Meetness and Growth

 •  24 min. read  •  grade level: 5
Colossians 1
IT is a wonderful thing, and the more wonderful the more we think of it, the way we are, as Christians, associated with the Son of God! We are made members of His body, of His flesh, and, of His bones; of Him, who is the beginning of the creation of God. In the same scripture, where He speaks of being one with the Father, He says, " ye in me, and I in you." The more we dwell upon it, and think of it, the more wonderful it is; and it is all grace. As we read, " That in the ages to come, he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us by Christ Jesus." This is the way the angels will learn, and principalities and powers in the heavenly places, the meaning of " the exceeding riches of his grace." They will see the poor thief; and the woman of the city that was a sinner; ourselves, too, in the same place and glory as God's Son!
Now, He has brought us into the present intimacy of it, by giving us Christ as our Life, and the Holy Ghost to dwell in us. He has brought us into the closest intimacy and relationship with Himself; as He said, " I go to my Father, and your Father, and to my God, and your God." Think of the eternal Son of God saying that of us! It ought to be peaceful joy to us, simply settled in our soul. It is just the one who is dwelling in it, and at home in it, who will feel and know how wonderful it is. It is that which you cannot understand if you are not dwelling in it; but when you do get inside, you begin to be conscious of what it is.
God has shown to us all the fruits of the flesh put away perfectly-that in raising up the blessed Lord Jesus Christ who stood in the place of death for us, and in setting Him in glory, and giving us the Holy Ghost, all that is of man and sin is put away. " When he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high." It is a blessed thing to know that by His work on the cross, He has cleared away everything that stood between us and the righteousness of God. So that there should not lurk a single suspicion in our hearts as to our place before Him. Looked at as guilty, we are justified; as defiled, we are cleansed: as having offended, we are forgiven. He wants us to enjoy all this; and therefore does not leave us in fear of judgment. God has brought us in Christ to Himself—set us there, and given us the consciousness of it by the Holy Ghost come down from heaven. Not yet in possession of all-in that sense we have nothing but the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven-but to faith we have everything. It is this which makes the riddle of a Christian state: we have everything in Christ-glory, eternal life, forgiveness, justification, Christ in us the hope of glory. The work He has done is complete, and we are quickened and have part in it, and therefore the apostle says, " we are saved in hope." But, as to possession, we have got nothing yet, save the Holy Ghost, and God's love shed abroad by the Holy Ghost in our hearts. Looked at as to place and title, I am accepted in the Beloved: but looking at me, I am wandering in this world very far from it all; and yet, having the consciousness of all I possess in my heart. The heart thus rests in His love, and can have nothing to desire. He has given us His own Son: His own love has put us in Christ-the very best place that can possibly be conceived, and in that sense has left us nothing to desire. We are here upon earth to be exercised and tried and tested; and to learn His faithfulness and grace.
You will find in this chapter how growth is spoken of, and the supply of strength; and the total separation of these from meetness for heaven. Scripture never speaks of any need of becoming meet for heaven for the Christian. There is-there ought to be-growth. God will chastise us if we go wrong- we shall find out all these ways and dealings of God with us; but all carefully disconnected from meetness for heaven; and wherever this is not practically known-I do not mean as to words-wherever there is a want of clearness as to meetness hanging about the heart, you will find it hinders peace, because fullness of love is not seen, and present association with the glory. Accordingly the standard of walk comes down. I get occupied with my own heart's state, instead of being occupied with Christ's heart. I never saw a person yet who was occupied with himself, who-to repeat the words-was not occupied with himself! and that is the greatest mischief in the world.
We have sometimes to be occupied with ourselves; there are errors, and we have to judge them; and we have to look not only that there should be no evil, but that there should be growth. But still, if I am much occupied with self, self takes the place that Christ ought to have, and therein is the mischief.
A person will come and tell me a long story of what is in his heart; and, of course, a deal of evil. But if I ask him what is in God's heart, he cannot tell me a word! Do you think that a good state? Certainly we shall get into scrapes if we do not judge ourselves; but the judgment of self is an easy and simple thing though requisite, if I am close to God, and in communion with Him. But, if I am away from Him, prying into my own heart, and all that is there; why there it is still!
You will find what an amazingly high standard there is in this chapter, " that ye might walk worthy of the Lord, unto all pleasing," for growth and practice. But when I talk of meetness, it is " Giving thanks unto the Father which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light." When I get that, I can look for growth and a walk worthy of the Lord, and this, because I am associated with Him who has made me meet. Do you think the poor thief was meet to go into paradise? What made him meet? The proof of his meetness was that he went there, and surely he did not go un-meet! He went there because Christ died, and He had made him meet. It is that as to which we have to be clear and distinct.
