Separation From Evil, God's Principle of Unity: Part 2

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We may now inquire a little further into the manner in which this unity is effectuated, on what it is based. There must be an intrinsic power of union holding it together to a center, as well as a power separating from evil to form it; and this center found, it denies all others. The center of unity must be a sole and unrivaled center. The Christian has not long to inquire here. It is Christ—the object of the divine counsel—the manifestation of God Himself—the one only vessel of mediatorial power, entitled to unite creation as He by whom and for whom all things were made; and the church as its redeemer, its head, its glory, and its life. And there is this double headship, He is head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all. This will be accomplished in its day.
For the present we take up the intermediate period, the unity of the church itself, and its unity in the midst of evil. Now there can be no moral power which can unite away from evil but Christ. He alone, as perfect grace and truth, detects all the evil which separates from God, and from which God separates. He alone can, of God, be the attractive center which draws together to Himself all on whom God so acts. God will own no other—there is no other to whom the testimony could be borne, who is morally adequate to concentrate every affection which is of God and towards God. Redemption itself, too, makes this necessary and evident; there can be but one Redeemer, one to whom a ransomed heart can he given, as well as where a divinely quickened heart can give all its affections, the center and revelation of the Father's love. He, too, is the center of power to do it. In Him all the fullness dwells. Love (and God is love) is known in Him. He is the wisdom of God and the power of God. And yet more than this, He is the separating power of attraction, because He is the manifestation of all this, and the fulfiller of it in the midst of evil; and that is what we poor miserable ones want who are in it, and it is what, if we may so speak, God wants for His separating glory in the midst of evil. Christ sacrificed Himself to set up God in separating love in the midst of evil. There was more than this—a wider scope in this work; but I speak in reference to my present subject now.
Thus Christ becomes not only the center of unity to the universe in His glorious title of power, but (as the manifester of God, the one owned and set up of the Father, and attracter of man) He becomes a peculiar and special center of divine affections in man, round which they are gathered as the sole divine center of unity. For indeed, as the center, necessarily the sole center, “he that gathereth not with me scattereth.” And such, as to this point, was the object even, and power of His death— “I, if I be lifted up... will draw all men unto me.” And more specially, He gave Himself “not for that nation only, but that he might gather together in one the children of God which were scattered abroad.” But here again we find this separation of a peculiar people. “He gave himself for us, that he might purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” He was the very pattern of the divine life in man, separate from the evil by which it was universally surrounded. He was the friend of publicans and sinners, piping in grace to men by familiar and tender love, but He was ever the separate man. And so He is as the center of the church and high priest. “Such a high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners” —and, it is added, “made higher than the heavens.” Here in passing we may remark, that the center and subject of this unity then is heavenly. A living Christ [on earth] still became the instrument of maintaining the enmity, being Himself subject to the law of commandments contained in ordinances. Hence, though the divine glory of His person necessarily reached over this wall as a fruitful bough of grace to poor passing Gentiles without (and it could not be otherwise, for where faith was, He could not deny Himself to be God, nor what God was, even love); yet in His regular course, as a man made of a woman, He was made under the law. But by His death He broke down the middle wall of partition, and made both one, and reconciled both in one body unto God—making peace. Hence it is as lifted up, and finally as made higher than the heavens, that He becomes the center and sole object of unity.
Let us remark is passing, that hence worldliness always destroys unity. The flesh cannot rise up to heaven, nor descend in love to every need. It walks in the separative comparison of self-importance. “I am Paul,” etc. “Are ye not carnal and walk as men?” Paul had not been crucified for them, nor had they been baptized in the name of Paul. They had got down to earth in their minds, and unity was gone. But the glorious heavenly Christ in one word embraced all. “Why persecutest thou me?” This separation from all else was more slow among the Jews, as having been outwardly themselves the separated people of God; but having fully shown what they were, the word to the disciples was, “Let us go forth to him without the camp, bearing his reproach.” The Lord, when as the great result He would have one flock and one shepherd, put forth His own sheep and went before them. Indeed we have only to show that unity is God's mind, and separation from evil is the necessary consequence; for it exists as a principle in the calling of God before unity itself. Unity is purpose, and as He is the only rightful center, it must be the result of holy power; but separation from evil is His very nature. Hence, when He publicly calls Abraham, the words: “Get thee out of thy country, and out of thy kindred, and from thy father's house.”
