The Scriptures testify of Christ. Our Lord said, "They are they which testify of me." Whatever else they may set forth, it is clear that the great subject of God's revelation to man is Christ Jesus the Lord. In various ways, by many instruments, at different times, and under manifold circumstances, the divine glory of His person, His perfect manhood, His moral excellencies, His infinite perfections, His finished work, His fulness, and His offices are blessedly presented to us in the Scriptures of eternal truth.
In our Lord's personal ministry, wherever He was, He declared the Father, and so perfectly showed in His ways and words the characteristics of Him who sent Him, that He could truly say at the close, "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father;" and His dealings with those around manifested that He was "full of grace and truth." Instead of casting out any sinner who came to Him, He opened wide His arms, and said, "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." He plainly declared that He was the only Saviour of sinners, and the Refuge and resource for His own loved disciples.
While constantly insisting on the divine authenticity of Scripture, and declaring that "the Scripture cannot be broken," He was Himself the living expression of it. The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us. In the sacred writings, as the fitting occasions came, He was presented as the woman's Seed that should bruise the serpent's head, the Seed of Abraham; and yet He could most truly say, "Before Abraham was I am;" the virgin's Child, and yet Emmanuel; the Son given, and yet the perfect Man. Scripture spake of Him as David's son, and yet being David's Lord; the offspring of David, and yet the root; Son of man, yet Son of God. There we read of Him as the Prophet that was to be raised up, the Priest after Melchisedec's order, and the King who shall yet sit on the throne of His father David, and reign over the house of Jacob for ever, of whose kingdom there shall be, no end. Songs of triumph and of joy referred to Him; prophets testified by the Spirit of His sufferings, and the glories which should follow; and we know that "all the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him Amen, unto the glory of God by us." Scripture also teaches us that in the man Christ Jesus eternal life has been manifested, divine love has been manifested, and God has been manifested. By Him God's ways have been vindicated, His counsels and purposes have been and will be carried out, His word fulfilled, His truth established, His righteousness perfectly met, the holy demands of His throne fully answered. There we behold Jesus, when in the path of deepest suffering, even when forsaken of God, glorifying Him with perfect obedience, perfect love and perfect faith. There on the cross was the entire surrender of Himself, and a complete answer to every claim of divine justice on account of our sins. All was divinely perfect, so that at the end of the solitary way He could say, "I have glorified Thee on the earth; I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do."
Again, when in company with the evangelists who were inspired to mark out for our comfort the footprints of His blessed path, He is sometimes brought before us as compassionately satisfying hungry thousands with a few loaves and fishes, with abundance of broken food left; and yet He deigned to accept the ministry to Himself of certain women of their substance. We look with wonder at Him at one moment, as the One who carried our griefs, weeping with the sorrowful and bereaved; and at another, raising the dead as "the resurrection and the life." Again we see Him weary and asleep on a pillow in the binder part of the ship, and when awakened by His distressed disciples, commanding the stormy wind to cease, and the raging waves to be still. Yea, in every page of the inspired narrative enough is recorded to fill our worshipping hearts with wonder, love, and praise.
Again and again the written Word speaks of this spotless One, who was "separate from sinners," as having once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, to bring us to God; who came into the world to save sinners, and died for our sins according to the Scriptures. In life we see Him resisting Satan, overcoming him in every temptation, casting out devils with His omnipotent word, and through death destroying him that had the power of death. Mighty Conqueror! In His life the repeated testimony from heaven was, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." And God's righteous estimate of His death was, that it entitled Him to the highest glory and honour; while the rent veil, the raising Him up from among the dead for our justification, and the gift to us of the Holy Ghost, most unquestionably show God's entire satisfaction with His atoning work on the cross for us. If we look at Jesus in His life, there is everything to win our hearts; and in His death, there is everything to meet our consciences. The perfection and glory of Himself fills our souls with joy; the value of His finished work gives us rest and peace. It is to Him, as Son of man, all judgment is committed, and to His name every knee must bow, and every tongue confess that He is Lord; for He will yet, according to the working of His mighty power, subdue all things unto Himself.
