Correspondence (The Mystery)

The Unity of the Spirit.

W.H.D. writes as follows: —

"You may be sure I hailed with the greatest pleasure the announcement of the Quarterly Supplement, and have read it with deep interest. But I must confess to a shade of disappointment; I am at a loss to understand quite what the four contributors have set before themselves as the object of their writing; what in point of fact is the precise effect they wish to produce upon their readers.

"They enlarge much and most justly upon the extraordinary wonderful blessings and destinies that God in His grace has designed for those who believe His witness from among the Gentiles, that vast multitude, His church, which He has gathered out during this 2,000 years to a heavenly in contrast to an earthly portion, and they rightly insist that the heavenly destiny of the church separates its interests entirely from the course of this world. But there seems to be a tendency to fix the mind so entirely on the heavenly side as to lead to the feeling, if not the thought, that the earthly side is not so material. J.T.Mawson prints Ephesians 4:1-3, in large capitals at the end of his article, but he does not appear to lay any stress on the point of the exhortation, which is, to keep the Spirit-made unity in the uniting bond of peace; this surely applies to earth only, for in heaven there can be no need."

We had hoped that the exhortation of Ephesians 4:1-3, being printed in capitals at the end of the paper referred to, would show that we do lay great stress upon it; this was certainly our purpose in thus giving it prominence.

We welcome this criticism from the pen of a valued correspondent, whose letters always give us food for thought; especially so, as generally what is expressed by one is thought by many. The object we have in view in this publication is to bring afresh before our brethren in Christ the truth of the assembly which is so precious to Christ, and which holds its unique place in the purpose of God. To Ezekiel, it was said, "Son of man, behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears, and set thine heart upon all that I shall show thee; for to the intent that I might show them to thee art thou brought hither: declare all that thou seest to the house of Israel" (Ezek. 40:2). Then the house which was to be God's dwelling was shown to Him in all its parts. And the impression to be produced upon the people is clearly stated in chapter 52:10, "Thou son of man, show the house to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities: and let them measure the pattern."

This is the effect we desire to produce upon our readers and ourselves; as we go over the truth of Christ and the assembly we want to feel with them before the Lord how inconsistent are the ways of the vast majority of those who through infinite grace have their part in the one assembly with the pattern that is shown us of it in the Word. We want to set the truth before them so that they may measure the pattern, and in exercise of soul give heed to the exhortation, which our correspondent desires to have emphasized. We know of no way by which the saints of God can be delivered from false positions and false ways and false doctrines but by the ministry of the truth. "Ye shall know the truth" said the Lord "and the truth shall make you free." It is by ministering the truth that we shall help others, and, by acting upon it ourselves, and here we have to confess with shame much failure; few can link their manner of life with their doctrine, as could the Apostle Paul. Yet however imperfectly we carry out the truth; however far our feet lag behind what our eyes see; yet this is our desire, to understand the truth better, to minister it more clearly and in the power of the Holy Ghost, and to walk in it and be under the influence of it more truly with all saints.

The first part of the exhortation which our correspondent thinks we fail to emphasize is the first exhortation in the epistle to the Ephesians, and consequently of first importance. The apostle, as the Lord's prisoner, suffering bonds for His name's sake and for this special revelation from the Lord of which He was the special steward, beseeches us to walk worthy of the vocation set before us in the earlier chapters; we cannot know it unless we read them, we must not come to the exhortation of chapter 4, except through the teaching of chapters 1, 2, and 3. As we learn them we measure the pattern. And the exhortation of chapter 4 is to be consistent with what we have learnt. In those chapters we learn where God has set us: abounding towards us in all wisdom and prudence, and, according to the mighty power that raised up Jesus from the dead and set Him as Head over the whole universe, He has raised us up who were dead in trespasses and sins, to satisfy His own great love. Saved by His grace, we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to good works, which He has before ordained that we should walk in them. We were once without Christ, aliens from the Commonwealth of Israel, strangers, from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

1). Yet from that hopeless "afar off place we have been made nigh in Christ Jesus by the blood of Christ." That is the new position.

2). Jew and Gentile are brought together, and Christ has made of these twain in Himself one new man. That is the new man in the new position.

3). He has reconciled us to God in one body by the cross. That is the new unity, not of ordinances but of life.

