Revelation and Response.

At a meeting of Christians held a short time ago, one speaker gave an address on the subject "What the Church is to Christ," followed by another speaker who took for his subject "What the Church is to God." It is reported that those who were privileged to be present greatly enjoyed the two addresses, and we feel thankful to God, that, in this world where the enemy of souls is apparently so successful in deflecting the minds of men from occupation with the blessed God and His Beloved Son, and the wonderful sphere of blessing that grace has so fully revealed, there are those who delight to meet together for the contemplation of such Heavenly themes as those above mentioned.

It is the writer's judgment that it might be profitable to prolong this meditation, on the Church, not in its relation to Christ, or to God, but what it is as related to the individual members who compose it; and what kind of response should be expected from those who are so highly honoured of God as to be chosen as living stones in His House, and so beloved by Christ as to be elect members of His Body and His Bride.

In the New Testament the Church is presented under various aspects. e.g., a House, a Body, a Bride, a Lampstand and a City.

The House Aspect.

The House suggests at once a dwelling-place. How marvellous is the grace of God, that He has always desired to dwell with men. Even in Old Testament times, where we have the record of His dealings with His earthly people, the Jews, we read of His gracious invitation to His servant Moses, "Let them make Me a Sanctuary that I may dwell among them" (Exodus 25:8). What wonderful condescension on God's part and how blessed the portion of the people in whose midst the mighty God desired to dwell! But how sad is the history of this greatly favoured nation! What a record of disobedience, failure and unbelief is theirs! so much so that when we turn to the New T. we hear the first Christian martyr, Stephen, say to their offspring, "O stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers, ye also" (Acts 7:51).

The Tabernacle was God's Sanctuary while His people journeyed through the wilderness, but when they reached Canaan, a more substantial building — the Temple at Jerusalem became His Sanctuary. It is necessary to note that both the Tabernacle and the Temple were material buildings, but it is hoped that no reader of this paper entertains such a notion that any material structure, however vast its size, or ornate its architecture, forms the House of God in this day. Another reference to Stephen's address in Acts 7:48 assures us that "the Most High dwells not in places made with hands." The reason, no doubt, that many hold wrong ideas about the Church, is their belief that Christianity is a development of Judaism. This is a great mistake, for the Old Testament says nothing about the Church. It gives us a record of God's dealings with an earthly people, whereas the Church is heavenly, in nature, origin and destination. But though the Church is not mentioned in the O.T. we would be great losers if we neglected to study closely the wonderful types of the Church as given to us in Exodus 25-30. These chapters reveal to us a domain where treasures of heavenly wisdom abound in richest profusion. Everything they contain is planned by God Himself and Moses was repeatedly warned to make everything "according to the plan shown him in the mount." Apart from a brief reference to the boards of the Tabernacle, time and space forbid our further reference to these wonderful types. These boards, forty-eight in number, covered with gold, standing upright on sockets of silver, and ten cubits high, supporting the beautiful curtains (typifying the manifold glories of Christ) formed God's dwelling place in the midst of His earthly people.

Reader! if you are a true believer, this wonderful description of the boards applies to yourself for note:

1. In God's sight you are covered with gold. Gold signifies the righteousness of God. You are in Christ. You are God's righteousness in Him. See 2 Corinthians 5:21. You are no longer among those referred to in Romans 10:3 who are "ignorant of God's righteousness and going about to establish their own righteousness."

2. You are standing on the sockets of silver. Silver in Scripture signifies redemption, You are on redemption ground.

3. You are ten cubits in stature, meaning you have reached God's standard of responsibility (ten Commandments were given to Israel). Romans 3:23 no longer applies to you.

It must be clearly stated that 1, 2 and 3 only apply to believers as in Christ.

4. The boards, upholding the beautiful curtains, surely represent believers in this day, who both individually and unitedly, seek to herald forth the glories of Christ. What a blessed response is this for all the favours grace has shown us! and how zealous we should be in manifesting it!

