility, and brings fully home to Jew and Gentile their state. It does not speak of man being dead in sins, but he is to die because of being alive in sins. And when he is a Christian, he is still a living man in this world, Christ his life, and justified, and in Christ, but alive here though dead to sin, and exhorted to present his body a living sacrifice.
In Colossians you get man dead to sin through the cross of Christ, and then, though in this world, risen with Christ, as in Ephesians (which you do not get in Romans), but not, as there, carried on to sit in heavenly places. Here man is a risen man-not physically so, of course; his hope is laid up for him in heaven; he is not sitting there, but walking in this world as a risen man-risen in Christ; thus, being alive, he is connected with Christ; he is " quickened together with him," and therefore it is " having forgiven you all trespasses." Christ has come down to where we were lying dead in our sins, has borne and put them away by His death, and then we were quickened and raised up along with Him, all sins forgiven. Thus, when we were raised up with Him, we came clean out of the whole thing in which we were.
Still in Colossians we get far more of what Christ is in us, than of what we are in Christ. It is " Christ in you," not you in Christ; it is Christ in us down here. And this is what makes the epistle exceedingly precious; you have in it the fullest development of life here, in the Christian in his tried condition on the earth. It is " If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God." And then it is, " When Christ, who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory." He first puts the man as risen with Christ, and then his heart and affections all go up after Him to where He is at the right hand of God. There is no mention of the Holy Ghost in Colossians. It is the fullest bringing out of the life of a person in Christ still walking in this world.
In chapter 1 we see the condition and standing of the Christian, and the bearing of this on his walk. How blessedly he puts the Christian in his place through grace!
In the first place I read verse 14: " In whom we have redemption [through his blood], even the forgiveness of sins." I take this as the very starting-point-the forgiveness of sins. We get the blessed truth-this first truth, if you please-of grace, and joy, and peace; complete forgiveness through Christ. He has come down to us and redeemed us out of the condition we were in.
I am sure, the more we go on from day to day, the more important we see it is to get hold of this, though it be an elementary truth, now that there is so much seeking for an unfinished forgiveness. When I am brought into God's presence, that which I have upon my conscience is the sins I have committed; of course I cannot have those I have not. And therefore when persons are brought to the knowledge of saving forgiveness, the sins of which they have a sense of forgiveness are those that they have committed. But when it comes to those they have not, then comes the question, " What about the future? " And then arise in men's minds various ways of getting rid of them, from the gross form of absolution to the more subtle form of the Eucharist.
If you take a person who is upon Calvin's ground, he tells you to look back to your baptism; while the ordinary evangelical teaches you to look to a perpetual sprinkling again with the blood of Christ, a thing unknown to Scripture, and you will find he is never settled. But it is settled, and so completely that, if all my sins are not now set aside to all eternity, they never can be. Christ must otherwise take the cross and have the sins laid upon Him now, which is impossible, for He is in glory. " By one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified." That word " forever " there means not only eternally, but uninterruptedly; there is permanency in it before God, no discontinuance. It is not the word that speaks of eternity, though, of course, it is that too; but it is permanently perfect before God. As Christ is always (" forever " here is the same word) sitting at the right hand of God, our conscience is forever perfect; it is used in Heb. 10:12, to show He has nothing more to do.
In these days it is really important to get clear on the point of our sins being put away-I mean as to justification before God, and to see that I am before God always upon that ground, because Christ has borne all my sins. That is the first thing given here-the first elementary thing, though not the first thing named. It is an eternal redemption; it is never discontinued or interrupted, for God can never overlook that which has so perfectly glorified Himself.
Then we see another point which the apostle here speaks of. The whole state of things in heaven and in earth-they will all be reconciled-all things made new. And then he adds, " And you, who were sometimes alienated, and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled." The creation has got ruined, corrupted, defiled by sin, though, of course, it could not be guilty as active in it; and it will all be reconciled. But he begins now with those who were active in this ruin-who were " enemies in their minds." I am reconciled to God, brought back to Him in a divine righteousness that has been worked out for me; there is not a question between me and God. Here is infinite divine love. We are brought to God-reconciled to God; and it is a great point to be consciously before God, to enjoy His love, knowing that He has nothing against us, and so our hearts in entire confidence, able to think of Him and His favor, not of ourselves.
I am made the righteousness of God in Him, if I look at righteousness. There is not a single thing left; nothing but God to be enjoyed. There cannot be any unpleasant feeling between two people if they are thoroughly reconciled; so I am at home with God. All His gracious feelings are towards me, and I know it, and my heart is brought back to Him, and when He looks at me, I can say He looks at His own righteousness-at His Son, who is mine; I am loved as He loves Him. My heart believes it, and I come back to Him. I am reconciled to God.
This epistle especially insists on life-the divine nature which is born of God, and is capable of delighting in Him, and of understanding His righteousness. Having this life I know, through the gift of Christ, and by the power of the Holy Ghost, the divine favor resting upon me: and I can rest there, and that is a great thing. It is not merely that I am forgiven-that my sins are all blotted out, but that God has wrought-even for His own glory-wrought a work in which He Himself is perfectly glorified. By Him I believe in God. And what do I believe? Why, that He has brought me, associated with Christ, into His own presence; sin is gone, and I am made the righteousness of God in Him. I get to the very secret and spring of God's nature; I get the very source of what He is in Himself, and am able to enjoy it. I have not a word to say for myself; I was totally lost, and now I am totally saved, not according to what man ought to be, but according to what God is. If it were according to what man ought to be, there would be no salvation needed; but that is not it.
What put it into God's heart to give His Son? Why, nothing, of course! It was out of His own heart. And is not God righteous in the way He has saved us? Yes, I am " made the righteousness of God in him." He has " made peace through the blood of his cross," and thus reconciled us to Himself. This reconciliation is that in which God has perfectly glorified Himself, and it is to Himself that I am reconciled. The only part that we had in what has saved us was our sins. Imperfect in every sense, how was I reconciled? As redeemed, and quickened, and brought back to God according to that work that He has wrought. And I am not come halfway to God: " Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed; thou hast guided them in thy strength unto thy holy habitation." " I bare you on eagles' wings and brought you unto myself." He has brought me to Himself consistently with Himself.
Thus has the love of God to us been shown out in this reconciliation, Christ giving Himself for it; and it is a blessed thing for us that we are reconciled to God, according to what He is; and God is glorified in it. " If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him." A wonderful thing it is! The enmity of the human heart against God showed itself to the uttermost at the cross where that work was wrought out, in virtue of which God has put Christ into glory at His own right hand, and God Himself is glorified. It is like the prodigal, most blessedly true, that, when you get the young man back to his home, you do not hear a word about him; it is all the joy of the Father; it is the Father who does everything; it is the display of what God is; and my heart is in consonance with Him.
Thus. I get reconciled to God. Things here are not reconciled yet-our poor bodies are not, as we know. " We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us." It is the work of the Lord Jesus Christ alone, and never any labor on our part, because who did it? We? Not a bit of it, but God Himself!
Then I get another thing, which gives clearness and distinctness to this. " Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light." Here I get this blessed truth, that, though I am here in this poor body, compassed about with infirmity, and sin dwelling in me, so that if I am not walking in the presence of God, the flesh comes up, yet I get this-" Who hath made us meet? " It is not that there is no progress; there ought to be, and there is, because the Lord will make us make progress by chastening if we will not in any other way. At any rate progress is insisted on continuously: " He that hath this hope in him purifieth himself even as he is pure." But you never find it mixed up with being meet. Progress is mixed up with experience, and divine government: meetness with Christ's work and our being with Him. There is the constant government of God with respect to our walk. He looks for progress in it; but here, where it is a question of reconciling us to Himself, there is no progress. There is no progress in the value of Christ's blood-shedding; there is no progress in the life that I have got-that is not in its nature- though there ought to be in the development of it. There must be daily progress in our walk; but, as to our meetness, it is the work of God; it is, " What hath God wrought? " The poor thief on the cross goes straight to paradise, made in one moment a fit companion for Jesus throughout eternity.
The world will not have this; many Christians will not have it, because they want their own righteousness. It is not here holiness-which you cannot insist on too much-but it is a question of righteousness. We are " accepted in the Beloved." Of course no fault is there, and no progress; and it injures holiness bringing it in here, because it confounds righteousness with holiness. When you talk of holiness, which is intimately connected with walk, there ought to be progress; but that is not righteousness. Holiness is abhorrence of evil. There is no holiness really developed in us, though a holy nature be there, till we understand we are the righteousness of God, because till then I cannot help mixing it up with my acceptance. Till then the question with me is, what the effect of sin will be as regards my acceptance before God. But when I am settled as to my acceptance, and in the light as God is in the light, then it comes to be a detestation of sin for its own sake; not the evil act so much as sin-the root itself. And that is holiness.
I get then another truth, and this is, that I am delivered from the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son. That may come in before the other if you will. I have changed my whole place. Darkness is the absence of the knowledge of God. The light shone in the darkness, " and the darkness comprehended it not." " If we walk in the light as he is in the light we have fellowship one with another." " If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth." People are in light or in darkness. It does not say according to light, or according to darkness. God is light, and if I am walking in darkness I do not know Him at all. Christ said, " This is your hour, and the power of darkness." Dreadful word for man! He is a slave of Satan. He does not say they are reprobate criminals, but that they are without God, and in darkness, though they may be amiable natures or unamiable.
In Christ, of course, the light was perfect. He went through this world with the consciousness that all the people He met with, of course, excepting the converted ones, were without God.
In all there is a consciousness-a sense-that man is a responsible being. Though he may try every kind of effort to get right with God, yet, if he has been committing sins, he knows he has been committing sins. There is conscience in everybody, but people confound the rule for conscience with the conscience itself. Man feels this is right, and that is wrong. Now Satan totally hides God from the conscience. I do not believe he can destroy the conscience, but he hides Him from it. Christ says, " I am the light of the world," and then He opens the man's eyes and he sees. All the rest were under the power of darkness. There it was all openly so. The world is utterly without God; there is not one common thought between God and their souls.
Well, we are " delivered from the power of darkness," but is that all? No; we are " translated into the kingdom of his dear Son." That is where we are brought to. Truth could not come by itself. As truth came in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, there could not but love come too. He does not say " translated into the light," though that is true; but translated into the kingdom of his dear Son." The power of darkness is the rule of Satan over this world; and by vanity, money, knowledge even-by all that is going-he blinds the eyes of men and maintains his power over them; he uses all these various things to keep man without God. Just like Cain, he embellishes his city, and sets it all up and makes everything as pleasant as he can without God. And we are delivered from all that, and brought into the kingdom of God's dear Son.
It is the kingdom-the place where Christ has the rule. It is the effect of redemption. The power of love has come in and has delivered us, and has brought us into the kingdom that He has set up. In the cross the full power of Satan was destroyed; there Satan brought everything to bear. The apostles ran away, and Satan bad everybody against the Son of God. For it was Satan's hour and the power of darkness.
He carried the world with him against the Son of God. So the Spirit " will convince the world of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged." Satan came against the Son of God as the prince of this world, now he is cast out. The cross was the full enmity of man against God, under Satan's power; but he has been met; his power has been judged-it is all destroyed. If we go and listen to him in the flesh, he can ensnare us; but he has no power; if we only resist the devil, he will flee from us; it is not said we shall overcome. As to this, the cross was the very thing that God allowed, so that in it his power might be destroyed. At the cross Satan governed the whole world; there the exercise of his power came to a crisis; he pushed men on to crucify the Son of God; and then all his power was destroyed. So now it is, " Count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations "-not sins, of course; we have only to resist the devil in them, and he will flee from us. We are delivered from the power of darkness, and passed over to the place where Christ is, and spoken of as only here; not only into light out of darkness, but associated in the kingdom with the only-begotten object of His special love- the kingdom of God's dear Son-brought into that. We have got this place into which grace has brought us; we are " made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light."
But then we have it all in these poor earthen vessels, though " risen with Christ." And therefore we are to " seek those things which are above." It is, " Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth, for ye are dead "-dead to the law, dead to sin, quickened together with Christ, and, " When Christ, who is our life shall appear, then shall we also appear with him in glory." The risen Christ at God's right hand is our life, and yet we are not taken out of this world.
And then I get, " Walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing." I get three " worthies " in the epistles. " Worthy of God who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory," in Thessalonians. " Worthy of the vocation," in Ephesians; practically the same thing, the Holy Ghost having us for His habitation, the habitation of God through the Spirit as a present thing. And here, it is " Worthy of the Lord." My path through this world is to be worthy of Him. My life should be the expression of Christ; my life, ways, everything that Christ expressed.
" Fruitful unto every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God." Here I get growth. I get no growth in reconciliation: there is no growth in the value of Christ's blood; but the moment I get life, there is " increasing " or " growing by the knowledge of God." I know God, and can say, That is not fit for God. I purify myself. It does not say he is as pure as Christ, but that he is to " purify himself as he is pure." As I get my eye purified, I see better; I get my " senses exercised to discern good and evil," and the more I get on, the more I see what I am getting on to.
Here I could say a word (as I find it current in certain circles that perfection is attainable here) that there is no perfection for the Christian except Christ in glory. If I am a risen man I take Him on earth as a pattern for my steps, but not what I am to attain to. Christ down here is unattainable, because Christ had no sin, and I have sin. There is no perfection down here-you never find any maintaining that there is, who do not lower it to Adam condition. I seek to walk as Christ walked, not after the flesh at all, but the point I am aiming at and looking to is Christ in glory. It is " when he shall appear " that I shall be like Him, and not till then. I try to be as like Him here as ever I can be. " This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling "-the calling above-" of God in Christ Jesus." I have no calling down here; there is the calling above-the whole thing that God has set before us.
People say, God cannot give you a rule you cannot attain to. But I say, God never gives you a rule which you can attain-never! First, there was the law. Could man attain to that as in the flesh where it was given to him? It was not subject to the law of God, nor can be. And now there is Christ in glory. Can I attain to that? Never here! But I press on to it; it is before me, and I never attain it till I get to Him. This object that I am aiming at governs me where I am; " I live by the faith of the Son of God "; and, if you are not living by Him glorified, you have not got Him at all. If you look for perfection down here, you have lost your object; it is a complete blunder in the very nature of the thing. Christ in glory is the object to which our minds ought to be always looking on. We are predestined " to be conformed to the image of his Son," and, if you are looking at anything else, you are not looking at that.
And now, mark, as regards the path down here, we are " strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power." Is not that a wonderful thing to say? And what is the fruit of it? It sounds a poor thing-" patience! " But I say, you try and see if there be not a working of will in you that does not like to be thwarted. That is not patience! " Let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." See if you do not want divine power for patience. " If when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God." This is the first thing: " Strengthened with all might unto all patience." And what next? " Long-suffering." As we see it in Ephesians, " I beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering." And then follows " joyfulness." The moment the will is broken-my will bowing to God's will-bearing with patience everything I come across-then joy is unhindered.
Thus we have got the place in which we are set, and then the behavior with which we are to walk. What the apostle looks for is that we should be " filled with the knowledge of his will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding." But do we not often find ignorance of His will? Where we do, there is always our own will working. He looks for a spiritual conformity to Christ's mind to so mark our mind, and walk, and ways, that our life should bear the expression of the life of Christ. It is not merely avoiding positive sins; it is far more than that. The question is, What will please Christ? I do not say a thing is wrong-not merely wrong; but what will please Christ? The question, beloved friends, really is, Is Christ in our hearts enough to make us seek only one thing upon this earth until we get to Him where He is? If our hearts are set on Christ our one desire will be to " walk worthy of the Lord," and then the world will not know us.
Thus we see, that, not only are our sins gone-put away through the precious blood of Christ, but that we are brought into this new place in Christ, " delivered from the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of his dear Son," and that, being thus brought there, we have now to walk in it " worthy of the Lord." Just as I would send a child out into the world, and say to him, Now walk worthy of your father and your family. But how could he do it if he did not know his father?
God wants us to be "holy, and unblameable, and unreproveable in his sight." That is what He would have us-what is pleasing to Himself. The earnest seeking to walk worthy of the Lord to all pleasing; forgiven, justified, reconciled to God, fit for the inheritance of the saints in light, fit for the kingdom of God's dear Son, and sent now to walk down here in the consciousness of our place up there.
The Lord only give His saints to have a deeper truer sense in this way of the place into which He has brought them in the Lord Jesus Christ, that they may know what it is to be brought to God according to the acceptance that is in Christ Jesus.