4). And both have access to the Father through Him by the Spirit. That is the new favour, for what favour could be greater than to have access to the Father, the source of all glory and grace.

5). We are now fellow-citizens with the saints. That is the new dignity, but not only have we our part in a city where is maintained a polity which is entirely of God, but we are of the household of God, where His secrets that lie behind His administration are known and where His very character must be maintained. A new responsibility surely attaches to that.

6). In the Lord they are "builded together an habitation of God through the Spirit."

These things are all included in our present vocation of which we are exhorted to walk worthy; and this can only be done as with the absence of pride which is the chief characteristic of the flesh, we walk in lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering bearing with one another in love. This is the life of Christ in practical manifestation and only in this life can we walk worthy of our vocation which is in Christ. The Spirit also has His part in this. "Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." Diligence is needed for this, but of what sort? It is not enough to say, "We are all believers, let us obliterate all differences and walk together." That would be comparatively easy, for to do that we should only have to drop all prejudices that keep saints apart, or make compromises in regard to them. The unity of the Spirit means more than that; in this the man from whose carnal will all prejudices spring is obliterated by the cross, he has no place in it. We speak here of the man after the flesh, the old man, who showed himself in the Jew as a proud and intolerant bigot, and, still shows himself in that way in many who profess to take very high ground; and who showed himself in the Gentile in lawless will and unrestrained licence. That man has come under God's judgment in the cross, and has no place in the unity of the Spirit. God has displaced him as being utterly useless and profitless for His purpose, and has created in his place the one new man.

Our quotations from Ephesians 2 prove this. It is "in Christ Jesus that we are made nigh by the blood of Christ." He has abolished the enmity in His flesh. i.e. His dead body on the cross. It does not say that we are reconciled to one another, but it does say what is greater and higher, that both Jew and Gentile, between whom the greatest hostility existed are reconciled to God in one body by the cross.

The unity of the Spirit is inclusive of all who are in Christ and exclusive of all that is not of Him, and in the endeavour to keep this unity we also must be both inclusive and exclusive. We must be exclusive first of all in regard to the man that brings in dissension and division, and that man we find very ready to assert his will in ourselves. The more we walk in the truth of the cross of Christ as to ourselves the better able shall we be to walk in the grace of Christ towards those who are His. Let us measure the pattern, and learn the truth, we are "in Christ Jesus;" "in Himself;" reconciled to God "in one body," and are "a holy temple in the Lord."

In endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit we do not form a new unity or build a new church, but walk in the truth of that which already exists, though so little seen. "All saints" must have their place in our affections for they are all in the unity of the Spirit. Christ is the centre, all saints are the circumference, and the Spirit the binding power. "There is one body and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling." There is set forth the vital unity that can never be dissolved and into which no failure can come. What we earnestly desire is to know more of that and keep the truth of it in a practical way, not in conflict one with the other, but in the bond of peace, the peace which belongs to the assembly of God.

Our correspondent continues: —

"Much space is taken up with setting forth the glories and the graces of the Lord Jesus, and none too much, no one can go far enough in that direction much less too far; but it must be remembered that what He asks for is not honour and praise in word only but in deeds. "If a man love Me" He says "he will keep My words," and the thing He said of old time still holds good, "Obedience is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." I notice the expression "bridal affection" occurs once or twice, but the Lord never asks for that; it is a different kind of love He seeks from His redeemed. In another quarter one hears a good deal of this and one is not surprised. Not he that offers the loudest and highest laudation "is he that loves Me" is what He says, but "he that has My commandments and keeps them."

As to these closing words, we remark that the saints at Ephesus were charged by the Lord with having departed from "first love," that we take it to be bridal affection. And when the bride in unison with the Spirit cries, "Come, Lord Jesus," that will be the sweet expression of bridal affection, for which He is looking from His church. But our correspondent is right in pressing that the test of true love to the Lord is the keeping of His word. This is the one and only test. May we all be exercised as to how far we are proving that we love the Lord. To keep His word and not deny His name, will cost us something, but the compensation is great. His command is that we love one another, this stands first of all, and it is deeply significant that the one assembly that receives the fullest commendation from the Lord in Revelation 2 and 3 is Philadelphia — which means, the love of the brethren. May we all be Philadelphians in this respect.