Category Archives: Body of Christ

The Easy Yoke

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Mt 11:28-30)

Some time ago I wrote about this, relating it to the cares and burdens of life. Jesus’ words certainly apply to that. But I’ve been looking at this further because of a question on my heart. Just what is the easy yoke that Jesus says is His? Let’s see if we can find out.

First, let’s find out what the unbearable yoke actually was. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden…” Bible expositor G. Campbell Morgan draws our attention, as always, to the context of Jesus’ words. He was addressing the cities where He had taught and preached. Matthew names three in particular “where most of His mighty works were done”—Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. He is pronouncing woes upon those cities. “Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida!… And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell” (Mt 11:21-23). Why? Because He had taught in the synagogues in these cities—as was His practice wherever He went (Mk 1:21, see also Lk 4:31, Jn 6:59)—and for the most part His teaching and preaching was not received. He had come to proclaim a king and a kingdom, and was rejected. What was left for them but woe upon woe?

Yet it’s quite something, quite the revelation of His heart, that He had no sooner pronounced these woes than He broke out in prayer, overcome with thankfulness that His Father, Lord of heaven and earth, is the kind of God who “hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight. All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him” (Mt 11:25-27). What joy surges into the heart—that God is that kind of God, a God who hides Himself from the wise and the prudent, the high and the lofty, and reveals Himself to the lowly, to “babes.” Babes—not babies but infants (as the Greek makes clear) little ones whose lowliness has opened their eyes. Of such is the kingdom of God.

It’s right then that Jesus gives out His invitation. “Come unto Me, all ye…” Yes, not only those who were little in their own eyes, but those also who were so “wise in their own eyes and prudent in their own sight” that they had rejected Him. Whether they had received Him or rejected Him, they were those to whom He had been sent—“the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mt 15:24). He had taught in their synagogues and done mighty works in their streets. His great heart of love was burdened for them. “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden…” They were a people under the law of Moses. It has been calculated that the law of Moses contains something like 613 commandments. The very thought is wearying; some years later we find Peter himself calling the Sinai law “a yoke… that neither our fathers nor we were able to bear” (Acts 15:10). He wasn’t being critical of the law God had given; he was simply acknowledging what they all knew by experience—the Sinai law was beyond their ability to bear.

Yet the Pharisees of Jesus’ day strictly policed the people to make sure they observed each and every one of these (going easy on themselves in the process) adding to them countless others of their own making, one of them being that people were forbidden to come to the synagogue for healing on the sabbath day (Lk 13:14). Jesus loved nothing better than to loose people from their burdens on the sabbath, and He had blistering words for the Pharisees because “they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers” (Mt 23:4). The apostle Paul, himself once a strict Pharisee, later called the Sinai law “a yoke of bondage,” urging the Galatian churches not to be entangled in it again, but rather to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ had set them free (Gal 5:1).

What then is the easy yoke?

If Paul called the old covenant a yoke of bondage, and if Peter called it a yoke that Israel was not able to bear, then the easy yoke Jesus is speaking of must be the new covenant. But I wonder how many of us, though we are Christians supposedly under the new covenant, find there’s not much difference; we are still labouring and heavy laden, trying as best we can to keep the laws of the new covenant, yet always falling short, or feeling that maintaining our relationship with the mediator Himself is a labourious chore. If that is the case it means we haven’t yet come to know the liberating law of the new covenant.

So we must make a discovery. Here’s a passage of Scripture that I think will help us do that. It’s in Romans Chapter 7. I want to quote from Young’s Literal translation, which gives the tenses more clearly:

Are ye ignorant, brethren–for to those knowing law I speak–that the law hath lordship over the man as long as he liveth?
for the married woman to the living husband hath been bound by law, and if the husband may die, she hath been free from the law of the husband;
so, then, the husband being alive, an adulteress she shall be called if she may become another man’s; and if the husband may die, she is free from the law, so as not to be an adulteress, having become another man’s.

So here is someone in a relationship from which there is absolutely no release—apart from the death of the husband.

Now I must reluctantly state something here—please don’t use this passage to enforce your doctrine that a woman can be released from her marriage only by the death of her husband (or vice versa) and that therefore there are no grounds for divorce under any circumstances. You make yourself a modern-day Pharisee with this teaching, and it is entirely unscriptural in the first place, and has done damage in I don’t know how many lives. I won’t pursue this further here, and in any case, if that is all you get out of this passage, you have entirely missed the point. That is not Paul’s focus here; he is leading up to a wondrous revelation:

So that, my brethren, ye also were made dead to the law through the body of the Christ, for your becoming another’s, who out of the dead was raised up, that we might bear fruit to God;
for when we were in the flesh, the passions of the sins, that are through the law, were working in our members, to bear fruit to the death;
and now we have ceased from the law, that being dead in which we were held, so that we may serve in newness of spirit, and not in oldness of letter. (Rom 7:1- 6)

What a wonder—dead not only to sin, which Paul has shown in the previous chapter,  but dead to law as well.

Which law?

Is this still a bit complex? It could be because there are three laws in operation here. Let’s see if we can distinguish them, bearing in mind that here in Romans 7 Paul is still enlarging on what he introduced in Romans 5:11—the contrast between the two men, Adam the old man, and Christ the new man.

2. The law of sin. (Yes, I know, I’ve put the second one first, don’t give up on me.) In verses 1 and 2, “the law of the husband” is the grievous law by which all those in Adam are as it were “married” to the “husband”—the old man. Paul refers to this law as he comes to the conclusion of Romans 7; it is “the law of sin which is in my members” (7:23). He cries out in the deepest anguish of heart for release from it. But (sorry for the grim news) it is a law from which there is no release but by death (Rom 7:1,2). Remember, of course—this is very important—that Paul is speaking in Romans 7:23 not of his present experience, but of the state he was in before being in Christ. He is using a well-known literary device called the “historical present tense,” in which one speaks of the past as though present.

1. Now the first one. The principle of law. Romans 7 opens with, “Know ye not, brethren, for I speak to them that know (the) law…” I’ve placed the article in parentheses because it’s not there in the Greek. Paul is speaking to “brethren,” born again believers like himself who have the same Father, some of whom were Jews but the majority of whom were Roman Gentiles. They too “know law,” are familiar with law, just as he a Jew knew law, for the Jews had the law of Moses; the Romans to this day are renowned for their system of law. So Paul knows that the believers in Rome will all understand that the law “has dominion over a man as long as he lives.” He proceeds with his illustration of a married woman being bound to her husband as long as he lives—but only as long as he lives. There is no escape from it as long as the husband lives. In fact, instead of delivering “the woman” from the law binding her to the man, the law actually strengthens that captivity and makes it even more severe. What law is this? It is the law of God, but only the letter of law. In his own personal conflict with the law of sin Paul said he had delighted in “the law of God after the inward man” (7:22) but found that all it did was bring him into captivity to the law of sin in his members. That’s what the letter of law does, whether the law of Moses or Roman law or that to which the consciences of all men and women in varying degree bear witness (Rom. 2:15). It has the effect, not of making them righteous, but of awakening the law of sin in them and thus making sin “exceeding sinful” (Rom. 7:13). That’s what the principle of law does; it gives sin “muscle,” as Paul wrote to the church of Corinth. “The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law” (1 Cor. 15.56). This is the yoke under which the Jews laboured and were heavy laden, the law that Peter referred to as a yoke Israel could not bear and Paul called a yoke of bondage. This yoke is broken only by death; all human beings are “under law” as long as they live.

3. That is, all except those who are in the easy yoke of Christ—that is, are “under grace.” “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under (the) law, but under grace” (Rom. 6:14). This is the law of the Spirit which in the new husband enables those married to Him to “bring forth fruit unto God” (Rom. 7:4). This is the great delivering and liberating law of Romans Chapter 8, “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.” The critically important thing is that the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus does not and cannot rule in those who are still in Adam, the old man. A death must take place first.

Release by death, but whose death?  

