Comparison of Epistles

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The comparison of certain epistles illustrates with much interest and instruction the path of the Christian. I send you the thoughts which have suggested the remark. I refer particularly to the Epistle of Peter, Colossians, and Ephesians.

In Peter we have Christ risen, having accomplished redemption; then His own actings, in that resurrection, of that power of life which is the spring of all our hope, and sets it in lively exercise towards its end, which is in heaven, and hence makes a man, and even a Jew (who once had other thoughts), a stranger and a pilgrim here. We will examine this in the statements of the epistles.

But to make my meaning more clear, I will first refer to the Ephesians. There the saints are seen sitting in heaven - there already - not on the way there; their conflicts and position in general flow from this. Hence they are seen risen with Christ, seated in heavenly places in Him, and this, through union with their Head, by the Holy Ghost sent down; on which last great fact their earthly position also depends.

The Epistle to the Colossians is based indeed on the same principle; but there they were in danger of not holding the Head. Hence they are addressed on somewhat lower ground, and urged up to the point which should have been the spring from which their thoughts and feelings flowed.

To turn now to the epistles themselves, remark, in Peter, the ground on which the Spirit of God places the saints, the sojourners of the dispersion, that is, the believing Jews scattered through the provinces. They are "begotten again to a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." It is not that they are not risen with Him. Of course they were; yet they are not viewed under this aspect, but as redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot; travelling through the wilderness towards Canaan - not seated in the land eating of the old corn of it (whatever conflicts were before them there), but through the efficacy of redemption made strangers and pilgrims in the desert. It is the Christian's place here below - not the privilege and joy of faith, but the life of faith; and hence, all through which he passes here become not distractions for his heart, whether painful or pleasant, but trials of his faith. This is exceedingly gracious and loving of our God (and what is not?), and the consequences in many respects exceedingly precious.

108 In the Ephesians we have, however, the Christian in another point of view. Heaven is not presented as a hope; the Christian is there. It is not that the resurrection of Christ has begotten him to such a hope; the same power which raised Christ, and set Him at the right hand of God, far above all principality and power, has wrought in him; and he is raised up together with Him, quickened together, and sitting in heavenly places in Him. Thus he is viewed as in heaven in Christ the Head, not as hoping to arrive there. Peter views him as toiling along the road, being redeemed by the precious blood of Christ - as Israel in the desert, with Canaan before them; the Ephesians, as sitting there in his Head, Christ. Hence neither is the coming of Christ presented as a hope in the Ephesians. What is set before us in the way of hope, in the form of intelligence communicated of God, is the gathering together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth - in Him in whom we have received an inheritance. The power which has wrought in Christ has wrought in the believer, God having given Christ to be "the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all." God, of His great love wherewith He has loved us, has, when we were all together children of wrath, quickened us together with Him, and made us sit, raised up together, in heavenly places in Him.

In Colossians, at first sight, we seem to have lost this position. But the epistle does but serve to bring out more distinctly the great and precious truth. The apostle is obliged to bring out heaven prominently before them. They needed this; and we have, as in Peter, "the hope which is laid* up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before." Why this difference where, nevertheless, Christ is put forward as the Head of the body? They were beginning alas! to be beguiled, and to be subject to ordinances, not holding the Head. But the apostle urges them, as it were, back to the point from which they were slipping away. He presses on them their resurrection with Christ; once dead in trespasses and sins, but buried in baptism with Him, and raised through faith in the operation of God who hath raised Him. If dead with Christ, how could they, as alive, be subject to what related to flesh and perished with it? And then he draws the conclusion, which associates the two practically: "If then ye be risen with Christ, seek the things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God. Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth; for ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God." This was their real position. They were indeed in danger of slipping away from it; but he urges them upward to their privilege and place in Christ.

{*The word is different from the one Peter uses.}

109 As regards the coming of the Lord, it is also introduced in a way which remarkably confirms this character of instruction. They were not taught to wait for Him as if they were on earth, and He to appear. Nor is it omitted in order to contemplate their association with Him in heaven. His appearance is spoken of; but then their association with Him, in a life which is with Him now hidden in God, is pressed upon them, by this remarkable truth, that when He appears, so identified were they with Him that they would appear with Him. Their hearts and affections, then, are urged upwards, but it was to lay hold on the consciousness that they were one with Him that was there. Their life was hid with Him there, but they were not holding the Head as they ought. I do not go farther here; perhaps I may, at another time, notice the different way the Lord's coming is spoken of connected with this.