All in Christ and Christ All: Colossians 2

The Lord can bring good to His people out of any evil.
These Christians at Colosse were in danger of not " holding the head," that is, of slipping away from the consciousness of being in Christ, through getting beguiled into subjection to ordinances. To meet this the apostle urges them back, showing them how the believer has everything in Christ, and not anything out of Christ. In result we get much precious teaching as to the fullness of the Head for the body, as well as solemn warning against practical separation from our standing of union with the Head, through the allowance of religiousness in the flesh. Everything is based on union with Christ risen and glorified. But then, if here, as in the Epistle to the Ephesians, we get this great truth as a basis, the Colossians are addressed on somewhat lower ground than the Ephesians, who were standing fast in the faith of it, and could profit by teaching which unfolded to them the whole extent of the church's privileges, inasmuch as they have to be got up to the point from which the Christian's thoughts and feelings should ever flow-his standing and privileges in Christ. The epistle to each is perfect in its place. The steadfastness of the one and the failure of the other have both been made to subserve the blessing of the church in all ages.
The moment we look to ordinances, as it regards position before God, we are slipping away from Christ: something is brought in between us and the Head. God's thought of completeness is Christ; if, therefore, I have the thought of not having already all perfection, everything I need, in Him, I am leaving Christ. " Ye are [it is not said, ye shall be] complete in him," v. to. If there is anything for me to obtain, there comes in at once some means of obtaining it. If the body is united to the Head, or (which, in respect of the individual, is the same thing) if I am one with Christ, I have in Him all I need. I may have to be taught about it and to seek grace to manifest it, but the moment I think I have to obtain what is in Christ, a subtle form of self-righteousness is at work-I must do something. No matter what shape this may assume, prayer, or works, or anything else, I am not " holding the head." One in possession of an estate may have to see about that estate, but were he to say, I must get possession of it, he would be all wrong.
Christ is revealed to the humble soul. Intellectual attainment is not in question here, it is no matter of great learning or of philosophy. " Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? " The " things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given us of God." The most transcendent mind could never discover the ways of God; we get effort, but never success in attaining to that which the simplest Christian knows-things " hidden from the wise and prudent " but " revealed unto babes." How painful the efforts of man in arriving at darkness! " What is truth? " asked Pilate, and crucified Christ. Christ is the truth, and the humble simple soul of a poor sinner, taught of God, has it perfectly; he may not have realized it, but he has it all there, " all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge " in the mystery. Christ is the righteous One, and we are made " the righteousness of God in him "-life, " in him is life," and He is " our life." As to all that is divine and eternal, there is not anything out of Christ.
At the commencement of the chapter the apostle speaks of the great conflict he had had on behalf of these saints, that their " hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God [and of the Father, and of Christ]." For as we know, God is about to gather together all things in Christ (Eph. 1:8-10), and the church is associated with Him who is this center. " And this, I say," he continues, " lest any man should beguile you with enticing words [pretending to bring you a mass of wisdom and knowledge in all manner of things that are not Christ]; for though I be absent in the body, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ," v. 4, 5. It is all well to have Christ for Christianity, he may come and say (alas! how often is this said), But is there to be nothing else besides Christ? No, not anything. We cannot deal with the plants of this earth, without dealing with that which belongs to Christ; and if we deal with them without Christ, we sin. We are exiled from paradise and have forfeited everything. Forgetfulness of all that had taken place, thorough blinding of heart and hardening of conscience marked the way of Cain, till at last, when driven out from the presence of the Lord, he sought to make that world, into which God had sent him forth a fugitive and a vagabond (the very name of the place in which he dwelt" the land of Nod " means, " the land of a vagabond "), as agreeable an abode as practicable apart from God. And all that man is now doing, to inherit the earth without Christ, he is doing according to Cain, settling himself down as a poor sinner in a world like this. The Christian acknowledges that he has forfeited everything; he cannot talk about " my rights "; in using anything himself, he would be using it as a poor guilty rebel. He trusts in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; he eats his meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God; whatever he does, in word or in deed, he does all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks unto God and the Father by Him. To him, there is not anything outside Christ-all belongs to Christ, and it is, as a Christian, that he enjoys it.
Let us not suppose that this " mystery of God " is some great knowledge. Where the soul has so owned itself a sinner and everything to be in Christ, it has owned Christ as center of all; it has received Him for forgiveness, and it has all in Him; " as ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord," he continues, " so walk ye in him, rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving," v. 6, 7. Everything I have, I get from God's love.
" Beware lest any man spoil you "-despoil or cheat you of your blessing-" through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ." The tradition of men is never faith-truth or error, it is never faith-it is natural and belongs to man. Faith is the reception of a divine testimony by the soul, so that God Himself is believed; and, further, it is founded on His testimony alone. Man may be the instrument of leading me into truth-a sign-post shows me the way-but I cannot believe man, that is, I cannot believe because man says it; I believe God. We have believed Satan when we were enjoying God's blessings now, God calls upon us to believe Himself. Herein is the real return of the soul to God. If I believe because " the church " has put its authority or its sanction on that which I believe, I am just simply saying that I do not believe God. The Bible is the word of God. God has given a testimony carrying His authority with it, which testimony I am bound to believe: otherwise I despise God's testimony. To believe because man says it, or because " the church " says it, is to make God a liar; for, when I had only what God said, I did not believe. It is well to look this distinctly and definitely in the face. There are two things: 1, that which I believe-the fullness, riches, and perfection of Christ; and 2, the ground on which I believe it. Now as to the latter, if a person were to tell me something, in order really to believe that person's testimony, I must receive what he said, because he said it. If I cannot believe God, why is it? My eyes are holden, I cannot believe when God speaks. He has not failed in giving the testimony. The only rightness in regard of this is to believe what God says, because He says it; in other words, to believe God. To tell a person, " I will believe what you say, when I get it sanctioned by another," is not to trust him. To require " the church's " testimony to accredit God's word is to disbelieve-to dishonor-God. In doing this, I am, as it respects moral position, infidel in regard of God.
But more: Christ is a heavenly Christ, He is not of this world; He was from heaven and He has gone back to heaven. Hence all that is " after the rudiments of the world," beautifully suited, though it be, to human nature, and calculated to make man pious, is not " after Christ." That which has not been in heaven can only tell about heaven at second hand; all that is not simply Christ's revelation of Himself does not belong to heaven. He says, " No man has ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven "-who else could? And, therefore, no matter what man tells me, or what men have said about heaven-be it what the ancients have said, or what " the church " has said, I cannot believe it. That which is " after the rudiments of the world " is exactly opposed to heaven. The moment we get what is suited to the flesh, or makes a fair show in the flesh, it belongs to the world, it is not " after Christ."
" For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily," v. 9. There is here something exceedingly blessed; it is not a Pilate's What is truth? Nor yet seeking after God, if haply we might feel after Him and find Him (Paul's expression in regard of the heathen), but, as John speaks, " that which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the word of life " (1 John 1:1), that which is brought home to the senses of men. In place of working up the feelings to seek after something, God has come down to us, poor wretched creatures that we are. But God is there. He has come down to us in our sins and miseries bodily: I do not get a heap of stories, patched up nobody knows how, to act on my senses, a...d work on my imagination; it is the God who saves me. But He will be always God. There is not a trouble, there is not a distress, there is not a feeling in the heart of man, that is not met in Christ (and, after all, we do want something to fill the heart, we are men, and we want what man wants), not as a doctrine merely, but bodily. We find in Him that which is to be found nowhere else. Let it be the most loving person possible, he has not loved me and died for me. But then I have not simply the love of a gracious person: there is in Him " all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." All flights of the imagination are checked, for I meet it in the Holy One, though I meet it in all my wants.
" And ye are complete in him," v. 10. Not only have I all I want, but I am all I need to be in Him. I must appear before God, and have to say to God, as a responsible being; looked at as what I am in myself, I am lost; in Christ, I am complete, as complete as Christ is, for I am complete in Him. There are these two sides: if God is manifested to us, we must also be manifested before God. Blessed be God! I have not anything to seek out of Christ as to completeness. And mark, it is not merely what there is,' but what we have in Christ. Our hearts are so deceitful and treacherous, they do like to get in a little bit of their own. But let it be humility, or what else it may, there is no room found here for anything of self. In us, that is, in our flesh, dwelleth no good thing. There is neither righteousness, nor holiness, nor humility out of Christ.
The Jews were looking to a variety of forms; we have all in Christ. A person talks to me about getting absolution from a priest, I do not want it; I had it years ago in Christ. Another says, You will receive the Holy Ghost in this or in that particular way. I have received the Holy Ghost already. So, in regard of what the apostle speaks of here: " In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ " (v. I I); we have done with sin, we are dead to it with Christ. He goes on to show how: " Buried with him in baptism wherein also ye are risen with him, through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead," v. 12. We have done with the flesh; it is not an effort to have done with it, we are dead. He does not say, " Die to the flesh " (neither does Scripture anywhere speak thus), nor yet, " Die to sin." Such an expression is in itself a clear proof that he who uses it does not know the gospel simply. But we do find it said, " Mortify your members which are upon the earth," etc. (chap. 3: 1-5). This supposes us to be dead, and to have our life hid with Christ in God. Elsewhere the apostle says, " I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me," Gal. 2:19, 20. All that Christ is, and all that Christ has done, is mine in Him. Has He been put to death? so have I. Is He risen again? so am I; therefore I am able to " mortify," etc. We cannot mix these two things (in our minds we often do, and hence confusion): Christ's having died unto sin for me, is my power for being dead practically to sin. To make this clearer, if need be, see the argument of Rom. 6 " How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?... In that he died, he died unto sin once; but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body," etc. The moment the eye rests on Him, faith says, I am dead to sin.
And mark how this is brought in. The faith is not in my being risen, but in Christ's having been raised. This distinction is far from unimportant. Many a sincere soul is continually turning in upon itself to know if it be risen, but this is not " the faith of the operation of God." Peter says, " You, who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory, that your faith and hope might be in God," 1 Peter 1:21. So Paul, " to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead," etc. My soul, knowing that all that is flesh is condemned, that there is no good thing in it, has given up seeking good from it; God has found plenty of evil, and I have done so too-He may have allowed me to struggle on in the hopeless endeavor to better it-but I look out of myself, and I see that God has raised Christ from the dead. " What the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh," Rom. 8:1-3. My confidence is in this, that God has raised Christ from the dead, when He was there for me. But then, if this sets aside everything that I am in myself before God, it sets all aside for acceptance also. Am I saying, There is no good at all in my flesh, it must die, I cannot mend it? It is dead, the whole old thing gone; I am in heaven in Him, who has been raised from the dead, and now I have to mortify my members which are on earth.
“ And you who were dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses," v. 13. Here comes in another blessed truth. Instead of its being a question as to the flesh getting better, not only is it condemned already, but we have been quickened together with Christ. This is no mere doctrine: Christ is our life. I am in this new man before God. And what has become of all my sins? They are gone. He has quickened me out of Christ's grave, and they are left behind. Christ went down with my sins into the grave (they were put away on the cross-" He bore our sins in his own body on the tree "-the grave is the expression of this), when He rose again they were all gone. What can give me such a sense of the heinousness, the hatefulness, of my sins, as seeing Christ bearing them! But they are gone.
" Blotting out the hand-writing of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross," v. 14. He is not setting men to obtain righteousness through that which quickens sin and works condemnation. Am I saying, I have not done this, or, I have not done that, then where there is the obligation of some act, and it is not fulfilled, there is condemnation. In taking up the Lord's supper-that sweet, and blessed, and holy memorial of Christ's death, the joy of my heart, so as to put it between myself and Christ, then I am not "holding the head." Christ has taken ordinances out of the way, it is the flesh that does them: let it be penance, it is the flesh that does it-but the flesh is dead; the same thing that put away sin put away ordinances; the man who had the sin and was to do the ordinances is dead, because Christ has died. I am alive in Christ, who is alive again from the dead: He is my life. I do not need to obtain a standing before God through any ordinance. Had I to perform the smallest act, as that through which I needed to get completeness before God, it would be a denial of the perfectness of the Lord Jesus Christ.
But more. Those " principalities and powers," with whom we have to contend (Eph. 6:12), have been " spoiled "; He has " made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it," v. 15. Does Satan come and accuse me? It is all true, but my sins are gone. God has said He will remember them no more. " Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." Why flee? Because of having already met Christ. Is it temptation through the agreeable things of the world, or the sorrows and trials of life, or the power of death? he has been " spoiled," his power is gone for faith; Heb. 2:14. Death, to the believer, is but a departing to be with Christ; all that it could be from Satan, or from the wrath of God, Christ has gone through for us; but He has gone through it, and He is now with God. Dead and risen with Christ, yet here in a dying body, if I put it off, " absent from the body," I shall be "present with the Lord."
And now, having shown us how we have everything in Christ, and not anything out of Him-completeness in the presence of God, and perfect deliverance from all that we are in ourselves, as also from all that we are in ourselves, as also from all that is, or could be used, against us, as in ourselves, he goes on to say, " Let no man therefore, judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holiday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath-days, which are a shadow of things to come: but the body is of Christ," v. 16, 17. What perfect liberty! We need to see that we use it holily, but it is a perfect liberty.
A " holy-day " (it is well to call it so, as indicative of its meaning) was one God had made to be esteemed above another: this and other things, the meats, and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances of Judaism, had their time and use. " The body is of Christ." In Him we have that which they were designed to typify. If I take them up now, I take up the shadow and not the substance; it is a mere shadow, but, in setting it up again, I make it substantive and deny Christ. This may be done through ignorance, still it ought to be treated as a thorough infirmity, the soul has not the knowledge of what it is in Christ; whilst ignorance has to be borne with, the saint is beguiled of his reward.
" Let no man beguile you of your reward, in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up in his fleshly mind, and not holding the head," v. 18. I may talk much about saints and angels in heaven, their glories, and the like, and call this humility; but it is not so, it in reality is the very opposite, a being vainly puffed up in my fleshly mind. What do I know about them? Have I been in heaven? Whilst thus intruding into things I have not seen, I am losing knowledge needed by all saints. The weakest believer is as much one with Christ as an apostle, and as complete in Him. It might seem more humble to say, I am this, that, or the other thing; but can we do without Christ? Do you reply, I have not arrived at such a position? Then you are expecting to attain it-that is presumption. It is because we are lost, poor, and blind, we are miserable, naked, and have nothing in ourselves-we have this all in Christ.
The moment he has brought them there, left nothing between them and Christ, " Now," he says (v. 19), there is that which flows down from the Head-that which has to be manifested in the members. We have not a single grace, or thought of grace, until we are complete; we must be united to the Head. People are looking to that to make them complete, which they cannot have until they are in that position. Whether we eat or drink, or whatsoever we do, we have to do all to the glory of God; let it be but the purchasing of some article of dress, I should do it for Christ to please Him. This is our one rule, to do all for Christ; and both as to inward graces and outward manners, the more I realize what Christ is for me, the better shall I know what is pleasing to Him. Here spirituality comes in. It is not man increasing in order to get God, it is " increasing with the increase of God." All flows down from Christ's fullness.
In Christ I am not " living in the world," I am " dead with him to the rudiments of the world," v. 20-23. If really dead to the flesh, I cannot be looking to ordinances to get the flesh bettered. But the tendency of our hearts is ever to this. And God has met that tendency. If the flesh must be labored to see if any good could be got out of it, He has taken it up and proved that, after all that had been done for it that could be done, there was no good in it-God could get no good from it. Still here is our danger; religiousness in the flesh is that against which there is this special warning. And with all its specious appearance, what does the apostle call it? " Will-worship." It may have a great character for humility, but it is the most positive and terrible pride before God; it does not look like this; it looks like mortifying the flesh and putting it down.
The only thing that will deliver from it is, the knowledge of our completeness, and a walking in the power of a dead and risen Christ.
Here there is rest for the heart (there will be conflict still, we have not, in that sense, rest yet), my eye turned from myself, I rest in Christ; there I can delight, and there God delights-I have a common feeling with God. All that I see in Christ is mine, all that perfection that my soul delights in, my perfection before God.
There are these two truths: all the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily in Christ; and we are complete in Him. My need is met.
God has come down to me in Christ. Am I troubled about my sins? where shall I find any as gracious to me as Christ? I can tell to Him what I dare not to another. Brethren may be kind and sympathizing; but I can tell out my heart to Christ, so as to no one else. Well! it is to God, and He does not reproach me. All the infinitude of love is brought down to display itself in kindness to a poor sinner; I meet it by my wants, my sorrows, my failures, my sins. The poor woman of the city had not a mouth to tell it out; she was weeping at His feet about her sins, but she had found One who could so meet her in them, as to give confidence to her heart, whilst conscience was awakened in the very deepest way. I never add to that fullness; all the majesty of God is there. On the other hand, conscience is awakened: God is • a holy God, and how shall I appear before Him? The same Christ who is God towards man, is man before God for us. He has come down to meet me in my sins, and He has gone up to be my righteousness before God.
If we desire to manifest Him-the life of Christ is daily walk and conduct, it must flow out from Him; and for this, the flesh has to be mortified and Satan resisted. We are not our own, we are bought with a price; let us, therefore, glorify God in our bodies; 1 Cor. 6:20. In doing anything for myself, I am a dishonest person; He bought me when I was the slave of Satan.
Christian, is your soul honoring God by resting thus in the completeness of Christ? or are you seeking to honor self in eking out a righteousness, it matters not how-by doings or by feelings? A child ought to have right feelings for its parent: but, if that child is making a merit of its feelings, it is destroying the whole thing. Looking for feelings to make out righteousness through (while feelings are right) is just as bad as looking to works.
The Lord give us to know that we are complete in Christ, that we may have blessed and happy liberty, loving and serving Him in love, because He has given us all we need, loved us, and saved us, and made us complete.

Dead With Christ, Risen With Christ: Colossians 2:20; Colossians 3:1

THE Christian's risen life is exhibited in two things-death unto that which is here, and heavenly-mindedness. " Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ," writes the apostle, " from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances? " The expression " rudiments of the world," goes a vast way. I am to be dead, not only to sin, but to all the religiousness of human nature. A Jew has this religiousness, and it was cultivated of God; but it brought not forth good fruit, it produced nothing but " wild grapes."
Now, if we do not see that we are risen, we shall be cultivating human nature, for God. He Himself has tried this already; and He says, that not anything could have been done more than He has done; Isa. 5. But man would still, still be striving to cultivate the religiousness of human nature, and introduce sinners into heaven, otherwise than by death. We are dead and risen again, and it is simply heavenly.
In this, is the real power of our living above sin. It assumes death, it goes upon the principle that we are " dead to sin," Rom. 6. We get a blessed liberty in seeing and accounting ourselves dead. We have a new life. Christ has taken His place where death and resurrection have put Him. And there I am, where Christ is. It is altogether another life, and this life has its own world, and its own sphere of affections. " They that are after the flesh, do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit," Rom. 8:5.
Resurrection life is manifested in walking through this world as abstracted, withdrawn from, unactuated by, the motives of the world. A Christian has new motives. If I see a man walking through the world without things here affecting him; I say, " He is either mad-or risen with Christ." Alas! we are not as consistent as madmen. All the motives in the world never touch the new nature. Do you think it could be thinking about friendship with the world? could be seeking riches, or honor, or power? The motives which actuate men have no influence upon it. Perplexity comes in by our having a motive which is not drawn from heaven; whenever I see myself, or another, in difficulty, I may be quite sure some other motive is at work.
There is always a tendency to decline from this singleness of eye.
When we first receive the knowledge of life in Christ, we are absorbed, we readily admit all else to be " dung and dross," Phil. 3. But when decline comes in, we get old motives into action again. Little by little, we are not absorbed, and then a hundred things begin to be motives-things of which I took no notice, which did not act before. People say, " What harm is there in it? " When I begin to inquire, " What harm is there in this, or in that? " there is the tendency to decline. There may be no harm in the thing, but the thought about it shows that I am not absorbed with that which is heavenly. " Thou hast left thy first love." It is not in great sins, but here, that decline in the saints is manifested.
When the sense of grace is diminished, we decline in practice. Our motives must be in God. Sometimes, effort is made to press conduct, works, and practice; because (it is said) full grace was preached before; now, that there is decline in practice, you must preach practice.
That which is the rather to be pressed, is grace-the first grace. It is grace, not legalism, will restore the soul. Where the sense of grace is diminished, the conscience may be, at the same time, uncommonly active, and then it condemns the pressing of grace, and legalism is the result. When conscience has been put in action through the claims of grace, that is not legalism; and there will be holy practice in detail.
We may fall into either of two faults-that of (because fruits have not been produced) preaching fruits; or, that of getting at ease, when certain things come to have influence over us again, through thinking that what we approved of before, was legalism.
We shall not get back by dwelling on detail. Christ is the great motive for everything; and we must get up into the knowledge of resurrection in Christ, to remedy detail. Here, there is a wonderful truth, and wonderful liberty.
Another very important point is, the tone and spirit of our walk. Confidence in God, and gentleness of spirit, is that which becomes the saint. For this we must be at home with God. The effect of thus walking in Christ, setting the Lord ever before us, is always to make us walk with reverence- lowliness, adoration, quietness, ease, and happiness. If I go where I am unaccustomed to be-if I get, for instance, into a great house, I may have much kindness shown me there, but when I get out again, I feel at ease; I am glad to be out. Had I been brought up in that house, I should feel otherwise. The soul is not only happy in God for itself, but it will bring the tone of that house out with it; because of its joy in God, anxieties disappear, and it will move through the ten thousand things, that would trouble and prove anxieties to another, without being a bit troubled. No matter what it may be, we bring quietness of spirit into all circumstances, whilst abiding in God.
If a man be risen with Christ, if he be dwelling there, it will show itself thus. We shall not be afraid of the changes around. We shall live, not in stupid apathy and listlessness, but in the exercise of lively affections and energies towards the Lord. One great evidence of my abiding in Christ, is quietness. I have my portion elsewhere, and I go on. Another sign is confidence in obeying.
This connects itself with fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ-fellowship, not only in joy, but in the thoughts of the Father and the Son. The Holy Ghost, the third person of the blessed Trinity, is our power of entering with the affections into the things of God. " The Father loveth the Son "-what a place this puts me in, to be thus cognizant of the Father's feelings towards His beloved Son.
In our proper place, we get our mind filled and associated with things, that leave this world as a little thing-an atom, in the vastness of the glory, which was before the world was.