He says, "Ye are complete in him"; that is, where He has put us; and here the apostle goes through the various things which, as a Jew, he might have known. Circumcision: he might be so, or not: a philosopher, or not, and so on; but then he shows, you have got everything in Christ. It is very beautiful the way we find this here (chap 2). " In him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." In Him, as a man- all the completeness of the Godhead. "And ye are complete in him." The words are the same root. We get all the fullness of the Godhead brought to us, close down to us here, in Christ: but if I look up and see Christ there, I see too, that I am complete-filled up to fullness in Him before God. It is a wonderful place indeed, in which sovereign grace has set us. Grace alone could think of such a thing.
If you want to know God the Father where are you to learn Him? "He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father." Have our hearts ever looked at Christ as our object, and said while looking-I have nothing more to seek? Think, beloved friends, what it is to look at the Lord with the power of the Spirit of God, and to see in Him-that poor, despised Man- God walking on the earth! and when one sat down by His side, and told Him one's tale of sin, even if confounded unto tears, she was telling it out to God! Is that the thought we have about the Lord Jesus Christ? and He is the same now. God has come, beloved friends, in Christ, and said, as it were, Do not you know Me? in a certain sense like any man, and in a sense not the least like a man at all. Not one single motive ever governed His heart that governed the heart of man; and not one motive ever governed man's heart that governed His. It was a perfectly new thing in the world. The blessed manifestation of a divine path with a Man in it: not only by outward miracles, but by His ways and words. He made the hearts of those who were with Him burn in them as He talked to them, as He walked with them by the way.
Then, when I look up to God, I say, " complete in Christ." I have committed sins and the like, but I say, I am not in the flesh, but in the Spirit-I am in Christ, and I know it as He said I should, when He would send the Holy Ghost. " At that day, ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you," John 14:2020At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. (John 14:20). So I find my place in Christ before God, and myself in Him, and God has been glorified as to the way I came there. " Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him." I can therefore give thanks to the Father which hath made me meet, to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light. True, we have not got the inheritance, and we have to learn our weakness, and failure, and the like. But this casts no cloud on the heart as to what it is before God, because it is in Christ. " He that hath wrought us for this selfsame thing is God "—that is, for the glory. "Who hath also given unto us the earnest of the Spirit." Do you suppose that when God has " wrought us " He has done so badly? Do you think God has done His work well? Surely He has! What peace this gives to the soul! But the moment it becomes a question of meetness, depending on growth, let a man look at his own heart and say it is meet for God! When then, does he expect it to be so? I do not doubt such desire holiness, but it is a mistake in them as to the way of getting the holiness even as a present thing. There is no mistake in saying that "without holiness no man shall see the Lord"; else the person does not know God at all. But the question is, how to get all this holiness? God chastens us that we may be partakers of His holiness. Not exactly that we may be holy, but "partakers of his holiness."
Now, having seen this ground on which we are set, we are complete in Christ, meet for the inheritance, and brought into heart association with it all by faith, and as having the Holy Ghost dwelling in us; then the apostle begins about the walk of the person. He says, you must " walk worthy of the Lord "-of the Person to whom you are brought-proving what is that good, and perfect, and acceptable will of God. God has given you a place in His own Son; and His Son a place in your hearts, the hope of glory. He who is the Heir of glory is there in your hearts, you Gentiles. They had title to nothing.
Take a Jew, with whom he is comparing them in this passage. He was looking for Messiah to set up the glory in a carnal way; he had the promises, and forfeited them entirely when he rejected Him, and so is thrown entirely on sovereign mercy. Christ was the minister of the circumcision for the truth of God to " confirm the promises made to the fathers," Rom. 15. What then? They rejected them; and we read " that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy." He distinctly states the two points. People talk of promise to Adam. There was none whatever. There was a statement in his hearing on which Adam could rest; but there was not any promise to him. A promise to Adam would have been a promise to man in his sins. It was a judgment on the serpent made to the second Adam, the Seed of the woman-Adam was not that. " It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." Meanwhile Abraham and the Jews got the promises. The latter took them under law conditionally, and lost them. God will accomplish them all yet in spite of their failure. They are for the present cast aside.