This is vitally critically immensely indispensably indisputably important. I’ve piled on the adverbs so you won’t miss how absolutely utterly important this is. The only way of release from the law of sin, as well as from the outward principle of law—which actually aggravates sin without imparting righteousness—is by a death. But whose death? Your death, my death, cannot effect this. Whose death then? The death of Christ, Paul says. “…Ye also were made dead to the law through the body of Christ…” Paul has in mind the death of Christ that becomes the death of those who are in the body of Christ.

It was after I’d read the Romans 7 passage many times over the course of many days that one word suddenly stood up off the page of my Bible. Christ. Do you know, dear brothers and sisters, that this is the key word in this whole passage? Christ. It would do us all well to have this word re-quickened to us, for it is almost considered nothing much more than Jesus’ last name. No, Jesus is the Christ—the Anointed One, the Spirit-empowered and Spirit-empowering One! Only He, the Anointed One, could accomplish the death that releases from the former “husband”—the old man. And only He the Anointed One could consequently liberate those bound by law to the old man so that they could become joined, as it were, married, “to Him who was raised from the dead.” Only with the former “husband” deceased are they delivered from bondage to him; only thus may they be joined to Another who is raised from the dead, and find themselves under another rule, another law, another yoke—another covenant.

And so Paul shows that it is only in the body of Christ the Anointed One that this release from the old man and joining to the new man takes place. Only in the body of Christ is the old man put to death and the first yoke broken; only in Him is the new yoke bound in place; only in the body of Christ are we joined to “Him that was raised from the dead, that we might bear fruit unto God.”

So how does one get into the body of Christ?

How then does one get into the body of Christ where this wondrous transition takes place? Simply by baptism. Paul shows in another epistle that it was “in the cloud and in the sea” that the old covenant people were baptized unto (or, into) Moses (1 Cor. 10:2). In accordance with this pattern the new covenant people of God are “baptized into Christ.” There are several references to this in the New Testament (Gal. 3:27, Rom. 6:3, Col. 2:12, 1 Cor. 12:13). None of these, in my view, speaks of water baptism; water has no power to effect this union. (This is why John the Baptist said that One coming after Him was mightier than he, for He would baptize in Holy Spirit.) Let me show how I come to my view:

For by [or, in] one Spirit we were all baptized into one body… (1 Cor. 12:13).

This verse is usually considered only with a view to the functioning of the members of the body of Christ with diverse spiritual gifts manifested by the Spirit. But we must never lose sight of the truth that these Spirit-given functionings in the body of Christ are taking place in a body that has been raised from the dead. And before a body can be raised from the dead a death must take place. Baptism always involves a death. “Know ye not,” says Paul, “that so many of us as were baptized into Christ were baptized into His death?” (Rom. 6:3). It’s my conviction based on 1 Corinthians 12:13 that Paul has the Spirit baptism in mind here in Romans 6:3 and the other places where he speaks of baptism into Christ. Baptism into Christ and baptism into the body of Christ are not two separate things.

This is why Paul says in the Romans 7 passage that “ye also were made dead to the law through the body of the Christ…” It is the death of Christ he has in mind; therefore those in the body of Christ (by Spirit baptism into that body) benefit from that death and are themselves made dead to the law, and in that same body also become “another’s, who out of the dead was raised up, that we might bear fruit to God.” It is both Christ’s death and His resurrection that is the lot of those baptized into His body. They are “dead to the law by the body of Christ,” and in that same body of Christ become one with “Him who was raised from the dead,” and therefore are now able to bring forth fruit, no longer unto death (Rom. 6:21, 7:5) but unto God. For they are now serving—the word means to serve as a slave—not in oldness of letter, but in newness of Spirit. What a wonder of the grace of God.

The new covenant yoke

Those words—newness of Spirit. Is not this a marvel? I’m transfixed with those words. We can understand readily enough Paul calling it slavish to try to serve in oldness of letter—that is what labouring and being heavy laden under the old yoke is all about, and it brings forth “fruit unto death.” But to serve as a slave in newness of Spirit? What is this, what yoke is this? This, beloved, is the new covenant! The easy yoke. The yoke of liberty! What joy! What rest unto the soul! This is what Paul means in Romans 6 by being no longer under law but “under grace.” This is a yoke in which there is an empowering—empowering grace, the empowering of the Spirit of Christ the Anointed One. “I can do all things,” says Paul, “through the Anointed One who empowers me” (Phil. 4:13). And apart from Him, apart from the Anointed One, nothing can be accomplished. Nothing.

Christ. It’s all about Him—and those yoked with Him, those who by baptism in Holy Spirit are one with Him who is raised from the dead, those who are serving God together with Him in newness of Spirit—that is to say, in new covenant relationship with Him—thus finding rest unto their souls while bringing forth fruit unto God. For, the new covenant is not just a higher order of moral precepts. The new covenant is a relationship with a Person, the Anointed One Himself, whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light.

Waiting With Christ

This is quite lengthy; as I was writing it I had wondered if it should be two separate entries. Eventually I decided to keep it all together. But there is much to meditate on and pray about, so some of my readers may wish to divide their reading into two parts about halfway through, perhaps at the heading “So now we come to this.”

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Before we start please pray with me. Dear Father, may our minds be renewed with truth as we open our hearts to hear and receive what You are revealing to us in what follows here. Amen.

…Let us open now with this verse:

The LORD said unto my Lord, sit Thou at My right hand until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool [literally, the footstool of Thy feet]. (Ps. 110:1)

This prophetic psalm of David is quoted or referred to in the New Testament more than any other Old Testament passage. It is full to overflowing with truth, of which we will consider only a little here. Jesus confirmed a thousand years after this was written that “my Lord” is prophetic of the Messiah, the Christ (Mt. 22:42). A reminder—upper case LORD in the Old Testament always refers to Jehovah (Yahweh), lower case Lord to Adonai (meaning lord, master).

Now this from the writer of Hebrews, who has Psalm 110:1 in mind:

But this man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool. (Heb.10:12,13).

Expecting is “waiting expectantly.” The New King James Version, the American Standard Version, the Revised Version, and Young’s Literal Translation have expecting. The highly respected Newberry’s Interlinear has awaiting. J.N. Darby’s New Translation, the English Standard Version, the International Standard Version, the English Majority Text Version, the Modern Literal Version and others have waiting. “From henceforth waiting till…” Put together, then, we have “waiting expectantly.” The same word is used in Hebrews 11:10. “For he looked for a city…” That is, Abraham the sojourner anticipated the city; he waited expectantly for it; he had no doubt he would one day walk within its gates and at last be home. Also in James 5:7. “Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth…” That is, waiteth expectantly. He is certain he will have his harvest.

What, then, is the Christ doing at the right hand of God? He is waiting. He is waiting expectantly for something. He is seated at the right hand of God waiting expectantly till all His enemies be made the footstool of His feet. He has no doubt whatever that He will see this. He is the King of kings seated on the throne of David in the heavenlies—there is no higher throne in the universe—being at the same time our great High Priest after the order of Melchizedek (Ps. 110:4). He is seated because, unlike the Levitical priest who “standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices which can never take away sins,” He has accomplished the taking away. He has offered “one sacrifice for sins forever.” Having done so, He “sat down on the right hand of God,” the place of all authority in Heaven and earth. He is seated there to this day and shall be forever. He will not abdicate and cannot be deposed. He is seated, waiting, expecting the day when all His enemies, each and every one of them, are under His feet. He is not waiting to reign after they are under His feet. He reigns now.

Wonderful truth. Even while all His enemies are not yet under His feet, He reigns, He rules in the midst of His enemies.” Let this lay hold of us.

The LORD shall send the rod of Thy strength out of Zion: rule Thou in the midst of Thine enemies. (Ps. 110:2)

Who are His enemies?

We can’t go into this at length just now, but they are all who have ever set themselves against the throne and kingdom of God, primarily Satan and his principalities and powers in the rebellion in the heavenlies, for whom God has provided no redemption, and whose fate is sealed—and also all those of the race of Adam, whom Satan succeeded in drawing into his rebellion. Yet these, even while we were enemies, the God of immeasurable love and grace determined to reconcile to Himself. “For if, when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Rom. 5:10). It is thus that throughout history many of those among men who were His enemies, and received His reconciliation, became His friends.