Notes on the Epistles to the Thessalonians

WHEN the Thessalonians received Paul's first epistle, they had not long been converted to the Lord. They then were in all the freshness of Christian life, waiting for the Son of God from heaven, and suffering persecution for His sake. But their faith was mixed with a measure of obscurity. They thought that those from among them who had died would not see the Lord at His coming. To meet their need, the Holy Spirit addresses this epistle to them, in order to establish their faith, to give them light as to the coming of Jesus, and to comfort them in the midst of the persecutions they were going through.
Chapter 1:1. " The church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father." The Epistles to the Thessalonians present the only instance where we find the expression, " in God the Father," used to indicate the position of a church. In the other epistles, in general, Paul says, " the church of God which is at Corinth," or " the saints which are at Ephesus," etc. It is probably because the Thessalonians were recently brought to the faith that Paul speaks of them in this way. Taking, so to speak, this church at its birth, he only sees it in its relationship to God. " One God and Father "-such is the first notion that springs from faith.
" Grace be unto you and peace ": that is to say, May all the energy and riches of that grace in which you stand be displayed in you.
Verse 3. The great christian principles showed themselves in all their force among the Thessalonians; hence it is that we remark so much freshness in their spiritual condition.
" Your work of faith." See the acts which belong to faith- acts like those which are presented in Heb. 11 and in James 2; the act of Abraham delivering up his son, and that of Rahab preferring Israel to her own country, etc.
Your " labor of love ": that is, the pains one takes in the Lord, the labor one pursues in love, though amidst difficulties.
" Patience of hope "; that is, patient waiting for the promised glory.
" In our Lord Jesus Christ," translate, " of our Lord Jesus Christ." In Him is the source of all blessing for our souls; from Him it is that we derive strength and in Him we find that which nourishes the spiritual life.
" In the sight of God and our Father." In the presence of God we find the exercise of conscience. These two blessings-the maintenance of life in Christ, and the exercise of conscience before God-present the two sides of the Christian life. When the soul is in a good state, there is always an exercise of the conscience before God. One may, it is true, after a period of blessing, walk for some time with a certain measure of life, but without the conscience being much in activity. But if conscience is not reawakened, the time comes when one slips away and declines rapidly.
Verse 4. The great principles of Christianity-faith, hope, and love, which were in activity among the Thessalonians, gave evidence of their election. And this proof is the only practical proof of the election of the saints.
Verse 6. " Followers of us, and of the Lord." The Thessalonians had a share of the experience of Christ, when He was on earth. Like Him, they possessed the joy of God through the word, and they suffered persecution.
Verse 8. The faith of the Thessalonians had had an echo; it was noised abroad.
Verse 10. Converted through the power of God, the Thessalonians, far from remaining in the world and seeking to reconcile the world and faith, were, on the contrary, formed by that faith to wait for the Son of God from heaven.
Chapter 2:1-12 gives a beautiful instance of the feelings and ways of grace in the conduct and labors of a servant of God.
Verse 7. " As a nurse," etc.; that is to say, like a mother who nurses her own child. It was in this spirit of tenderness and affection towards the Thessalonians that Paul had labored amongst them.
Verse 13. After having called to remembrance his labors, what care Paul takes to maintain the Thessalonians on the foundation of the word which they had received through his preaching. The apostle puts himself aside and gives thanks that they had received that word, not as the word of man, but as being the word of God. Thus their faith was founded on the word of God, although it was by the ministry of a man that it had been produced and placed upon that foundation.
There are two evidences, which show the divine authority of the word of God-works of power, that is to say, miracles; and the effective action which it exercises in the heart. The word of God was accompanied by works of power, when it came unto the Thessalonians through Paul's preaching; chap. 1: 5. And now, in his letter, the apostle, to the praise of these believers, proclaims that the same word worked effectually in them.
Verse 14. In consequence of their obedience of faith, the Thessalonians found themselves connected with the churches of Judea, which had preceded them in the same faith (there is one body); and, like those churches, the Thessalonians were suffering persecution from those of their own nation.
Verse 16. " Wrath is come upon them to the uttermost "upon the Jews. Unbelieving Israel had been visited of God several times by partial chastisements; but now that they had rejected Christ and the gospel, God subjects them to the full extent of His judgment, a judgment which still continues, and will only be executed in the future trouble of Jacob.
Verse 17-20. Had it not been for the hindrances which had several times prevented him, Paul would have visited the Thessalonians. He greatly wished to see again these believers, the fruit of his labors-they who were the subject of his present joy and his crown of boasting at the moment of the coming of the Lord Jesus. Here then is a new element, with regard to the coming of the Lord! in that glorious day Paul and the Thessalonians would be found together.
There is a difference in the way in which the coming of the Lord is presented in these two instances. Verse 10 of chapter I places more particularly before our eyes the coming of the Son, and the joy of the saints, in experiencing the deliverance which He will bring them. There the distinction of the rapture of the saints is not yet brought out; the statement simply presents the coming of the Son from heaven. Verse 19 of the chapter we are reading goes farther; it shows the blessedness of the saints gathered together at the coming of Jesus. The testimony rendered to the Son coming from heaven has enlarged the circle of believers. There are numerous saints; all will be gathered together and happy in that blessed day.
Chapter 3. But there are in the hearts of the saints affections which grace produces.
Verses 1-10. Paul, in the midst of the care he devotes to the faith of the believers, is the first to show us how Christian affections can be connected with the cares of the ministry.
Verse 3. " We are appointed thereunto." It reads better thus; " We are set for this "-this is our lot.
Verse 8. " For now we live." It is my life, if ye stand firm, ye Thessalonians, says Paul.
Verse to. " Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face." This desire was not so soon realized; Paul before that had time to address a second epistle to the Thessalonians; and indeed several years elapsed before he was able to see them again.
Verses 11-13. In this passage Paul puts the coming of the Lord in connection with every Christian affection. This apostle, who abounded in love towards the saints, desired also that they should themselves walk in love, in order to abide in holiness, and to shine forth in that day. He does not yet state the order of the facts by which this result will be seen, but he mentions the moral truths and the practical grace which prepare it.
" The Lord make you to increase and abound in love... to the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness." The love of God possessing the heart is what enables the Christian to walk in holiness. Here we find again the doctrine of John: " He that loveth his brother abideth in the light," 1 John 2:10. It is interesting to see these fundamental elements of faith and of individual blessing forming an integral part of the powerful testimony through which Paul was forming the church.
" To the end he may stablish your hearts," etc. It is an actual establishing of the heart, but which will be seen in its results at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ: " We must all be manifested," etc.
" Before God, even our Father." Paul always sees the Thessalonians in their relationship to the Father. It does not appear that these believers had as yet got beyond the state of babes in the faith. " I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father," 1 John 2:13.
The sense of verse 13 is this: May God establish your hearts in holiness (now, by the exercise of love), that ye may be [seen] unblameable in holiness, before our God and Father [at that moment] at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints. In this passage the coming of Jesus is not presented in the act of our gathering together to Him, when we go to meet Him; but in the act of our coming with Him from the Father's house, after having been in His presence. It is that moment which will show whether we are unblameable.
When Paul, occupied with the coming of Jesus, considers the privilege of faith, he sees the saints all gathered together to the Lord, tasting before Him the common joy. When he considers the responsibility of the Christian walk, he always sees the appearing of Christ. There can be nothing but joy in our hearts at that blessed moment when we shall go with Jesus into the Father's presence, taking a place which the love of God has given unto us, and which the work of Christ has procured to us. It will be otherwise when we return with Jesus. Without losing our position and our blessedness in Him, we shall nevertheless be in a different scene; we shall have reached that solemn moment when the consequences of our responsibility will be manifested.
Chapter 4: 1-12. Here Paul adds several developments to the truths which he mentioned at the close of chapter 3; and first of all on the subject of holiness and love.
Verses 1-8. When Paul was with the Thessalonians, he had shown them the conduct that is pleasing to God. We must preserve or possess our own vessel in sanctification and honor. If anyone disregards his brother in overstepping his marriage rights, it is not man only but God whom he disregards; for the Holy Spirit dwells in that brother who has been wronged.
Verse 8. " Despiseth." It means, He therefore that [in this] disregards [his brother], disregards not man but God.
" God, who hath also given unto us his Holy Spirit," to dwell in us-Christians. Some read you instead of us.
Verses 9-12. Love is of God. By Him we love the children of God-the brethren. And this love, because it has not its source in the sympathies of man, but in God, is a love which is exercised likewise towards all; chap. 3: 12. Nevertheless, the object which is here recommended to the attention of the saints is brotherly love. The Thessalonians were not wanting in it. They were taught of God, and did not need to be written to about it. Only it was well that they should abound in it, even more and more, and seek earnestly to manifest to those without a quiet and reputable walk. When love is true, we do not merely confine ourselves to the effusions of brotherly love; we watch also, lest as to things without we should be in fault.
Verses 13-18. Paul presents, at the end of the chapter, fresh developments on the subject of the Lord's coming. He had already given the chief features of that truth; he now returns to it, in order to supply details, and to introduce elements which had not yet found their place in the subject. What he adds as a fresh element is particularly the doctrine of resurrection. Doubtless, the Thessalonians would not have denied that there will be a resurrection from among the dead, but they might not perhaps have been able to apply it to the Lord's coming.
Verse 14. " Them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him." The departed saints will be found again at the coming of the Lord Jesus. They will reappear on the scene at that blessed moment. You, Thessalonians, you will find again your lost ones! And these are the glorious acts that will then be accomplished. " The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air," v. 16, 17.
Verse 15. " We which are alive and remain." As regards the coming of the Lord, the saints form two classes. There will be one class composed of those who have fallen asleep through Him, and the other of the saints who will be then on the earth. It is these latter ones that Paul points to, when he says, " We which are alive and remain." When he was writing this epistle, he considered himself as included in that class.
Verse 16. " A shout "-an assembling shout. The word here used in the Greek meant originally, the shout raised by the chiefs, on the Greek galleys, to call the men at the time of resuming their work. In our day we mean something similar when we speak of sounding a call to assemble.
It is interesting to see, in the course of this epistle, the progressive order with which the apostle sets forth the truths which concern the coming of the Lord. Instead of immediately attacking the error which was mixed up with the faith of the Thessalonians, he first takes up the subject at the point where it was known to those believers. He begins by using this language to them: You are waiting for the Son of God from heaven! This is indeed the privilege of your faith; for it is to this end, in effect that you were converted; chap. 1.
Then, by developments which it is precious to know, he brings them to those things which necessitate our gathering together in that day; chap. 2.
He then fills their hearts with the truth, so that they may be built up in God for that august moment; chap. 3.
It is after this that Paul develops the coming of Jesus for the saints, rectifying errors of judgment in the minds of these believers on certain points; chap. 4.
Lastly, after having expressed the whole portion of the saints in this event, he mentions the portion of the world; chap. 5.
Chapter 5. In the preceding chapters Paul had not pointed out any period of time in connection with the Lord's coming. Here he takes up the question of " times and seasons." But the moment he touches upon this point, he ceases to say " we." He says, " they," " them," those that are without, from whom he takes great care to distinguish the saints, by pointing to them by these words, " But ye brethren," when he again addresses himself to them. " The times," when it is a question of the Lord's coming, are connected with this world and judgment. The saints have their portion above, outside of the ages. They are taught by the Holy Spirit to be constantly waiting for Jesus.
Verses 2, 3. But the world will know what the day of the Lord is-that day which will bring with it sudden destruction on the earth.
Verses 4, 5. The saints will not be overtaken by that day. Why? Because they are not in darkness. Paul adds, " Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day." Hence, for us, a privilege and a character; the privilege of not being overtaken, as those will be who dwell in darkness, and the character of children of light. There are not in the word mere naked doctrines. The truth always clothes with a certain character those whom it places in the position of privilege.
Verse to. " That, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him "; whether we belong to the class of the living or to that of the sleepers (the departed saints), when the Lord comes, we shall live together with Him.
Verse 22. " Abstain from all appearance of evil." It may be translated equally well, " Abstain from every form of wickedness."
Verse 23. " And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly." God is often called, "the God of peace." (See Phil. 4, Heb. 13.) There is peace where all is perfect. If we live in these relationships where peace exists, we shall walk in holiness.
" Sanctify you wholly." That is, sanctify you in every point, sanctify the converted man-the whole man. One may, in certain respects, be faithful to God, and in others be faulty. Remark, that Paul does not say, " sanctify perfectly"; but he says, " sanctify wholly," which expresses another idea. " Your whole spirit and soul and body." The spirit is that which is most excellent in our moral being, that by which we are placed in relationship with God and distinguished from the brutes. The soul is the seat of the affections; it is a faculty of an inferior order which is to be met with, in a certain measure, even among animals: " all in whose nostrils was the breath of life "-" both men and cattle," Gen. 7:22, 22.
Wishing to show how sanctification takes up a man in his whole being, Paul says, " spirit, soul, and body." In other passages we read simply " the soul," when the soul and the spirit are meant: or else we read, " the spirit," when the spirit and the soul are meant. These two spiritual elements are the instrument on which the life acts, which God has given to the believer, and the body is in its turn the instrument which obeys the spirit and the soul.
Verse 24. It is a consolation for us to know that God is faithful; and that if we walk with Him, He will act in our behalf.
The summary of the second Epistle to the Thessalonians is this. False teachers had come, taking advantage of the little light which the Thessalonians (as yet young in the faith) possessed on the Lord's return; and seizing the occasion of their tribulation, they had thrown them into trouble of mind by telling them, " The day is present." In opposition to this work of the enemy, Paul reassures them by writing to them this epistle, the object of which is to show them that the day of the Lord was not yet present. These data are the key to the book.
Chapter 1. In this epistle, as in the preceding one, Paul, in saluting the church of the Thessalonians, sees it " in God our Father," v. 1, 2.
Then, before entering upon the special subject, the apostle considers the circumstances of the Thessalonians; and, on the occasion of their sufferings for the gospel, he recognizes their good estate in Christ, and finds in their tribulations an evidence that they were really in the Christian position. " Your faith," he says, " increases exceedingly and your love abounds, so that we ourselves make our boast in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions.... For these tribulations are the portion of those who inherit the kingdom of God," v. 3-5.
Then he shows in what an end these tribulations would issue and the change of position they were preparing between the persecuted and the persecutors at the appearing of the Lord Jesus. In that day we shall be at rest while the wicked will find themselves in tribulation. The Lord will manifest against them His retributive justice. This change of condition is not mentioned, as though it were only to be accomplished at the Lord's appearing; but the words by which it is expressed show what will be the respective condition of saints and unbelievers at that moment. It is already a first intimation, showing that the Lord will not put the saints into sorrow and trouble when He comes; v. 5-10.
Verse 5. " A manifest token of the righteous judgment of God." The persecutions which the Thessalonians endured proved they were " counted worthy of the kingdom of God." The judgment of God would bring this into evidence, as it would also manifest what had been the conduct of the persecutors.
Verse 8. There are two classes of persons on whom the vengeance of the Lord will come at His appearing: those who knew not God (that is, sinners in general), and those who do not obey the gospel.
Chapter 2. While declaring, in the preceding verses that the Lord, in His day, will manifest His retributive justice, Paul lays down a general truth which governs the subject. Now he enters upon the special point:-Is that day come?
Verses 1, 2. Read, " Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind... as that the day of the Lord is present." The coming of Jesus, and the gathering together of the saints to Him at His coming, is a motive, for the latter, not to be troubled as if they were to be included in the judgments which the day of the Lord would usher in. They will be with Him before that. When He shall be revealed from heaven, the saints will have rest; chap. 1: 7. Evidently they will no longer be on this world's scene, for it is not then that there will be rest on earth.
The seducers told the Thessalonians, " The day is present "; and not " the day is at hand." The Greek word is the same that is used in Rom. 8:38, and 1 Cor. 3:22, to signify, " things present," in contrast with " things to come." The language of the seducers signified that this day had been already entered on.
Having the declaration that the Lord should come and gather them together to Himself before that day, and being themselves still on earth, the Thessalonians had, by this very fact, a proof that the day was not yet present.
Verses 3, 4. Here is another proof. The one who will be the object of the Lord's judgment in that day was not yet on the scene. As long as, on the one hand, those who are to be on the seat of judgment are not gathered together (the saints above), and while, on the other hand the criminal is not brought to the bar, there can be no judgment.
Verse 6. " What withholdeth." It is not in order to prevent the revelation of the lawless one that God has put a restraint; it is to prevent his being revealed before his time. The adversary is always ready for evil. In the day that God takes away the bridle, Satan will immediately show himself at work to drag men into apostasy.
" That which restrains; " the Greek means a thing. What is it? God has not told us what it is, and this, doubtless, because the thing which restrained then is not that which restrains now. Then it was, in one sense, the Roman empire, as the fathers thought; who saw in the power of the Roman empire a hindrance to the revelation of the man of sin, and thus prayed for the prosperity of that empire. At present the hindrance is still the existence of the governments established by God in the world; and God will maintain them as long as there is here below the gathering of His church. Viewed in this light, the hindrance is, at the bottom, the presence of the church and of the Holy Spirit on the earth.
The Antichrist will be the head of the ecclesiastical apostasy. He " denieth the Father and the Son." He " denieth that Jesus is the Christ." He will be at the same time a civil head, although the first beast (Rev. 13:1-10) will be the one to whom the authority and throne of the dragon will be given. The Antichrist, whose seat appears to be in Judea, will be a kind of lieutenant of the beast. Herod might furnish us an example.
Verse 8. " The Lord shall consume... with the brightness of his coming." Mark these last words. The lawless one shall be consumed by the presence of the Lord, manifested at His appearing. This leads us to distinguish between the coming of Jesus and His appearing. The Lord will first come, and then He will manifest Himself-He will appear.
Verse 9. " With all power and signs and lying wonders." It is very solemn to see the terms used by Peter, in his preaching at Jerusalem (Acts 2:22), to denote the works of power which accompanied the ministry of Jesus, now used by Paul in this epistle to express what the man of sin will do. What seduction there will be then!
Elijah's miracles will also have their counterfeit. The lawless one will cause fire to come down from heaven. And here are signs which, in the days of Elijah, were the touchstone of truth-signs by which one recognized that Jehovah was God, which now will be accomplished in behalf of the beast! (Rev. 13).
Verses 9-12. These verses furnish circumstantial but most solemn details concerning the ecclesiastical action which will take place then, and the power of seduction which will be at work among men. The lawless one will come " with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish." God will send " strong delusion," and men will believe what is false, that they all may be judged who have not believed the truth.
Such will be the moral state of things during the great tribulation which is to come on the earth. Two passages in the prophets (Jer. 30:7, and Dan. 12:1), as well as two passages in the gospel (Matt. 24:21 and Mark 13:19), tell us of this great tribulation. There we remark that it will fall more especially on the Jews, although it may happen that the Gentiles also shall suffer from it. It is to the sorrows of this crisis that the sufferings of that remnant refer, which we find on the scene in the Psalm The tribulation will take place during the latter half of the last week mentioned in the book of Daniel (chap. 9), and will last until the Lord's appearing.
Besides, there are two passages in the Revelation which speak of a general tribulation. The first is Rev. 3:10, where we read these words, " The hour of temptation which shall come upon all the world to try," etc. Then we have Rev. 7:9, 17, where we find persons saved out of " all nations, and kindreds, and peoples, and tongue," coming out of the great tribulation. From the evidence given by these passages, we find that there will be a general tribulation on the whole earth; then, at the last moment, a more special tribulation for the Jews.
The church possesses the inestimable privilege of exemption from going through these evil days. Not only will it not be on the earth at the appearing of Jesus (and this is what we have seen at the beginning of the chapter), but, besides, it will not be there at the time of the great tribulation. The Lord has said, " I also will keep thee out of the hour of temptation." We shall not therefore pass through that hour.
Verses 13, 14. There are persons who obey not the gospel; but you, Thessalonians, you have obeyed it. But this was before ordained of God, because He has chosen you from the beginning (according to a counsel determined before all ages), in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth, which are things accomplished in time.
" Chosen you to salvation "-such is the object which God has purposed in Himself. " In sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth "-such is the effect produced in the elect, conformably to God's purpose. " Our gospel "-such is the means used of God to produce that effect.
Chapter 3 contains various exhortations and wishes of Paul in behalf of the Thessalonians. It mentions prayer, obedience, love, and the patience of Christ; also how to treat any walking disorderly: then salutations.
Verse 5. " The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patience of the Christ." The teachers who told the Thessalonians, " the day is present," had not that patience.

