Testimony for Christ: Part 1

 •  16 min. read  •  grade level: 7
Preaching is a testimony for Christ; but the more practical thing here referred to is different. There is a testimony which God secures, as in Ephesians “Unto angels, and principalities, and powers,” &c. Now the very existence of the church is this testimony in heavenly places. Whenever God acts, He necessarily testifies to Himself; but the church is that which comes in between the earthly dispensations, and set for a peculiar testimony, and the only right testimony we can bear must flow from knowing what Christ is in connection with us. If I acted as a righteous Jew, it would be no testimony to Christ as Head of the church. All other testimony would be idle, useless, and false. To the Jew it is said, This people have I formed for My praise. This only could be as they knew what God had done for them. So the Christian can only glorify Christ by this new kind of witness, which the church is made to be. Now that the Messiah is lifted up, it brings in altogether a new kind of witness. The witness down here is according to the place God has given it in Christ, bringing down into details before men the great principles in which we stand before God. As He said, “I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world.”
Another testimony is, that Christ has glorified the Father, and the testimony is to Christ not merely the scriptures, but a testimony according to scripture. We have it not in an apostolic manner, but He has committed unto us the word of reconciliation. This is the third species of testimony. Here we have the meaning and use of the word spoken, not merely the truth, but the testimony given to Christ. Another is, “The words which thou gavest me, I have given them.” Thus the church is the depositary of all that the Father gave to the Son. The Son, as a Prophet, gave them to the church, thus giving the church delight by association all that communion which was between the Father and the Son. “Now they have known all things.” Thus we see the church is brought into an intimacy with the counsels that existed before the world was, and out of which the whole creation came forth, though not as the greatest work, for the church is to show out His glory in a greater measure than all the creation besides. Jesus says, “I have given them the glory which thou hast given me.” This glory, into which the Son went back, was that glory which He had with the Father before the world was; its source, God Himself, before all creation.
Supposing the saint had apprehended this association with Christ, the practical results would be such as the question implies—announcement of the word. An ambassador cannot be one in his own country. The word is a present deposit given to the church— “I have given them thy word” —a commission before the world; the words given by Christ are another thing.
The salt of the earth—mark “of the earth,” but light of the world. The earth is that which may be in relationship with God, and have light and darkness all around it, and then there was to be the distinctive principle of preservation. There was the exclusive power of grace, not merely security. Light was a character of diffusive grace, and not distinctive grace—light of the world, where all is darkness. Whenever there is the profession of the name of Christ, there ought to be the distinctive manifestation of grace. Every sacrifice shall be salted with fire—all shall be brought under divine judgment. Light of the world, in a certain sense, is a happier thing; “God is light,” and He is so called in the first manifestation to the Gentiles. Law was not light, it descended through men, and did not show what God was. There are three things in it: first, loving God and one's neighbor; secondly, prohibition of what one ought not to do; thirdly, ceremonies. We cannot speak of the second Man as light only, because He was the Life. Then, having communicated this to His disciples, it could be said, “Now ye are light.” The manifestation of what God is to man when in darkness.
The salt seems to be that which the saint essentially is from his heavenly nature. Fruit, in John 15, is something more than individual fruitfulness. The fruit that Christ bore is the living church of God. So much as the living power of Christ is in the church it would remain, and all thus gathered was living fruit to God. Christ was constantly occupied in putting the disciples in the same place as Himself; not only in individual grace, but in all the results of that grace.
As to the writing of the letter (2 Corinthians 3) the force of this seems not so much individual, but the assemblies of believers are specially the epistles. The church is the epistle of Christ, because the church is looked on as entrusted in everything by Christ (I speak not now of the church's failure). Ye are His epistle, a testimony of reconciliation. If there had been any doubt of Paul's testimony, the saints in every place who had been converted through him would be the epistle commendatory—the letter commending his ministry, recommending Christ as written in them, and that wherein the world is to read the character of Christ. The assemblies of the saints should be that which gives Christ's character to the world, and the fact is, Christ is so judged of by the world. Humbling as this is, infidels judge of Christ by what they see, though the Spirit of God, doubtless, works in sovereignty beyond this testimony. The only source of power in the church is the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, the ministration of the Spirit in contrast to the law—the present manifestation of God to the world. It shows what God is in grace, which a righteous law could not do. In the church Christ has commended His life, that it may become a living epistle, and the thing we have to inquire of ourselves is, Can men learn from us what Christ is? I speak of great principles, and if the church be not a living epistle for Christ, it is nothing and good for nothing—Christ revealed by the Holy Ghost, Christ in heaven. “We all beholding as in a glass,” &c. Another person cannot behold for me. I am to be changed into the same image by beholding Him.
