The Testimony of Our Lord

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THERE is a difference, I judge, between what is called “the present testimony,” and “the testimony of our Lord;” and, further, between this and “the testimony of our Lord,” in its external and kingdom character, of which Paul writes to Timothy, when all in Asia had turned away from him.
Present testimony, for example, may be, and I suppose was, the subject on which the prophets of the Old Testament wrote to Israel, as meeting their then state, whether in the days of Isaiah, Haggai, or Male-chi, as distinguished from the testimony of Jehovah Himself, when He dwelt with the people of Israel in the wilderness, with Moses and Aaron; or in Canaan, with Joshua and Eliezer: or in the days and reign of king Solomon, when Jehovah filled the temple with His glory, and entered into that rest with the redeemed nation.
Whatever the character of “the present testimony” of the prophets was, as varying to suit the declension and final departure marked on the sliding-scale of Israel's apostasy; yet the original testimony to Jehovah Himself, and His purpose to lead and establish His people in unfailing blessing (as well as to judge and destroy all their enemies, from Pharaoh to Antichrist) was introduced, and shone out brightly here and there, to sustain the faith of the remnant, and guide their hopes to a yet future day.
Isaiah was called forth, to declare to Israel in his prophecy their state as a worshipping people, when tested by “the throne, high and lifted up, and the holy, holy, holy One” —for this was their relation to God in privilege, as their Jehovah. Long after this came Ezekiel, whose ministry was characterized by “the glory of the God of Israel,” and when this was also applied as a measuring-line, and cast over the nation and people morally, it ended in judgment and condemnation. The testimony both to “the throne of the Holy One,” and to “the glory” which followed them in the wilderness, and dwelt with them in the city of Jerusalem, was violated and forfeited. Like Isaiah in his day, so Ezekiel saw the glory depart, and became the witness of the sad consequences to the rebellious people—nevertheless, he prophesied of its return with the Messiah, and the nation's ultimate blessing, when the whole world shall be filled with the glory of God. Thus, in the ministry of the prophets, we get present testimony, and yet the original and future testimony of Jehovah to Himself connected therewith, in His unfailing power and goodness.
When we open the New Testament, we find the same distinction maintained in the ministry of Jesus and His disciples, as regards “the testimony of the kingdom of God,” which was then preached to the Jews, and presented in the person of Christ. He took the highest place in it on earth, when on the Mount of transfiguration with His disciples, He shone forth as the sun in majesty and glory—all was ready on His part. This testimony to the “Son of man coming in His kingdom” was changed, however, and became “present testimony,” by the parables of our Lord in Matt. 13, because it had to do also with the state and condition of the nation, in their then alienation of heart from Jehovah-Messiah.
Consequent on the rejection of Christ and the kingdom, and His exaltation at the right hand of God, as “Head over all things to the church, which is His body,” it is obvious that any and all subsequent testimony must suit itself to the glory of His person as sitting there; and if in full manifestation, as embracing both the heavens and the earth. The counsels of the Father's love (which had been hidden in God), and His outward government, henceforth take the double character of what was visible and invisible in their communication to men; or seen and not seen. The Second Man, accordingly, as the rejected King and Lord, crowned with glory and honor by God in heaven, became the subject of external and general testimony to the world, which had crucified Him; whether as making known the riches of God's grace, for life and salvation, through faith now, or as the coming King, whose claims and titles will be established by God in power and judgment; so that “every knee shall bow to him, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Besides this outward and general “testimony of our Lord” and His Lordship, there is (as has been expressed) the internal or hidden testimony to the church which is His body, and confined by the Holy Ghost to those who are, by grace and heavenly calling, the members of Christ in life; and brought into this unity one with another by the baptism of the Spirit. These two kinds of witness are plainly seen in the various epistles of Paul and others; that is, the external and internal testimony of our Lord. For in. stance, “that the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear,” as an outward testimony; and “the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,” as the gathering testimony into the unity of the Spirit.