I Will Come Again: 1 Thessalonians; Acts 1:11

NOTHING is more prominently brought forward in the New Testament than the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. This was the first comfort of the angels to the sorrowing disciples: " This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven," Acts 1:11
And if you turn to 1 Thessalonians you will find it presented in the end of every chapter as a common doctrine. It was not at all a strange thing-immediately after conversion to the living God-" to wait for his Son from heaven, even Jesus, who delivered us from the wrath to come."
Again, in Heb. 9 we read that " He appeared once in the end of the world, to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself... and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation."
In 1 Thessalonians it is presented in the way of warning as well as the object of the blessed hope of the saints: " For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape."
From this we see the amazing difference between the coming of Christ for this world, and for those who trust in Him. To the world He comes as a judge of both quick and dead (see Malachi); but in this John 14 we find a wonderful difference in the whole principle and spirit of a believer's expectation of Christ.
Behold, he cometh with clouds and every eye shall see him, and they who also pierced him; and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him," Rev. 1 " But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? " Mal. 3.
Dear reader, let me ask you, Can you stand before Him at that day? Do you think that you would have confidence before Him at His coming? Could you say, " Lo, this is our God, we have waited for him? " This is He whom I have loved and longed for? Men always judge according to what is suited to themselves. In 1 Thess. 4 it is said, " So shall we be ever with the Lord." Now, are you suited to be ever with the Lord? Have you this confidence? If it is founded on anything good in yourself, it is a vain ground of confidence. Peter, as soon as he found himself in the presence of the Lord, felt that he was not suited for the Lord. I am too corrupt, he said. This was a true judgment of Peter; and love for the dignity of the Lord and for holiness. If you are content that holiness should be lowered that you may get off, you do not care for holiness, though you do for getting off. The moment I have seen the holiness of the Lord, and that happiness is in holiness, there is the immediate feeling of my unfitness for that holiness; though there may be the longing for it, which the Lord will doubtless in mercy answer.
Two things are needed thus to meet the Lord. First, the conscience must be right: I may have the kindest father, yet if my conscience is not right, I cannot be glad to meet him; and, secondly, affections must be there-the Lord must be my portion. If my heart is on literature, or on anything else here, I shall not like to be where Jesus is. I shall rather be here for a time. If you like the world, you are fit for the world. Heaven is just the contrary, and you know it; and therefore you do not want to go there, because it would take you from being here in the world. There is the comfort of the gospel. It did bring down to men's consciences all that would attract God. But alas! men no more desired the Lord's company here, than they do there. The coming and rejection of Christ here is the plain proof that the world is not fit for Him, and He is not fit for them.
But now to turn to John 14. We find persons here the opposite of all that is in the world. " Let not your heart be troubled." About what? His leaving them. Their happiness, comfort, and joy was in having Christ with them. But now, he says, I am going, but I am not going to be happy without you. There is plenty of room for you. The thing with which He at once comforts their hearts is this, " I will come again." I cannot stay down here in this vile place, I am going to prepare a place for you, but I will come again and receive you unto Myself, that where I am there ye may be also. The Lord reckons on this satisfying their hearts; and their consciences did not hinder. " The Father's house! " Oh! they could go there. " I will receive you unto myself." He knew the chord that rung in their hearts: to be with Himself, the source of all blessing. Thus we get the character of these disciples: they were persons whom the absence of Jesus distressed, and whom the presence of Jesus would comfort, not here, but with Himself.
There we find what begot this character. It was all founded on His own word. We do not care for what does not concern us. But as soon as we see a thing that concerns us, it becomes important; and then we want certainty. Now it is very blessed to have God's own word for the basis of our certainty.
For instance, I am a sinner-how then can I get into the Father's house? Because God has said " Their sins and iniquities I will remember no more." Well, God is true, and He will not remember them. Do you say I am presumptuous to say so? I do not say so; God says so; and again in John 5:24, " He that heareth my word and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation "; and John 3:33, " He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true." Thus when the power of the Spirit brings home the word, I have certainty. Faith is in the word, but it is about something. Christ is presented, and man is brought to the test. People always judge by their inclination, and not by their reasoning. Now the effect of the testimony of the Spirit of God when Christ is revealed is that men are not fit for Him, and their hearts do not like to be with Him.
These disciples had loved the Lord. Christ had attraction for their hearts. There at once we see the object of their hearts' affections. Christ had fixed their hearts. Take Mary Magdalene, for instance. She was all wrong in her intelligence, yet Christ had attraction for her heart. So with the rest of the disciples. They all ran away for fear; but it was love to Christ that brought them into the place of fear. Thus we see that Christ Himself was the object of their hearts. They were the companions of Christ-all fear being gone- according to His love and grace. " Ye are they," He said, " who have continued with me in my temptations." Why? He had continued with them; but He speaks as if indebted to them for this fellowship. And being in companionship with Christ in heart, He brings them into all joy into which He is going-nothing less than the Father's house. What attracts me is found in Christ, and then I get from Him the certain assurance that He is coming-and coming for me. Now when the heart is on Christ, what a thing it is to know that He is coming! Am I afraid? No, I am looking for Him.
And it is to His Father's house He is to bring me. All that makes heaven a home to Christ will make it a home to me. O come, Lord Jesus. If I have learned to love Christ, I have learned to love holiness, to love God. God, in Christ, has brought down to my soul all that God is. What shall I get in heaven? Another Christ? Another God? No. It is the one we have seen and known. " Whither I go ye know." I am going to the Father, and you have seen the Father in me.
Ah! but He has not given up His holiness, perhaps you reply. No, indeed, He has not. But Jesus knew all that is needed for me to be with Him. And if He will make the heart to love, He will put the conscience perfectly at rest, that I may love Him. Will He do that by dulling it? No. He will do something that will enable me to stand in the presence of God in whose presence I am to find my joy. He reveals fully God in His holiness, and takes away the sin that would hinder my being in the presence of that holiness. And not only does He put sin away, but He purges the conscience here, so that I am enabled to enjoy God, in full and free affection.
Nothing is more attractive than the death of Christ; but, besides that, it puts away the sin of which I was guilty: an act in which I had no part, an act the proof of perfect love, while it meets perfect righteousness. I had done the sins, and I could not undo them. Jesus said to Peter, " If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me." This touched Peter's heart. If you are not cleansed according to My cleansing, according to what suits God's presence, you have no part with Me. O what a comfort! Instead of saying, Depart from me, Jesus said, " Now you are clean." And in Peter we see the proof of a good conscience. He said to the Jews, Ye denied the Holy One and the Just, the very thing he himself had done fifty days before. Now a man will talk of every sin but what he is guilty of; he will shirk that. But here Peter was in perfect peace about the very sin he was guilty of; his conscience was perfectly purged.
The happiness of the heart that is touched is to be with Christ; and conscience is purged for being in His presence. Between the Lord's saying this, and coming for them He had put away sin from God's sight, and from their conscience. " I will come again, and take you unto myself, etc., and whither I go ye know." There is no uncertainty. We know where we are going to. The soul has found fully the object that has set it at rest, and that will satisfy it up there without fear.
Could the Lord thus address you? Could you say, O that is what I am wanting? Or, are you saying I've got here what I would like to enjoy? Is that being a Christian? A Christian may vary in strength of affection, never in object. I am sure I do not love the Lord enough, but I am sure it is the Lord I love. I have no confidence in my own heart, but all confidence in Him. He has died for me; that is what I count on: He has put away my sins; that is what I need: He is coming again; that is what I am longing for.
Dear reader, let me ask you, was it ever a trouble to you that you had not Christ? Do you know where you are going? It may be you have hope; but have you present certainty? Now we, Christians, have; for Christ is known, and when He is known, there is perfect rest in His word. " I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also." " Amen, Even so, come, Lord Jesus."

Notes on 1 and 2 Timothy

THE fact of flesh (that is, of the flesh being in us) does not make a bad conscience. It requires flesh in action, so as to produce outwardly what is bad, to do so.
" Holding faith and a good conscience "-in this we have the doctrine of the epistle. I may see what is beautiful in creation, and delight in it; but the moment I rest in it, I make it an object, and then sink down into it.
" We know " is a technical expression for Christian knowledge. It is not merely knowing objectively, but rather such and such is made a subject of revelation, and we have got it and know it.
" Using the law lawfully " is convicting sinners by it. The legalist takes the ground that the law proves he cannot take. The law never goes beyond the brazen altar, that is, man's responsibility as man. The law condemns all that flesh produces, but not flesh itself.
The sabbath-rest-is an integral part of man's relationship with God; God did rest in creation, but not now since man has fallen. The sabbath is annexed to everything (or order) that is set up (with responsible man as man); but in the New Testament, it is always set aside as is man, the child of Adam fallen.
Paul calls himself the chief of sinners; that is, he was a rejecter of the Lord after He was crucified and glorified; the Jew (properly speaking, is characterized as being) a rejecter before He was crucified. Stephen's martyrdom was the closing scene of the dispensation for the Jew. The chief of sinners is an end of self, and we are in the same boat with Paul when we take that place.
The gospel of the glory (of Christ) is the highest point of grace as it reveals the glory to the person who is trying to destroy it: in preaching, however, you must go back to where the want is in the soul.
" Make shipwreck of faith " is running into heresy, backsliding, giving up a good conscience.
Not only man has fallen-there are fallen angels, and the heavens are defiled; all things had and are to be reconciled. Those that are reconciled do need a mediator for intercession- a mediator came in with a broken relationship, an advocate with a retained one.
In Ephesians we are called on to be imitators of God; in Colossians, like Christ; in Philippians, to walk as a saint, as personified in Paul.
An unmarried man might be a ruler, but he could not be an elder. A ruler is a gift, an elder an office; gifts are for the body; office is local. We have an example in Timothy of a young man who ruled elders. A ruler is a person who gets an ascendency over others morally, and keeps their wills from working by the power of the word in the Spirit.
Christianity takes up creation as God made it and sanctions it, and brings in another power, namely, spiritual power.
The snare of the devil which is a bad conscience, brings in the same condemnation; the person is charged with the same thing Satan is charged with, namely, pride. (See Ezek. 28)
The precious stones are on the king of Tire in creation (worldly glory); on Aaron in grace (the high priest); in the new Jerusalem, in glory.
The Holy Ghost dwells in the individual believer, and in the whole church, only.
" Justified in the Spirit "-that is, the power of the Spirit characterizes the justification. " Seen of angels "; it is only by Christ angels have seen God. " Believed on in the world," that is, announced and received there by faith.
The Reformation reformed the existing body as it then was: we go back to the beginning.
The everlasting covenant has a different character from the new covenant. There are many covenants in Scripture, but the old and new are distinct, and with Israel only.
Every prophetic word comes from relationship broken for us now, as Christians and in Christ, everything is restored; 1 Tim. 4:5. Hence the creature is sanctified by the word to me, prayer goes up from me in response.
There are two characters of forgiveness of sins-the one as in Romans, justification, in which man has no power, the other, the sins or failure of a justified person. The church can forgive these. It is administrative forgiveness.
Dependence is kept up in Scripture without ever questioning acceptance.
Salvation is by grace: reward is for labor.
God is the only one that has immortality in Himself. When we speak of mortality, it only applies to the body. " The soul that sinneth, it shall die," means that each one shall die for his own sin; in other words, it is individual responsibility.
When the power of evil comes in, then it is just the time to expect courage. These are truths for the times. There are truths for eternity, which are more blessed. Through grace we now have Paul's testimony, which had been lost, brought out again.
In the early church they used to pray for the saints, not to them. In the fourth century Christ was the only one they did not pray for.
" Purge from." It is not exactly discipline here, but to separate myself from. There is the Lord's certainty, and man's responsibility, acting on which I then get ecclesiastical apprehension.
A thing may not be wrong for a person ecclesiastically, if he has no conscience about it; at the same time the church cannot be ruled by an individual person's conscience.
The word " receiving " (into communion) should not be admitted at all. Properly speaking, we are all in. One has now to ascertain whether people are real-who calls on the Lord out of a pure heart.
" The last days " are more definite and distinct than the " latter times "-" perilous," because of the form of godliness.
It is said, You must believe in the church because it is holy, and you must believe it is holy by faith!
We are always deficient in strength in service if we do not recognize that we have to do with Satanic power, as in Jannes and Jambres.
If I do not believe the word till it be sanctioned by someone else, I do not believe it at all; it is the sanction I believe.
No one speaks of the church but Paul, nor of Christ's coming for the church but he.
When we meet together, we recognize the presence of Christ, not the habitation of God.
External testimony proves the folly of other men, but does nothing for faith. All arguments only remove the rubbish, they do not give faith. By removing rubbish from a plant, you do not make it grow, but you give it liberty to do so.
A gospel rejecter is under the responsibility of rejecting love. There is rather a want of will to come than a want of power: " Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life."
We find that angels are the power of providence, Israel the power of government, and the apostles the power of grace in the Spirit.

Notes of a Discourse on 1 Timothy 1

WHEREVER the Spirit of God reveals truth, it is the revelation of Christ to the soul. It is essentially practical. It fills the soul, the affections, with Christ. The Lord said, " For their sakes I sanctify myself." The foundation once laid, God forms and fashions the soul by the revelation of Christ, at the same time delivering us from present things, and associating us with Himself.
What characterizes the Christian is that which takes him out of the world altogether (he has his relationships to fulfill in this life), makes him an epistle of Christ, manifesting the life of Christ, and leading him to long for the time when he shall find himself in the Father's home, like Christ, with Christ forever, nothing more to jar.
God has associated him with Himself and with that place; and our part is, as Christ's was here, to manifest that our place even now is there. Aye, our place is in the last Adam, not in the first.
This " charge," the " end of the commandment," was Timothy's commission. His mandate, as it were, was to make manifest this place which saints had in association with the life of Christ. He speaks of " the glorious gospel of the blessed God." We are called to inherit blessing, to inherit it from one who dwells in blessing. " The glorious gospel " tells me how man is brought back to God, and thus shows the triumph of God and blessing over evil.
The first beginning of the history of man gives us the triumph of evil over natural blessing. Consequent on this came judgment. Next comes the law, a requisition from man who had pretensions to good. A rule was given of righteousness (if man could make it out). There was no triumph of good here, but a requirement from man of what man ought to be. The law was not given to Adam, the law was given to sinners-to fallen man. The law would have been of no use to Adam before the fall; he would not have understood, " Thou shalt not steal," etc. The law brings out evil to our consciences. Who has loved God to-day as he should have done? Who has loved his neighbor as himself? It is not the blessed truth of the triumph of good over evil; but it is most useful to bring to the conscience these two things-first, not only that we have sinned, but why you and I have sinned. Shall I tell you why? Because we liked it. " In me, in my flesh, there dwelleth no good thing "; and, what is more, when I desire to do good, evil is present with me.
If we are to be with God, we must be fit for Him. When Isaiah saw His glory, he felt he was a man of unclean lips. I cannot go back to paradise and natural blessing; I cannot stay where I am; but I must be able to look into the light of that glory, and say it is my joy, or I cannot walk with God who is light. To this end I must learn what verse 5 speaks of-" the end of the commandment," love, faith, and a pure conscience.
A good conscience is only conscious of what the pure heart should be in the presence of God, having an entire unclouded confidence (faith unfeigned) in God-" That your faith and hope might be IN God." If I fail, I fly back to God; if I am weak, I fly back to God with faith unfeigned in Him, as the One who has delivered me; counting upon God, as the One that is for me, to bring me back to my place.
Verses 8 and 9. The law never gives life; the law never gives strength; the law never gives an object. If the law could have given life, righteousness would have been by it. The law gives no power against sin, but slays. The law gives no object. But when we turn to Christ, in His Person we find the one good, all purity, all goodness, perfectly divine. Oh!
if I could get such-as Paul says, " win Christ "-One above
all my wretchedness; One who comprehends me, but in so doing brings such grace and peace; One who was brought into the midst of all evil, but who was superior to it. When He is once known, we do not want to excuse sin, we want to get rid of it. Does He hide sin? Nay, He would have truth in the inward parts (not the truth of doctrine now). When once thus known, God is trusted in all love. In the Gospels we have a full, perfect exhibition of the triumph of good over evil. See the woman taken in adultery; see the leper who was not only defiled, but whose touch defiled another, but not Christ. What grace (however imperfectly) to know God! I discharge my heart into the bosom of Him whom I can trust. To whom could I ever tell out all sin? Not to any friend out and out, but to Him unreservedly. And mark how He carries me on. Having opened my heart by the goodness He has shown me in bringing me into His presence, I learn sin put away by Him who needed not to be spared, but was able to bear the full brunt of God's wrath.
Oh! that one work by which He put away sin! God being perfectly glorified by that which met sin! Not as the Jewish sacrifices did-sin and sacrifice-sin and sacrifice-and sin again; but done forever! I get then this truth, that in virtue of what Christ has done, the Christ is set at His right hand, God having stepped in, and in this blessed One met sin and put it away. It is done! If it is not done, when is it to be done? Can Christ die over again? It never can be done. He cannot return from glory to do it. It is done, and now we see why it is called " the [not glorious gospel' but] gospel of glory."
I am brought into light. No light is like the light which shines at the cross. Your sins were as scarlet, they are made white as snow. I am brought in conscience through a new and living way into God's presence, and spotless. By the Comforter sent I get the power of it. The true conscience is one that knows nothing in the heart but what the Holy Ghost puts there.
The estimates of the conscience are always according to the presence it is in. Duties flow from the place we are already in. Some think the knowledge of grace releases us from duties; but nay, it founds them. A child of God forever, I have the duties of a child forever. A pure heart will reject what is contrary to the Holy Ghost. In a good conscience Christ is all. Whenever I have failed, I have left Christ out.
Faith unfeigned trusts Him ever, and keeps a good conscience; a perfect and pure heart confides in that love; and whence did it come? It sprang from Himself. By Him we believe in God, and what He expects from us is that we should know not only we are blessed in Him, but with Him. His perfect love is shown by bringing us into blessing with Himself. Driven out of earthly paradise by sin, we are brought into heavenly paradise by redemption; and He leads our thoughts, desires, and affections after it, founded on His perfect work; a faith unfeigned giving us the knowledge of His heart, a heart to enter into all our sorrows and trials.
The smallest thing let in contrary to Him jars. We belong not to ourselves; we are Christ's, not our own. We ought not to have good consciences if indulging in what is contrary to Him.
I ask, if He came this night, would He find you with a whole heap of things to huddle out of your heart, or is it ready? Is your heart waiting, full of affection for Him? There is no truth so powerful to empty the heart of all that is contrary to Him. If waiting, how much freer and looser should we sit from all on earth. The Lord apply the question to your hearts, whether, if He came, you could open to Him immediately, and so look with joy unclouded to see Him.

