J. N. Darby.
(Notes and Comments Vol. 2.)
There have been three characters in which God has been revealed - God Almighty - Jehovah - "Our Father which art in heaven"; all most important. The first inclusive, and, in one sense essential, attached to the name of God. The others bringing into closer affiance, into closer applicability to, the character of God - names of more direct personal relationship. While the glory is maintained, and the blessedness enhanced of the Lord God, we have these definitely set out in Scripture - to Abraham, the representative of all at Sinai, and in the Lord Jesus "Thy holy child Jesus."
But what I would now notice is that in learning the character of God as "Our Father which art in heaven" - the Christian relationship to Him therefore in the New Testament said "Thee, the only true God" - we are not to lose the others. In truth they were all centred in the Lord Jesus as God manifest in the flesh, and there we learn it, and, in proportion to the measure of the Spirit, exercise the faith in it, though the Father is the specific relationship "Our Father," He in whom we know Him being the Son, but we also know the Lord - He was the Lord. "No one can call Jesus Lord but by the Spirit of God." His Almighty Person indeed is not fully manifested, described until Revelation 4 and 11:17 - yet He was so. Hence it is manifest we have in presence them all; but see farther in Acts 4, that while our relationship is with the Father and to dwell in the Father's house, still we act on the faith of these also "Lord, Thou art God which hast made," etc. Here we have the sovereign pantokrator (Almighty) - men gathered against the Lord, "For of a truth against thy Holy Child Jesus" - here is the fulfilment addressed as to the Father, as to the realised act, but recognised as being the God who made heaven and earth, etc. It was against Jehovah - it all was - but in fact owned as the present Father. Here also we find the accuracy of the scripture Word, for these two are characteristic in fact, or general subjection - this is personally in relationship, "They shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." It is our duty thus practically to recognise these things, be perfect in them, though specially as children. Jesus shows them, "The same yesterday, to-day and for ever" - "All power in heaven and on earth" - and "The Son, the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person"; here therefore we find it.
253 Now we find the rejection of the Wisdom of God in John the baptist, and in Christ in Matthew 11:16-19, and then the justification of the children of Wisdom - the thoughts of the Lord upbraiding them for rejection as manifested - His calling the children of Wisdom. Further the comfort of Christ in submitting to the will of God in seeing the counsel of God as to all things, and the call of babes - His actual and moral purpose - upon the trouble, and apparent failure, of the rejection by the world; for His sovereignty and moral character are brought out together, and not one without the other, though the general character also, and the Sovereignty in title of Christ was hence by His coming to the world - all this is wonderfully brought out in the faithful feelings of our Lord's mind at the close of this chapter.
But it leads to something further as to the universality of Christ's work. All Christ's work, as done by Him, must have reference to, must embrace the world - He could take nothing less as His due. The whole was His title - He came as Man to men, and as Son and so heir He had right to all the world. The work of Christ as presented, as what He should expect as the Man of promise, was therefore to have the world. The Heir of the world was the promise - Christ was the seed to whom it was confirmed everyway, therefore, in His responsibility as Man, in His title, and in His dispensation of promise, the world and nothing less was the portion of His work as Man, His title as Son, His inheritance as Heir of promise - in a word, Christ had title to the world, and He came in love - that title He must be conscious of, and He came in love about it, "For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world," etc. Hence as present in humiliation, this was true, and when He takes the inheritance in Person it is equally true - He could have no less expectation as then manifested, for the witness of the love, the necessity was such, "God sent his Son into the world." He will have nothing less when He appears. This was shown in Adam also, in the history, see Genesis 2:18-19.
But here was the greatest, the grand hinge of Christ's submission, "Though he were a Son," and therefore Heir of all things, "Yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered." He came in love - He came in title - and the "world knew him not," and "His own received him not"; "Then have I laboured in vain, saith He, and spent my strength for nought." This was His deep anger against the scribes and Pharisees in the Gospel of Matthew - this His upbraiding in this chapter. He had to bear the rejection of the world, not only in the patience of suffering, but as the disappointment of all the purpose for which He was manifested as alive in the flesh, "While I am in the world, I am the light of the world."
