The New Relationship and its Resources

It is of the utmost importance that we should understand the relationship in which we stand to God and to our Lord Jesus Christ. Our conduct cannot be right unless we are instructed in this, for all right conduct is the outcome of a right apprehension of relationship. This is the case in every walk of life, and equally so in Christianity.

Men of faith in all ages have been governed by the relationship in which God set them with Himself, and, of course, as flowing out of that, the great destiny that that relationship involved: the two things go together, the relationship determines the destiny. Moreover, it has always been God's way to place resources at the disposal of His people equal to the relationship in which He has placed them.

Now if we turn to the New Testament we find that the great truth as to God's people in this present dispensation is that they are the church of God — God's assembly.

This truth is the completion, the crowning truth of the Word of God; all the doctrine given through Paul, who was the Apostle to the Gentiles, leads up to it, and every exhortation that he gives to the saints by the Holy Spirit flows from the truth of it.

It will not be necessary to state that every true believer on the Lord Jesus forms an integral part of the church, but it is necessary to insist upon the fact that those who are of the church of God are no longer of the world The fact of this difference is brought before us in the mention of three distinct classes in 1 Corinthians 10:32 — "Jews, Gentiles, and church of God." The line of demarcation between the Jew and the Gentile was perfectly evident: the distinction between the church and these two divisions had to stand out with even greater clearness; for out of both has God baptized into one body all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The body of Christ, which is the church, has a life altogether foreign to the life of the world, for it is the life of the Head of it, who is in heaven. The Spirit in the church is not of the world, for the world cannot receive Him, for it sees Him not, neither knows Him (John 14). The joys, hopes, and destiny of the church are all outside the world; it is heavenly in its character, and is in the world as a pilgrim and a stranger.

It may be likened to a vessel which has put out to sea with a definite mission and port in view; it is not to be a derelict driven before the storm, and at the mercy of every gale, without rudder, compass, chart or captain, but to hold on its way, though buffeted by the tempest; to rise superior to the fierce waves that clash and foam about its prow, and to enter triumphantly at last the harbour of its desire. And this it will do, thank God! for the powers of hell shall not prevail against it.

Those who live by sight will not realize this, but to those who walk by faith it is a joy and stay which is unspeakable.

A Triumphant Christ

"Jesus . . . stood in the midst" (v. 19).

On the day of the Lord's resurrection the disciples, gathered together in an upper room, were to become, then and there, a pattern of and for the assembly of God for all time; and to them, and for us, was then and there revealed the relationship in which all stand with God who belong to the assembly, and the resources at their disposal. They were weak and fearful as they gathered; like a flock of trembling sheep they huddled away from the sight of their foes, but to them "came Jesus, and stood in the midst, and says to them, Peace be to you" (John 20:19). Who can tell the change that His presence made to them? He was the triumphant Christ; the might of the devil had been overthrown by His strong arm; the domain of death had been invaded and its power utterly shattered by the force of His assault upon it; He whom they had seen crucified and dead, but three days before, now stood before their wondering eyes, a Victor — Christ triumphant.

The death of the Lord Jesus had been a strange event to them, for though He had often told them that it lay in His pathway, they do not seem to have understood Him, and when at last it did become a fact, they were filled with bewilderment and unbelief.

In appearance Calvary was the Lord's utter defeat; His enemies evidently anticipated some display of power on His part, for, with a great multitude of officers and men, with swords and staves, they went to take Him. But He did not resist, instead, as a lamb He went to the slaughter, and as a sheep He was dumb before His shearers; and for this they despised Him, for He was despised as well as rejected of men. If He had fought as did Simon, they would have held Him in respect, but His weakness was their jest, "Himself He cannot save" was their triumphant taunt as they witnessed His last sorrow upon the gibbet. And these poor faithless disciples had also judged by their carnal senses and knew not where to turn.

But now they beheld Him, their risen Lord, and upon their dull souls there dawned the great fact that He was triumphant, that, mightier than Samson of old, He had bowed Himself upon the strong pillars of death and overthrown the great citadel wherein he trusted who had "the power of death" (Heb. 11:14); that whether they were men: or demons or Satan who opposed Him, He had proved Himself greater than all, and now in the might of the eternal and living God He stood in their midst.