Let us now look at the New Testament. The types and shadows of the Old, however interesting and helpful they may be as patterns of heavenly things, must take a secondary place in our thoughts to the heavenly things themselves. Many Scriptures might be considered but our choice must be a very limited one.

We turn first to Matthew 16:13-19. Here we have the record of a conversation between our Lord and His disciples. He asks them the question "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am." After hearing their various replies, He repeats the question and Peter replies in those ever memorable words, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God." What a cheer this heaven-born confession must have been to the heart of the Lord Jesus, for He said to Peter that His Father in Heaven had revealed it to him.

Then the Lord makes a statement, which has been the subject of controversy in religions circles throughout the ages. since His blessed lips gave utterance to it, but which. on the other hand, has afforded super-abounding joy to the humble and faithful child of God. The statement is: "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my assembly."

Many hold the false idea that the Rock was Peter — an unstable rock indeed would he have been No! not Peter! but Peter's confession is the Rock, "Christ, the Son of the Living God." The name Peter means a stone or a piece of the Rock, possessing the same life and nature as the Rock, and nothing less than this — "having Christ's life and nature" — would be acceptable to God as material for His Assembly. Remember the boards of the Tabernacle, the gold, the silver, and their stature of ten cubits.

"I will build MY Assembly." The quiet contemplation of these five words with all the assurance, mighty power and infinite love which they express, must fill the hearts of believers with supreme joy.

Conscious of His power to build that blessed Object which would afford Him every delight through eternal days He challenges the gates of hades and manifests the futility of Satanic power. Shortly after these triumphant words were uttered He reminds His disciples (verse 21) of His approaching death and resurrection, which must both eventuate before the Building could begin. His devotion unto death must enhance, to the true Christian the thought of His love as expressed in the words MY Assembly, and we would again ask the question, "what Response do we render in return for all His love and the place of high honour He has bestowed upon us?" Does it not appear to us that He expects it, for in wonderful grace He tells us of the worst hindrance which blocks the way to our yielding it? "What is that?" does some one ask. Dear young believer, seek the quiet of your Lord's presence, and hear Him say to you "If any one desires to come after Me, LET HIM DENY HIMSELF and take up his Cross and follow Me" (verse 24).

After what has been said, some one may ask: Is the Church in existence today? If so, where is it? When did it begin? In reply we add that the Church is living today though the world may not see it. Scripture, however, assures us that "The Lord knoweth them that are His" (2 Tim. 2:19).

If it were possible to assemble all true believers in a town or city (say Edinburgh for example) into some large place, we could say of them that they were the Church of God in Edinburgh. As to the Church's beginning on earth, Acts 2 tells us that the day of Pentecost was its birthday, and Jerusalem its birthplace. After Christ had finished the work of redemption and had ascended to Heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit to indwell His Assembly. After nearly two thousand years this Building is not completed. New stones are constantly being added, and when the last one is placed in position, then Christ will come to claim His Bride and present Her to Himself, a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing (Eph. 5:27).
"Oh, Day of wondrous promise
The Bridegroom and the Bride,
Are seen in glory ever,
And love is satisfied."

There are many events recorded in God's Word, which shine like mighty beacons in the dense darkness of this world, but only those, who through God's mercy, have received their sight, are aware of them. One of these is given to us in Luke's gospel, Luke 2:10-11. We remember the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night, and how thrilled they must have been, when the surrounding darkness was suddenly dispelled by the brilliance of the glory of the Lord, and on their ears there fell the angelic message, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people, for unto you is born this day — a Saviour which is Christ the Lord," and to remove every shadow of doubt as to Who He actually is, Matthew 1:23 adds "They shall call His Name Emmanuel, which, being interpreted, is GOD WITH US."

This spontaneous and mighty display of grace on God's part, in sending His Son for man's redemption, has drawn forth volumes of praise from myriads of redeemed and adoring hearts. Cold and callous, indeed, must be the heart, where response is unknown.