As to the Gentiles, what of them? What had they? Nothing. Christ was there; quite true. But mark the way, when one came to look for blessing to Him, in the case of the Syrophenician woman. Our Lord goes out of Israel, and this woman comes and speaks to Him, as Son of David, of her need. Well? " He answered her never a word." She tries again, calling Him " Lord." He replies, Let the children first be fed, that is, the Jews. "It is not meet to take the children's bread, and cast it unto dogs"—Gentiles. She answers, " Truth, Lord, yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master's table." I am a poor Canaanite—a dog—with the curse upon me. I am entitled to nothing; I have no promises. Still, there is goodness in God even for such. Do you suppose Christ could say there was not? Impossible, for it would not be true. " Oh, woman, great is thy faith, be it unto thee even as thou wilt." The effect of it not being promise, was to bring out the way in which God was above it all in grace. There was the blessedness in God to be brought out for the want and wretchedness of sinners. Christ makes propitiation, and grace reigns through righteousness. It is God coming in and rising above all dispensation to reveal Himself, and to bring back the soul with confidence to Himself, to enable it to say, Well, I know God, as a Jew under law and promise never could have known Him, and all because I have no right to it. I have a right to nothing, and I have got God! So here we find He speaks of "Christ in you"—not yet "the crown of glory," as He will be to the residue of Israel (Isa. 28:55In that day shall the Lord of hosts be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty, unto the residue of his people, (Isaiah 28:5))—but "the hope of glory." It was altogether a new thing that Christ should be amongst the Gentiles; not bringing in the glory, but as the hope of the glory that was to come, and that of heavenly glory.
By this way of complete grace to a mere sinner I get what God is Himself in love, and what He is in righteousness. These both go together in my favor, and that to which grace in righteousness has entitled me-the hope of glory, so that I "rejoice in hope of the glory of God." The double character of the work of the Holy Ghost in our hearts is thus brought out. He is the earnest of the glory, the inheritance which is mine; and God's love is shed abroad in my heart by the Holy Ghost, for He is there. The glory is our portion, and therefore we are strangers and pilgrims here, until the redemption of the inheritance.
There is this difference between the Ephesians and the Colossians. In the former we are looked upon as already sitting in heavenly places-not, with—but "in Christ." In the latter we are dead and risen with Christ; but are looked at as down here upon earth all through, but the hope laid up in heaven. Consequently this epistle, which puts us upon earth, shows us what our path is here. He says-" that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing," this is the measure, " worthy of the Lord "; as we read again, " He that saith he abideth in him; ought himself so to walk, even as he walked." Again, " Ye are the epistle ": (not, ought to be, which is true also); but, " ye are the epistle of Christ." You cannot say honestly you are that, if you are going crooked and astray. But that is the place you ought to be, " unto all pleasing "-so that there never would be anything in you that is not pleasing to Christ. God has put you by grace into this place, and now do you walk accordingly. If I have a child who does dishonorable things, of course that is thrown back on the father, and the father will feel it. " Being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God." You know God. Bring this into everything. Do everything in connection with Him. " Strengthened with all might according to his glorious power "-there I get strength. What is its measure? " His glorious power." Beloved brethren, do you really believe these things? Do you believe that it is truth concerning us?
Take another verse of which I said but little. The ninth. " For this cause we also since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding." How often we say these words; and yet what have you been seeking in the wilderness? Is it not just your own comfort-your own will? No wonder then that you do not know what God's will is. Where is there a right path in this world apart from His will? I do not know one: and there cannot be one, I am bold to say. Suppose a child has left his father's house, he never can go right till he has first got back there. He is not a thief in South America perhaps. He may have a very good character there; but he ought to have a bad conscience, and he never can have a right one until he goes back to his father. There is no path for me in this world as such, but the moment I get Christ then there is a path. You go and walk after Him! Poor followers we may be, but " He has left us an example that we should follow in his steps." " Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee, in whose heart are the ways." If only my heart is in the way following Christ, I shall be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. Mark the wisdom of the Lord in this. Suppose I get a director-well, he directs me aright, I get no credit at all; and so there is no wisdom or spiritual understanding in me. But God has taken care to provide for me in His own way. Oh, but, says some one, I do not see the Lord's mind clearly. Then I ask, Is not your body full of light? Then your eye is not single—that is a clear case.
Whenever I find that I do not see clearly what to do, there is something that is not single-eyed in me.
Now, all this has nothing to do with meetness for heaven, but a great deal to do with the state of the soul. Well, now we have seen there is this " wisdom " and " strength." Do you suppose you are now going on with brilliant effects, and manifestations of power? Is it to be all a going on with a flourish? Indeed it is not! You are strengthened unto " all patience and long-suffering with joyfulness." What a come down that is! It is no easy thing to be patient. Never to have your own will one minute. Is that dreadful? Stay! Ought you not to be doing God's will? Did Christ ever do His own will? He came to do His Father's will, and never thought of doing anything else. Why do you think of doing anything else? Because you like your own will best. We look at our own poor foolish hearts thus, and we find the will at work; but we should be doing His will-this is liberty. Suppose I send my child with a message, and he wants to get a run out-why, that is " the law of liberty to him."