Propitiation and Substitution: 1 Timothy 2:6

MY intercourse with saints, and especially with those who preach, has led me to discover that a good deal of obscurity in their manner of putting the gospel, and I may add a good deal of Arminian and Calvinistic controversy, arises from not distinguishing propitiation and substitution. I am not anxious about the words but about the practical distinction, which is very simple and I think of moment. I say the words, because in propitiation, in a certain sense, Christ stood in our stead. Still there is a very real difference in Scripture.
This difference is clearly marked in the offerings of the great day of atonement. Aaron slew the bullock, and the goat which was called the Lord's lot, and sprinkled the blood on and before the mercy-seat and on the altar. The blood was presented to God, whose holy presence had been dishonored and offended by sin. So Christ has perfectly glorified God in the place of sin, by His perfect obedience and love to His Father in His being made sin who knew no sin. God's majesty, righteousness, love, truth, all that He is, was glorified in the work wrought by Christ, and of this the blood was witness in the holy place itself. Our sins gave occasion to it, but God Himself was glorified in it. Hence the testimony can go out to all the world that God is more than satisfied, glorified, and whoever comes by that blood is freely, fully received of God and to God. But there was no confession of sins on the head of this goat; it was about sin by reason of Israel's sinfulness, but it was simply blood offered to God: sin had been dealt with in judgment according to God's glory, yea, to the full glorifying of God, for never was His majesty, love, and hatred of sin so seen. God could shine out in favor to the returning sinner according to what He was; yea, in the infiniteness of His love beseech men to return.
But besides this there was personal guilt, positive personal sins for which Israel was responsible, and men are responsible, according to what is righteously required from each. On the great day of atonement, the high priest confessed the people's sins on the scapegoat, laying both his hands on its head: the personal sins were transferred to the goat by one who represented all the people, and they were gone forever, never found again.
Now this is another thing. Christ is both high priest and victim, and has confessed all the sins of His people as His own, borne our sins in His own body on the tree. The two goats are but one Christ, but there is the double aspect of His sacrifice, Godward, and bearing our sins. The blood is the witness of the accomplishment of all, and He is entered in not without blood. He is the propitiation for our sins. But in this aspect the world comes in too. He is a propitiation for the whole world. All has been done that is needed. His blood is available for the vilest whoever he may be. Hence the gospel to the world says, " Whosoever will, let him come." In this aspect we may say Christ died for all, gave Himself a ransom for all, an adequate and available sacrifice for sin, for whoever would come-tasted death for every man.
But when I come to bearing sins the language is uniformly different. He bore our sins, He bore the sins of many. " All " is carefully abstained from. I say carefully, because in Rom. 5:18, 19, the difference is carefully made. The first, our sins, is the language of faith, left open indeed to anyone who can use it, but used and to be used only by faith. The believing remnant of Israel may use it, including the blessing of the nations, for He died for that nation; Christians use it in faith, for all that have faith use it. The second " many " restricts it from all, but generally has the force of the many as contrasted with a head or leaders, the mass in connection with them. Adam's the many were in result all, but all is in connection with him. Christ's the many those connected with Him. But it will never be found in Scripture that Christ bore the sins of all. Had He done so they never could be mentioned again, nor men judged according to their works. That Christ died for all is, as we have seen, clearly said. Hence I go to the world with His death as their ground and only ground of approach, with the love shown in it. When a man believes, I can say, Now I have more to tell you, Christ has borne every one of your sins, they never can be mentioned again. If we look at the difference of Arminian and Calvinistic preaching we shall see the bearing of this at once; the Arminian take up Christ's dying for all, and generally they connect the bearing of sins with it, and all is confusion as to the efficacy and effectualness of Christ's bearing our sins, and they deny any special work for His people. They say if God loved all He cannot love some particularly; and an uncertain salvation is the result, and man often exalted. Thus the scapegoat is practically set aside.
The Calvinist holds Christ's bearing the sins of His people so that they are effectually saved, but he sees nothing else. He will say, if Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it, there can be no real love for anything else, and denies Christ's dying for all, and the distinctive character of propitiation, and the blood on the mercy-seat. He sees nothing but substitution.
The truth is, Christ is said to love the church, never the world, that is a love of special relationship. God is never said to love the church, but the world. That is divine goodness, what is in the nature of God (not His purpose), and His glory is the real end of all. But I do not dwell on this, I only point out the confusion of propitiation and substitution as necessarily making confusion in the gospel, enfeebling the address to the world or weakening the security of the believer, and in every respect giving uncertainty to the announcement of the truth. I believe earnestness after souls, and preaching Christ with love to Him will be blessed where there is little clearness, and is more important that great exactitude of statement. Still it is a comfort to the preacher to have it clear, even if not thinking about it at the moment; and when building up afterward, the solidness of the foundation is of the greatest moment.

On Rule: 1 Timothy 5:17

I AGREE that, as a rule, gatherings get on where there is one who cares for souls. I have long noticed it; and, while in a small gathering, care one for another may be easy and simple, I have always held it to be a had sign if time and increase of numbers did not develop the care of souls in persons whom love led to devote themselves more or less to it.
It may be in one aspect mutual or general, as Heb. 12:12-15; or more direct and positive, as 1 Thess. 5:12-14, where, indeed, we have both, Heb. 13:17 (v. 7, they are deceased). In none of these cases are they viewed as official. It is, moreover, the contrary to official in 1 Cor. 16:15. They are those who "take the lead" (1 Thess. 5:12) and "leading men" a word used of Judas and Silas in Acts 15:22.
In 1 Cor. 16 they have " addicted themselves," as indeed we have no trace of elders at Corinth; the Lord, doubtless, allowing it that we might have the internal state, and care, and duty, of an assembly in Scripture itself. These care-takers were not, as is truly said, the gift of teachers. This case is distinguished in 1 Tim. 5:17. But it was desirable, not that they should be teachers as a gift (pastor and teacher are united under one head in Eph. 4), but that they should be " apt to teach," 1 Tim. 3:2; able to carry the word with them in their episcopal ministrations, and use it—shepherd and feed, not merely superintend; though they might usefully do the latter alone according to 1 Tim. 5:17.
These have been the passages which have guided students of Scripture as to that by which God meets the need of saints when public order and official authority are lost to the church, with general warnings in Old and New Testament as to the care of the beloved sheep of Christ. Still the promise remains, that where two or three are gathered together to Christ's name, He is there in the midst of them.
But I would draw your attention to one of these passages-and this is my object in these lines—a leading one on the point. The household of Stephanas had " addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints." In the heart of him who so labors, when rightly done and efficient, it is done in the spirit of service, not of rule. Love works: they addict themselves; as Paul, free from all, became the servant of all for Christ's sake. There is a gift of rule, but love delights to serve. In this verse, which is a specially guiding one, service (diakonia) is that to which they addict themselves. He who thus addicts himself in love, will assuredly find himself blessed in it, though patience may he exercised, and must have its perfect work.

Fragmentary Remarks: 2 Timothy 2

I BELIEVE that the churches have been merged in the mass of ecclesiastical popular hierarchism, and lost; but I believe also that the visible church, as it is called, has been merged there too.
Still there is a difference, because churches were the administrative form, while the church, as a body, on the earth, was the vital unity.
What I felt from the beginning, and began with, was this: the Holy Ghost remains, and therefore the essential principle of unity with His presence; for (the fact is all we are now concerned in) wherever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
When this is really sought, there will certainly be blessing by His presence; we have found it so, most sweetly and graciously, who have met separately.
When there is an attempt at displaying the position and the unity, there will always be a mess and a failure: God will not take such a place with us.
We must get into the place of His mind, to get His strength. That is now the failure of the church. But there He will be with us.
I have always said this. I know it has troubled some, even those I specially love • but I am sure it is the Lord's mind. I have said, We are the witnesses of the weakness and low estate of the church.
We are not stronger nor better than others (Dissenters, etc.), but we only own our bad and lost state, and therefore can find blessing. I do not limit what the blessed Spirit can do for us in this low estate, but I take the place where He can do it.
Hence, government of bodies, in an authorized way, I believe there is none; where this is assumed, there will be confusion. It was here [Plymouth], and it was constantly and openly said, that this was to be a model, so that all in distant places might refer to it. My thorough conviction is, that conscience was utterly gone, save in those who were utterly miserable.
I only, therefore, so far seek the original standing of the church, as to believe that wherever two or three are gathered in His name, Christ will be, and that the Spirit of God is necessarily the only source of power, and that which He does will be blessing through the lordship of Christ. These [the Spirit present and the lordship of Christ] provide for all times. If more be attempted, now, it will be only confusion.
The original condition is owned as a sinner, or as mutilated man owns integrity and a whole body. But there a most important point comes in. I cannot supply the lack by human arrangement or wisdom. I must be dependent.
I should disown whatever was not of the Spirit, and in this sense disown whatever was-not short of the original standing; for that, in the complete sense, I am-but what man has done to fill it up; because this does not own the coming short, nor the Spirit of God. I would always own what is of God's Spirit in any. The rule seems to me here very simple.
I do not doubt that dispensed power is disorganized; but the Holy Ghost is always competent to act in the circumstances God's people are in. The secret is, not to pretend to get beyond it. Life and divine power is always there; and I use the members I have, with full confession that I am in an imperfect state.
We must remember that the body must exist, though not in a united state, and so even locally. I can then, therefore, own their gifts and the like, and get my warrant in two or three united for the blessing promised to that.
Then, if gifts exist, they cannot be exercised but as members of the body, because they are such, not by outward union, but by the vital power of the Head, through the Holy Ghost.
" Visible body," I suspect, misleads us a little. Clearly the corporate operation is in the actual living body down here on earth, but there it is the members must act, so that I do not think it makes a difficulty.
I believe, if we were to act on 1 Cor. 12:14 further than power exists to verify it, we should make a mess.
But then the existence of the body, whatever its scattered condition, necessarily continues, because it depends on the existence of the Head, and its union with it. In this the Holy Ghost is necessarily supreme.
The body exists in virtue of there being one Holy Ghost. There is one body and one Spirit, even as we are called in one hope of our calling; indeed this is the very point which is denied here.
Then Christ necessarily nourishes and cherishes us as His own flesh, as members of His body; and thus goes on " till we all come," etc. (Eph. 4). Hence, I apprehend we cannot deny the body and its unity (whatever its unfaithfulness and condition), and (so far as the Holy Ghost is owned) His operation in it, without denying the divine title of the Holy Ghost, and the care and headship of Christ over the church.
Here I get, not a question of the church's conduct, but of Christ's; and the truth of the Holy Ghost being on earth, and His title when there; and yet the owning of Christ's lordship. And this is how far I own others.
If a minister has gifts in the Establishment, I own it, as through the Spirit, Christ begetting the members of, or nourishing, His body. But I cannot go along with what it is mixed up with, because it is not of the body, nor of the Spirit. I cannot touch the unclean, I am to separate the precious from the vile.
But I cannot give up Eph. 4, while I own the faithfulness of Christ. Now if we meet, yea, and when we do meet, all I look for is that this principle should be owned, because it is owning the Holy Ghost Himself, and that to me is everything.
We meet and worship; and at this time we who have separated meet in different rooms, that we may, in the truest and simplest way, in our weakness, worship. Then whatever the Holy Ghost may give to anyone, He is supreme to feed us with, perhaps nothing in the way of speaking; and it must be in the unity of the body.
If you were here, you could be in the unity of the body, as one of ourselves. This Satan cannot destroy, because it is connected with Christ's title and power.
If men set up to imitate the administration of the body, it will be popery or dissent at once.
And this is what I see of the visibility of the body; it connects itself with this infinitely important principle, the presence and action of the Holy Ghost on earth.
It is not merely a saved thing in the counsels of God, but a living thing animated down here by its union with the Head, and the presence of the Holy Ghost in it. It is a real, actual thing, the Holy Ghost acting down here. If two are faithful in this they will be blessed in it.
If they said, " We are the body," not owning all the members, in whatever condition, they would morally cease to be of it. I own them, but in nothing their condition. The principle is all-important.
Christ has attached, therefore, its practical operation to two or three, and owns them by His presence. He has provided for its maintenance. Thus, in all states of ruin, it cannot cease till He ceases to be Head, and the Holy Spirit to be as the Guide and the Comforter sent down.
God sanctioned the setting up of Saul; He never did the departure from the Holy Ghost. The " two or three " take definitely the place of the temple, which was the locality of God's presence, as a principle of union. That is what makes all the difference. Hence, in the division of Israel, the righteous sought the temple as a point of unity, and David is to us here Christ by the Holy Ghost.
On the other hand, church government, save as the Spirit is always power, cannot be acted on.
I suspect many brethren have had expectations, which never led me out, and which perplexed their minds when they were not met in practice. I never felt my testimony, for example, to be the ability of the Holy Ghost to rule a visible body. That I do not doubt; but I doubt its proper application now as a matter of testimony. It does not become us.
My confidence is in the certainty of -God's blessing, and maintaining us, if we take the place we are really in. That place is one of the general ruin of the dispensation. Still, I believe God has provided for the maintenance of its general principle (save persecution), that is, the gathering of a remnant into the comfort of united love by the power and presence of the Holy Ghost, so that Christ could sing praises there.
All the rest is a ministry to form, sustain, etc. Amongst other things, government may have its place; but it is well to remember that, in general, government regards evil, and therefore is outside the positive blessing, and has the lowest object in the church.
Moreover, though there be a gift of government, in general government is of a different order from gift. Gift serves ministry, hardly government. These may be united as in apostolic energy; elders were rather the government, but they were not gifts.
It is especially the order of the governmental part which I believe has failed, and that we are to get on without, at least in a formal way. But I do not believe that God has therefore not provided for such a state of things.
I do believe brethren a good deal got practically out of their place, and the consciousness of it, and found their weakness; and the Lord is now teaching them. For my part, when I found all in ruin around me, my comfort was, that where two or three are gathered together in Christ's name, there He would be. It was not government, or anything else, I sought. Now I do believe that God is faithful, and able to maintain the blessing.
I believe the great buildings and great bodies have been a mistake; indeed I always did. Further, I believe now (although it were always true in practice), the needed dealing with evil must be by the conscience in grace. So Paul ever dealt, though he had the resource of a positive commission. And I believe that two or three together, or a larger number, with some having the gift of wisdom in grace, can, in finding the mind of the Lord, act in discipline; and this, with pastoral care, is the main-spring of holding the saints together in Matt. 18 This agreeing together is referred to as the sign of the Spirit's power.
I do not doubt that some may be capable of informing the consciences of others. But the conscience of the body is that which is ever to be acted upon and set right. This is the character of all healthful action of this kind, though there may be a resource in present apostolic power, which, where evil has entered, may be wanting; but it cannot annul " where two or three agree it shall be done."
So that I see not the smallest need of submission to popery; that is, carnal unity by authority in the flesh, nor of standing alone, because God has provided for a gathering of saints together, founded on grace, and held by the operation of the Spirit, which no doubt may fail for want of grace, but which in every remaining gift has its scope; in which Christ's presence and the operation of the Spirit is manifested, but must be maintained on the ground of the condition the church really is in, or it would issue in a sect arranged by man, with a few new ideas.
Where God is trusted in the place, and for the place we are in, and we are content to find Him infallibly present with us, there I am sure He is sufficient and faithful to meet our wants.
If there be one needed wiser than any of the gathered ones in a place, they will humbly feel their need, and God will send someone as needed, if He sees it the fit means.
There is no remedy for want of grace, but the sovereign goodness that leads to confession. If we set up our altar, it will serve for walls; Ezra 3:3. The visibility God will take care of, as He always did; the faith of the body will be spoken of, and the unity in love manifest the power of the Holy Ghost in the body.
I have no doubt of God's raising up for need all that need requires in the place where He has set us in understanding. If we think to set up the church again, I would say, God forbid. I had rather be near the end, to live and to die for it in service, where it is as dear to God; that is my desire and life.