Another event, wherein is displayed the matchless grace of God is recorded in Acts 1, 2. In these chapters we read of the Lord and His disciples being together, Judas the traitor, was absent. The death and resurrection of Jesus are both accomplished, and He is about to ascend back to heaven from whence He came. He gathers His loved disciples around Him, and commands them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father. This, according to John 14:16, was the Holy Spirit. Further, He tells them that they "will be baptised with the Holy Spirit not many days hence" (Acts 1:5), and verse 9 assures us "When He had spoken these things, while they beheld, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight." But though out of their sight, He is still the object of their affections, as they are of His. It is on account of His love for them, that He sends the Holy Spirit, but this brings us to ch. 2, where we get the birthday of the Assembly, the day of Pentecost, and its birthplace, the upper room at Jerusalem. Speaking of Jerusalem as its birthplace, we do not contradict the statement in our first paper that the Assembly's origin is Heavenly. The presence of the Spirit is necessary for the formation of the Church, for we read in Ephesians 2:22 that believers are built together for a habitation of God IN THE SPIRIT. But from whence did the Spirit come on the day of Pentecost? Surely from the ascended Lord in heaven. If so, then the Assembly's origin is Heavenly. Let it be clearly stated that had Christ's ascension not taken place He could not have sent the Holy Spirit, and had the Holy Spirit not descended from heaven there would have been no Assembly or House of God. It is important to note with regard to the rushing mighty wind that it represents the Holy Spirit as taking up, His abode in the company of the disciples, whereas the Tongues of fire represent His indwelling of individuals. 1 Cor. 3:16 refers to the former. The Apostle Paul writes "Know ye not that ye (the company) are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" (the Company). 1 Cor. 6:19-20 helps as to the latter. The Apostle says "What? Know ye not that your body (individual) is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?"

In connection with the second scripture, how comforting is the thought that, if our bodies are even now the temples of the Holy Ghost, how certain it must be that the redemption of our bodies is coming.

Before we leave off our consideration of Acts 2, an extract from the writings of J.N.D. may be appropriate. Referring to the visible character that the Holy Spirit takes he says "When it descended on Christ (Matt. 3:16) the Spirit was like unto a dove, symbol of the meekness and sweet tranquility of Him of Whom it was written, He shall not strive, nor cry, neither shall any man hear His voice in the streets, a bruised reed shall He not break, and smoking flax shall He not quench till He send forth judgment unto victory… The Spirit came then as an impetuous wind, filling all the house and as cloven tongues of fire. This partition was symbolical of the many languages, the fire of the penetrating power of the Word of God, discerner of the thoughts and intentions of the heart."

Now what was the response to this mighty manifestation of the grace of God in sending the Holy Ghost that "His people might be endued with power from on high" (Luke 24:49)? There is one striking phrase which occurs often in these early chapters of Acts, and which is descriptive both of individuals and of companies.

"They were filled with the Spirit."

What weighty words are these! One feels that their meaning could be better expressed in the language of another. After referring to the great power, and the great grace, and the great love which characterized these early Christians, he says:

"Such is the scene which passes before our eyes, when the Church was established in the beginning — when the Spirit ungrieved, displayed all the effect of His presence. Most blessed scene, giving us to understand what it is to be filled with the Holy Ghost … so filled with Him, that He may be the source of all that is thought, of all that is done, and that all that the heart (which is His vessel) produces, may be the fruit of His presence. What a blessed state."

The perusal of this brief extract should produce in the heart of every true believer the desire, that the precious soul experience, portrayed by the writer, may, through God's grace become his own. Thank God, if such is the case. Every Christian is born of the Spirit, and indwelt by the Spirit — God's work and God's gift — but the exhortations to "Grieve not the Spirit" (Eph. 4:30), to "be filled with the Spirit" (Eph. 5:18), to "Quench not the Spirit" (1 Thess. 5:19), and to "Walk in the Spirit" (Gal. 5:16), surely imply that the hindrances to the attainment of this "blessed state" mentioned by the writer lie with believers themselves.