Another may tell me of Him, and I may thus be brought to look on Him.
I cannot be changed by looking at ordinances. The practical part, peace and joy, go together; and if I am changed into the image of Christ, I am seen as the epistle, the expression, of the heavenly Man down on earth—the One in the glory who has put away my sin; and I can stand by and look at the glory, the Holy Ghost a witness to me of it. As in Stephen, Jesus was reflected on earth, for there was not a principle in his whole conduct which was not drawn from heaven. He might compassionate the multitude, but the compassion flowed from knowing the infinite care of the Good Shepherd. Morally we should be like what Stephen was actually. The church reflects the glory sent down from heaven, as connected with it. Walking with God implies, to my mind, communion. I can converse with the man I walk with. Walking before God involves more particularly responsibility to set the Lord before us as pleasing Him. We can never have privilege without responsibility.
But I suppose that being “in God the Father” refers to our place. Whatever we know of God we learn by fellowship with Him. He that loves is born of God, and knows God. He must have His nature, which is love, to know Him who is love; as I must have the nature of a man to understand the things of a man. The Jews were not “in God the Father,” for the relationship had not been revealed to them. The church has its relationship to Christ, as well as affiliation to God. Looking to the conduct of the church, there is Lordship as well as perfection of the divine nature.
As to the distinction in the heavenly things, shown us in Hebrews, Colossians, and John, the expression, “heavenly calling,” is common with us, and a great deal has, I suppose, been mixed up with this. In the Hebrews, where the phrase is used, the Holy Ghost never rises to the highest glory of the church; it contrasts the Lord with Moses, showing that we have got a ground of confidence to go into the holiest place; but the set of thoughts is about God, and not about the Father. In Heb. 12, where the Father is mentioned, it is not as to privilege, but in the exercise of chastening.
There are two things for a Christian to look at in Christ: as a priest in the holiest, I can go through His blood, and in my failure can use His advocacy. But there is another thing which I learn—what I am as a child of God. It is a different thing, when I know that the Father loves me, from knowing that He hears, because I have an Advocate. Both are of the last importance for us to know, and a most blessed place there with the saint. The subject of the Epistle is requiring blood before a sinner can come—Christ between me and God. My union with Christ is another aspect. This does not separate me from the One Christ as Mediator, Advocate. In one sense I look on Christ as one with Him above, and in another His relation to me here below, Christ coming down in all the relations in which I need His grace and tenderness. Writing to the Hebrews, the subject of Mediatorship. The heavenly calling comes in as association with Christ as Mediator. The heavenly culling comes in because I learn my failure by what Christ is set up in heaven for me, and it is not the same thing as when Christ says, I go to my Father and yours.
The heavenly calling may be regarded as morally in contrast with earthly things, or I may look at it (though perhaps the phrase is not so used,) but I may think of my heavenly calling) as connected with my union with Christ.
Colossians teaches this union. All other mediation denies the union of the church with Christ. Whenever I put anything between me and Christ—men or angels, or ordinances—I deny the very existence of the church in union with Christ. Whenever we get back into ordinances, we get back into nature; it may be an amiable nature, but it is nature. The principle of the church is, “I am one with Christ.” The difference between Ephesians and Colossians is, that the Ephesians had not then failed in declining from the first love. The failure of holding the Head is supposed in Colossians, the privilege of the church in Ephesians. The Colossians had forgotten their Head, and Paul was obliged to speak of it; so that in Ephesians we get really more of heavenly relationship, not the approach to God as in Hebrews, but union with Christ above, the Head and the body, sitting not with, but in, Christ. This carries us up higher; all the affections of God thus rest upon the church. It is important not to confound the phrase, “heavenly calling,” with the sitting of the saints in Christ. What do I find the practical consequence in Hebrews? It is the earthly path of faith, by virtue of the blood shedding of Christ. The practical part in Ephesians flows from God dwelling in the church—not merely, Ye must walk by faith, but, Be ye imitators of God. In Ephesians the commonest things are spoken of as based upon our union with Christ, even to avoiding deceit, &c. He looks upon the church as one body; “Because ye are members one of another.”