It is by the sending of the rod (the sceptre) of His strength out of Zion—I believe this is speaking of the word of the Gospel of the kingdom in the power of the Spirit—that His rule in the midst of His enemies is manifested. We have seen this often throughout history. Time and again in the midst of raging enemies the Gospel has gone forth in power. Christ’s enemies have never been able, nor yet are they now able, to put Him under their feet. For He reigns in the midst of His enemies, sending forth the Sceptre of His strength from His throne in Zion, all the while anticipating the day when His enemies are completely subdued under His feet. “Then cometh the end when He shall have put down all rule [principality] and all authority and power.” There it is, the cause of all the trouble in the universe, the one thing that constitutes either angels or men His enemies—their determined conspiracy to have to themselves some other rule, some other throne, than the throne of God. He has determined otherwise for them—their subjugation under His feet. “For He [Christ] must reign,” Paul continues, “till…” (not after, but till) “all enemies are subdued under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:25,26). Wonderful and certain hope—all things, all enemies, and finally death too is under His feet. “For He hath put all things under His feet,” cites Paul, quoting a prophecy from Psalm 8:6 now.

And who are His feet?

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus… (Eph. 2:4-6)

Quickened us together, raised us up together, seated us together… these are one word in the Greek. Thomas Newberry (The Newberry Bible) strings them together like this: He “quickened-us-together-with Christ… and raised-us-up-together, and made-us-sit-together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus…”

Astonishing truth in all of these; it’s the last one we are dwelling on here. “He seated-us-together-with Him” in His throne. That is just too much to take in, isn’t it. Too much. Except for faith. It is not too much for faith.

Paul is writing to “the saints who are at Ephesus, and the faithful in Christ Jesus…” He is not writing to two groups, but one: “the saints, even the faithful in Christ Jesus.” He says they are seated together with Christ in His throne in the heavenlies. Amazing. How did they get there? By being in Christ Jesus. For that is where He is—on the throne of God. And how did they get into Christ Jesus? There is only one way, the same way you and I came to be in Christ Jesus. We were baptized into Christ Jesus. No, not by water baptism, it is baptism in Holy Spirit by which we are baptized into Christ. Do you recall Paul’s words to the Romans, that those baptized into Christ were baptized into His death, and into His life? “Therefore we were buried together with Him by the baptism into death, that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Rom. 6:4). It is the Spirit baptism Paul has in mind here—water baptism, important as it is, cannot do this. It is baptism in Holy Spirit that baptizes into Christ, and constitutes one a saint.

And so Paul, writing to the saints, includes himself, and says, “But God, who is rich in mercy for His great love wherewith He loved us, quickened-us-together-with Christ (by grace ye are saved), and raised-us-up-together, and seated-us-together in the heavenlies in Christ…” Paul had earlier written to the Romans reminding them that baptism into Christ had made them one with His death and resurrection. Here to the saints in Ephesus he unfolds this further revelation—that when they were baptized into Christ, not only were they quickened together with Him, and raised up together with Him, but, since they were in Christ Jesus, they were also seated together with Him in His throne in the heavenlies.

What a wonder. What a wonder. What then are we doing there, saints of God? We are doing just what He is doing. And what is He doing? Again, He is seated on the throne of God, reigning, waiting patiently, expectantly, till His enemies are made the footstool of His feet. Since He is reigning, we too are reigning. Since He is waiting, we to are waiting, waiting with Him. This is our expectation. We wait accordingly. And since He is ruling in the midst of His enemies while He waits, we rule with Him in the midst of His enemies and ours as we wait with Him.

So now we come to this:

And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient-waiting for Christ. (2 Thes. 3:5)

That’s the King James Version. Most of our English versions have “the patience of Christ.” Young’s Literal Translation has “the endurance of Christ.” So, what did Paul have in mind? Patient waiting for Christ, or the patience of Christ? Love for God, or God’s love? Apparently in the Greek these are grammatically correct both ways. (Please see end note.) It is also true both ways. Why not embrace both, then, instead of either/or? “And the Lord direct your hearts into the love for God (and the love of God) and into the patient-waiting for Christ (and the patience of Christ).”

I wish we had a better English word to give us the fuller meaning of the Greek word translated patience. We would have one if we blended patience and endurance together into one. In the passage we are considering, Strong’s Concordance says that patience is the Greek hupomone (pronounced hoop-om-on-ay’), adding that it means “cheerful (or hopeful) endurance, constancy—enduring, patience, patient continuance (waiting).” Greek scholar W.E. Vine says it means “literally, an abiding under (hupo, under, meno, to abide), it is almost invariably rendered patience” [in the KJV].

Certainly the Lord must direct our hearts, and our steps, into His love, the love of God, and for God. For, as Charles Wesley gave us to sing, “God only knows the love of God…” So we are utterly dependent upon Him to direct us into this love, the “more excellent way” of love. But since to walk in this more excellent way of love brings us, as we know, into trial and difficulty in which we are often completely out of our depth, it requires of us patient endurance far beyond our own capacity. So our Lord must also direct our hearts into the accompanying patience of Christ, and into patient waiting for Christ. In 1 Thessalonians Paul had earlier related how they “had turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven…” (1 Thes. 1:9,10). So there is that vitally important truth about waiting for Christ. But beloved, as I have said, if we are called to wait for Him, we can be sure it’s because Christ Himself has been waiting, and is still waiting, and we must wait patiently with Him.

Reigning patience  

And when all is said and done, it is only Christ’s own patience that will enable us, provision us, as the trials grow greater, to wait with Him and be faithful to the end. Do we not know this by now? How often have you and I been in a situation in which we were seeking to draw on a fund of patience within us, only to discover we were very short of funds? In fact all too often we consider patience the unpleasant task of a hard taskmaster, and the sooner we are done with it the better. Oh, the patience of Christ is far, far above and beyond that. There is an element of immoveable sovereignty in His patience; He reigns in patience, reigns over all, reigns in the midst of all circumstances, reigns in the midst of His enemies, waiting expectantly till they are all the footstool of His feet. Accordingly, those in Him are partakers of His own reigning patience in whatever they are “in the midst of.” And—open our eyes, dear Lord—do we recognize You Yourself with us in that kind of patience? Patience is the expression of the reigning Christ in our own lives and difficult circumstances, is the expression of the waiting Christ, and our participation in His waiting. Patience is not something we reluctantly have to have under the circumstances; in His patience we are not under but above  the circumstances, reigning in our waiting even as He reigns.

How then may we avail ourselves of His patience in the trial of this life? Only by being in Him where He is, He being also in us. Do we recognize we are in Him, having been baptized into Him, and He in us? What a revelation this is to the heart! “Hereby know we that we dwell [abide] in Him, and He in us, because He hath given us of His Spirit” (1 Jn. 4:13). Let us ever reckon it so; faith reckons it so. By being in Him, being seated together with Him in His throne, abiding in Him, and He in us, His reigning patience is our patience. As Andrew Murray has said, the fruit that grows in the branches of the Vine is the fruit of the Vine and the branches in the Vine. And so Paul writes, “the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ.

Patient in tribulation…

In closing let us consider two passages from The Revelation. First this one:

I John, who also am your brother, and companion in the tribulation and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ (Rev. 1:9).

Notice how John phrases that. Notice how he links those two together. “The kingdom and patience…” Do you and I have that kind of patience—kingdom patience, reigning patience? And where is it to be found? “In the tribulation…” What a wonderful place to find this! “In the tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ.” Are we in any trouble? Are we in His trouble? Then we have in the midst of it our Lord’s own kingdom patience. And we discover some precious companions right there too.

And finally this one—Jesus’ words to the church of Philadelphia (among the seven churches, one of the two for which He had no reproof):

Because thou hast kept the word of My patience, I also will keep thee from [out from] the hour of temptation which shall come upon all the world to try them that dwell upon the earth (Rev. 3:10).