Thus, whether we look at the typical days of olden times, at the many shadowy illustrations of a former dispensation, or at the Lord's own ways and ministry in the days of His flesh - whether we view Him in His life or in His death, it is Himself of whom the Scriptures testify, it is Himself who engages our hearts, it is Himself that is ministered to our souls; and though some parts of Scripture appear to the natural man to be only dry records of history, or details of long-forgotten ordinances, they are often found to the soul under divine teaching to be rich in comforting or in instructive ministrations of Christ to the heart.
If in life our Lord emphatically endorsed the writings of Moses as concerning Himself, if He quoted the Psalms of David as the Holy Ghost's testimony of Himself, and referred to the prophets as also having reference to Himself, the same was equally characteristic of His ministry to His disciples after He rose from the dead. He assured some that their mistake and folly arose from not believing all that the prophets had spoken, and He showed them that He Himself was the great subject of Old Testament revelation and ministry; for "beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself." On another occasion He also said unto His disciples, "that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning Me." (Luke 24) Thus He not only authenticates the Old Testament writings as a whole, but assures us that their ministry is concerning Himself.
And after our Lord had ascended, and the Holy Ghost had come down at Pentecost, and formed the Church - the body of Christ - though there was greater power with the Word, the ministry had the same characteristics - the divine authority of Scripture, and their testimony concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. The books of Moses, the Psalms, and the prophets were quoted by the apostles as a divine revelation and a divine ministration of Christ, so that those who heard their preaching, or read their writings, must have known that it was not merely something about Christ, but the ministry of Christ Himself to the heart by a power which brings home the blessedness of Christ, that takes of the things of Christ, and shows them unto us. To their hearers they set forth His person, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and glorification; they spake of the gift of the Holy Ghost, His Godhead, personality, indwelling, and operations as the glorifier of Christ, as well as the abundant love of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; while our Lord's coming again, His kingdom and reign, were constantly proclaimed. It was Christ they so presented to those to whom they ministered, that we are told that "they ceased not to teach and to preach Jesus Christ." If Peter's line of things was the kingdom and Paul's the Church, they both enforced the divine authority of the word of God over the heart and conscience; and both set forth Christ. If Peter in his early sermons quoted from Moses, the Psalms, and the prophets, we find Paul reasoning "out of the Scriptures, opening and alleging that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus," he says, "whom I preach unto you is Christ." He quotes from the Psalms when preaching at Antioch; and again we are told that he persuaded others "out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening." (Acts 17:3; 28:23.)
It is scarcely necessary to refer to the epistles to trace how often the books of Moses, the Psalms, and the prophets are cited by the apostles in their inspired writings, and that too as positively ministering Christ to souls. Even a careless observer of these writings could scarcely fail to see that the great subject they present, whether occupied with the past, present, or future, is the Lord Jesus Christ. Not only is He to be seen as the light and glory of every page, but He is the all-attractive, all-sufficient Object set before us to meet us in every state, and to satisfy every need of our souls. Whether Peter, Paul, John, James, or Jude be the instrument, it is the blessed Lord of whom they write.
Nor is Christ less prominently set forth in the Apocalypse; for not only is the Lamb, and the value of His precious blood, often made to pass before our spiritual vision; but Christ as Son of man is Seen judging the assemblies, and presented to each assembly according to its state, circumstances, and need. Though the book be a revelation for the most part of what had not been known before, yet the golden threads are so interwoven with the testimony of Moses and the prophets that the spiritual eye fails not to perceive that the many books of Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, form a marvellous whole, which, though written by many instruments, must have emanated from an Omniscient and Almighty mind. How truly then do the Scriptures testify of Christ, and tell us that which is concerning Himself! and how clearly too it is manifest that the Holy Ghost, who moved men to write them, has therein been the glorifier and testifier of Christ!
The apostle Paul informs us that "all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." (2 Tim. 3:16, 17.) He therefore charges the faithful servant to "preach the word;" not traditions of men, but "the word;" not deductions from the word, however interesting, but "the word;" not opinions about it, but "the word;" the divine authority of the word of God which is for ever settled in heaven, and liveth and abideth for ever. That which is to be proclaimed (and especially because of the false teaching and fables which abound) is the word of God, which effectually worketh in them that believe. It is in fact the only basis for faith - the incorruptible seed by which we have been born again, and the sincere milk by which those who have tasted that the Lord is gracious can be fed and grow thereby. Can there be, then, the ministry of Christ, if the divine authority of Scripture be not enforced? May the Lord graciously enable us so to love the word of God, understand it by the teaching of the Holy Ghost, mix faith with it, treasure it up in our hearts, and so prove it as to be able to help others effectually by it!