Look at the unspeakable patience you see in Christ. Look at Paul-" truly the signs of an apostle were wrought in me with all patience." But mark what was inside it all-" joyfulness." He was the man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: still He could desire that His joy might be fulfilled in themselves. Paul asks-" Who is afflicted and "—not I relieve him but—" I burn not." We find that this world is not a place of rest, but of trial. Does this not make the heart say, Why I am going to see Christ as He is?-and hope brightens in the heart at the thought, and enables me to glory in tribulation by the way; knowing that tribulation works patience, and patience experience, and experience hope; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost given unto us. It is not putting on outward joy, and a canker in the heart; there are sorrows no doubt in all that we pass through, but at bottom there is joyfulness, and at the end of all Christ Himself. We have got Him as the spring of all joy in our hearts now, and we shall have Him when we are in His presence.
There is a word in verse 13, " Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son." It is a total taking us out of the place we were in. It is not simply you are born of God-not the communication of life merely: nor (what is the foundation of it all) the precious blood of Christ cleansing us from all sin. The blood has put away my sins; and I am born of God, truly: but there is more, I have been translated out of the kingdom of Satan, who rules the darkness of this world; and into the kingdom of the Son of God's love. It is the only place where the kingdom is called so, as in contrast with that of Satan. I was a slave of Satan, and I have been taken right out of it all. It is what the soul cries out for in Rom. 7, " Who shall deliver me? " It is not, " Who shall cleanse me? " It is not merely that the blood is there, and the judge cannot touch me; but the salvation of the Lord has delivered me clean out of it all-into the kingdom of God's dear Son.
The apostle goes on to show how Christ created everything, and so is to have everything. " All things were created by him, and for him." He is before all things, and by Him all things consist. The One who created them sustains them all. Again, " He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead." Death is below the lowest creation, and Christ went down below it all; the creation got under its power by sin. He went there in grace; tasted death as others never did. The more He knew what life was- the more He felt the power of death. The more He knew what holiness was, the more He felt to be made sin. The more He knew what love was, the more He knew what it was to bear wrath. But He has come up from death, and thus as risen, He is Head of the body; He takes us into closest association with Himself. He went down to death for us, and now takes us up where He is. God raises us up with Him.
We were alienated and enemies in our mind by wicked works, yet He hath reconciled us. All things are going to be reconciled in earth and heaven-created things; but the saints are reconciled. We are a reconciled people in the midst of an un-reconciled creation. God has not left you part of this unreconciled creation. It groans yet, and we groan too; but we are reconciled to God. So now I understand why I have the patience and long-suffering and joyfulness too. Very unsuited these two in themselves-but very suited to glorify God in. " Reconciled " is a strong full word-everything brought into God's presence, as God would have it; and we are reconciled.
I add one word more. -" If ye continue in the faith, grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel which ye have heard." Here I get what I always do in Scripture.
When you look at a saint in Christ, it is all a settled thing for him. But when you look at a saint as here in Colossians, passing through this world, you will find " ifs " and exhortations (and God forbid that we should weaken one word of scripture), uniformly saying to him, Well now you must get to heaven- you must hold fast-judge things in yourself-lay hold, and the like. But if I am looked at as in heaven, I am " complete in him." Nor is there any question about the faithfulness of God in helping us through the journey. Knowing I am in Christ, my soul can say " Abba "; for I am made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light, by the Father; He has done it. What do I learn then, in going through the wilderness? If the manna fails me a day, I shall be starved. What am I to feed upon then? Or, how am I to get clothes? God took care of the nap of their coats, and the manna never did fail. God must sift us and exercise our hearts, and pull us to pieces here, but none shall pluck us out of His hand: no use telling me this if I was not in danger of being plucked out. I learn, then, the patient faithfulness of God in my circumstances. I would not weaken these words one bit. Christ ever lives to make intercession for me, and I am getting grace from Him every moment; but this is not a question of being made meet. " If any man sin we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." The foundation is not touched, but when we fail we need to be restored, so that we are kept where we ought to be; that is, dependent upon God.
We want to be settled in Christ, that our hearts may be happy and joyful; and we want to be dependent too; and we learn, as we pass through the wilderness, that if He were to leave us for one moment (but He will not), we have no resource at all. We get these things together in this epistle: the saint reconciled to God, but still journeying on with the hope of glory before him, knowing that he is made meet for it; that now he has to walk worthy of the Lord, and trust the blessed faithfulness of Him who will confirm us to the end, that we may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ; meanwhile growing by the knowledge of God. You see how these things come together. 1. " To present you holy, and unblamable, and unreprovable in his sight." 2. " If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled," etc. But looked at as to acceptance, I am made meet to be a partaker of the inheritance, and am giving thanks to the Father who has done it.