"Holy Brethren"

Notes of an Address given in Melbourne on March 12th, 1922

"Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus" (Hebrews 3:1).

The grace with which God has blessed us is full of surprises. Who would have thought, for instance, that we should ever have been addressed as "holy brethren"? We should scarcely have given such an epithet to each other and should never have dreamed of applying it to ourselves, for we know a little of the corruption and sin of our own hearts. Yet it is given to us here by the Holy Spirit of God, who will never have to take back a single word that He has spoken. He is the Spirit of Truth, and if He calls those who belong to Christ by this exalted designation it must be true of them, hence it is only right that we should earnestly and reverently inquire what it means and how it has come to be ours.

In reading the preceding chapter our thoughts are carried back to Psalm 22 and in that Psalm we get these two words that are here brought together to describe us. The first word belongs to the early part of the Psalm, which opens with that unparalleled cry, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" We know that it was our Lord Himself who asked this question when He hung upon the cross of shame and sacrifice, and we are filled with wonder thereat; but that our wonder might be changed into intelligent adoration and worship, the forsaken Sufferer supplies the answer Himself. "But Thou art holy."

But was not Jesus holy? Yes, He was just as holy when He went forth bearing His cross to Golgotha, as He was when the Seraphim hid their faces in the presence of His glory, and cried, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts." Then why was He, the holy One, forsaken of God? It was for our sakes. Upon that cross He was made sin for us. He became what we were, that He might in the immensity of His love endure all that we deserved, that we might become what He is and share all that He deserves in the favour of God. It was when He took our place and when our sins were laid upon Him that God in the intensity of His holiness hid His face from Him; but it was then and there that He made a full atonement for us. And now, as a consequence of what He did upon the cross, and in perfect righteousness, we are made partakers of the Divine nature, and by "one offering He has perfected in perpetuity the sanctified." That very nature which in God demanded that sin should be judged, and which did judge it when Jesus suffered for us, has now become our nature, as born of God; hence we are addressed as "holy." Such a designation could never have been ours if our sins and all the corruption of our sinful flesh had not come under God's unsparing judgment; and it is thus that we are clear of it all, and in the sight of our God and Father, holy and blameless in love (see Eph. 1:4).

We are holy brethren. Our place and title as brethren belongs to the second half of Psalm 22 where with resurrection exultation our Lord declares, "I will declare Thy name unto My brethren, in the midst of the congregation will I praise Thee." Mark well that we are His brethren. Blessed it is to know that we are brethren of each other, but that is only because we are His brethren; this must come first. And this defines our relationship with our God and Father, and gives character to our relationship to each other. We are brought to Him, loved with the same love that rests upon Christ, to share the same relationship and the joy of it for ever. So that in this title that is given to us we learn what our nature is, and what the relationship in which we stand to God and Christ. We learn that "He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one, for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren" (Heb. 2:11).

It was the purpose of God's love to bring to His glory such sons as these, and in His perfect wisdom He has found the way by which He can accomplish His purpose. What a day it will be when all the "holy brethren," with Christ pre-eminent among them, appear in that glory; and when He their infallible Leader, raises afresh His praise to God! Every heart of them will be in full concert with Him then, for every one of them will be conformed to His image. This is the heavenly calling of which we are made partakers. How glorious is the destiny that awaits the "holy brethren"!

But since grace has made us to be holy brethren, how shall we live like holy brethren now? Now shall we be consistent with this noble calling? How shall we tramp as pilgrims through this "Vanity Fair," refusing its seductions and keeping our hearts in tune with our great Leader, as He sings to God, who dwells in the praise of His people? There is but one way in which we may thus live, and that is by considering "the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus." He must be the subject of our thoughts.

We must consider Him as the Apostle, the One who came out from God and down to us, not bringing tables of stone whereon were written laws that could only curse us because of our sinfulness, but bringing love, the love of God to us. "It is Christ that died," for the love that He brought could not stop short of death. "God commendeth His love towards us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." There is no love like that; it baffles all description, we cannot illustrate it, it is incomparable, invincible and eternal. But as the Apostle, Christ Jesus has brought this love to us, and God has spoken in tender words to us in Him, to win our hearts for Himself, that we might be His for ever. To consider the Apostle of our confession should be no hard task for us, it ought to be our constant and unfailing delight.

But He is also our High Priest, that is, He has gone in to God for us. As Apostle He came out to represent God to us, and to bring God to us; as High Priest He has gone in to represent us to God, and bring us to God. He is our High Priest, He has gone in, and He has opened up the way for us, a new and living way which He has dedicated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh. The holiest is the place for the holy brethren. The blood is there, the precious blood, and where the blood is sins cannot be, but the holy brethren can be there, cleansed and consecrated, because the High Priest is there.

Let us consider His greatness, who came from the highest height of God's glory to make God known in the deepest depths of our need, and who has risen up from those depths and entered the glory again, and who is able to succour us in our weaknesses, and bear us up in the power of His risen life to the very presence of God where He lives. As we consider Him we are invincible, more than conquerors, a triumphant band of God's sons, holy brethren in spirit and practice, treading the upward way to the glory of God.