F. H. B.
Christian Friend vol. 19, 1892, p. 118.
The last phase of the Church's history as the vessel of testimony on earth is depicted in the address to the church at Laodicea. (Rev. 3.) This I believe is rapidly developing at the present time, and it is in this development that the greatest amount of religious activity is at present exhibited. In its full manifestation it will lead to the Lord rejecting the Church as His candlestick on earth, true believers being taken to glory when He comes. While there is at this moment in the professing church that which answers to Thyatira, Sardis, and Philadelphia, yet there is no special activity connected with these phases of the Church's condition. On the other hand, the Laodicean state is rapidly developing on all hands. That which is producing this condition is the effort to Christianize the natural man, to accredit in a religious way what is of man. Under the name of Christ, and under the profession of Christianity, there is the practical denial of all that is vitally Christian. What is of man is accredited, and Christ is practically shut out. It is not open apostacy, the giving up of the profession of Christianity, nor is it loving devotedness to Christ; it is neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm. "There is no zeal for Christ, no hatred of sin; but a mild, self-complacent toleration of all, and of all things, and connected therewith the substitution of humanity for Christ."
In this condition of things man's utter ruin and lost estate are being denied, and consequently the eternal judgment of God upon sin is also denied. God's claims as to sin and the necessity of the work of atonement are ignored. Man is supposed to be already in relationship with God, all men alike are said to be His children, and therefore the need of new birth, of a life derived from the last Adam, is explained away, and made to signify simply an outward change in character, a reformation of the old man. Not seeing that man as of the first creation is utterly ruined and lost, the necessity of a new creation is ignored. The creation of God, of which Christ is the beginning, is the new creation. The first creation has been marred by sin, so that it can no longer be owned by God. The glory of the person of Christ is lost sight of, and He is spoken of merely as one of the best of men, and so held up as an example which the natural man should admire and imitate. Thus, by cultivating all that is supposed to be good in man, he may make himself acceptable to God. By the adoption of means which act upon, cultivate, and develop what is humanly good in man in a religious way, man in the flesh is magnified, and Christ is only used as a means to this end. The cross, in which is expressed the judgment and end of the first man in the sight of God, is altogether rejected. There is much congratulation at the increased light of the nineteenth century, and at the progress made, and the results obtained in winning the masses, and in improving and Christianizing men, and the boast is, We are rich, and increased in goods, and have need of nothing. Yet with all this the Lord declares that there is the lack of all that can be accounted riches in a divine sense, of all those divine realities which the believer possesses in Christ. His judgment of such is, that they are poor, and miserable, and blind, and naked, wherefore He counsels them to buy of Him that which alone can truly make rich toward God and for eternity.
In this Laodicean state there is the absence of the divine righteousness in which alone man can stand before God, and which is only possessed in Christ, and is entirely independent of all that is in man. There is also wanting the true character of Christ, which is the only practical righteousness in which the saint should appear before men, and which should hide the shame of his nakedness. There may be an imitation of Christ, in human righteousness, benevolence, goodness, etc., but it is an imitation, it is not the real thing, it is not Christ, but what is of man. And, lastly, there is the lack of the power of spiritual discernment, which is the Spirit of Christ. It is only by the Spirit that we can perceive divine things; the natural man understandeth not the things of God, but the spiritual man discerneth all things. Lacking these essential characteristics of a Christian, whatever else men may possess, in the sight of God they are poor, miserable, blind, and naked; and how solemn to think of the many professing Christians who will be found naked in the day of judgment! On the other hand, the believer who has Christ, and knows what He is made to him of God, whatever else he may lack, is rich, possessing all things.
I believe the cause of the state of things we have considered, is the neglect of the truth of the epistle to the Colossians, which was written specially for the church of the Laodiceans as well as for the Colossians. (Col. 2:1, 4:16.) This epistle is what is needed in a particular way at the present time, when we are in special danger on account of the prevalence and activity of these Laodicean principles; it is the great preservative and remedy for them if known in divine power.*
*To appreciate the address to the Laodiceans, and to understand the state therein described, it should be studied in connection with the epistle to the Colossians. In the latter we learn what is the true Christian state. In the former we get the contrast to this in every respect; it is the description of a non-Christian state under the profession of Christianity, though doubtless true Christians are found associated with it. The Lord is outside, yet calls to individual believers to hear His voice, and open the door to Him, and says, moreover, "As many as I love I rebuke and chasten."
What the saint wants is to know Christ better, to be rooted and built up in Him, to walk in Him, to grow up to Him in all things, to rejoice in Him, until each one is presented perfect in Him, and thus to learn more how Christ is everything. If this be so we shall not fall into the Laodicean snare, we shall be preserved from the spirit of that which accredits man, seeks to build up man, and pretends to present man perfect before God, and from all the teaching and commandments of men which tend to satisfy the flesh, so that men may say, we are rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing.* If Christ is revealed in our hearts, He will displace all that is of man.
*All that is of God for man is centred in Christ. "In Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and ye are complete (or filled up) in Him." He is the Head of the body, and it is in holding the Head that we receive the needed supplies - all the body is ministered to from the Head. Nothing of man can contribute to one who is filled up in Christ. In any measure in which we accredit what is of man by appealing to what is of man, or by adopting what is of man in a religious way, so far we are not holding the Head. In proportion as we give place to what is of man in divine things we detract from the glory of Christ, who is everything for the saint, and we are so far contaminated with the spirit of Laodicea.
May God grant that so it may be increasingly, and that Christ, living in us, may be magnified in our bodies. "He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord." F. H. B.