By “the word of My patience” Jesus means, in my view, the word of the truth of the Gospel, which, in order to be kept, He enjoins patience upon them, patience apart from which the word He had committed to them would be lost to them. He is referring back to what He has just commended them for—that even though they had but little strength, “thou hast… kept My word, and hast not denied My name” (vs 8). The word He had given them they had patiently, steadfastly kept—guarded faithfully with diligent watchcare; now they would discover Him keeping them “from the hour of the temptation” (as the Greek has it) a trial singularly beyond others in its severity. Vincent’s Word Studies says, “The preposition [ek, from] implies, not a keeping from temptation, but a keeping in temptation, as the result of which they shall be delivered out of its power.” So He is not saying that, because He is now going to keep them, they will no longer need enduring patience. He is saying that as always, but especially now, they are going to know His faithful commitment to them—that in their patience He Himself would be involved, keeping them in the power of His own enduring patience.

Later in The Revelation we are given what I suspect is the account of this temptation (trial), when “all that dwell upon the earth shall worship”—they know not what (Rev. 13:8). Over the centuries there has been no scarcity of interpretations as to what this is all about by those who were sure they knew. There are many today who are sure they know. I am not so sure. This I do know, that all those “whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” fail the trial. This also I know, that for those who do have their names written therein, this is no cakewalk; they need to the uttermost a certain keeping power enabling them to continue faithful. John in reference to this great trial writes, “Here is the patience and the faith of the saints” (Rev. 13:10). Not faith alone, but faith girded, armoured, with patience. He brings up this same trial further on, again urging, “Here is the patience of the saints,” immediately adding, “Here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus” (Rev. 14:12). The context of both verses (13:10 and 14:12), is that “the hour of His judgment is come” (14:7). It’s the anticipation of this that the Spirit intends to inspire the saints to enduring patience. Only a little longer, saints! For those whose very worship is sacrilege, for those who are persecuting the saints, taking them into captivity or killing them (13:10), their hour is come—they have the same to look forward to themselves; if they refuse to worship “Him that made heaven and earth and the sea and the fountains of waters,” instead worshipping “the beast and his image” (whatever this cryptic imagery means) what is left for them but “the wine of the wrath of God,” and “torment with fire and brimstone,” and “no rest day nor night” (14:10,11).

And so these two strong exhortations are an assurance to the saints that the hour of judgment is nigh, their patience and faithful waiting will surely be rewarded, as will the folly of all the earth. Be not partakers with them, dear saints, John is urging by the Spirit, continue faithful, though it take the utmost commitment and patient endurance to continue to obey God and keep faith in Jesus Christ without caving to what all the world has sold out to…

…Just as the three Hebrew children prevailed in their day, remaining faithful to their God, though it meant the fire for them, when all the world was worshipping Nebuchadnezzar’s idol. The three endured in the trial, in the fire, because—wonderful visitation—One was with them, reigning with them “in the midst” of it. Even so, prophesies John, it’s this enduring patience, the keeping power of His patience, that you’ll need now, saints, as never before, and in this you’ll prevail in the trial that is about to come upon all the world. This is the provision that will keep you through the trial—not by the skin of your teeth but triumphantly—the patience of Christ. Or rather, the Christ of enduring patience. Seated with Him in the heavenlies even while here upon the earth in the midst of great conflict, reigning with Him in His enduring patience, waiting expectantly for Him and with Him—this has has been your continual practice day upon day, day in and day out, and so you are ready for this great trial, confident now as always that in due time all His enemies will be subdued under His feet.

Yes, under His feet. That day surely comes, just as it came for Israel of old whom Joshua called to “come near, and put your feet upon the necks of these kings. And they came near, and put their feet upon the necks of them. And Joshua said unto them, Fear not, nor be dismayed, be strong and of a good courage; for thus shall the LORD do to all your enemies against whom ye fight” (Josh. 10:24,25).

******************************

Endnote from Robertson’s Word Pictures in the Greek New Testament

Into the love of God (eis tēn agapēn tou theou). Either subjective or objective genitive makes sense and Lightfoot pleads for both, “not only as an objective attribute of deity, but as a ruling principle in our hearts,” holding that it is “seldom possible to separate the one from the other.” Most scholars take it here as subjective, the characteristic of God.

Into the patience of Christ (eis tēn hupomonēn tou Christou). There is the same ambiguity here, though the subjective idea, the patience shown by Christ, is the one usually accepted rather than “the patient waiting for Christ” (objective genitive).

 

 

The Footstool Of Thy Feet

The LORD said unto my Lord, sit Thou at My right hand till I make Thine enemies Thy footstool [Heb. the footstool of Thy feet].
The LORD shall send the rod of Thy strength out of Zion: rule Thou in the midst of Thine enemies.

These are the first two verses of Psalm 110, which is quoted or referred to in the New Testament more than any other Old Testament passage. It is a prophecy of the ascension of Christ, who is now seated at the right hand of God where He reigns over all the universe, according as He told His disciples before His ascension: “All power (authority) is given unto Me in Heaven and in earth” (Mt. 28:18).

Why, then, is it taught that Christ is “our soon and coming king”? Why is it taught that He is coming back to reign over all the earth from the throne of David in old Jerusalem? Yes, He is coming back, but it is not to reign. He reigns right now, is king right now at the right hand of God. He is seated on the throne of David in the heavenly Zion right now (Acts 2: 29,30), and has all authority in Heaven and earth. Right now. There is no higher throne in Heaven or earth than the one He has right now.

You ask, then why doesn’t He do something about the evil in the world?

But let’s read Psalm 110 very carefully. Our Lord Jesus Christ has been given a promise. He is to sit enthroned at the right hand of God till all His enemies, every single one of them, are in due time (the Father’s time) made the footstool of His feet. He will one day have complete victory over them all, they will all be put under His feet. I take great comfort in this faithful promise. And, for those with eyes to see…

…There is a powerful revelation in this verse.

Sit Thou at My right hand till I make Thine enemies the footstool of Thy feet.

His feet? This is where you and I enter the picture if we have been baptized in Holy Spirit.

For in one Spirit are we all baptized into one body… (1 Cor. 12:13).

By the Spirit baptism we are baptized into Christ, and as members of the body of Christ we too reign with Him (Eph. 2:6).

But notice this.

The LORD shall send the rod of Thy strength out of Zion: rule Thou in the midst of Thine enemies.

This is profound truth. The LORD sends out of Zion the rod of Christ’s strength—the Gospel of the kingdom in the power of the Holy Spirit—and thereby, even while He anticipates the day when all His enemies are made the footstool of His feet, He rules in the midst of His enemies, whether human or angelic. It is He who is on the throne reigning, not after they have all been vanquished, but right in the midst of enemy activity.

This means that we who are baptized into Him also reign in the midst of His enemies and ours, and in the midst of our evil circumstances, our darkness, our difficulties, our problems, our afflictions, our trials, our distresses, our persecutions—our Cross. We rule in the midst of all our enemies just as Christ rules in the midst of all His enemies. Because of the Spirit baptism, we are seated with Christ in His throne in the heavenlies… not after we die and go to Heaven, but now.

What does this look like?

It looks like victory in the midst of apparent defeat. It looks like composure when one is being reviled. It looks like maintaining one’s cool in the midst of brutal heat—in the face of aggression, whether verbal or physical—because it is Christ’s own cool.

It looks like the kingdom of God in the midst of endurance and trouble. That’s what the apostle John said—that he was our brother and companion “in the tribulation and kingdom and patience (endurance) of Jesus Christ.” Where is the kingdom? Right in the middle of tribulation and endurance. In the very place where we must endure tribulation along with Jesus Christ, His kingdom reigns.

It means that sin has no dominion over us—not our own nor anyone else’s. It means evil does not rule over us, not evil men or angels, nor evil afflictions and circumstances, though we may be in the midst of them. For Jesus Christ is Lord and king at God’s right hand, and as members of His body we are in His reign, which is over all.