Notes of Lecture on Titus 2:11-14

IT is very striking to notice the connections in which the summary of divine truth, contained in these verses, is introduced. The chapter is occupied with teaching what sort of conduct Christianity demands from those who profess it, according to the relative position in life in which they may be found. It teaches what is becoming in aged men and in aged women. It tells us, also, how young women should behave; and what should be characteristic of young men. It then takes up the common every-day conduct which is due from servants to their masters; and (while teaching them to be obedient, and to seek to please them in everything- guarding against insolence and dishonesty-" that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things ") it adds, " For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works."
Now there is a reason for the introduction of this passage here; which is simply this: that while men are satisfied- and must be satisfied, for they can go no farther-with the expression of the mere outward behavior, the word of God occupies itself with the correction of the motives and springs from whence all conduct flows. More than this-no conduct can ever be acceptable in the sight of God that does not flow from a heart subjected to His grace, which brings salvation; and that is not swayed by its daily powers. Rules of conduct are not given, cannot be given, to those whose hearts have not been subjected to " the obedience of faith."
But even here, amongst Christians, there is a very frequent mistake. While the world values Christianity merely for its collateral results, such as the reformation of manners and its conservative effect on society, etc., Christians too often are occupied with the working and effect of God's grace, in the subjects of it-whether themselves or others-to the exclusion of the contemplation of that grace in its divine and absolute character, and in its first and grand effect. I mean this: ordinarily the Christian's mind is more occupied, as expressed in the passage before us, with what the grace of God teaches, than with what it brings. It teaches us to deny ungodliness, etc.; but before it teaches, it brings salvation. How many may be found most anxious to discover, what men now call the subjective power of this grace, who at the same time are utterly at sea as to what is meant, in corresponding phrase, by its objective power! Surely it is well, and necessary, in its place, to see to it that we yield ourselves to the teaching of God's grace, when its lesson is, " that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world." But it is not well to overlook, or underestimate, the absolute power of that grace in what it brings. The grace of God brings salvation, or is salvation bringing, to the lost and ruined, before it teaches in those whom it saves.
" The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared," is but the succinct description of God's intervention in infinite love, by the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, for the accomplishment of redemption.
Apart from all the effects and fruits of grace in those who are the subjects of it, there is God's intervention in perfect absolute goodness, in the scene of ruin and death, which sin has introduced, for the perfect and entire deliverance out of it. The grace of God brings salvation into this world, where sin and death and Satan's power mark the condition of man's existence; and that apart from all effects of that grace, in peace of conscience, or holiness and happiness, on the part of those that believe. There is the grace itself, as well as the blessed fruits which it produces. The salvation which it brings has its own proper character, as the intervention of God in divine love and power, as well as its own blessed results in the position Godward, to which it brings its objects.
The two termini of a Christian's course are here marked as the results of this interposition of God in grace, namely, salvation and glory. The Christian's path, I repeat it, is here shown to lie between the starting-point, which is salvation, and the goal, which is glory. Grace and glory are inseparable. Conduct, exercise of heart, trial, conflict, service, lie between these two points, and in God's estimate take their character from them; but the salvation was accomplished alone by Christ's appearing in grace-for " grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." And the glory will be accomplished, alone, by Christ's appearing in glory. This is what the passage states. " The grace of God which bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men." It then adds, " looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ." Intermediately it tells us that the grace, which brings salvation, teaches us, " that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world "; while in verse 14, we have the constraining motive to holiness in the end for which Christ gave Himself for us. " Who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works."
This is plainly practical as the end, in us in this world, of Christ's infinite love.
Let us look, then, first, at the character of the deliverance, or salvation, which this wondrous intervention of God in grace brings. This cannot be learned by going over the points of systematic divinity [i.e. the creeds of religious systems], but by a reference to the character of man's condition through sin, as unfolded in the word of God, and manifested by the suffering and death of Christ. Whatever there is of moral distance from God, through sin, this salvation, which " the grace of God " brings, meets, and sets aside. " For Christ hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God." Sin in its very nature separates from God; for light cannot have fellowship with darkness; but then it is said, " Ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ." Sin, and death, and Satan's power, and the judgment of God-all marked man's condition of ruin, and all must be met before salvation, full and adequate, can be proclaimed. It is not enough to raise man from his degradation and moral pollution, if such a thing could be, and set him on his pathway to happiness. The conscience must be set at rest on the ground of every claim of God in His righteous holiness having been met, and every possible consequence of sin set aside. And this is the salvation which the grace of God brings. It brings eternal life into this region of death; for " God hath given to us eternal life: and this life is in his Son." It brings in divine righteousness into the midst of condemnation. For " he who knew no sin was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." It brings deliverance from Satan's power; for " through death [Christ] destroyed him who had the power of death, that is, the devil." Nay more, the salvation which the grace of God brings puts us in the very place, and position, and acceptance before God, and makes us partakers of the very life and glory of Him by whom the salvation has been wrought. It has no other measure, and has no lower character. Was ever love like this!
There is, indeed, the teaching of this grace, which is all-important in its place; but what the heart must know first (as it is its first action, on the part of a God of goodness) is its salvation-bringing power; for without the knowledge of the salvation, its teaching will be misapprehended and in vain.
The grace of God, then, first brings a perfect absolute deliverance of the soul from the whole consequences of sin, and brings into God's presence in acceptance, according to the acceptance of the Lord Jesus Christ. For the salvation lies in His obedience and sufferings for sin, in the acceptableness of His sacrifice, and in the power of His resurrection; and " as he is, so are we in this world." This is all absolute; it is God's part in the grace which brings salvation,
And as it is absolute in its character, so is it universal in its aspect and bearing. " The grace of God which bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men." It is unrestricted in its character; as the sun shines for all, though some hide themselves even from its light. " God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him might not perish but have everlasting life." " Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."
But the grace received becomes teaching in those who are the subjects of the salvation which it brings. It teaches us " that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world." And here, I observe, it is " the grace " that teaches, and not something else. It is not man's wisdom, or man's morality, mixing itself with that which is divine in his salvation, and, I may add, divine in the nature which it imparts. It is the grace which brought the salvation still acting-but acting now in the subjects of it, and on the divine nature which it imparts. They are not human motives, which form and fashion and produce the morality of a Christian, any more than it is human power that accomplishes his salvation. It is " the grace of God " that teaches him as well as saves him.
This is very remarkably shown in a passage in Timothy (1 Tim. 3:16), the force of which is very frequently overlooked. The apostle would teach Timothy how he ought to behave himself " in the house of God "; and he then presents the formative power of all true godliness in the words, " Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory."
This is often quoted and interpreted as if it spoke of the mystery of the Godhead, or the mystery of Christ's Person. But it is the mystery of godliness, or the secret by which all real godliness is produced-the divine spring of all that can be called piety in man. " God manifest in the flesh," is the example and the power of godliness, its measure and its spring. Godliness is not now produced, as under the law, by divine enactments; nor is it the result in the spirit of bondage in those (however godly) who only know God as worshipped behind a veil. Godliness now springs from the knowledge of the incarnation, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ. It takes its spring and character from the knowledge of His Person as " God manifest in the flesh "; the perfectness of His obedience, " as justified in the Spirit "; the object of angelic contemplation, and the subject of testimony and faith in the world; and His present position as " received up into glory."
This is how God is known; and from abiding in this flows godliness. And as in the passage before us, between the salvation, which is the result of the appearing of the grace and the crowning of " that blessed hope " which the believer looks for in the appearing of the glory, is the teaching of the grace that has brought salvation. It teaches the denial of ungodliness and worldly desires, as at war with the ends of redemption, and contrary to the character and position in which salvation places us as " delivered from this present evil world." Certainly the cross and the glory alike forbid the allowance of ungodliness and the pursuit of worldly desires. It was the world that crucified Christ; and in the appearing of the glory worldly desires can have no place. " For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away and the lusts thereof." It will be all withered by the appearing of the glory. But sobriety, righteousness, and godliness are due from the believer towards the world as a witness; and due towards God as a witness of the conforming power of His most precious grace.
Already I have noticed that this passage presents the believer's path as lying between the salvation, which was accomplished by Christ's appearing in grace, and the glory, which will be accomplished by Christ's appearing in glory. " Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing [or epiphany of the glory; as there was the epiphany of grace] of the great God, and our Savior Jesus Christ." The salvation which the grace of God brings settles every question between God and the soul as to sin and condemnation; and the appearing of the glory will bring those who are Christ's into the enjoyment of the presence of God and Christ, into the perfected victory of Christ, and into the possession of all that can fit us for His presence in glory. " Our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself," Phil. 3:20, 21. " Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation," Heb. 9:28. " We are saved by hope "; and nothing so molds the affections for heaven as " waiting for God's Son from heaven,... even Jesus, who delivered us from the wrath to come." In possession, and in the enjoyment, as to the soul, of this divine and perfected salvation, the believer has that which is far brighter in hope. He who, in sorrow and suffering and in infinite love, wrought the salvation, is coming to receive us unto Himself; that where He is, there we may be also. We shall see Him as He is, and then we shall be made like Him.
All is divine and precious, infinite in love and goodness, in the way our God takes to act upon the soul. How touching is the motive to holiness which is presented in the closing verse of our passage! " Who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works," v. 14. Here we have the end of redemption in the practical walk of the believer in this world. But what can equal the motive that is presented in the declaration, " Who gave himself for us "?
May our hearts more fully answer to its constraining power!