The heavenly calling in John's Epistle is the character of God's family. The whole Epistle draws down various principles from the family being partakers of the divine nature. They love, they keep His commandments, &c. From this the disciples ought to have seen that the Father was in Christ, and Christ was in Him. (John 14:14-2014If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. 15If ye love me, keep my commandments. 16And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; 17Even the Spirit of truth; 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. 18I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. 19Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. 20At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. (John 14:14‑20).) He afterward promises them the Holy Ghost, and then they shall know that Christ was in the Father, because they have the Holy Ghost, and thus are cognizant of their union with Jesus Christ, and know the Son to be one with the Father, and myself to be in Him. This is unfolded to us in the Epistle of John. The saint knows this in this world. All that is of the world is not of the Father. Why, the church is in the world! Yes, but God sees the church as a heavenly thing, and so shall I see it, if I love the church as I ought to love it. It is a fact: there is no such thing but being in Christ, or quite out of Him; either we are living in nature, or taking our standing in Christ. Christ lives in me now. If I am risen with Christ, I can come down, and judge all the circumstances of my life on earth; my place, if risen with Christ, is to seek those things that are above. Resurrection is shown out below, by being dead with Him to the rudiments of the world—not only to sin, but to the religiousness of human nature. The Jew was called to righteousness, and God cultivated it, but it brought not forth fruit, it produced wild grapes. Now men strive to cultivate the religiousness of human nature, and so introduce themselves into heaven by some other way than death.
Christ has taken His place where death and resurrection have placed Him, and there I am where Christ is. Supposing the saint to be united to the Head, it has its own world and sphere of affections. God does not look at the church in the world at all. “All that is in the world is not of the Father.” The new nature can be set on nothing down here. The church has no standing on earth, it is clearly in Christ before God. The things above are not merely a general tendency, but a positive line, brought down between earth and heaven. “Christ liveth in me.” Christ has gone up as a heavenly One, and there is our sphere of affections. Christ has taken our hearts, where death and resurrection have placed them. If Christ communicates this life to me, He gives this principle—that we are dead already. Resurrection life is manifestly walking through this world, without being actuated by the motives of this world. A Christian has new motives. Do you think that Christ in you would be seeking riches, or using power? Perplexity comes in by having some motives which are not drawn from heaven. There is always a tendency to decline from this singleness of eye. When we first receive this knowledge of life in Christ, we are absorbed in Him; but when decline comes in, we get old motives, and return. People say, What harm is there in this? No harm in the thing, but the thought about it shows that you are not absorbed in heavenly things. When the sense of grace is diminished, we decline in practice. Our motives must be in God. Some little thing begins to act, and then motives begin to act, and re-commencing of certain things that engage the attention, and the first love is left. Efforts are made to press conduct and practice, because full grace was preached before, it being felt. The conscience, if active, condemns things, or sometimes it is dead, and then what was approved before is considered legal. We may fall into two faults—preaching fruits, or getting at ease. We shall not get back by dwelling on the details, but it is a terrible thing to tamper with God, and we must rise up into the knowledge of resurrection in Christ to remedy the details.
The effect of walking in Christ is, I am sure, always to walk with reverence. The soul will not only be happy in God, but will bring the tone of that house with him, and the sense of his joy in God, and the ten thousand anxieties which trouble others will disappear. No matter what the trouble is, we bring quietness of spirit into all circumstances while abiding in God. One will carry it about with him, the evidence of being risen with Christ—quietness. I have my portion elsewhere, and I go on. This connects itself with the fellowship of the Father and the Son—not only joy, but the thought of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost in us. The third person of the blessed Trinity is our power of entering with the affections into all these things of God. “The Father loveth the Son.” What a place this puts me into, to be so cognizant of the Father's feelings towards His beloved Son! I see the Son as Head of creation, &c., and we are enabled by the Holy Ghost to enter into the counsels of Him who made it. When thus our souls are taken out of the world, and into our place with Christ, we get our association with His counsels, &c.
The new thing, connected with Christ before the world was, makes this world looked as a bit not to be regarded. In our proper place we get our minds filled and associated with things that leave this world as a small thing, a little mite, in the vastness of that glory which was before the world was. How we are led by the Spirit is a practical question. Providential circumstances are not the guide of the Holy Ghost, though God is present everywhere, but the Holy Ghost is in the church. A spiritual man requires no spiritual actings of the Holy Ghost, because he has the mind of Christ, leading by the plainest motives possible all drawn from His own word. It is the Shepherd leading when the Holy Ghost has given us such a knowledge of God, that we walk in the liberty of communion with His thoughts and purposes. The Holy Ghost may lead, as He did Paul, “Go not to Bithynia,” or now by the plain revelation of the word.