"Then were the disciples glad," nor feared they any foe henceforward — people, priests, rulers, Herod, Felix, Festus, Agrippa, Caesar — how puny and small they all appeared in the presence of these men whose faith had grasped the fact that in the midst of the church there was the triumphant Christ.

Have these nineteen centuries affected the power that dwells in Him? Is the hand that overthrew the devil's dominion weakened by the passing years? Are there any marks of decrepitude upon Him that lives and was dead, who is alive for evermore and has the keys of death and hell?

Impossible! He whose might has vanquished death and the grave can ne'er grow weak and old. Omnipotence is eternal.

Then why should the saints of God be discouraged and fearful today? Why should they grow slack in the service of their Lord, or their lips tremble to confess His name in a hostile world? The triumphant Christ is in the midst of His assembly, their great captain in the conflict, and the Leader of then triumph-songs.

Unalterable Love

"He showed to them His hands and His side."

The question may naturally arise in the mind as to whether the unfaithfulness of the church has not affected the Lord's feelings towards His assembly, even as the disciples might have questioned whether their unbelief and cowardice would not lead Him to cast them off for ever. But how gentle was His way with them, and how significant His action. "He showed to them His hands and His side." Those wounds were the visible evidence of a love that had carried Him into death for them, and that love is as unalterable as those wounds are indelible. It is upon that love that all depends, and if it is unchanging in its character we have nothing to fear.

In Christ omnipotence combines with love eternal; they can never fail, and their boundless resources are at the disposal of all and each who are of His assembly.

The Relation in which they stand

"Go to My brethren, and say to them, I ascend to My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God" (v. 17).

But who were these disciples, and what are they today, into the midst of whom so august a Person as the Son of God, triumphant over death, is pleased to come? They are His brethren, His Father is their Father, and His God is their God. Let the greatness of the position be grasped: "He is not ashamed to call them brethren" (Heb. 2:11), and this because He has lifted them up to His platform and they are one with Him, "for He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one."

Here is the fulfilment of His own words, which shall ever fill our souls with wondering praise: "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone, but if at die, it brings forth much fruit" (John 12:24). The grains of the harvest-time are exactly of the same kind that fell into the ground in the season of sowing, and it is this great truth, beyond all the comprehension of the natural mind, that the Lord announced to His disciples in His resurrection. This was the great and blessed secret that filled His heart, and which they could not grasp, save by the Spirit; it had become a fact now, and it is the first declaration that breaks from His triumphant lips on the resurrection day. How full of it His blessed heart must have been, and if it is so much to Him, how ought it to affect us.

Let it be clearly understood that this gives no warrant to any of us to speak of the Lord as our "elder Brother: " to do so is contrary to the truth and dishonouring to Him. There are at least two reasons why we should not thus address Him.

(I) The Lord is never so designated in Scripture, and Scripture contains all the revealed truth as to Him.

(2) It falsifies the truth, for lying behind it is the thought that He has come down to the level of men according to nature, to associate Himself with them and to improve them where they are. John 12:24 disproves this altogether: our association with Him is not according to nature or after the will of the flesh, but it is by the Spirit of God and with Christ in resurrection life. We are one with Him as the fruit of His death. He has lifted us up to His level as man, and that is our standing for ever.

Many things are involved in this, amongst them, we have His life and nature; this is eternal life and a holy nature that will find delight in God for ever. The affections of the position are also ours, and nothing is kept back, for His Father is our Father. This carries our thoughts to John 17, where, in pouring out His heart to His Father, the Lord declares, "Thou hast loved them as Thou hast loved Me."

The Holy Ghost

"Receive ye the Holy Ghost" (v. 22).

These are great things. The eye of man has not seen them, his ear has not heard them, they have never entered into his thoughts; but they are revealed to saints by the Spirit of God, and faith rejoices in them.

That they may be realities to us, and that we may live in the power and joy of this wonderful relationship, the Holy Ghost has been given to us. If the Holy Spirit is grieved within us, we are to these things, what a bird with a broken wing is to its own element; but if we walk in the Spirit, it will be His delight to lead us into all that this new life and relationship means by making Christ, who is the pattern of it all, increasingly precious to us.

This, then, is the relationship, and these are the resources of the assembly of God; they are to be realized and enjoyed by faith, though unknown by the world, they are the family secrets to be treasured and kept, while we await the glorious destiny that such a relationship involves.

"Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me: for Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world."