254 "At that time" - here was His submission - "Jesus answered and said, I thank thee" … "for so it seemed good in thy sight"; the sovereign purpose, also the moral rightness, force, etc., and "revealed it unto babes," and the exercise of it - "Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." But here was perfect submission under disappointment. He was righteously angry with those who rejected Him for so doing, but then submitting to God, He saw that all things were delivered to Him in heaven and on earth by His Father "Lord of heaven and earth," and called to Him, according to the mind of the Father, those who laboured and were heavy laden. As he says in John 17, "As thou hast given him power over all flesh, to give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him"; that was the summary. But note, there was the general love in which He was manifested, and so the manifestation to, and also dying for all, as sent into the world, Jews and Gentiles joining too in the guilt.
Then the sovereignty of love in giving certain, in spite of universal rejection, to Him as the Church of the risen Christ; for it was Christ, the Anointed One of the Holy Ghost, who loved the Church which He saw in Spirit when rejected by the world, and the exercise of this speciality of love in dying for them, "Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end." He learned this before, in His rejection, He could teach it to others and does teach it to others. In the meanwhile the Church was given to Him, on His rejection by the world, as His comfort and fulness in the world, and in the Lordship of all things in heaven and on earth, in which He should be ruling over it when He bringeth the only begotten into the world. This explains too "The fulness of the Gentiles" - this makes us know what "His yoke" means; see Isaiah 50, and read John 12 too.
But the point is, He could come to and for nothing but the world, as present in it, though in dispensation, exhibited amongst the Jews. This is the point in John. The rejection was the point of submission, and He bowed perfectly and simply to the Father, and this is expressed all through; it was His perfectness, and took for salvation such as the Father was pleased to give Him - a wonderful, most wonderful submission! Yet perfect, and in Spirit, in the knowledge of the Spirit, He loved the Church which was to be His as rejected and risen, and actually as Christ - loved, then given to Him actually in the world. This is the due to that, and in John 17, and, bearing their sins, presents them to the Father, whom He thus perfectly serves, as He sees, and is Himself satisfied. Besides perfection, submission as a Man; as humbled He is highly exalted, and all things given Him not only on earth as Messiah, His due in title, but in heaven and on earth, a much larger portion, yet indeed His due as Son - and the Church out of the world in the speciality of devoted love, and kind to Him in the cognizance of it - His companion, the witness of His faithfulness as itself purchased by it, in the glory with Him - glorified with Him, while over the world that rejected Him, He and it reign more gloriously, infinitely far, than if then received. And thus is this scene accomplished, and the Mediatorial exaltation over the world completed, with the speciality of the Sovereignty in the Church added, till God be all in all, He having brought in the blessing, and given the competency, so to speak, to the Persons of the Godhead to enjoy, because the blessing of Their love was fully accomplished through Him, while the work of each in it is manifested and apparent as They are all united in all. The work of the Spirit is manifest herein, for it is to take of the things of Christ, and show them to us - It testifies in the world, and brings believers, or the elect, by faith into the Church as given to Christ, that they may be heirs with Him and of the world. The whole truth is thus brought out, and its principle.
255 Now our Lord teaches us, from having experienced the blessing of submission, and the bright prospect of love which the submission to this Sovereignty brought in, to take His yoke and learn of Him, for He is "Meek and lowly in heart." This is the point of instruction, though it rested on all things as given. No man knoweth who the Son is, and His ineffable dignity and Person, nor the Father, save the Son and He to whom the Son will reveal Him.
It is a wonderful passage! We have given but a rough sketch of it in this. Well may we say "No man knoweth the Son!" No man indeed knoweth Him, nor the Father - that is the point - save He to whom the Son reveals Him. The moral beauty of the passage we have not touched upon. The force of the "Labour and are heavy laden" cannot but be seen.
256 The principle adverted to above, as to the world and the sheep, applies to any man in whom the spirit of Christ dwells, and we can realise it intelligibly if taught of God.