God has a great surprise for the inhabitants of the earth. The day is at hand when He is going to reveal openly those who in great and overwhelming trial were reigning in the midst of it all. The day is at hand when their reign shall be openly revealed, unveiled. This is what the second coming is all about. When the inhabitants of the earth thought better of God, and resorted to their own tactics to gain and maintain the upper hand—tactics of fear, force, malice, intimidation, aggression, violence… now He reveals that those who resorted to such things actually had no power at all. For, these things of darkness are not real power, and when people or evil angels were using such tactics and weapons against the Christian, and apparently defeating him, it is the Christian who was all the while reigning. It is he or she who was victorious in the midst of it all because of the victory of their King on the Cross, their King now on Zion’s holy Hill. It is His rule that was over His own, and nothing else.

God has installed His Son in Zion, and those also who are in Him reign in Zion with Him. Those in Christ are not under anything. It may often appear that he or she is. But that’s how it looked the day they crucified Christ, too. It appeared that His enemies had triumphed over Him. It was He who triumphed over them that day—triumphed over them in His Cross. He was reigning in the midst of them all even while they were crucifying Him.

He now reigns on the throne of David at the right hand of God so that those baptized into Him may reign with Him, first in the midst of all enemies and afflictions and circumstances, and ultimately over them all.

This is why God permits evil in His world at this time. It will not always be so: one day there will be not so much as a trace of evil in His universe. But even while with great longsuffering He permits it at this time, even while the enemies of God and His Christ seem to have free rein to work their wicked works (they do not have free rein, they are on a leash) there is a great eternal purpose unfolding. Christ rules in the midst of them. He rules in the midst of His enemies. He is on the throne ruling in the midst of His enemies, anticipating the inevitable hour when they shall yet be made the footstool of His feet.

The Exegesis Of God–Part Two

Let’s recall from last time Solomon’s proclamation at the inauguration of the temple that God had instructed him to build for Him.

 The LORD hath said that He would dwell in the thick darkness.  But I have built an house of habitation for Thee, and a place for Thy dwelling forever (2 Chr. 6:1,2).

This is what Solomon’s temple was all about.  It was to be the place among men where the God who had formerly dwelt in thick darkness now shone forth.  Solomon’s temple was, however, only a shadow of the true temple not made with hands—the Son of God Himself.  And so last time we also quoted a verse from John.

 No man hath seen God at any time.  The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him (Jn. 1:18).

The word declared is the Greek exegesato, and is related to our word exegesis, which is the biblical science of discovering and explaining what the Scriptures really say and mean.  Patient exegesis of the Bible will yield to the yielded much fruit.  But in John 1:18 we discover that the Son of God when He walked the earth was the exegesis of God Himself.  He was the One who explained, made known, revealed, shone forth, the hard-to-understand, unseen, obscure, unknown God.

That’s very wonderful, but I wonder if I don’t hear someone thinking, “Well and good that Jesus the Son of God was the exegesis of God the Father back then, but He is not here now.”

I know the regret you’re expressing: if only we could have lived back in Jesus’ day… or if only He were still here today.  Too bad the Devil succeeded in tearing down that living Temple in whom God dwelt and was revealed.

Just a minute.  Remember what Jesus said about that.

 Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up…
But He spake of the Temple of His body (Jn. 2:19,21).

And so the Devil has his own regrets that he and his cohorts conspired to have the Lord of glory crucified, thinking to be done with Him.  For He rose from the dead.  And He ascended into Heaven, where, seated at the right hand of God, He began His more excellent ministry of the New Covenant, and an enlargement of that Temple which would continue to be the same exegesis of God.

How so?  When Christ ascended to the right hand of God, He “received the promise of the Father” (Acts 2:33), on the day of Pentecost sending the Spirit to His waiting disciples, just as He, in turn, had earlier promised them.

 I will not leave you comfortless.  I will come to you (Jn. 14.18).

I will come to you?  This is a mystery.  The coming of the Spirit was such that the same One who was the exegesis of God at the right hand of the Father, while continuing to abide at the right hand of the Father in the Heavens, came to His disciples again, and took up residence in them.  For, those in whom the Spirit dwells, it is Christ Himself who dwells in them, as we read in many places in our New Testament.  (For example, Romans 8: 9,10, and many other places that speak of the indwelling Christ.)  And thus they become part of the same Temple Solomon prophesied of, the same habitation the Son of God fulfilled—the same living Exegesis that reveals God and makes Him known among men.

That is the astonishing implication of the sending of the Spirit.  Those in whom Christ dwells now become part of that same exegesis of God that the Son of God was.

This is what the New Covenant assembly is all about, or ought to be.  The church—which was formed by the coming of the Spirit to individual disciples—is to be the fullness of that same Exegesis of God who walked the earth two thousand years ago, and is now seated at the right hand of God.

 The church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all (Eph. 1:23).

The fullness of Him?  The church is His very body—the fullness of Him?  I am sure this is what Jesus had in mind when He “spake of the temple of His body” which He said He would raise up.  “The church, which is His body…”  The Devil thought to be rid of Him by the cross.  What he did, to his great chagrin, enabled God to lay in Zion the foundation Stone for an enlargement of that temple.  It began with the sending of the Spirit at Pentecost.  He comes for nothing less than to continue the same exegesis of God that the Son of God was when He was here.

That is the nature of Christ’s more excellent ministry of the New Covenant.  It is a ministration of the very knowledge of God, and thus, “all shall know Me from the least to the greatest” (Heb. 8:11) .  This is something more than knowledge as we generally think of the word.  It is New Covenant knowledge: the kind of knowledge—the knowledge of God—whom to know means our being like Him.

How imperative, then, that we in the church, as ministers of the New Covenant (which all Christians are to be) give the Prime Minister of the New Covenant—the Holy Spirit—His lordship and pre-eminence in our individual lives, and in our gatherings.  He comes for nothing less than to reveal, to make known, the same God of love and righteousness that dwelt in the Son… so that the same exegesis of God now dwells in and shines forth from the churches—you and me and our brothers and sisters in the churches.

This is what the New Covenant, and the New Covenant assembly, is all about—or is supposed to be—the exegesis of God to a world in darkness.  Anything short of this… we are sorely missing His mark.

And it has to be said that much of what is called church in our day has in fact done that.  Has fallen short.  Has missed the mark.  Let the broken and repentant heart be encouraged.  Christ is still on the Throne at the right hand of the Father, and the Holy Spirit sent from the Throne is still in the earth.  The temple He inaugurated at Pentecost is still here, though in the midst of much that man has built cannot always readily be seen.  In fact her enemies are gloating these days that they have succeeded in destroying her and treading her down in the dust.  The Lord on the throne has a surprise in store for His enemies.  The power and principle of His resurrection life is still at work.  He continues to raise up this Temple—the One that was torn down on Calvary’s cross—just as He prophesied He would do.  He will beautify her, set living stones in her just like Himself.  He will yet be fully revealed, will yet shine forth in this temple in all His glory in the Heavens and in the earth…

…And all the confusion and debate and doubt and misunderstanding as to who He is—all the thick darkness—will vanish like the morning mist in the light of the sun.

Behold A Certain Man–Part 3

In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church we find his message about the body of Christ.

 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular (1 Cor. 12:27).

Just prior to saying this he has emphasized the vital importance of each member.  The foot, the ear, the eye, the hand…   God has set them all in the body “as it hath pleased Him” (1 Cor. 12:18).  His intention is that these, functioning together in harmony, enable the One inhabiting the Body to do what He wants to do, and express Himself as it pleases Him to do so…

…Just as in my own body, the purpose of all the members is that I may do what I want and express myself as it pleases me to do so.  It’s all about me, you might say.  What would I think if someone, hardly conscious of me, marvelled at my hand and how dexterously it ministered to the needs of the other members of my body?  “Oh what a wonderful hand,” they exclaim, wide eyed.  Or my ear with its capacity to hear, or my eye to see, or my foot to step… they marvel at these and are hardly conscious of me—the person in that body.

I long for the day when we are consciously aware of Christ Himself in the body of Christ, and it takes our breath away—we recognize that it is actually Him we are seeing.  At present, although at times we are aware of a measure of His Presence, we are more or less focused on the members themselves.  It is exciting beyond words to anticipate that this will not always be so.  For, our Lord Jesus Christ is going to reveal Himself.