It is most interesting to observe that one result of our Lord's ministry after His resurrection from the dead, when their understandings were opened to understand the Scriptures concerning Himself, was that it made them all happy. Whatever their mistakes, or state of soul had been, all were set right, and all were filled with joy in having to do with the Lord Himself. Not only did those who had been depressed and sorrowful exclaim, "Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the Scriptures?" but it is said of the timid ones, who had been fearing the Jews, "Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord." When affrighted ones were told by Him that He was not a spirit, and He said, "It is I myself; handle me and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have . . . and He showed them His hands and His feet," then we are told that "they believed not for joy, and wondered." So happy did their precious Saviour leave them when "He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven," that we are told "they worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy." (Luke 24) John too writes his first epistle to the saints that their joy might be full. Peter speaks of those who, though "in heaviness through manifold temptations," were so believing in Him whom having not seen they loved, as to "rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory." Paul enjoins the saints to "rejoice in the Lord always," and prays that the God of peace might fill them with all joy and peace in believing." Is it not clear, then, that one result to be looked for, when Christ is ministered, is that souls are made happy in Him? But how can we expect to be instrumental in filling others with joy, if we are not rejoicing in the Lord ourselves? A glance at some of the epistles is enough to show how fully and pointedly Christ was ministered in apostolic times, whatever might be the state or circumstances of the saints addressed.
John wrote at a time when the person of our Lord was blasphemously assailed, when there were many antichrists, many false prophets gone out into the world; and of others he had to say, "They went out from us because they were not of us." And how does he begin his inspired letter? He begins by setting forth the divine and eternal excellence of the Son - "that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us." Who was the eternal life with the Father but the Son? He then asserts the precious truth, that true Christian fellowship is "with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ." He repeatedly speaks of the Father, and of His love in bringing us into new relationships, and giving us eternal life in the Son, all founded on the work of the cross. He declares that "the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin," and that if we sin, the Righteous One (Christ) is our Advocate with the Father, who is also the propitiation for our sins. He shows that those who are born of God do not practise sin; but, having eternal life, this life will be manifested in obedience, righteousness, and love.
Now it is easily seen that by this ministry of Christ, brought home by the power of the Holy Ghost, they would be delivered from a false Christ, by knowing the true One, of whom He speaks at the end of his letter as "the true God, and eternal life." By being established in their new and eternal relationships with the Father and the Son, and therefore with each other, they would be separated from false people and untrue associations; and by knowing they had eternal life in Christ, and that the Spirit was given to abide with them, they would be encouraged in the life of obedience, righteousness, and love. They would see that "he that saith he abideth in Him, ought himself so to walk, even as He walked." It was certainly a most trying state of things, but the blessed and effectual remedy of the Holy Ghost was the suited and pointed ministry of Christ.
Look also at the epistle to the Hebrews. A very different state is here seen. They were in such a low condition as to be in danger of giving up Christianity and returning to the Jews' religion. And how were they met? By the ministry of Christ; and remarkably so out of their own Scriptures - the books of Moses, Psalms, and prophets. The Son in His deity, as well as true humanity, was most blessedly brought before them in the first two chapters. He is seen to be greater than angels, worthy of more glory than Moses and Aaron, Joshua, David, and even Abraham, so that all retire when the glory of His person is introduced, like the brightest stars cease to shine before the rising of the sun. The eternal Son - the heir of all things - who made all things, upholds all things, and is to have all things put under His feet, is here brought out. He is looked at before time, in time, and after time shall have passed away. His incarnation, life of sufferings and temptation, death, resurrection, glorification, and reign, when everything will be put under His feet, all pass before us. We see Him as the Purger of sins, the Captain of our salvation, the Destroyer of the devil, the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, the Son over His own house, the Forerunner who is for us entered, an unchangeable Priest after the order of Melchisedec, the Leader and Completer of faith, the Mediator of the new covenant, and the Great Shepherd of the sheep, who was brought again from the dead through the blood of the everlasting covenant; and we are assured that "yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry."