There can be no doubt that a Christian, with Christ's Spirit, desires the salvation of everybody with whom he is brought into intercourse in that Spirit, and seeks it in Spirit; at the same time he may be conscious, knowing that none but God's elect may come in, that this person may prove a very hater of Jesus, and, when he does so, he abhors him utterly, and he endures all things for the elect's sake that they may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. I am quite conscious of the two feelings - in weakness surely - as distinctly and as knowing them to be of God, as I see them in Scripture. The Spirit of God walks in love through the world, but it endures and labours in the consciousness that the elect are the portion which it shall bring in blessing to God. Thus it is said that "Christ loved the Church," not "Jesus," not simply "God," but "Christ," i.e., He, anointed with the fulness of the Spirit in which He entered into and felt with the mind of God, He, as the Bridegroom, and knowing this place in the Spirit in which as risen He was to be, gave Himself for it. The great point is, in seeing our Lord, to recognise the distinction of His acting - of His earnest desire in acting, and in the highest point of acting, acting from Himself, and yet acting in perfect and sole obedience - Christ did in the Spirit and the Person of the Son. He acted aph e(m)autou (from him (my) self) and so laid down His life, yet He did it as tauten ten entolen elabon (this commandment have I received) in simple obedience. He came to do the will of Him that sent Him, not His own; now this was reconciled in suffering. If I willingly put myself in a place of suffering, I put myself into the place of patience or obedience - so did the Lord, and said "Therefore," as a man, "Not my will but thine be done." Different parties have taken up either of these separate from the other, and both have marred Christ, and this is the real point between the Irvingites and anti-Irvingites quo ad hoc, and while both have one end of truth, it appears to me that they neither know the real truth of the matter, and both have fallen into error - one of ignorance, the other by bringing in truth to dangerous approximation, and, in some instances, the line distinctly overstepped, in words of dangerous and mischievous error.
257 Now it appears to me that the Lord Jesus is the central point, as it were, of this question - we are elect in Him in the full character in which He is known, as to all His fulness of office as risen. The Church is united to Him risen, as in the flesh and as being in the world. Thus God loved the world; as acting towards it in Christ, I find the double service - acting in humiliation as a Man, in service to God He gave Himself a ransom for all "Tasted death for every man" - also, as fulfilling the purpose of God in the Spirit, so known in comfort on the rejection of the world, Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it, and this is unqualified redemption into glory according to the infallible purpose of God and effectual ministration of it by the Son.
Further, while therefore the testimony of the Spirit goes forth as the truth of God into the world, yet is its specific work, effectual work, exclusively in the elect of God, testifying of Christ effectually and fully, gathering them, uniting them, as life thus to Him and dwelling in them, as so quickened and gathered - a witness to God. It condemns in testimony because of a world-rejected Christ - by it we are saved, in efficacy, because it unites to Christ risen in the testimony of a living faith. The work of God, viewed simply so, was universal and could not but be, while de facto also His holiness shewed all were at enmity too.
The work of Christ, as Man, unto death was individually universal - the work of the Spirit has also its universality of condemning testimony. But looking at them specifically, while God shewed His love to the world, we have the purpose of the Father, the work of the Son having its double aspect, because, though there were some given to Him of the Father, He purchased the world unto Himself. The effectual accomplishment of the Spirit is in the elect; hence in the purpose in 1 Peter 1, the Father and the Spirit are mentioned, for the Son has His own peculiar title (but He might seem really dishonoured in the world which rejected Him) besides His subjection to the Father, though not dissonant from but the very object of the Father's will; and that title is universal, unqualified, and also coincidently in His work perfect in the universality of His love, whence His patience - He has it in His Godhead, as the Father loved the world in His Godhead, though, as the Father, He purposed the salvation of the Church making them therein His manifest children, for, though the purpose of all, Christ continues, so to speak, in His purposing Godhead.
258 The depth of this subject as most blessed, so is most full of the fulness that cannot be reached, while we are filled into it and made the fulness of the Head of the body, and most sanctifying if we receive it in humble reception, enabling us to hold things in simplicity. Hence I say, God loved the world - Christ died for all, so also He loved the Church and gave Himself for it, and the Spirit (the Accomplisher of all individual result) worketh effectually in them that believe.
Note the vast difference of the way of God's dealings in the case of the professing Church and the world at large. To the professing Church which had had the truth and not loved it, God sends strong delusion to believe a lie, whereas to the world at large the Gospel of the kingdom and the everlasting Gospel are sent as a warning and to call men.