But it is going to take every member of the body of Christ knit together in the Spirit and functioning harmoniously before we see Christ Himself revealed.  Do we really want to see Him revealed?  If we do, let us be prepared for the devastation it will mean in the way we now do church.   For, this will take a kind of church order in which the Head is given His total lordship, and all His members are given liberty to express what the Head has in mind—which is the revelation, the unveiling, of God Himself.

This means a tremendous responsibility for those who are called to “the ministry.”  It is their God-ordained objective to foster and encourage the development and growth of the saints so that they become vital participants in the functioning of this many-membered Man.  You might say that if the ministries do their job well, they minister themselves out of a job, for, it was never God’s  intention that they be ministering week in and week out forever.   God has an objective in mind, and once reached, the job of the minister is done.  Yet sadly this is pretty much the expectation week after week in our present-day churches.  The minister will minister, and the people will sit and listen.

There is another problem.  They, the ministers, are servants of this Man.  But sometimes God’s people get their focus on His servants.

This is what had happened in the Corinthian church.  The saints had become enamoured of their favourite minister—Paul for some, Apollos, or Cephas for others.  It grieved Paul that they were exalting him and the others like this, and he wrote them about it.

 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed?” (1 Cor. 3.5).

We are just the servants here, he reminded them, it’s not about us, it’s all about you.

 Therefore let no man glory in men.  For all things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours;
And ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s (1 Cor. 3.22,23).

What a statement!  What did Paul see, that he held forth so high a thing for the saints at Corinth, telling them it was they who were the very centre of God’s interests?  Oh that they might get their eyes off him and Apollos, and see, “ordinary” members of the body of Christ though they were, what they were part of!  Which was?

 Ye are the body of Christ…

Does that little statement mean for you and me what it meant for Paul?  The phrase “body of Christ” has been so overused that it has become very bland to the palate these days.  But there is nothing greater than to be a member of the body of Christ.  Oh that this one statement–“Ye are the body of Christ”– would grip us all—but especially those in what is called “the ministry.’  If those in ministry were burdened with the same burden that was in the heart of the apostle Paul, it would break their hearts the way Paul’s was broken, and would revolutionize the way we “do church.”  Paul—a servant of Christ—spent himself, his whole life, in the hope of the realization of a Certain Man he had seen on the Damascus Road, the same Man the prophets of old saw in vision—the  New Man, the new creation Man, the Man in whom God and man are one—the corporate man—something that each and every child of God is part of.  This is why Paul laboured so intently, so intensely—to see that Man revealed in all His fullness in “the church which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:23).

As he wrote to the Corinthians:

 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that    one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ (1 Cor. 12:12).

Not, “so also is the body of Christ,” but “so also is Christ.”  Christ is a many-membered Man, and we, if we have been baptized in the Holy Spirit, baptized into Christ, are members of that Man.

The ministries of the church cannot reveal this One in all His fullness—never were intended to do so.  It takes a many-membered body functioning in the liberty and lordship of the Spirit to reveal Him.  And so may we all—those in the ministry and those who are tempted to laud them—apply God’s eye salve to our eyes so we can see God’s intent in His ministries, and in those they minister to.  God’s intent in His churches is not great ministers, but a great Man.

And so, Lord, help us to get our eyes off the servants in Your House… who, if they are true servants, long for the day when the glory of the Lord fills the House of God and they can do nothing but lie on their faces weeping for joy… no longer able to minister… and no longer needing to.  Amen.

 

Behold A Certain Man– Part 2

Who is this Man the prophets of old saw in vision?

Isaiah saw this One upon a throne high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple. (Isa. 6:1).  Seeing Him caused Isaiah to cry out, “Woe is me, for I am undone… for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”  Who did Isaiah see?  John says Isaiah saw the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 These things said Isaiah when he saw His glory, and spake of Him (Jn. 12.41).

Daniel saw this One (Dan. 10.1-6) whose face was as the appearance of lightning and His eyes as lamps of fire… and His Voice as the voice of a multitude– the voice of many waters, as John described it when He saw this same Man (Rev. 1:15).  Upon seeing this One, Daniel said, “there remained no strength in me: for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength.”  Upon hearing His words Daniel was “in a deep sleep on [his] face, with [his] face toward the ground.”

Ezekiel saw Him enthroned on the chariot of the cherubim– whom  Ezekiel struggled to describe, speaking of them in the plural, “the living creatures,” but then at times in the singular.  (What kind of astonishing harmony was that?)  Ezekiel too fell on His face; the Man He had seen he called “the glory of the LORD.” (Ezek. 1.1-28).

And remember– this is so encouraging to remember– these of old saw this One not in times of great spiritual prosperity and ease, but in times of great apostasy and insecurity among the people of God.  Isaiah’s prophecy came upon the death of their great king Uzziah under whose reign they had known a lot of security and prosperity.  Now he was gone; who knows what would be next?  It was a very insecure time.  And Ezekiel and Daniel prophesied in days of great apostasy, the days of the captivity in Babylon.

This is meaningful for us in this day of great insecurity and apostasy; it is appalling, heart rending, what has taken place in our society over the course of one generation.  But that is not the apostasy I am speaking of; what is heart rending is what has happened in Christianity.  Our churches are so weak; church as we know it has failed to stem the tide of iniquity that has come in… to say nothing of the abominations that have come into many churches.  Scarcely a day goes by without an evil report of some kind; and the media, of course, are filled with glee because of it.  If you’re like me you find yourself dwelling on all this, and it can be so discouraging.

But let us not dwell on it.  For, in the midst of it all, we have a great hope.  Christ is still on the throne, and is working faithfully to bring into being the desire of God’s own heart– the fulfillment of what the prophets saw, and recorded in Scripture.

And the Scripture must be fulfilled.  Church as we know it may be failing; her light may be waning.  But a Greater Light is about to shine; there shall yet be manifested in the earth One who is even now growing in the earth– a many-membered Man whom to see is to see the Christ, the glory of the Lord.  They are one with Him as He is one with the Father.  He was not the Father.  But to see Him was to see the Father.  In like manner these are not the Christ.  But to see them is to see the Christ.  For, they are one with Him as a bride is one with her husband.  They are His glory.  They are one Spirit with Him, and one body.

And they shall yet display a unity so perfect and so fearsome that it will cause principalities in heavenly places to tremble… and the world to believe.  For, they shall not speak the discordant babel of a Christianity splintered by countless denominations and divisions, but shall speak as one Man– as the voice of many waters.  This is what is before us.  It is going to take very powerful operations of the Spirit to bring it into being—and great shakings.  And it shall cause even greater shakings.  But this is what is before us.

This is the whole burden of the New Testament– the revelation of this One Man.

Who is this Man?

Saul the persecutor saw this One, whose glory was brighter than the noonday sun.  He was so one with His own that He challenged, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?”  Saul fell to the ground, struck blind, till a lowly brother named Ananias was sent to restore his sight.  He had been blind, and had not known it!  And the burden of the rest of his days was that all men might see Whom he had seen.  It is this Man who is forever in the back of Paul’s mind as he writes his epistles concerning the ministrations of the Spirit in the body of Christ.  Whatever he writes, it is to this end, it is ever this revelation of the glory of God—this Man—that Paul sees before him.  Paul utterly spent himself upon this Vision, spent his life equipping the saints unto their work of the ministry unto the edifying of the body of Christ till all would come unto the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God unto this perfect, full-grown Man… “unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”  Note that Paul has not said, “unto perfect men,” but rather of all coming together “unto a perfect Man.”

In another place he said:

 We all with unveiled face mirroring the glory of the Lord are changed into the same image from glory to glory… (2 Cor. 3:18).

We all?  The same image?  The glory of the Lord?  This is an encounter with God for you and me no less than that of Ezekiel or Isaiah or Daniel… or Paul on the Damascus Road.