Notes From Lectures on Hebrews

THE Spirit of God in this epistle distinguishes between the way in which God spoke, or dealt, in time past and now. So in Rom. 3 the apostle speaks of Christ, " whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past." There he applies the death of Christ to the sins committed before He came. The day of atonement in Israel was for the putting away of past sins. He had been bearing with them all the year, and then when the sacrifice came on that day, the sin was all put away and all bright in the presence of God. There is the day of atonement yet to come for Israel as a nation, when in their land. Then the other part was " to declare at this time his righteousness, that he might be just, and the justifier of him," etc. This is for the present time. By ascending before God on high, He establishes a present righteousness-all sins forgiven and we made the righteousness of God in Christ. Rom. 3:25 gives it historically, for the sins of all who were saved in the Old Testament times are put away by this sacrifice; but we may apply it immediately, and see that not only our past sins are put away, but we stand in righteousness for the present.
Verse I. " God who at sundry times," etc. That was before the time came for the revelation of Himself. Messages were sent through others. They had communications from God, for He spake to them through the prophets: but now we have the manifestation of Himself. The Son of God has now come. " God hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son." Thus the word is so exalted. " Thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name." His name up to that time was exalted. He had made Himself known to Abraham as the Lord Almighty, telling him to trust His power, when he had to walk up and down as a stranger, with none to take care of him. Then again He was made known to Nebuchadnezzar as the most High God, higher than any of the gods of the nations; and to Abraham too He was called thus, when he returned from the slaughter of the kings. He will take it again when the kingdom comes. Then, again, He was known by the name Jehovah-" I am "-the practical force of which is " the same yesterday, to-day, and forever." All these names were glorious; but the word He has magnified above all. The word is that which tells all that God is- holiness, love, wisdom, etc. His word expresses His thoughts and feelings; it is the revelation of Himself. God speaks by Christ. Everything that Christ did was the manifestation of God. Who could heal the leper but God? " I will, be thou clean," are His words. Who could raise the dead but God? " Lazarus, come forth! " " I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me," John 17:8. He has committed His words to us, to be the vessels of His testimony according to our measure. " He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true."
We are not only brought to God now, but to God revealing Himself, God manifest in the flesh. Christ came declaring the Father. " Believe me that I am in the Father... or else believe me for the very works' sake." What a blessed place we have in Christ, having Him as the revelation of God to us! The mind of God is brought before us in Christ. " The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth and in thy heart." This is what makes Scripture so precious. It is indeed the written word, but the revelation of God. " No prophecy of Scripture is of private interpretation." You have got the mind of God in writing, and there it is stable and imperishable-in contrast to traditions merely handed down from one to another. There cannot be the church speaking, without Scripture. If the church can say anything, itself, then Christ's words go for nothing. I have another master over me. I am speaking of authority now, not of gift, which, of course, there is in the church for the bringing out of truth. But authority in the church trenches on the lordship of Christ over His house. It is a great thing to treasure in our souls that we have this revelation of God in Christ; and the beginning of the next chapter takes us up on the ground of possessing it. " Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip." These were Jews to whom the apostle was writing, and they had heard the Lord Himself speak, and afterward His apostles; and that is the reason why Paul did not put his name to this as to other epistles, when inditing them. You Jews hear what God Himself has said to you. You have heard Him. Thus, the apostle only confirmed what He had said. It is blessed thus to see how Paul drops his own apostleship (he was not, it is true, the apostle of the circumcision), and only speaks of the twelve who confirmed Christ's own words.
In this chapter we have first the glory of Christ shown in His being " heir of all things." He was the Son of the Father, and the everlasting Father, by virtue of His own power; and He will take everything. He will inherit all things. If a Son, we may say, then an Heir; for it is even said of us, " If children, then heirs." All that is the Father's is His. " He shall take of mine, and shall chew it unto you." Psa. 8 is alluded to in chapter 2, when in the counsels of God it is appointed that as a Man He should take all things; but in this chapter we have this same One as the Son of God and " heir of all things "; and for this glorious reason, He " made the worlds." In Colossians we have it-they " were created by him and for him." There it is His title over creation, but as " the image of the invisible God, the first-born," etc. So here it is " heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds." He is distinguished from God the Father-the right hand of His power. By wisdom He planned and by power He wrought. Christ is that wisdom and that power.
Verse 3. " The express image of his person." Christ was the outshining of God's glory. This is more than testimony made by the prophets in other ages. John 12:38-41, in connection with Isa. 6, shows the shining out of His glory very remarkably. See also Gen. 1:26, 27 in connection with this word, " the express image of his person."
" Upholding all things," etc. Of course this is a divine act. Who could keep the universe going? How could it all go on without God, so that not a sparrow falls to the ground without Him? How could it be without Him who made it? Though He has established the order of all things, it is He who is keeping it all going. The one actually acting and possessing all is Christ. We see His glory in all this.
Another divine work there is spoken of in His having " purged our sins "; and it is just as much a divine act to purge our sins as to create a world, and in one sense far more difficult, because sin is so hateful to God. It would be easy enough for Him to create another world out of nothing. He could look at His creation and say it was all " very good "; but He is so holy, He cannot look upon sin. Therefore there is something He must take away, and He does come to put sins away. We have sinned against God, and it is impossible for any to forgive the sin but the person sinned against. We have sinned against God, not man primarily, and man cannot forgive sins. This is another reason why God should be the only One who can forgive sins.
Mark another thing. He must purge before He can forgive. In passing through this world, man has to pass over a great deal, and get through as well as he can: but God cannot do this. He " is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity." Then if God is to have anything to do with us, He must purge sin. There is this dreadful necessity, that God should be occupied with our sins; and He had love enough and power enough to do it. If He passed it over, He would have to give up His holiness. Therefore there was this moral necessity of His holiness, that if He is to have any such poor sinners in His presence, He must cleanse us. So there must also be the feet-washing, if we are to have part with Christ.
" When he had by himself purged our sins "-it must be by Himself. No one could help Him in it; angels could have nothing to do in it, though they were sent to minister to Him when engaged in the work. Man could not, for man can do no more than his duty; if he did more, it would be wrong. It must be a divine work to purge away sin. There is a divine necessity upon God to do it-and that by Himself, because He could not allow sin. This is how I am purged. Because He could not bear sin, He must take it away Himself, and " the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin." It is a work that has been done: not anything that He will do, and may do-not something yet to be done. It is done, and He has sat down. We then no longer have a prophet coming to tell us He will do it, but there is the testimony of the Holy Ghost that it has been done.
" The brightness of God's glory," it is said, not the Father's. Sin is connected with God as its judge, not with the Father. He " sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high." The whole work is accomplished and so perfectly done that He can take His own place again, and with the blessed difference, that He goes back as a Man, which He never was before. Stephen saw Him as the " Son of man," standing on the right hand of God. Here He has " sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high." He has taken our sins, and yet is on the right hand of the throne of God. This shows that the righteousness wrought out was so perfect and divine, that though He has taken our sins, He could sit down on the throne of God, and not soil it. He had a right, of course, on the ground of His divine Person; but there is more than that here. Divine righteousness is presented to God, as an accomplished thing, just as the divine Son was manifested to man when He came down amongst us. It is all divine glory throughout.
Psa. 2, " Kiss the Son," etc. Blessed is the man who trusteth in God: but cursed the man who trusteth in man; Jer. 17. We find in the prophets certain traits in mystery, as it were, to display the divine Person of the One who was coming in humiliation. See Isaiah 50: 3-5. The same glorious Person who said, " I clothe the heavens with blackness," etc., says, " The Lord God hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious," etc. In Dan. 7 again, see verse 13" the Son of man," brought before " the Ancient of days," and in verse 22, He is giving out Himself to be " the Ancient of days," Heb. 1:7. " Who maketh his angels spirits," etc., but He does not say make when speaking of the Son. " Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever." See Psa. 45:1-7 Heb. 1:9. He whose throne is forever and ever has been put to the test; and He loved righteousness and hated iniquity while amongst us, and has brought us up as His fellows out of our iniquity. See the contrast in the connection in which " fellows " is mentioned here, and in Zech. 13:7, where Jehovah speaks of the man, His fellow, who has been " wounded in the house of his friends."
Thus we see the glory of Christ shining through the Old Testament continually, but in this chapter it is fully brought out. He is owned as God, though a man, and glorified above all others.
Verses 10, 11, etc. See Psa. 102:24. " Thy years are throughout," etc., is in answer to verse 23, and first clause of verse 24. This is still more pointed and precise. Jesus, in His humiliation, breathes out His broken heart to Jehovah. The Psalm anticipates the rebuilding of Zion. If so, where would this smitten Messiah be? If cut off in the midst of His day, how could He be there? God's answer is, that He, the holy sufferer, is Jehovah, the creator and disposer of all things. What a testimony to His unchangeable deity!
This is the time of grace, when those who are to be His companions in the glory are being gathered out (His fellows, v. 9).
Verse 13. Angels have a very blessed place and office, but it is never said to them, " Sit on my right hand," etc., but Jehovah did say so to the man, Christ Jesus. He has His own place there.
What a blessed Savior we have! The Lord Himself has come and taken up our cause. The One whom we look to, and lean upon as a Savior, is the Lord Jehovah.
Then, besides the glory of His Person, there is the other blessed truth, essential to our peace, to see what a wonderful salvation we have: our sins completely purged away! There is a wonderful and divine glory in this salvation, and divine and ineffable love-the love of One who is not like an angel who could only do His work when told.
Our souls are thus called to worship Him who clothes the heavens with blackness, who indeed made all things, even Jesus, the Son of God.
The first four verses of this chapter are an exhortation founded on the preceding one. Observe, this epistle does not begin with an apostolic address, as the others do; but Paul puts himself entirely among these Jewish believers, and speaks of Christ as their Apostle, not himself; and throughout he is unfolding all the riches of Christ, to keep them from sliding back into Judaism. Though the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed to Paul, as that of the circumcision was to Peter, yet is Paul the one used to these Hebrew believers. In chapter 1: I, 2, God hath " spoken to us "; that is, Paul puts himself among them. In the Hebrews the church is not addressed as such, but the saints individually-not in their aspect of oneness with Christ. Even in the Epistle to the Romans it is said, " Whom he justified, them he also glorified"; but here we get Him only " crowned with glory and honor." Further, I would remark, as it is not of union with Christ of which the apostle speaks here, responsibility is pressed; continual " ifs " and warnings flow from this. These warnings do not one whit touch the final perseverance of the saints, as the doctrine is called; though I would rather say, the perseverance of God, His faithfulness, for He it is who keeps us to the end. " If you continue " does not throw a doubt on your continuance. The quickening work of the Spirit of God is scarcely referred to in this epistle, save in one or two cases. In chapter 2: 2, " The word spoken by angels " means the law given at Sinai. In these verses the whole Jewish nation is addressed, while those only who had faith would receive the warning. And I would notice that the warnings of God are not merely against sin, but not to let slip truth, etc. Christ came into the world, not imputing their trespasses unto them, but they added to their rebellion of heart by rejecting Him who came to warn them. Neglecting salvation is despising it. By the rejection of Christ the Jews bound their sins upon them. To have broken the law was bad enough, but to reject grace was worse; and these first four verses press this upon them.
God's purpose for man (v. 5, and following) is to set him over everything, but that purpose is still unfulfilled. " The world to come " is not heaven, for that does exist now; but it is the habitable earth to come, not this earth in its present state. The Jews expected a new order of things; they looked for blessing and peace, and they were right, for so it will be. The present world is in subjection to angels. God's hand is not seen directly, but His angels are ministering spirits to the heirs of salvation. Everything in this world, however mercifully ordered in providence, is a proof of sin-the clothes we wear, the houses we live in, etc. All this was not God's purpose. He is not, as I said, now acting directly. He permits and overrules, but He draws His own people from the world (delivering us " from this present evil world "), and then teaches them to walk through it as not of it. He protects us through His angels; they are His ministers in His providential dealings; v. 6. But it is a Man who is to be set over the world to come. Once (in Adam) dominion was committed to man, but he lost it; v. 8, etc. God's purpose, that is, His order of things, is not thereby touched. Now we see Jesus crowned, and when we are, then all things will be accomplished. The Head is now glorified, and the members are down here in suffering. Christ is sitting at God's right hand, waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.
Take Psa. 2 and compare it with Psa. 8 God says, " Yet have I set my king upon the holy hill of Zion." Christ is come, and is not yet set there as king. Now Psa. 8 shows that, though rejected as Messiah, Jesus took the place of Son of man. So when Peter confesses Him as the Christ, Jesus charges him straitly not to tell any, for the " Son of man [His title in Psa. 8] must suffer many things," etc. Sin must be put away before God could set up His kingdom. We are now passing through that order or state of things which is not yet put under Jesus. Christ has gone through this very world, and been tempted, before He took His place as Priest, that He might succor them that are tempted. This is not sin, for we do not want sympathy in sin, but help and power to get out of and overcome it, and all this we have in Him. He went perfectly through reproach and tribulation. All that Satan could do to stop Him in His godly course, Satan did; but all was in vain. The Lord " resisted unto blood." We need to pray God for help to judge sin, each in himself. Sympathy in distress and suffering is another thing, and this we have, as well as forgiveness.
I began by saying there were two things-the purpose and the ways of God. Now, the latter it is our privilege to trace, while the former remains still unaccomplished. Instead of being merely Son of David, Christ is Son of man. He takes possession in our nature-not, of course, in the state in which it is in us, but still in our very nature. Now, as to the ways of God, we get these in verse 10: " By the grace of God he tasted death," etc. Mark this well-our sin brings us to the same place which, by the grace of God, He took. Perfect grace and perfect obedience we find in Him. When Christ came, as in Psalm 40, to do the will of God, God's majesty needed to be vindicated; and I would say unhesitatingly that God's truth, His righteousness, His love, His majesty, were all vindicated by the death of Christ-aye, far more than they would have been had we all died. In anticipation of this He said, " I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished! " His love could not fully flow forth till then. In the words, " It became him," I find the character of God; while in the expression, " many sons," I find the objects of His love. He could not bring us to glory in our sins. We get Christ taking up the cause of this remnant; and where, historically, did He begin?
It was in John's baptism that He outwardly identified Himself with His people, that is, with the sanctified ones; v. 11. See Psa. 16:2, 3. His association was with the saints; and there cannot be a step in the divine life in which Christ does not go along with us. Christ, in all that He is, is with us in the smallest fiber of divine life, from the repentance which is at the beginning. Not, of course, that He had aught to repent; yet His heart is with us in it. This is as true now, as it will be when manifested in glory; v. 16. There was no union of Christ with the flesh. The associates of Christ are the excellent of the earth; while in grace one of His sweetest titles was " the friend of the publicans and sinners."
Verse 12 is a quotation from Psa. 22:22, where Jesus in resurrection takes the place of leader of the praise of His brethren. Our songs should therefore ever accord with His. He has passed through death for us; and if our worship express uncertainty and doubt instead of joy and assurance in the sense of accomplished redemption, there can be no harmony, but discord, with the mind of heaven.
Verse 13 is quoted from Psa. 16, where, as also elsewhere, Christ on earth takes the place of the dependent Man. He is specially thus described in Luke's Gospel, where it is so frequently recorded that He prayed. Again, " Behold, I and the children," etc. This passage from Isa. 8:18 is particularly applicable to these Hebrew believers. While waiting for Israel, He and His disciples are for signs.
In verse 14 we find the consequence of His association with us. In these latter verses we have these two things: He took our nature that He might die; and also that He might go through temptation. We were alive under death; then Christ comes, and He takes upon Him all the power of Satan and death, and destroys thus him that had the power of death. By His death He made propitiation for sin. The feelings of His soul, and the temptations of Satan, were before His actual death, in the garden of Gethsemane, where His language was, " My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death." This was because of Satan's power; for He said, " This is your hour, and the power of darkness." But all this He went through, as part of His appointed sufferings. In the first three Gospels we have His cry in Gethsemane. In John we have His remembrance of His mother, and His other cries (" I thirst! " and " It is finished! ") on the cross; and this is in character with that Gospel in which His divine aspect is given. After the conflict with Satan was over, Christ took up the cup from His Father's hand. They who were sent to secure Him had no power against Him, for they all fell back; but He gave Himself up. Satan pressed the cup upon Him, but He took it from the hand of His Father.
As regards temptation, I shall hope to speak more about it another time. I would only now say that succoring is not dying instead of me; but now that I am going through this world I need succor. The ark in Jordan was like Christ preceding us through the waters of death, which to Him overflowed its banks, while we follow dry-shod. For what is dying to the Christian? It is passing away from all sorrow into the presence of the Lord-the happiest moment in a Christian's existence.
The first title of our Lord in this chapter is connected with the first part of the epistle; the second, namely, the priesthood, refers to what follows afterward. In chapter I also we have His qualification for being the Apostle; in chapter 2, His qualification for the Priesthood. He was the Divine Messenger for the testimony He was to bring to earth; and He is gone up on high to exercise His Priesthood on behalf of a needy people down here where He has been. " God manifest in flesh justified in the Spirit... received up in glory," referring to His having come down here and become man. He must be in the holy place in order to carry on His work as Priest; but He must he a man. Therefore what He was on earth fitted Him, as it were, for this work. There is a third character connected with Christ brought out in this third chapter; Christ set " over his own house."
In this epistle we do not get the unity of the body at all; we get a Mediator speaking to God for us and speaking from God to us: " Let us hold fast the profession," etc. If He spoke of the unity of the body, that is inseparable; there is one Holy Ghost uniting the members to the Head-" ye in me, and I in you.• It is not so here. Therefore profession is spoken of, and the possibility of that being not true profession; yet assuming it might be sincere, " we are persuaded better things of you," etc. (chap. 6). There might be all these privileges, and no fruit, but falling away. These Hebrews had made a public profession of having embraced Christ, and received a heavenly calling. In speaking of the body of Christ, we know it is perfect-no possibility of a false member getting in; but in a living congregation I may address them as hoping they are all saints, but the end proves. No man can tell the end, whether they will all persevere; but if there is life, we know they will.
" Apostle of our profession "-it could not be said Apostle of life. We never can understand this epistle properly, unless we get hold of this truth. In Ephesians, where the body is more the subject, I do not get such an expression as this, " that he might sanctify the people with his own blood."
The character of this epistle not being understood is the reason many souls are tried and exercised by passages they find in it. They are addressed with the possibility of their not having life, and so not continuing to the end. The church supposes a body in heaven. " Heavenly calling " does not necessarily imply that, because they are called to heaven, they are part of the body of Christ. The kingdom and the body are different. " Head over all things to the church " is wider, too, than the kingdom. Kingdom implies a king; a body implies a head. The church is precious to God. Everything that Christ has, I have; the same life, the same righteousness, the same glory. If my hand is hurt, I say it is I who am hurt. Paul was converted by this truth, " Why persecutest thou me? " It shows what grace has done for us-taken us out of ourselves. The body of Christ shows out the fullness of redemption, and the purpose of God respecting it. But another aspect of the people of God is that they are down here in infirmity, but having this heavenly calling. In this condition I need One in heaven; and there is not an infirmity, a need, a sorrow, an ache, an anxiety, but it draws out sympathy and help from Christ. This draws out my affections to Him. But before the priesthood is taken up, Moses is spoken of as a type: " Christ Jesus, faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house." The house is the place where God dwells; and there is another thing here-the Head of the house administering it.
God has met His people according to the need in which they were. In Egypt they need redemption, and He comes to redeem. In the wilderness they were dwelling in tents, and He would have a tent too. In getting into the land they wanted One to bring them in, and there is the captain of the Lord's host. Then, when they are in the land, He builds His palace, His temple. There is rest. We are not come to the temple yet-we have not rest: we get the tabernacle now, and " there remaineth a rest." There was a temple existing when these Hebrews were addressed, but that was not for us.
The temple is a dwelling for God. There never was a dwelling-place for God until redemption came in. Scripture never speaks of man getting back to innocency, or the image of God. God did not dwell with Adam; though in the cool of the day He came to walk with him. Neither did He dwell with Abraham. " The earth hath he given to the children of men "-" the heavens are the Lord's." But when redemption comes in, God is forming something for Himself. Thus, in Ex. 15:13, " habitation " refers to what they had in the wilderness (Ex. 29:44-46), but verse 17 to the rest at the end.
There were visits to Abraham (Abraham will dwell in heaven), but God could not have a habitation among men until He had made known redemption to them. The nature and character of God require it. Love is God's character: to enjoy God I must be with Him. Holiness is His nature. We are made sons of God (" the servant abideth not in the house forever," etc.). In the divine nature communicated to us, we are capable of being at home in that house of God, and redemption gives the title.
The individual Christian is a temple now; but the temporary provisional thing is God dwelling with us. The full blessed thing is our dwelling with God; John 14. I go not away to be alone there, but to have you there. " I go to prepare a place for you." In verse 23 the Father and the Son make their abode with us till we are taken to abide with them. God's having a house, as a general thought, is the consequence of redemption. Here in Hebrews it is rather alluded to as to administration than dwelling. " Habitation of God," is the present thing; " temple " is future in Eph. 2 It is spoken of in a larger and more vague way in Hebrews, because here it takes in profession. He that built all things is God. In one sense creation is His house; in another, Christ has passed through the heavens, as High Priest, into the heaven of heavens (through the two veils, as is represented in the type), into the holiest. In a third sense the body professing Christianity is His house, " whose house are we," etc.-the saints. There may be hypocrites amongst them; but they " are builded together for an habitation of God," etc. Christ administers in it, as Son over His own house. Moses was but servant in the building. There is immense comfort for us in this; first, because it is perfectly governed; second, when we look at the house, we may see all sorts of failures coming in; but though all may be failure, the One who administers in the house cannot fail. Therefore, though all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's, Paul could say, " Rejoice in the Lord alway," etc. There is One whom nothing escapes. Anyone who has a real care for the church of God, need never distrust. Paul, in looking at the Galatians, sees so much wrong that he does not know what to think of them: he changes his voice towards them. Ye that are under the law, hear the law. But in the next chapter he says, " I have confidence in you through the Lord." Christ is over His own house. Two things follow then. He will turn everything to blessing-Paul in prison, etc.; and there is present good too. When all the joints and bands do not act as they ought, the immediate ministry of Christ is more experienced. Christ connects everything with His glory; and faith connects the glory of the Lord with the people of the Lord. Moses did so. Faith does not only say, the Lord is glorious, and He will provide the means for His own glory; but it sees the means for it. Moses said, " Spare the people," when with God; and when he came down amongst them, he " cut off the people," because he was alive to God's glory (in the matter of the calf in the camp).
We have to count upon Christ for the church, not upon itself. Thus Paul, when tried by Nero, passes sentence as it were upon himself (Phil. 1:23-25); he settles it that he shall be acquitted. Why? Because he sees it is more needful for them-one single church. It was divine teaching and faith in exercise which made him to judge thus.
There is failure on the part of the church down here as to responsibility, but Christ has perfect authority in His church, and He has interest in it. We have not to make rules for the church; it is the Master must govern the house, not the servants. There is one Master, and that is Christ. He is over the church, and not the church over Him. " Whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence," etc. Ah! people say, don't you be too confident, because there is an " if." But, I ask, what have you got? What he presses is, that you should not let it go. Is that to be used to hinder my having the confidence? What did they believe? That Christ was come-a heavenly Savior to them, and this far better than an earthly one. Do not give up that. There is a fear of giving up that confidence, not of their being too confident. What am I to distrust? Myself? Oh! I cannot distrust myself too much. But is it Christ you distrust? Will His eye ever grow dim, or His heart grow cold? Will He leave off interceding? A proof that I am a real stone in the house is that I hold fast the confidence, etc. Those high priests under the old dispensation were continually standing; but He has sat down, because the work is all done. They needed for every sin a new sacrifice: sin was never put away. They needed a fresh absolution from the priest every time sin came up. Now, He says, " their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." If you are under law, it is another thing; you have not got the confidence. If you talk of distrust, what do you distrust? If you trust in man at all, it is a proof you do not see that you are lost. If you give up confidence in yourself, and say, I am lost already, it is another thing. No one that has really come to redemption, has in the substance of his soul confidence in himself; and no Christian will say, you ought to distrust Christ. Our privilege is to have confidence in Christ as a rock under our feet, and to rejoice in hope of the glory of God. His righteousness has brought Christ into the glory as a man, and the same righteousness will bring me in.