We cannot fail to notice in what a variety of aspects the Lord Jesus is brought before the readers of this epistle, which no doubt is intended to teach us that we need the full revelation which God has given us of His own Son, and not merely to know Him as the Purger of our sins. Why the glory of His person is so clearly and richly unfolded in the beginning is because the prominent point in this epistle is the perfection of the one sacrifice and unchangeable priesthood of Christ, as contrasted with the oft-repeated sacrifices and many priests of a former dispensation, which was a time of types and shadows of the substantial realities in Christ. When one grasps the truth of the infinite perfections and glory of His person, it then becomes clear that an everlasting value is stamped on His work and offices. Thus the Hebrew believers were entitled to know that their sins were purged, and that God would remember them no more; that by that one offering they were purged worshippers, should have no more conscience of sins, and were perfected for ever. They had, as to God, liberty to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus; and as regards men, their place was with Christ outside the camp of formal religiousness, bearing His reproach, and, before the Lord comes, to be running the race of faith with patience, and looking to Him, at God's right hand, for all the sustainment and encouragement they need. Can we conceive anything more calculated to deliver souls from Judaism, and to set them right with God than this full and clear ministry of Christ? Well might the writer end his letter by enjoining them "to offer by Him (Christ) the sacrifice of praise to God continually," and not to forget "to do good, and to communicate;" "for with such sacrifices God is well pleased."
In the first epistle to the Corinthians a state very different from those we have considered meets us. We here see the assembly in the greatest disorder, with rich gifts, flagrant sins, and erroneous doctrine. A brief look into the inspired letter is enough to show how simply and - as we learn from the second epistle - how effectually it was met by the suited ministry of Christ. But first let us observe that the three things which marked the Lord's epistles to the seven churches in the Revelation were also carried out by the apostle here: 1st., He approves in them everything he can; 2nd., He brings before them their evil ways and doctrines; and 3rd., He presents the remedy, which is always found in having to do with Christ Himself, as set forth in Scripture. And will not these points always characterize a divinely-given ministry to saints? The apostle knew well that "Christ is all," and that all our blessings are in Him, and through Him, and not at all after the flesh. He therefore addresses the Corinthians as "sanctified in Christ Jesus," where divine grace has set the feeblest believer. After having acknowledged with thankfulness to God the grace given them by Christ Jesus, their utterance, knowledge, and gifts, and their waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, he reminds them of God's faithfulness, and of His having called them unto the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which is also true of every believer.
Having thus shown them that they are set apart for God in Christ, and called to have partnership with Christ in His thoughts, love, joy, service, etc., he now turns to their faults. Having exposed the divisions among them, he meets all by bringing in Christ and His cross. He says, "Is Christ divided?" Are not all believers joined to the Lord one body? Then how can divisions be right? Can the human body be divided into parts, and still be in connection with the Head? "Was Paul crucified for you?" Then why take up his name? Then he refers to their boasted wisdom: "The Greeks seek after wisdom." The Corinthians were not free from this. But the world by wisdom knew not God, and Christ crucified is the wisdom of God. The apostle says, "We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God." A crucified Christ, and a message of salvation to every one that believeth on Him, are counted by the wise Gentiles to be "foolishness;" and yet that cross shows man to be so ignorant that he did not know God, and so bad that he hated Him without a cause. Moreover, in the death of Christ not only were sins judged, but our old man was crucified with Him, which shows that man has now no place in the flesh before God, either as to righteousness or wisdom, but that He has given us a new life and standing in Christ Jesus, "who of God is made unto us wisdom." The cross put an end to man's boasted wisdom; this is why Paul would know nothing among them, save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
Next he touches their consciences about a flagrant sin; and how does he meet it? By ministering Christ. "Christ our passover is sacrificed for us." At the passover all leaven was to be put out of their houses; therefore this manifest uncleanness - leaven - must be purged out of their midst. Again, when gathered together in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is in the midst, and where the Holy Spirit is the power, how could such wickedness be associated with the Lord's name? And further, how can you eat and have fellowship with one who has so openly dishonoured the Lord who is holy? Therefore do not eat with such, but "put away from among yourselves that wicked person." They were to put away not only from the Lord's table, but also from among themselves, and were with such not even to eat. (1 Cor. 5) The sin of fornication is further met in two ways: 1st. Being joined to the Lord, one spirit, and our bodies being the members of Christ, shall we "take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot"? 2nd. Being bought with a price, we are not our own, but are to glorify God in our bodies, especially remembering that our "body is the temple of the Holy Ghost." (Chap. 6:15-20.)