And how does this take place?  It takes place as an operation of the Spirit of God in the members of the body of Christ as the different ones see aspects of the glory of the Lord and shine forth that glory, that power, that character, that beauty… and Christ Himself is revealed in our gatherings– yes, the same One the prophets of old saw.  Let us anticipate this… yes, in our little gatherings.  Like Ezekiel and Daniel of old, we too shall be on our faces when aspects of the glory of the Lord are revealed in and through the members of the body of Christ in the local churches of God.

 The apostle John, too, saw this One on Patmos.  He had seen Him earlier in a vision on the Mount of Transfiguration.  On Patmos he saw Him again ministering among the seven golden lampstands.  Do we wish we could have the same experience John had, and see the Christ, the Alpha and the Omega– this One who is in such union with the Ancient of Days that to see Him is to see the Ancient of Days?  Hair white like wool, as snow, eyes as a flame of fire, face shining as the sun in its strength…  Upon seeing this One, John fell at His feet as dead.

But John saw Him… where?  In the midst of the seven golden lampstands– the churches.  Do we wish we could have the same experience, and see the same One John on Patmos saw?

Beloved in Christ, we are very part of it–members of this Man, this New Man, this New Creation Man, the Man in whom God and man are one, the same Man the prophets of old saw in vision.

And so we rejoice in the revelation.  But… unless this “great vision” impacts you and me the way it impacted Daniel and Ezekiel and Isaiah and Paul and John…   unless this causes us to fall on our face… unless we too are undone… unless this causes all our comeliness, not only in ourselves but in our churches, to turn to corruption in our eyes… until we can no longer settle for less than this Reality in ourselves and in our churches… we do well to question if we have really seen this.

(Part Three next time.)

 

 

Behold A Certain Man

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In a time of prayer a while ago I began to think of different ones in Scripture who had an encounter with God.  I was crying out and saying, Lord, I don’t want to hear another message.  I don’t want to read another Bible passage.  I must have an encounter with You!

I thought of Moses.

 And Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father-in-law the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb.

Over the years I have loved to read that passage—how he saw the bush that burned with fire yet was not consumed… how he turned aside to see it… and found himself face to face with God.

I thought of Isaiah who in the year that King Uzziah died saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple.  Above the throne are the seraphim, the fiery ones, crying one to another, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts, the whole earth is filled with His glory.  And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.”  Isaiah cries out, “Woe is me, for I am undone: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”

I thought of Ezekiel the priest among the captives by the River Chebar; the heavens open and he sees a vision of a storm of wind coming, and out of the storm appear four living beings moving together in fearful harmony and upholding a throne upon which sits One like the Son of man.

 And when I saw it I fell upon my face.

I remembered Daniel, who saw the Ancient of Days upon a throne that appears to have been a chariot of fire similar to the one Ezekiel saw.  Daniel saw many mysterious and intriguing visions.  But there is one he called his “great vision.”  What was so great about it?  He saw a Man.

 … Then I lifted up mine eyes and looked, and behold a Certain Man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz: His body also was like the beryl, and His face as the appearance of lightning, and His eyes as lamps of fire, and His arms and His feet like in colour to polished brass, and the voice of His words like the voice of a multitude.

This vision utterly devastated Daniel.

Then my thoughts turned toward the New Testament.

Paul on the Damascus Road saw this same One in brightness above the noon-day sun.

John on Patmos saw Him; his description is similar to Daniel’s.

And so I was crying out to God—oh for an encounter like this!  Is it too much for a garden variety New Covenant Christian to hope for an encounter with You like You granted those of old?

But… as I prayed along this line, another thought dropped into my heart.  I suddenly realized that the only reason God revealed Himself to these of old was for our sake, His intention being nothing less than that we in New Covenant days behold, and become, the reality of what the prophets of old saw in vision–the glory of the Lord.

For, when we come into our New Testament this is the very thing we discover.  Yes Ezekiel and Isaiah and Daniel saw the Lord of glory… as did Paul.  But what seeing this Man did in Paul… he realized that this Man would not just drop sovereignly out of Heaven.  He would grow in the earth, and come into fullness only as the result of the labour and long-patience of God by an operation of the Spirit of God in those who respond to His call.  Paul laboured intently to this end; it was his whole life’s work– and ultimately would take millennia to come to full fruition.  It is the work actually of Him who was to baptize in the Holy Spirit and fire, the work of Him who died on a Cross to bring one man to an end, and rose again to bring another into being– a new Man in whom God and man are one.

And so I need not envy Daniel and Ezekiel and Isaiah, or  Paul and John.  God’s intent in revealing Himself to them was for my sake.  I too shall see Him–shall see Him with many others who together are participants in the revelation.

This vision is holy ground; we must take off our shoes.  But beloved, with our shoes off, let us expect no less than this in the gatherings of the body of Christ.  Let us be filled with this anticipation.  Let us expect no less than this–the outshining of the Lord of glory Himself–in and among the ordinary members of the body of Christ.

Do you catch that?  The body of who?

(Part 2 next time.)

 

 

 

 

 

I Was Sick

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“Behold, He cometh with clouds,” the last book of the Bible proclaims, “and every eye shall see Him…” (Rev. 1.7).

This is the long-awaited appearing in glory of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; it is our “blessed hope” (Titus 2.13).

But note.  That passage in The Revelation continues, “and they also which pierced Him.”

Every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him, and all the kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him.   Even so, Amen.

This prophecy first appears in Zechariah, where it reads, “they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced” (Zech. 12.10).  Me?  Who is that?  The words are in the mouth of the LORD, that is, Jehovah.

They appear again in the apostle John’s account of the crucifixion of Christ.

And again another scripture saith, They shall look on Him whom they pierced (Jn. 19.37).

I wonder how many of the onlookers that day on Golgotha realized that when the soldiers drove the nails into the hands of Christ, and pierced His side with a spear, it was actually Jehovah they were piercing.  We make no attempt to dissect the holy unity between the Father and the Son; the prophecy simply states that the hour would come when those who crucified the Son of God would realize that it was Jehovah God the Father they had pierced.

I wonder, too, how many realize that Jesus Christ is still being pierced.  Saul of Tarsus got that astonishing revelation one day.  He had been persecuting the Christians, delivering them up to prison and death.  One day he saw a light brighter than the noon-day sun and heard a Voice calling to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”

What a stunning revelation it was to him.  “Who are You, Lord?”  “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.”

You mean, Lord, these Christians… You?

He devoted the rest of his life to sharing the sufferings of the One he had been persecuting, and his writings are filled with the revelation he saw that day.

Now ye are the body of Christ…

Matthew in his account of the Gospel tells of the day when the Son of man shall come in His glory… and reveal to the dismay of all that even before then He was here, though many did not recognize Him.  He said that He was here… hungry.  He was here… thirsty.  He was here… a stranger, here… naked.  He was here… sick.  He was here… in prison.

How so, Lord?  You said “I was hungry, I was thirsty… I was sick.  I was in prison.”  How so?

He reveals that it was when “one of the least of these my brethren” was going through these things, it was He Himself who was suffering…

…And He Himself who was being ministered to by those who reached out to them, even though they were not conscious that this is what they were doing.

We anticipate the appearing of the Son of man in glory, and our cry is, make no tarrying, Lord!

But, beloved, do we see Him even now?  Do we recognize Him… not in robes of glory, but in His humiliation?

Let us not miss out on His appearing even now in His humiliation—His privation, His alienation, His sickness, His distress, His shame, His unjust treatment… His sufferings.

We don’t want to be numbered among those who are wailing in that hour when they finally realize who it is they pierced.

 

 

Thank God For… You

Have you ever been frightened by the sudden awareness that you were in the presence of something very holy?  This happened to me recently while reading one of the letters of the apostle Paul.  A certain fear came unexpectedly upon me; I suddenly became aware of the deep love for the saints that dwelt in this man.

Paul, it seems, was always thinking about the saints of the Lord that he knew in various places.  Like a parent whose children are scattered far and wide, they were always on his mind… and continually in his prayers.

For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers… (Rom. 1.9).

Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers… (Eph. 1.15,16).

…Praying always for you… (Col. 1.3).

I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day… (2 Tim. 1.3).

I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers… (Phm. 4).