But to continue. From what we have seen, it is evident that the Lord Jesus Christ on high is the object round which the church clusters in unity. He is its head and center. This is the character of their unity, and of their separation from evil, from sinners. Yet they were not to be taken out of the world, but kept from the evil, and sanctified through the truth; Jesus having set Himself thus apart to this end. Hence, as well as for the public display of the power and glory of the Son of man, the Holy Ghost was sent down to identify the called ones with their heavenly Head, and to separate them from the world in which they were to remain; and the Holy Spirit became thus the center and power down here of the unity of the church in Christ's name—Christ having broken down the middle wall of partition, reconciling both in one body by the cross. The saints, thus gathered in one, became the habitation of God through the Spirit. The Holy Ghost Himself became the power and center of unity, but in the name of Jesus, of a people separated alike from Jew and Gentile, and delivered out of this present evil world into union with their glorious Head. By Peter, God visited the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for His name; and of the Jews there was a remnant according to the election of grace. As Paul, one of them, was separated himself from Israel, and from the Gentiles, to whom he was sent.
And so was the constant testimony. He that saith he hath fellowship with Him and walketh in darkness, lieth, and doeth not the truth. Separation from evil is the necessary first principle of communion with Him. Whoever calls it in question, is a liar—he is, so far, of the wicked one. He belies the character of God. If unity depends on God, it must be separation from darkness. So with one another. If we walk in the light, as God is in the light, we have fellowship one with another. And mark, here there is no limit. It is as God is in the light. There the blessed Lord has placed us by His precious redemption, and hence, by that, the whole manner of our walk and union must be formed; we can have no union (as of God) out of it. The Jew could, because his—though separation, and hence the same in principle—was yet only outward in the flesh, and the way into the holiest was not yet made manifest (no, not even for the saints, though in God's counsels doubtless they were to be there through the sacrifice about to be offered).
So, again, one with the other. What fellowship hath light with darkness? Christ with Belial? What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? What agreement hath the temple of God with idols? And then, addressing the saints, the Holy Ghost adds, “For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate.” Otherwise we provoke the Lord to jealousy; as if we were stronger than He. Of this unity and fellowship, I may add, the Lord's Supper is the symbol and expression. “For we, being many, are one bread (loaf), one body, for we are all partakers of the one bread” (1 Corinthians 10:1717For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread. (1 Corinthians 10:17)).
We find there most distinctly, that as the unity of Israel of old was founded on deliverance, and calling from the midst of, and maintained separation amongst the heathens which surrounded them, so the church's unity was based on the power of the Holy Ghost come down from heaven, separating a peculiar people out of the world to Christ, and dwelling amongst them; God Himself thus dwelling and walking amongst them. For there is one body, and one Spirit, as we are called in one hope of our calling. Indeed, the very name of Holy Spirit implies it, for holiness is separation from evil. Whatever failure, moreover, there may be in attainment, the principle and measure of this separation is necessarily the light, as God is in the light; the way into the holiest being made manifest, and the Holy Ghost come down thence to dwell in the church below, and so, in power of heavenly separation, because the indwelling center and power of unity (just as the Shekinah in Israel). He establishes the holiness of the church and its unity in its separation to God, according to His own nature, and the power of that presence. Such is the church, and such is true unity. Nor can the saint recognize, intelligently, any other, though he may own desires and efforts after good in that which is short of it.
(Continued from page 240)
(To be continued)
[J. N. D.]