Gift and Possession.

F. H. B.

Christian Friend vol. 18, 1891, p. 89.

We find in Scripture two ways in which the truth of the believer's blessing is presented. In Ephesians 1 and 2 it is presented from God's side, in connection with His grace and purpose and mighty power. Here, therefore, all is looked at as for ever sealed and complete, even to our sitting in heavenly places in Christ; we are blessed with every spiritual blessing, in the heavenlies, in Christ; this is absolutely and unchangeably true of every saint. Here there can be no thought of increase or attainment. There is no "if," no contingency, no uncertainty. It is no question of anything on our part, of our knowledge, or enjoyment, or diligence, or experience, or practice; every saint is seen in the fulness of the Christian place and blessing. It is all the fruit of what God is in Himself, who, on the ground of the finished work of His own Son, is now able to act without any hindrance according to His own sovereign love and counsels, and for His own pleasure and glory, and He is displaying this in taking up those who were dead in sins, and blessing them in Christ, according as He has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world. This is absolute, unchangeable, and eternal. It depends wholly upon God Himself, His sovereign grace and purpose. His great love and almighty power give us our place in Christ before Himself, according to His own good pleasure, and for His own glory; therefore all must be perfect and worthy of God. Whatever may be our feebleness and failing, and in spite of all the power of Satan, the blessing abides unchangeably settled, and will eventually be manifested to the glory of God. In these chapters the saint is seen in the fulness of Christ's place before God the Father, taken into favour in the Beloved, and by the Spirit united to Christ where He is in heavenly glory, beyond the power of death, a member of His body. He is seen in that new creation where all things are of God; and he is sealed by the Spirit, who is the earnest of the inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession. He is thus seen as in Christ, come into the good land, the heavenly Canaan.

But there is another side of the truth to be considered; that is, as to how far each one of us has taken actual possession of those things, which are ours in Christ, in our own individual faith, so that we not only know that all belongs to us through the sovereign grace of God, but that we have an intelligent understanding and enjoyment of the blessings of this heavenly calling. In connection with this side of the truth, there is room for various degrees of attainment; at the best it is but little that we know and enjoy of these things. Paul himself could say, "Not as though I had already attained." "I follow after." "I press toward the mark for the prize"; and he could say to the saints, "Whereunto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule," etc. (Phil. 3.) For this we need to be strengthened by the Spirit in the inner man. The work of Christ for, us has secured the blessing which is ours in Him; but it is the work of the Spirit in us which makes it really good to us through faith as our present portion and joy. Attainment is in the knowledge and enjoyment of that which is already ours in Christ, and will be according to our diligence, and the measure in which we walk in the Spirit. "He that seeketh, findeth." "The soul of the diligent shall be made fat." On the other hand, "The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing." "The slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting." Through negligence he does not enjoy the good of that of which he has got possession. "Put the substance of a diligent man is precious."

God would surely have us realize now the reality and preciousness of the standing which He has given us before Himself in Christ, and the blessing connected with it, and have the joy flowing from it in our hearts. "Rejoice in the Lord alway." It is the Holy Spirit's office to guide us into all the truth; to take of the things of Christ, and show them unto us. He strengthens us in the inner man, so that we may be filled unto all the fulness of God, and thus the true spiritual state is formed in us which properly corresponds to our calling. But if through carelessness, worldliness, or self-indulgence we grieve the Holy Spirit, the practical realization of the blessing of our calling is lost, and there is no progress in the apprehension and enjoyment of all the unsearchable riches of Christ which are ours by the grace of God. Every saint is seated in heavenly places in Christ, and is blessed in Him with every spiritual blessing; but many a saint, in his own individual faith, has never yet reached heavenly ground, and, may be, knows and enjoys little if anything of heavenly blessings. The history of the children of Israel in their journey from Egypt to Canaan serves, and it is often used, to illustrate the progress of souls in the apprehension and enjoyment of the truth by faith. In this there is progress, as the saint walks with God, and with an ungrieved Spirit diligently seeking the things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God.

The truth of God's sovereignty in grace, and of the security of the believer's standing in Christ, was never intended to be a cover for self-indulgence and worldliness. If we are to possess the good land, there must be purpose of heart, and courage to overcome difficulties and hindrances of various kinds, which the enemy would use to hinder us. God gave the land of Canaan to the children of Israel, as He had sworn to their fathers; but they must go over Jordan and take possession of it. Every place that the sole of their foot should tread upon was to be theirs. In view of this God said to Joshua, "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee." It is to be feared that many Christians are content to stand on the other side of Jordan, gazing on the good land, describing its beauty and riches, without ever thinking of going over Jordan, in the power of the Spirit, to take possession of heavenly things. While knowing a present salvation, and the certainty of going to heaven at the end, they live an earthly life, resting in God's present care, and looking for enjoyment in those present mercies which sustain the natural life of man in this world, which they take as the manifestation of God's favour toward them; in other words, they live the life of pious Jews, with the hope of heaven when they die. But true Christian life has its enjoyment in another sphere. "Our life is hid with Christ in God." "Our citizenship is in heaven," etc. The things which God has prepared for them that love Him are, in the present time, heavenly and not earthly things; they are really Christ's things. And we must be in present communion with Him to enjoy them, and this must necessarily carry us in spirit to the place where He is. It is the present ministry and power of the Holy Spirit which conducts us there, and into the realization by faith of these our own things. He takes of Christ's things, and shows them unto us. If we are minding earthly things we are outside the line of the Spirit's actings, and we shall not enjoy His ministry.

We thus see that while our standing before God is perfect and unchangeable and independent of everything connected with ourselves, our enjoyment of the blessing connected with it is most intimately connected with our walking in the Spirit. It is only as the truth is made good in our hearts by the Spirit that we are practically fashioned and governed by it. And thus there is progress in the work by which Christ is formed in us, and in our growing up to Him in all things, until in the end each one is presented perfect in Christ. (Col. 1:28.) There is no progress as to the standing itself, but there is progress in the apprehension and realization of it by faith, and in practical conformity to it.

The conflict in Ephesians 6 is not in order to get into the standing, but to maintain practically the possession of that which is given to us in Christ, so as to be living in it, that we may stand where God has set us, against the enemy who ever seeks to deprive us of the enjoyment of that which God has given and secured to us in Christ. F. H. B.