Why should not a Christian be a bondman of men? Because he is the Lord's freeman; he has been bought with a price, and is Christ's bondman. (Chap. 7:22, 23.) As to not partaking at an idol's temple, not having communion there, not partaking of the table of demons, he shows that the communion God has graciously brought us into is the communion at the Lord's table of those who have a common ground of. fellowship in the blood of Christ, and a common expression of it as members of one body in breaking and eating the same loaf. Thus being identified with Christ in. His death, we are necessarily separated from every false fellowship, and every table not the Lord's. (Chap. 10)
In the next chapter, where we find that the Lord's Supper had been mixed up with such carnality as to have lost its proper character among them, he brings in the Lord again to set all right. He shows that they had missed the Lord in it - had not discerned the Lord's body. He instructs them that it is the time for remembering the Lord, and showing the Lord's death till He come, who said, "Do this in remembrance of me." He shows them that here the Lord was everything; that the supper was in respect of the body and blood of the Lord, and that the chastening of the Lord had come in because they had not discerned the Lord's body. (1 Cor. 11)
As to the doctrine which denied the resurrection of the body, the apostle at once brings in the Lord. He says, "If there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen . . . and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished," etc. He asserts the fact that "He rose again the third day," that He did so "according to the Scriptures," and that His resurrection had been verified by the most ample, and competent, and incontrovertible testimony. He teaches that "Christ" has risen as "the first-fruits," and the next in order to rise are "they that are Christ's at His coming." He concludes by showing that Christ in His abounding grace has thus triumphed over death and the grave for us; so that we are now entitled to say, "Thanks be unto God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." How manifold, then, are the. ways in which Christ is ministered to us in the word of God, and how dear it is that the ministry of the Holy Ghost is that which ministers Christ to souls!
In the Lord's epistles to the seven churches, the various aspects in which He presents Himself to each assembly, according to its need and condition, is most striking. We would only now direct attention to one point. Looking at the seven epistles as giving the seven phases of the Church's course on earth in the place of corporate responsibility to the Lord, and considering that the last four have reference to the Lord's coming, and will go on together to the end, as Popery, Protestantism, Philadelphianism, and Laodiceanism, it is interesting to observe how the Lord presents Himself to them; for it is clear, if this be the fourfold state of Christendom to the end, that these presentations of the Lord must be the last kinds of His ministry till He come. And, briefly, what are they? His Person - "the Son of God." The Giver of the Holy Ghost, and source of gift - "He that hath the seven spirits of God, and the seven stars." The holiness and truth suited to those gathered together in His name - "The Holy and the True." And the truth of the new creation - "the beginning of the creation of God." It becomes then a serious question whether, from the ministry that has gone forth in these last days, it is not Christ presenting Himself to Christendom in His last aspects? If so, how soon His word may be fulfilled: "Behold, I come quickly!"
It would be highly interesting to trace in other epistles the various ways in which the Lord Jesus Christ was presented to the saints, did our limits admit of it. We trust, however, that enough has been advanced to show that ministering Christ according to God will carry with it the authority of Scripture - "preach the Word," and therefore present Him to souls of whom the Scripture testifies; it will thus have a positive and definite character - "we preach Christ Jesus the Lord." Surely the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Ghost alone can direct the servant of the Lord as to the kind of pasture the sheep and lambs of Christ need, and the power of the Holy Ghost alone can carry it home to the heart. How otherwise can the flock of God be fed? How can any one be fitted for this holy yet happy service, unless he is living in the enjoyment of the Lord and His truth in his own soul? Unless he is waiting on the Lord, how will he be able to give his household meat in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his Lord, when He cometh, shall find so doing. H. H. Snell.