We (Paul and Silvanus and Timothy) give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers… (1 Thes. 1.2).

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you making request with joy… (Phil. 1.4).

If you will take your New Testament and (when you have time) read the last two passages I quoted—Philippians Chapter 1 verses 3-11, and the first three chapters of 1 Thessalonians—I  think you will come away from your reading the same way I have, awed by the depths of the love you have touched in this man.  His prayers to God on the behalf of the saints were the consequence of the love in his heart for them.  He loved the saints.  He loved them deeply.  And so he couldn’t help it, he had to be on his knees for them.

One thing more—did you notice this in the verses quoted above?  Paul is always thanking God for the saints.  Why would he be thanking God for them?  It was because of their faith (Rom. 1.8, Col. 1.3) and their growing love for God and for one another (1 Thes. 1.2, 2 Thes. 1.3), that is to say, for their fellowship in the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1.3).  How it comforted Paul’s heart in this dark and wicked world to know that some here and there had turned from darkness to walk in light.  Paul was in fellowship with these ones.

It’s a word that has lost much of its strength these days—fellowship.  It means, simply, sharing together, or commonness; but what Paul and these other saints shared and held in common was an uncommon cause, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  They were vastly outnumbered in this cause, were persecuted and despised and hated in this cause.  So when they came together it was something very precious, and tender.  They were brothers and sisters who loved one another and were ready to die for one another.  And so they were greatly thankful for one another.

This got me thinking.  It hadn’t really occurred to me.  Am I thankful for my brothers and sisters?  Yes, I pray for them, but how often do I get on my knees and thank God for them?  I mean, really thank God for them!  They are my comrades in battle.  They are my fellow pilgrims on a dangerous journey.  They are an oasis of green in the waste and howling wilderness of this world.  They love the Lord Jesus with all their hearts, and they want to do His will.  Many there are who love darkness rather than light, but these have turned from darkness to light, and with the help of the Lord’s grace they are determined to be faithful.  At the cost of their lives if need be.  This caused great thankfulness to well up in Paul.  He thanked God for these ones.  And prayed continually for them.  It is far from an easy walk; it is fraught with peril in this present evil age.  And so Paul found these saints continually on his heart, and continually in his prayers.

Do we want to be like Paul?  It will mean coming into a love that, in its continual preoccupation with others, loses sight of itself.  But let’s not stop at the desire to be like Paul.  There’s another reason why Paul prayed so continually for the saints.  Paul was like Jesus.  And Jesus is preoccupied with the saints.  Jesus at the right hand of God is continually praying for the saints.

He ever liveth to make intercession for us (Heb. 7.25).

It is Christ that died, yea rather that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us (Rom. 8.34).

And so if Christ at the right hand of God is continually praying for the saints, this is what Paul found himself doing also.  He prayed continually for the saints because the Holy Spirit of the ascended Christ dwelt in Him—and so the same love that burned in Christ burned in him also, continually firing his prayers with the fire of the Spirit.

Are we short of this, brothers and sisters?  Does the same love that dwelt in Paul dwell in you and me?  Oh how we need this more and more in the body of Christ in this difficult hour—the love of Christ.  We could not help but pray for one another, then.  I mean, fervently.  It’s the only way we would find release from the burden of love in us.

Release, I say… yet like a fire, this love grows when you feed it.  If just now it’s not much of a fire, let’s feed it then!  It will grow.  And grow.  And grow…

Let there arise in our hearts a new appreciation—Paul’s appreciation, the Lord’s own appreciation—for our fellow saints.  We need one another.  Let us be praying for one another.

And thanking God for one another.

God’s Answer For The Famine Of The Word

We have been talking about the famine of hearing of the words of the Lord—words that the Lord Himself speaks, and therefore are living words that sustain us and give us the strength we need for our daily walk in this world.

That’s what bread is for—to strengthen man’s heart (Ps. 104.15).  And we need this daily.  It’s simply impossible to go through the day and meet its demands without the strength of the bread of life.  I know, as long as things are going okay and we are prospering nicely, it seems we can get along without this living Bread.  But the hour is at hand when many people—even many Christians—will suddenly see that their spiritual plates are empty, in fact have been empty for a long time.

Jesus Christ is Himself the bread of life.

I am the bread of life: he that cometh to Me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on my shall never thirst (Jn. 6.25).

Jesus is not speaking here of a one-time thing—when I came to Him and was converted.  He is speaking of a continual coming to Him, and in doing so, discovering an unfailing supply for my daily need whatever that need is.  His promise is that “as are thy days so shall thy strength be” (Dt. 33.25).  In other words, there cannot be a day that proves too much to handle when we come to Him for the bread we need for this day.  This is the experience of many Christians who take their need for the living Bread seriously and come to Him expectantly day by day.

But let’s look at this in larger terms than the twenty-four hour day.  For we are now entering upon a very difficult day, and it is going to require great spiritual strength to get through it.

What provision does God have for this day now dawning?  Apart from a major spiritual revolution we face grievous spiritual famine in our western lands in spite of all the Bibles and Bible studies and Internet resources and weekly sermons by our favourite pastor.  All this, good as it is, was never meant to be the answer for the needs of the world around us.  What is God’s answer then?  Yes I know, Christ Himself.

For the bread of God is He which cometh down from heaven and giveth life unto the world (Jn. 6.33).

I am the living bread which came down from Heaven: if any man eat of this bread he shall live forever: and the bread which I shall give is my flesh which I shall give for the life of the world (Jn. 6.51).

His flesh?  This caused a strife among those listening.  “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?”

Even His own disciples found this hard to comprehend.  They couldn’t imagine themselves eating His flesh.  Jesus answered their perplexity with another perplexity.

Doth this offend you?  What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where He was before?  It is the Spirit that quickeneth (that giveth life): the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are Spirit, and they are life (Jn. 6.62,63).

In other words, it wasn’t eating His physical body that Jesus had in mind.  “It is the Spirit that quickeneth.”  He would ascend into Heaven and by the Holy Spirit speak living words from Heaven, words which to partake of would be one and the same as eating His flesh and drinking His blood.

But there is something else here—a very important implication in Jesus’ statement that “it is the Spirit that quickeneth.”  In sending the Holy Spirit, Christ means you and I, ordinary Christians in the body of Christ, to become His very flesh, the bread that He gives for the life of the world.

For we being many are one bread (or, loaf) and one body; for we are all partakers of that One Bread (1 Cor. 10.12).

Partaking of this One Bread causes us ourselves to become vitally a part of that One Bread.  For, as the saying goes, you are what you eat.

And how is this accomplished—that we become this one loaf and one body?

For by one Spirit are ye all baptized into one body… (1 Cor. 12.13).

This is the implication of His words, “It is the Spirit that quickeneth…”  He is talking of the sending of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, by which, wonder of wonders, we are made one with Him who is in Heaven– are made one Loaf with Him, one Body.

Fellow Christian, we must be earnestly seeking this kind of intermingling and interaction with the Spirit of Christ—something that produces an entirely different kind of church, one in which every single member is a vital participant in the Bread of Life, and there is a very real sense of all having become One Loaf with Christ Himself.

And those in leadership must seek earnestly to give the Spirit of the Lord His liberty and lordship so He can bring this One Loaf into being– His answer for the spiritual hunger of the world.

We have many good pastors and teachers these days who can deliver a good word.  We are thankful for them.  We have many great ministries who through modern media feed multitudes of Christians all the world over with powerful messages. We are thankful for these as well, for they certainly meet a need.

But this will not meet the need of the day at hand.  God has something greater in mind.  In fact even now—can we not recognize this?—we are in a state of famine.  Is not this abundantly clear when we look at the needs of our world around us, first on the local level and then out further?  With all our present provision we are still in a state of famine.

And we will be in a state of famine until this One Loaf begins to appear.

It is this Loaf—the body of Christ—that the Lord has in mind for the day at hand, and is even now preparing.  It is this Loaf that He breaks in His hands to feed every need of the hungry.

This is the Bread that Christ gives for the life of the world.

This is the Loaf that finally brings to an end the famine of the words of the Lord.

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