We note with approbation, the wonderful response on the part of these early Christians, who formed the nucleus of God's Assembly, to all the fervour and blessing God had manifested toward them. We admire their fervent love one toward another, a love that led those who were in circumstances of opulence, to sell their possessions and goods, in order to give the money to their needy brethren. We note also their confessed weakness and dependence in the presence of God, and their remarkable boldness and confidence in presence of their persecutors. Their manner of life also must have been most attractive to men, for the same description Luke gives of the Lord, he applies to them. Compare the last verse of the second chapter of Luke with the last verse of the second chapter of Acts.

At the close of our meditation on these early chapters of the Acts, where we have the precious record of our Lord's ascension to heaven in Acts 1 and the descent of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 to indwell the little company of believers, thus forming the Assembly, we count it a privilege to thank God for the response, in the way of the faithful testimony to these mighty truths, rendered by the Church of the first century. We may well ask ourselves why the response of the twentieth century Church appears so feeble by way of contrast. The risen, ascended Lord is still on high, building His Assembly; He has carried out His promise that the gates of Hades should not prevail against it. The Holy Spirit is still on earth indwelling the Assembly and the individual members composing it, and His power and presence are still at the Church's disposal.

Finally, the same Lord Who vouchsafed His presence to the Church of the first century, vouchsafes His presence to the many thousands of faithful souls today, who gather in truth and loyalty to His Name.

But the days of the Assembly's earthly pilgrimage are fast drawing to a close. The heartfelt longing of multitudes of believers, so sweetly expressed in the words of a well-known hymn will soon be satisfied.
Oh bright and blessed hope!
When shall it be that we,
His face, long loved, revealed shall see.
Oh! when, without a cloud,
His features trace,
Whose faithful love, so long, we've known in grace.

When we come to Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians we find much more of the precious truth regarding the assembly as the House of God. The truth revealed in this remarkable Epistle is so precious and edifying that it becomes us to approach its study in a spirit of true humility and subjection to the guidance of the Holy Spirit; deeply conscious that this divine teacher is alone competent to minister its glorious and majestic doctrines to the hearts of true believers. This Epistle gives us the richest exposition of the blessings of the saints individually, and of the church corporately.

It is important to notice that, though the Apostle is about to declare the heavenly glories of the church, he always begins with the individual. This is prominently the case in chapter 1, where the church is not mentioned until the end. Another has said, "The moral order of this is exceedingly beautiful. In the admirable wisdom and grace of God it is the direct setting aside of that which is found in all earthly systems, where the individual is merely a portion of a vast body which arrogates to itself the highest claims. It is not so in the Word of God. There the individual blessing of the soul has the first place. God would have us set thoroughly clear, and intelligently appreciating our individual place and relation to Himself." Weighty and acceptable words! In wonderful grace our God and Father would thus reassure even the feeblest of His children of His affection and care, not only for the church corporate, but primarily for each individual member thereof. The sorrowful condition of things in Christendom today, where the tendency is to set aside what is personal for that which is corporate, compels us to raise a warning voice. It is boldly declared on every hand that "Salvation is in the church;" thus robbing Christ of His glory in redemption, and setting aside His atoning death on the cross. Another evil result is that the soul's freedom of access into God's presence is frustrated. In face of such evils, let saints proclaim joyously that:
On Christ (not the church) salvation rests secure
The Rock of Ages must endure."

Should it not fill us with grave concern that millions of people are nursing the vain hope that the appearance of their names on the church membership roll is all that matters in regard to their eternal salvation? What a delusion!

As in the previous papers we will seek to classify our remarks under the two headings of Revelation and Response. Although the Epistle to the Ephesians forms the chief subject for our meditations in our present paper, it would be helpful to refer to the Book of Numbers, in the Old Testament, on account of the similarity of teaching. Numbers gives us the walk and warfare of God's earthly people, and Ephesians the walk and warfare of God's heavenly people. In the opening chapters of Numbers we find the Israelites at the start of their wilderness journey. Moses, their leader, acting under God's instructions, gives final orders as to their march. First, they were to be numbered, every man had to pitch under his own standard — every tribe was given its own place with regard to the Tabernacle, God's dwelling place in their midst — and finally, every man had to declare his pedigree.

