Grace and Government: Ephesians 4

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. 15:1717Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance, in the place, O Lord, which thou hast made for thee to dwell in, in the Sanctuary, O Lord, which thy hands have established. (Exodus 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 7:4848Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, (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. 12:1313For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 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.