The Two-Fold Ministry.

Notes of address by J. A. Trench, 1914.

The work of the Spirit at Pentecost in forming the body of Christ is first revealed at Paul's conversion on the way to Damascus. From the teaching of the Apostle we see what the assembly, composed of all who are united to Christ in glory by the Spirit dwelling in them, is to the heart of God. "In other ages was not made known unto the sons of men." From the beginning of the world it was hid in God; creation is the sphere in which it is to be brought out (Eph. 3.). There was a double ministry of the Apostle: (1) to preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, his Gospel; (2) to make all see the fellowship of the mystery or administration, that has a larger meaning than fellowship. It is the practical arrangement and process of carrying out. To the intent that now to the exalted intelligences of the heavens might be known in the Assembly the manifold or all-various wisdom of God. His wonderful works in creation had displayed His eternal power and Godhead, but the Assembly was His masterpiece in which all the resources of His wisdom were displayed in forming out of heterogeneous races and conflicting nationalities (even Jew and Gentile) one body, who would recognise each other and walk as fellow members of the body of Christ. How infinite the grace that has brought to us that which had so great a place in the eternal thought and counsel of God.

Ch. 5. reveals the place it has in the heart of Christ. The truth of the Assembly being His Body did not bring out sufficiently how His affections were engaged in it. Hence when the Apostle touched the nearest and dearest of natural relationships, viz., husband and wife, the Spirit leads him to unfold about the love of Christ to the Assembly. He not only gave His life for her, shedding His blood, but gave Himself in the inscrutable glory of His person: i.e., the love of formed relationship. He loved her as He found her (not sanctified nor glorified) with all the devotion that led Him to give Himself. He is now sanctifying and forming it like Himself that there may be nothing to hinder the enjoyment of His love by the revelation and ministry of all He is to her. Cleansing is going along with this and is necessary because of the flesh in us. We have to pass through with a view to His presenting her to Himself as all that His heart can delight in and that we may answer practically to what we are as chosen in Christ individually before the foundation of the world, holy and without blame before Him in love. But even yet we have not learned all the Assembly is to Christ. It is His own body as Eve was to Adam, in God's original incident of marriage. It is Himself, as Paul had learned in the first words to him from the glory of Christ and thus it is that His body can be presented as His wife. In loving His wife He loves Himself and in detail, tender nourishing and cherishing is wanted in that love of His to the Assembly. The mystery is great, but Paul is speaking to us concerning Christ and the Assembly. Rev. 19. gives us the celebration of the greatest joy in heaven, i.e., the result of the presentation, when the espousals can be celebrated in heavenly glory and His wife comes out having passed the judgment seat arrayed in all that which had been the fruit of His grace in her. Rev. 21-22 gives her display in the glory of Christ in the coming Kingdom. But 21:2, shifts the scene to eternity; no longer is her glory displayed to others, but she is for Himself, as a bride still in the freshness of His affections after a thousand years of display to a wondering universe. That will be the answer to our hearts of the wealth of divine love lavished upon us. Well may Eph. 4 commence with walking worthy of such a calling!