God's Calling, and Christ Learned.

W. T. Whybrow.

Christian Friend vol. 14, 1887, p. 324.

As believers we have had to do with God in two specific ways; or, rather, God has set us before Himself in sovereign grace according to a twofold revelation, which absolutely controls the soul, and affords a sure foundation for further progress. God has called us, and we have learned Christ. Feeble and defective may be our apprehension, and the effects of such amazing grace consequently lacking their proper fulness; but it is nevertheless true of every believer, that God has spoken personally to his soul, has called him, and that he has learned Christ. Adam in innocence needed no call. The moment sin entered, and he was lost, then "the Lord called unto Adam." That call stayed his downward path of ruin, and marked the point where grace could intervene; viz., sins confessed in the presence of the Lord. God's calling indicates an authoritative and public announcement of what is in Himself, and stamps its character upon him who is addressed. From the first, man's heart, as taught of God, recognized the need of a substitute; but until the angel of Jehovah called unto Abraham out of heaven, never had the substitute been identified with the beloved and only begotten Son. (Gen. 22:2; Heb. 11:17.)

In the garden, out of heaven, and for a third time out of the bush, God's call is heard. (Exodus 3:4.) Not now in the truth that discovers sin and the love which provides a substitute, but as the Holy One who redeems His people, taking His place in the midst without abating His glory, but enabling them to sustain it. The call implies that man had wandered from God as Adam had, and, proceeding from the heart of God, invites into His own heavenly presence, as to Abraham. (Compare Heb. 6:13-20.) But it is founded on grace, which reigns through righteousness, a substitute being provided, and holiness maintained through redemption. Moreover, the call relates to the counsel and purpose of God - the heavenly scene wherein He has blessed us, choosing us in Christ before the world's foundation. Seated there in Him already, it is nevertheless a call to us, for we are not with Him there as yet.

In addition, the call, as already mentioned, stamps its character upon him to whom it is addressed. Thus Adam is no longer a hidden but a discovered sinner; Abraham, a man who trusted the heart of God, and saw Christ's day (Heb. 11:8, 19; James 2:23; John 8:56); in Moses we see specially sanctification to God and redemption (Heb. 11:24-29.) As to the last, it is these two facts that are distinctive of his faith, as precisely pointed out in the passage quoted from Heb. 11. The election of Jehovah's people, and His purpose to bring them into the land, though mentioned in the call of Moses, were matters of previous revelation. One other instance may be cited as illustrating in this way God's call of the Christian; viz., Elisha's call to be prophet in the room of Elijah. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth; and his first act on being aroused to the imperative nature of the call was to sacrifice his prospects. He "took a yoke of oxen, and slew them," etc. "Then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him."

Thus God has called the believer, and in virtue of this has constituted him, not only a heavenly sojourner and saint on earth, but "in Christ" according to His own nature, holy and without blame before Him in love. Growth or attainment are not in question here. It is ours wholly in and by the call of God, though it awaits display, and is according to the eternal purpose and choice of God, and is founded surely upon the redemption we have through the blood of Christ. Moreover, we were marked out beforehand for adoption through Jesus Christ to Himself according to the good pleasure of His will. (Eph. 1:3-5.) Have we all understood the imperative nature of this call? How gladly, then, shall we relinquish all the prospect this poor world can offer, as those who are blessed with better, even spiritual blessings, in a higher and a heavenly sphere!

But, even if fairly started, conscious of God's call, and thus constituted according to His own nature, there is yet another thing - the having learned Christ. Neither is this any matter of attainment, though our souls are perhaps slow to receive the truth of it. It is Jesus, and the truth is in Him, and He is eternally, unchangeably the same. This truth is learnt by us experimentally, and in the measure that our souls are acquainted with Him. (Eph. 4:20-24.) To have learnt Christ is, then, the having put off the old man, corrupt according to the deceitful lusts (our former conversation), and being renewed in the spirit of our mind, and having put on the new man, which, according to God, is created in truthful righteousness and holiness. Let us remember that in Christ this is the truth, and the truth as to us. By the cross put off, the old man is, for faith, for ever done with. We never could have put him off ourselves; it would have been our own eternal condemnation. But, after four thousand years of trial, the world has been finally judged, sin in the flesh condemned, the old man - the flesh - crucified, and thus put off for us for ever - the work of God alone by the cross.

The difficulty sometimes is to accept it because contradicting experience. Perhaps, as illustrating the truth, we may be helped by the history of Elijah. His ministry, his hopes, his affections were connected with Israel in the flesh, and, however he may have failed, his heart clung divinely to that unhappy but beloved people. But, in testimony and in spirit, the time had come for Jehovah's faithfulness to His promises to proceed upon a new and better ground, even that of resurrection itself. Elijah, as a man of God, must therefore enter into His mind about it all, and, in sealing Israel's rejection, survey the scene of its total failure. He proceeds with Elisha from Gilgal, where at the first the reproach of Egypt was rolled away, and strength acquired for victory as Jehovah's host, but now "all their wickedness was there." (Hosea 9:15.) From thence they went down to Bethel, the spot where Jacob lay asleep, and received the unconditional promise of the land. But, worse and worse, the calf of Samaria was there. Neither, therefore, can they tarry here; so they came to Jericho. What of Jericho - proof of the enemy's power while existing, but, when devoted to the curse, the pledge of Israel's possession? That city is built again in defiance of Jehovah's word by Joshua (1 Kings 16:34), and nothing now remains but to give over the whole scene for lost, to accept the divine sentence, and pass out of it by death. Thus the Jordan is traversed. The divine path is no longer into the land, but out of it. "They two went over on dry around."

And is it difficult for us to take this journey in a moral way? In every spot where the footsteps of the first man have been traced by the word of God the record given is one of utter irretrievable failure. Eden's innocence, the world before the flood, the law from Sinai, all tell the tale. The priesthood and the kingdom, Aaron's sons and David's seed, confirm it. The remnant brought back in recovering grace from Babylon only serve to close the history of man, and seal his condemnation. His sun sets in the impenetrable darkness, the eternal midnight of the cross. But how bright and blessed is the scene that opens beyond! Weaned from earth, Elijah's faith formed heavenly links, and carried thither by a chariot of fire and horses of fire, Israel's guide and preserver becomes a man in heaven. His spirit in double measure rests upon the man identified with him on earth. Elisha, who had before heard and answered to the call, now learns the ruin of the old thing, and accepts his portion in Israel on a new footing (typically resurrection), and, in an inverse order, substituting Carmel (fruitfulness) for Gilgal, the place of circumcision.

And cannot we, as having put on the new man, in identification with Christ risen from the dead (for this the Christian is), walk through the old scene in truthful righteousness and holiness, being created thus according to God? The spirit of the mind being renewed, can we not return and bring as it were the healing power of grace into the bitter waters of this poor world? Having done for ever with the old man and assumed the new, and supplied with fresh renewals of the mind, may we be imitators of God as beloved children, and walk in love, even as Christ loved us, and delivered Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour, ever remembering God's calling, and the Christ we have learned.

W. T. W.

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It is continuance in the judgment of the worthlessness of all things (Phil. 3) that marks the place Christ has in our hearts, gives true joy and liberty, and makes us bright witnesses for Christ in the world. Only remember that he who seeks finds, that we need force every moment, and that the manna of today will not do for tomorrow. The world solicits always. We need the constant grace of Christ, the whole armour of God; having done all to stand.