Does another person say, I do not know whether I have a portion in it? You are under the law: God may be plowing up your soul-exercising it for good; but you have not been brought to accept the righteousness of God. The soul in this state has not accepted the righteousness of God for it, instead of ours for Him. You are still depending on your own heart for comfort and assurance. It is a very serious thing to get the soul so empty of everything that it has only to accept what God can give. It is an awful thing to find oneself in God's presence, with nothing to say or to present. You never get love to Christ until you are saved; and it is the work of God's Spirit. The prodigal found what he was by what his father was. Did the prodigal doubt his interest when the father was on his neck?
The remainder of this chapter takes up the people of Israel- the professing people in the wilderness. They did not get into the land, but their carcasses fell in the wilderness. It is speaking of them on the road. The " to-day " quoted from Psa. 115 never closes for Israel, till God has taken up the remnant at the end of His dealings with them, after the church is gone up to heaven.
Verse 14. " Partakers " is the same word as that translated " fellows " in chapter 1. You are fellows of Christ if you are of this company. This place with the fellows is yours if you go on to the end. This kind of statement does not touch the security of the saints. Both Calvinists and Arminians might say, He will reach heaven, if he holds fast to the end. The certainty of salvation is the certainty of faith, and not that which excludes dependence upon God for every moment. I have no doubt that God will keep every one of His saints to the end; but we have to run the race to obtain eternal glory. Holding fast the faithfulness of God, it is important, along with this, to keep up the plain sense of passages such as the present, which act on the conscience as warning by the way. There is no uncertainty, but there is the working out our own salvation with fear and trembling. In x Corinthians 9: 27, personal Christianity is distinguished from preaching to others. It is not a question of the work, but of the person being a castaway, and this means disapproved or reprobate, that is, not a Christian. Compare 2 Cor. 13. In Rom. 2 eternal life is spoken of as the result of a course which pleases God. No doubt, His grace gives the power; but it is the result of a fruit-bearing course. In a word, it is equally true that I have eternal life, and that I am going on to eternal life. God sees it as one existence, but we have to separate it in time. Walk that road, and you will have what is at the end of it. This does not interfere with the other truth, that God will keep His own, and that none shall pluck them out of His hand. Our Father says as it were, That is my child, and I watch him all the way, and take care to keep him in it.
The word of God is connected with the apostleship; chap. 3: 1. In the last verses the priesthood of Christ is the subject. These are the two means of our being carried through the wilderness-the word of God, and priesthood of Christ. Israel were treated as a people brought out of Egypt, but liable to fall by the way. So the warning to these Hebrews (chap. 4: 1), " as to seeming to come short; " the word is softened. In chapter 3 we have seen them addressed as a body brought out under the name of Christ, but admitting the possibility of hypocrites among them.
There are two distinct things connected with the people- redemption, and being carried on when brought out into the wilderness.
The Epistles to the Hebrews and to the Philippians both address saints as in the wilderness. In Philippians it is more personal experience that is spoken of, for example, " I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer." In both it is as passing through the wilderness, and not yet in the rest.
Verse I. We have " His rest." Not merely rest, but God's rest: and this makes all the difference. It is not merely as tired ones, and glad to rest: we are going into the rest of God. There is an allusion to creation when God saw all that He had made very good. He delighted in it, and rested. Spiritual labor now is not rest, nor the worry and plague of sin. God will rest in His love; Zeph. 3:17. How could He rest here? Not till He sees all those He loves perfectly happy. How can He rest where sin is? Holiness cannot rest where sin is. Love cannot rest where sorrow is. He rested from His works in the first creation, because it was all very good; but when sin came in, His rest was broken. He must work again. God finds rest where everything is according to His own heart. He is completely satisfied in the exercise of His love.
When conflict and labor are over, we shall get into the rest in which He is. That is the promise. " A promise being left us of entering into his rest "-God's own rest. If affections have not their object, they are not at rest. They will have this then, and we shall be like Him. There will be also comparative rest, even for this poor creation, by-and-by.
These Hebrews who are addressed, are compared to the Jews who came out of Egypt, some of whom fell; but he says, " We are persuaded better things of you," ye " are not of them that draw back into perdition." What had they got? Their Messiah on earth? No. He was gone, and they were left strangers as to what was here below, and not having reached heaven either. That is what every Christian is: the state of his heart is another thing.
Verse 2. " Gospel preached." We have glad tidings preached to us as well as they. The apostle is speaking of the character of those who go in (heaven, God's rest, the promise for us, as Canaan was for Israel). Unbelievers do not go into rest-believers do. That is the door they go in by.
As to God's creation, there is not rest for them in it-it is not come for them. " If they shall enter," etc. This means they shall not, but God did not make the rest for no one to enter. He begins again; v. 7. David came five or six hundred years after Moses, and in Psa. 95 he says, " To-day after so long a time," etc. If they did not get into the rest by Joshua, there " remaineth a rest to the people of God." That is not come at all yet. It is to be under the new covenant, when Christ comes, the Messiah according to their own scriptures.
" He that is entered into his rest hath also ceased from his own works," not only from sin. When God ceased, it was not from sin, but from labor. Godly works are not rest. God rests in Christ. I have ceased from my works, as regards my conscience, because I have ceased from works for justification. I have not ceased from godly works-that rest is not come yet. Laboring to enter in here does not mean as to justification. " There remaineth a rest." We have the former, but there is more we wait for.
The two means of carrying us through, spoken of before, are the word applied by the Spirit, and the Priesthood of the Lord Jesus Christ. We never get union with Christ spoken of here; there is no discerning, judging, etc., connected with that; but as Christians in the wilderness there is, and the intercession of Christ is needed; as distinct, separate Christians going through the world, beset with snares on every hand, we are addressed.
It is remarkable how the word of God is made to be the revelation of God Himself. " The word of God is quick and powerful, manifest in his sight." Whose sight? The word of God, the revelation of Christ. He is called the word of God-" God manifest in the flesh." He was the divine life- the perfection of all divine motives in a man in this world. The word of God brings the application of God's nature. All that He is, is applied to us in going through this world.
That begins by our being begotten by the word-born again, of incorruptible seed-the divine nature imparted, which cannot sin because born of God. Then all the motives and intentions of the heart have to be displayed by this word. The written word is the expression of God's mind down here. Divine perfectness, as expressed in the life of Christ in the written word, is applied to us. What selfishness was there in Christ? I do not now refer to His going about doing good, but as to the feelings and motives of His heart. How much has self been our motive? Not like Christ. It is not gross sins that are spoken of here, but " thoughts and intents of the heart." How much self through the day!
In John 17 our Lord says, " I sanctify myself." Christ set apart as the perfection of man-Christ, a model man, if I may so speak-all that God approves in a man was seen in Christ. The same should be seen in us. " Sanctify them through thy truth." The word applied to us in all this path, in motives, thoughts, and feelings, is for this purpose. Christ was not only doing good; He walked in love, and He says to us, " Walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and given himself," " forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ's sake, hath forgiven you." What comes down from God goes up to Him. Self may enter in our doing good; but only what is of a sweet savor goes up to God-" an offering to God." What is not done exclusively in the power of divine love, in the sense of an offering, is spoiled-self has come in.
" Dividing asunder of soul and spirit." God has created natural affections, but how much self and idolatry come in! Self-will, too, and self-gratification, how awfully it comes in! That is soul, and not spirit. The word of God comes in, and knows how to divide between soul and spirit, what looks like the same thing, the very same affections, as far as man sees. What a mass of corruption! Can we have communion with God when self comes in? How powerless Christians are now-you, and I, and everyone. There is grace, blessed be God! but, in a certain sense, how low we are! " I will give myself unto prayer," said one. All blessing comes from the immediateness of a man's life with God. There are rivers of living water. How are you to get them? " If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink," and " out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." A man must drink for himself first, before there can be rivers, etc. In the time of the prophets they had a message, " Thus saith the Lord," and then had to inquire the meaning of the prophecy, but with us, we drink first ourselves. We are so connected with Christ, that we have it ourselves from Him before communicating it to others.
What would make us fall in the wilderness? The flesh. It has no communion with God; flesh in saints, as well as in others, is bad. What would make us fall is flesh-the unjudged " thoughts and intents of the heart." The word of God comes and judges all that is of nature in us, after He has brought us out of Egypt. According to the new nature, everything is judged. Everything in Christ is applied to the motives and intents of our hearts-everything is judged according to God Himself. The word is a sword-not healing, but most unrelenting in its character. It detects poor flesh, shows it up, and marks its thoughts, intents, will, or lust. All is sifted. But are there no infirmities? Yes. But whenever the will and intent is at work, the word of God comes as a lancet to cut it all away. For infirmities, weaknesses, not will, we have a high priest, who was in all points tempted like as we are, without sin.
This is beautifully expressed in a figure in the Old Testament. There was water wanted: the rock was smitten, and the water flowed. (There are resources in Christ Himself, the smitten rock, for us; but besides, for us there is the water, a well in us.) They were also tried all through the wilderness. The two-edged sword was wanted. There were murmurings. They must be turned back. God turns back with them. How did they get through? What was on Moses' part (for he was like the apostle here), set forth? How was he to get rid of their murmurings? The rock has not to be smitten again. The rods must be put in. There are leaves, buds, blossoms on Aaron's-life out of death-living priesthood. Then go and speak to the rock. Suppose God had only executed judgment! How would they have got through the wilderness? There was the living priesthood come in; grace in the shape of priesthood. That carries us through; and all the infirmities, and even failures, when they are committed, are met by Him who has passed through the heavens, etc.
There is not the least mercy on the flesh. This is judged by the word. Moses, the meekest man, failed in that. Abraham, who had been taught God's almightiness, goes down to Egypt, and fails through fear. God glorified Himself. He glorified Himself at the rock in the wilderness, but Moses did not glorify Him, and he was shut out of the land.
Verse 14. There are things mentioned, very important, about the priesthood. 1st, The priesthood is exercised in heaven, where we need it; it is the place where God is. When it was an earthly calling, the priesthood was on earth. Ours is a heavenly calling, and Christ, our high priest, has passed through the heavens. Another important part is, Christ in no sense has any of these infirmities while He is exercising the priesthood for us. He has passed through all the course in holiness, obedience, and sanctity. When He putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before them. He walks the sheep's path, and they follow Him. Christ went through all these exercises of a godly man (for example, wanting bread, and being tempted to make it, but not yielding to it). Everything that a saint can want as a saint, Christ went through before in perfection. There is the example of perfectness in Him, in the sheep's path; but that was not the time of His priestly work. He has passed through the road, and now can be " touched with the feeling of our infirmities."
In Hebrews we have, as another brother has remarked, more of contrast than comparison. The veil in the tabernacle, and the priesthood of Israel all in a contrasted state to that in which we have them. Our high priest is not compassed with infirmity. Mark the consequence of that: His being in heaven, He brings all the perfectness of the thought and feeling of the place He is in to bear on us. I have these infirmities and difficulties, and He helps me up into all the perfectness of the heavenly places where He is. This is just what we want. He can show a path, and feel what a path is of passing through this world, and bear the hearts down here clean up into heaven.
People often think of priesthood as a means of getting justified; but then God has the character of a judge in their eyes. They are afraid to go straight to God, and not knowing grace and redemption, they think of enlisting Christ on their behalf. This is all wrong. Many a soul has done it in ignorance and infirmity, and God meets it there, but it is to mistake our place as Christians. Does our getting the intercession of Christ depend upon our going to get it? It is when I have got away from God-when not going to Him-I have an advocate with the Father. Again, Christ prayed for Peter before He committed the sin. It is the living grace of Christ in all our need-His thought for us, or we should never be brought back. It was when Peter had committed the sin that He looked on him. Even when we have, committed faults His grace thus comes in. It is in heaven He is doing it: then how can we have to say to Him if we have not righteousness? The reason I can go is because my justification is settled. He has given me the title of going into heaven in virtue of what He is, " Jesus Christ the righteous," and what He has done. Our place is in the light as \God is in the light- sitting in heavenly places in Christ. Our walk on earth is not always up to this. Our title is always the same, but our walk not. Then what is to be done? I am within the veil, and not in a condition to go there at all. The priesthood of Christ is there to reconcile this discrepancy between our position in heaven, and our walk down here. Jesus Christ is the righteous one: and the righteousness I have in Him is the title I have to the place. The priestly work restores me to the communion of the place where I am in righteousness. It is immediately connected with the perfectness of His own walk down here and the place where He now is.
Satan came to Him, when here, and found nothing. He ought to find nothing in us, but he does. I do not want to spare the flesh; then there is the word of God for that. But in all the feelings down here, as He said, " reproach hath broken my heart." In Gethsemane He was in an agony and prayed the more earnestly. He had the heart of a man; and all that the heart of man can go through, He went through but in communion with His Father, no failure possible. " Apart from sin," is better than " yet without sin," because there was no sin in Him inwardly any more than outwardly. In all these feelings He is now touched for us.
Verse 16. " Come boldly to the throne of grace." This is going straight to God, not to the priest. It is to the " throne of grace." We want mercy; we are poor weak things, and need mercy; in failure we need mercy; as pilgrims we are always needing mercy. What mercy was shown to the Israelites in the wilderness! their garments not getting old; God even caring for the clothes on their backs! Think of the mercy that would not let their feet swell! Then, when they wanted a way, Oh! says God, I will go before with the ark to find out a way. That was not the place for the ark at all. It was appointed to be in the midst of the camp, but God would meet them in their need. They want spies to go and see the land for them; fools that we are to want to know what is before us. They had to encounter the Amorites, high walls, giants. A land that devours the inhabitant, is their account of it, even with the grapes on their shoulders. Just like us on the way to heaven. They cannot stand these difficulties. We are as grass-hoppers, say they; but the real question is what God is.
As saints we are weaker than the world, and ought to be: but when waiting on God, what is that? When they have not confidence in God, they find fault with the land itself. What a wonderful God He is! He says, If you will not go into Canaan you must stay in the wilderness; and He turns them, and turns back with them. It is grace, but the throne of grace. God governs: it is a throne. He will not let a single thing pass. See the people at Kibrothhattaavah! In case of accusation from the enemy, as Balaam, there is not chastening, but He says, " I have not seen iniquity in Jacob." The moment it is a question between God's people and the enemy's accusation, He will not allow a word against them; but when there is an Achan in the camp, He judges. Why? Because He is there. It is a throne. If you are not victorious, there is sin.
We may come boldly to the throne, etc. Still it is a throne (not a mediator), but all grace. If I go to the throne, instead of the throne coming to me, so to speak, it is all grace: I get help. I never can go to the throne of grace without finding mercy. He may send chastening, but it is a throne of grace and all mercy-" grace to help in every time of need." If you have a will, He will break it; if a need, He will help you. Do you feel that you can always go boldly, even when you have failed? humbled, of course, and at all times humble, but humbled when you have failed.
Perfection here means the state of a full-grown man. There is much, and, in a certain sense, more, contrast than similarity in the allusion in Hebrews to the Old Testament types. We are now in a different position; those things which went before were only a shadow, instead of their giving us a distinct perception of our position. While they were figures, they did not disclose what we have at the present time. We have boldness to enter into the holiest; with them, the veil was there to separate them from it. In this passage it is important to see the contrast. Christ is the High Priest. " Every high priest taken from among men [though He was not taken from men, I need not say]... can have compassion on the ignorant... for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity." Here is contrast, though the general image is taken up. They had infirmity, and had to offer for themselves as well as for the people. If we do not see this, we may make great blunders in drawing these analogies. Absolute analogy in them would draw us away from the truth. There are certain landmarks of truth that guard the soul, for example, the atonement. The priesthood of Christ is in heaven. It has to be exercised as a continual thing in the place where we worship. We worship in spirit in heaven, and there we want our priest. Those sacrifices were the memorial of sin; we have no more conscience of sins. The priest is there, once for all, in virtue of the sacrifice made once and forever. While in point of fact we. fail, our place is always Christ in heaven. When communion is interrupted, priesthood removes the hindrance.
Observe the dignity of the person called to this office: " Thou art my Son." The glory of His Person is owned in order to His priesthood. " This day have I begotten thee," v. 5. He was as really a man as any of us, without the sinful part of it. He was like neither Adam nor us exactly. Adam had no " knowledge of good and evil "; Christ had-God has. But now men have the knowledge of good and evil, and, with it, sin. Christ was born of a woman, but in a miraculous way. The spring was sinless, and yet He had the knowledge of good and evil.
We cannot fathom who He was. Our hearts should not go and scrutinize the Person of Christ, as though we could know it all. No human being can understand the union of God and Man in His Person-" No man knoweth the Son but the Father." All that is revealed we may know; we may learn a great deal about Him. The Father we know: " No man knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son shall reveal him." We know Him to be holy; we know Him to be love, etc. But when I attempt to fathom the union of God and man-no man can. We know Christ is God, and we know He is man-perfect man, apart from sin; and if He is not God, what is He to me? What difference between Him and another man? Christ came in flesh. Every feeling that I have (save sin) He had. The quotation here from Psa. 2, " This day have I begotten thee," does not refer to His eternal Sonship, but to His being born into the world in humiliation. He is called to be high priest. He has this calling as a man, not as being taken from men. The glory of His Person comes first. Looked at in the flesh He was begotten of God; with us, " that which is born of the flesh is flesh." But He in His very nature is associated with God, and associated with man. He is the " daysman that can lay his hand upon us both," Job 9. I may fancy myself clean when away from God; but when I come before God, I know He will " plunge me in the ditch," etc. " Let not his fear terrify me." God takes away the fear through Christ. Christ was perfect holiness, and He was ready for everything. His lowliness was perfect; fear is taken away by Him; He is even as a man, the holy One-on that side He lays hold on God, and on the other He lays His hand on us; thus on both He is the daysman to lay His hand upon us both.
The priest in Israel had to take offerings to cleanse himself. Christ is fitted in Himself without that. Aaron alone was anointed without blood; his sons after the sacrifice.
As to office, there is in Christ perfect competency. He is the Son, and therefore fit for God. He is Man, and so fitted for me. I am not speaking of His sacrifice, but of His Person. " This day have I begotten thee "; there is His Person. Then comes the office, " galled of God an high priest, after the order of Melchisedec," without beginning of days, etc., not like man with descent from one to another, " but after the power of an endless life," without genealogies. These great principles are thus laid down concerning His Person and office-the Son and a priest after the order of Melchisedec. Before He takes the office, there is another qualification necessary. Here would be a difficulty (not in the earthly priesthood, for it was connected with the earthly tabernacle, and earthly worship, but) now it is in a heavenly. place, and the worship is in heaven. Then the priesthood must be in heaven. He could not have experience of infirmity there. What must He do? He goes through all first.
Priesthood supposes a people reconciled to God. There was the day of atonement, and daily priestly offices went on with the reconciliation for the year. The day of atonement laid the foundation for the priesthood for the year. Then on that day the high priest represented the whole people-laid his hand on the scapegoat in order to their reconciliation (this was not the continued office); which Christ did on the cross, as the victim and the representative. He gave His own blood. He suffered as well as represented the people, and then He went within the veil, in virtue of the reconciliation He has made. One of these goats was Jehovah's lot (the other was the people's), and the blood was put on the mercy seat. There was no confession of sins in that. Christ's blood being on the mercy-seat is the ground on which mercy is proclaimed to all the world, even to the vilest sinner in the world. But suppose a person comes and says, " I find sin is working in me: how can I come to God? " I say, Christ has borne your sins; He has represented you there, confessing your sins on His own head; and God has condemned sin in the flesh, in Christ. A person is often more troubled at the present working of sin in him than at all the sins past; but I say to that person, God has condemned the sin in Christ. God's character has been glorified, majesty, righteousness, love-all vindicated on the cross. God's truth is vindicated. He said, " In the day thou eatest thou shalt surely die," and Christ dies instead. Then when I get my conscience exercised, it is not enough to see God has been glorified in the death of Christ; I feel my own sins before God. Then I see that He has confessed my sins; and now, as Priest on high, He maintains me in the power of the reconciliation made.
Before He made the sacrifice, He had gone the path the sheep trod. It was before He began to represent His people" who in the days of his flesh "-a past thing, before He exercised His priesthood. " When he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them " in the paths of temptation, sorrow, difficulty. Therefore it is said of Him, " the author and finisher of faith," not our faith there. We go through our small portion of exercise of faith; He went through everything. Moses refused the treasures in Egypt; Christ refused the whole world. Abraham " sojourned in the land of promise as in a strange country "; Christ was a stranger in the whole world. In all His path we see Him not screening Himself by His divine power, but bearing everything that a human heart could bear. There is not a trial but He felt it. If I speak of a convicted conscience, this is another thing. He did bear what caused that; but it was in our stead on the cross. In a still deeper way He took it all upon Himself. What entire dependence! " Prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death," etc. Especially in Gethsemane did He realize the full power of what He came to meet. In His walk we are to follow Him, to "walk as he walked." But in Gethsemane it is another thing- He was alone there.
There are three parts in Christ's life. In the beginning He was tempted, first, to satisfy His own hunger, and then with all the vanities of this world, but He would not have them, He did not come for that. The next thing was more subtle; the answer He gave, " Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God "-thou shalt not try the Lord. Tempting is not trusting. When the people tempted the Lord, they went up to the mountain to see if God would help them. Christ would not take these things from Satan's hands. He bound the strong man, and he departs for a season; then Christ goes on spoiling his goods-healing the sick, raising the dead, etc. A power had come in grace, perfectly able to deliver this world from the power of Satan, to deliver us as to the consequences of sin-all the misery and wretchedness here.
But there was something deeper; man had hatred to God- they would not have Him. " The carnal mind is enmity against God." They entreated Him to depart out of their coasts in one place. For His love He received enmity. This world would have been a delivered place, if they would have had Him, but they would not; and man profits by the occasion of God's humbling Himself so as to be within man's reach, by seeking to get rid of Him! That brings out another point. Having taken up the people, He must take consequences. Satan says, if you do not give me my rights over them, you must suffer. Satan comes and uses all the power he has over man to deter Christ from going through. In the garden of Gethsemane, He calls it " the power of darkness," and says, " my soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death; tarry ye and watch," etc., but they could not watch with Him, they went fast asleep. As Satan has power in death, He brings it over Christ. Does Christ go back? No; but being in an agony, He prayed the more earnestly; He does not defend Himself. He might have driven away Satan, but He would not have delivered us if He had. No other cup did He ever ask to be taken away; but He could not be under the wrath of God, and not feel it. He was heard because of His fear. He went down into the depth where Satan had full power over His soul. He was in an agony, in conflict, but there was perfect obedience and dependence, " Not my will, but thine be done "; only He was crying the more earnestly to God, and then let His soul go into the depth under Satan's power. If He had not given Himself up, they would have gone away who came to take Him; they went backward and fell to the ground. Again He presents Himself to them, " I am Jesus of Nazareth. If ye seek me, let these go their way." He puts Himself forward into the gap. He goes to the cross; and there, before He gives up His soul to His Father, He has drunk that cup; then His soul re-enters the presence of His Father. Having gone through Satan's power in death (" this is your hour and the power of darkness "), He goes forward; God raises Him from the dead, and gives Him a place in glory. He is the glorified Man, as the second Man-perfect. Stephen saw Him as " the Son of man " on the r