What consternation and dismay would fill the hearts of thousands today, if a similar announcement rang throughout Christendom! And why not? If a Jew was compelled to declare his pedigree, why not a Christian? or a mere professor? But some one may say, "I am not a Jew, and therefore pedigrees do not bother me." One hopes, that behind such a remark, there is not the suggestion that God is prepared to wink at laxity in His heavenly people which He would not tolerate in His earthly people. The same God Who demanded a declaration of pedigree from His earthly people, as recorded in Numbers, is the God Who accompanies His heavenly people in their journey heavenwards today. The former, to whose care was committed the Tabernacle, were greatly honoured of God and, no doubt, appreciated their honour; but how that honour pales in comparison to that bestowed on those "Who are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit" (Eph. 2:22). They are not occupied with a material building, but they, themselves, form God's habitation. Oh! dear believer, what an honour God has, in His marvellous grace, bestowed upon us; and how should we value it!

A Wonderful Revelation.

Now let us study Ephesians 1 in closer detail. In Eph. 1:3-5, such a wonderful revelation is made to us, that we may well pray God to forbid that we should read Holy Scripture, and be as little affected by it as is the bird by the message which runs through the wire on which it perches. Here we are told that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ "hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ, according as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should he holy and without blame before Him in love. Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself." Oh! the heights and depths of grace: what love and mercy do these words reveal to our souls! What an honour to be chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame, before Him in love (holy as regards character, without blame as regards conduct), for only as thus characterized could we be God's habitation (Eph. 2:22); and then in prolongation of the wondrous tale of grace we have the Christians glorious pedigree; predestinated unto the adoption of children, by Jesus Christ. What a glorious pedigree! What a blessed relationship! Reader, is it yours? If not, you have no membership in that habitation of God referred to in chapter 2:22.

We must ever remember that this glorious pedigree, although it emanated from the heart of God in a past eternity, could only come into our possession through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is only after our Lord's death and resurrection that we read of His glorious and ever memorable message to His disciples, given through Mary, "Go to My brethren and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father and your Father; and to My God and your God." Thus this Scripture in John 20 is the endorsement of Ephesians 1:5.

The Response.

In Ephesians 1, the Apostle declares to our admiring hearts all the counsels of God. Three wonderful facts concerning saints are made known:
1. They have been blessed with all spiritual blessings.
2. They have been chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blame before Him in love.
3. They have been predestinated unto adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself.

This is the blessed company that has been builded together for a habitation of God. How glorious their pedigree How fitting that Ephesians 1:3-5 should precede Ephesians 2:22.

The Apostle, at the beginning of Ephesians 4 seeks a response from the saints at Ephesus to all the rich unfoldings of divine blessing that he has made to them: he desires that they should walk worthy of the calling wherewith we have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love. We may well challenge our own poor hearts as to whether we are responding in this way to the wonderful revelation that God has given to us in this wonderful Epistle.

Then Paul exhorts the saints to endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. What a great privilege for saints to respond to the truth in this way! We are not asked to maintain the unity of a sect or system, or of any party or company of Christians where human ideas or personalities bind men together, but to seek to maintain the divine unity that subsists by the Spirit of God, where the will of God in the mind and leading of the Spirit of God is everything.

At the close of the Epistle we learn that, if we would respond to the wonderful revelation of truth given in this epistle, we shall be involved in conflict. So many endeavour to shun the conflict, but the truth of God is to be maintained at all costs, and God has given us the armour in which to stand firm for Him in this evil day.

May we therefore, while rejoicing in the greatness of the revelation of divine blessing, vouchsafed to us in the riches of God's grace, ever seek to respond to it in all the responsibility connected with God's habitation, and with the warfare that belongs to a people that would be faithful to Him.
R. B. Wilson.