In applying these remarks to a given epistle (namely, the 2nd to Timothy), may it not be that Paul goes over with his “son in general faith” the constituent parts of this outward and general “testimony of our Lord, and of Paul his prisoner,” of which Timothy was not to be ashamed, &c. ? an external testimony, not only to every creature under heaven, but to professors then or now, and also suited to “the last times,” of which the epistle treats; beginning from “a promise of life in Christ Jesus,” and extending to His future coming as “the Judge of quick and dead, at his appearing and his kingdom.” The whole breadth, in short, of what makes up Christianity in external testimony, reserving the revelation of “the mystery” of the Head and the Body for other epistles, like the Colossians and Ephesians; and not even introducing it here, with “the great house, and its vessels to honor and dishonor.” Does not this epistle contain a public and important side of “the testimony of our Lord,” about which Paul exhorts his son in the faith? If it does, it is easy to see in what this testimony consists, in its various chapters, as an external witness to men of the displacement of the first Adam by the appearing of the Second; and then of His resurrection and ascension to the right hand of God to take the kingdom, till He returns as the Judge.
Reference has already been made to the opening': “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the will of God, according to the promise of life; which is in Christ. Jesus.” Also, “God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love, and of a sound mind,” for its public declaration. And, “be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner; but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel, according to the power of God.” These verses declare another life in Christ Jesus, promised by God, which has by the incarnation long ago passed out of promise into accomplished fact, and of external public manifestation to the world. Life and incorruptibility have been brought to light by the appearing of Jesus Christ. God maintains by power and courage in His servants what qualifies them to be the witnesses to Christ, and to this eternal life in Christ, which necessarily set aside the first man, not only as to the counsels of God, but now, in fact, as to his sin-life and nature. The pre-Adamite Man in divine philosophy is Christ. A second Man in Adam's world, walking through it as the life and the light of men in quickening power, cast down all the pretensions of mankind, and raised the persecutions and afflictions which came upon Paul, and in which he exhorted Timothy to be a partaker. God's “own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus, before the world began,” and by which we “are saved, and called with an holy calling, not according to our works,” reduced the creature down to clay in the hands of the potter, and is the next part of this testimony of our Lord. To this is added what Christ did on the cross, as the ground of God's new action in grace towards us, for eternal salvation and effectual calling.
The appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ has made this “purpose of God” manifest in fact. This testimony of our Lord also affirms that He has “abolished death, and brought life and incorruptibility to light through the gospel;” of which Paul was appointed a teacher, and an apostle, and a teacher among the Gentiles, for the obedience of faith. The confidence and assurance of Paul are then stated. “I know in whom I have believed, and am persuaded be is able to keep that which I have committed to him against that day.” He also exhorts Timothy to hold fast the form of sound words, and to keep that good thing which was committed to him by the Holy Ghost.
We have thus the qualifications which God knew to be needed, and which He provided, that the testimony of our Lord in itself might be preserved uncorrupted through “faith and love which is in Christ Jesus,” and that the witnesses might not be ashamed or afraid in delivering it. Looked at in relation to God and to the Lord, it would, in effect, turn the world upside down, and finally turn Satan out of it; even as it had put aside man as self-sufficient, in all his pretensions of life, wisdom, or righteousness—because Christ, and the purpose of God in Him before the world was, have come in to take effect. God's new order in His new creation is this— “Christ is all, and in all.”
A double testimony, which thus makes nothing of man, except to save him, and which makes everything of the Second Man in the efficacy of His death, as coming into it, to abolish it and sin too; a testimony which affirms His titles and prerogatives as Judge and only Lord (now that “He is raised from the dead,” and gone back to the Father in glory) was too revolutionary and extreme to be entertained. Those even who had embraced this testimony (purposed by God in grace and wisdom before the world was, and now brought into it by sovereign power, through the appearing of Christ) had turned away from Paul. This record ends the first chapter, the refusal of the testimony is complete as regards those in Asia.
“Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus,” and remember Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, raised from the dead according to my gospel—are the subjects of the second chapter— “wherein,” as Paul says, “I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound.” Jesus and the resurrection (as forming another part of this public testimony of our Lord), whether among the Jews at Thessalonica, or among the Athenians at Areopagus, was not only a new doctrine, but led to the accusation that the apostle was “a setter forth of strange gods” by preaching it. Jesus and His appearing, by which he brought life and incorruptibility to light, was the resource of those who were under the law of sin and death: and also was the avowal on the part of God to rescue man out of the fallen and sinful state he was in. “Jesus and the resurrection” proved also the rejection by the world of the One who had come into it. Philosophy at Mars' hill was overthrown by this “strange god,” who had entered by incarnation, and departed out of the world by ascension. Corrupted Judaism was overturned as a religion on the earth, which had not kept these prophetic records of Jesus and the resurrection, as its divine deposits and treasures. That He had abolished death, and brought life and incorruptibility to light, were new doctrines, and strange things, even to the nation of Israel; and to the Gentile prisoners, who were groaning in their chains, fast bound in the snare of the devil, and led captive by him at his will. The whole world was turned against its Deliverer and Lord.
A new and heavenly association with Christ, through His own death, and our death made good in His resurrection, is the next part of the testimony— “therefore I endure all things for the elect's sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. It is a faithful saying, for if we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him: if we suffer, we shall also reign with him,” &c. But now, as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, and the testimony of Jehovah's power, when the typical rod in Egypt wrought their deliverance from Pharaoh; so do Hymenaeus and Philetus, and men of corrupt minds, resist divine truth, and become reprobate concerning this faith and its glorious triumphs, presented to them by the appearing and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ. Paul is himself in chains. The righteous judgment of God must finally accomplish by power this “testimony of our Lord” on behalf of those who wait for the salvation which is in Christ with eternal glory. Therefore Paul charges Timothy, “before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead, at his appearing and his kingdom,” to preach the word, and be instant in season and out of season. The outward and visible witness to the glory of Christ's person, and His rights, titles, and prerogatives made good in resurrection, will thus be established another day, and manifested in “his kingdom” of power and public rule, when all His enemies shall be trodden under foot. There is another King, one Jesus, to come in, “clothed with a vesture dipped in blood.”
Paul, the prisoner of the Lord in this world, will receive and wear “the crown of righteousness” in that which is to come at that day; and not to him only, but to all them also that love His appearing. Is not this the nature of Paul's preaching, in its external and kingdom character?
The roaring lion would have swallowed up this witness of “the testimony of our Lord,” brought in against the “liar and murderer from the beginning.” “Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me,” Paul says, “and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.”
In the confidence of “Jesus and the resurrection,” and the Lord's appearing to “judge the quick and the dead,” in the coming kingdom; Paul accepts the sentence of death below, “keeps the faith, fights the good fight,” knowing that there is laid up for him a crown of life and righteousness with the King of kings, and Lord of lords, in that day of unfailing and eternal glory. Thus the circle of external testimony is complete in its constituent parts respecting the Lord Himself, by His appearing—His rejection—His death—His resurrection—His reappearing as Judge of quick and dead, and as the rewarder (of a crown of righteousness) to those who enter with Him into His kingdom and glory. The kingdom, and its outward public manifestation, is a Subject of testimony in 2 Timothy, as well as of its fulfillment.
The church, the body of Christ, is the unseen bride of His own affections, to be displayed in the Father's kingdom, when the marriage of the Lamb shall come and the bride have made herself ready. She has veiled herself from outward gaze in the meanwhile, and does not at present form part of the public testimony of her Lord, in the times of the great house, and of evil men and seducers! The elect, who are called to obtain the salvation of Christ with eternal glory, are in the secret of the mystery, and in the enjoyment of the Bridegroom's love; in the blessed hope of His voice from the mountain tops, and the shout that shall call them up to meet Him, and be like Him, and, be with Him. Till then “we are the epistle of Christ,” known and read of all men.
This may mark the difference between this external testimony of our Lord in 2 Timothy to the world, and the inward or gathering power of the epistles to Ephesus and Colosse; and between things seen and unseen. Yet their combination is essential, as constituting the entire testimony to our blessed Lord, whose glory fills the heavens above and the earth beneath, and in which He establishes finally both the church and the kingdom. J. E. B.