Genesis 1: 1-3
Mark 1: 1
Ephesians 2: 11-22; 3: 20-21
We had a word in the gospel in Linlithgow recently as to the matter of recovery, and that subject has been in my mind since then. I wanted to speak about some of the features of recovery and its results, and the first thing to notice is that the creation as we know it is a work of recovery. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” We know from Isaiah that, “not as waste did he create it: he formed it to be inhabited”, Is 45: 18. However, something came about after the “beginning” that brought in disruption, so that the word here says, “And the earth was waste and empty, and darkness was on the face of the deep”. What God had originally created had been altered, and He comes in, in order to set things right. The first feature of this recovery is that “God said, Let there be light. And there was light”. I believe that light is a leading feature in the work of recovery. It may be said sometimes that the light has been recovered to us, but I would rather say that we have been recovered to the light. The light that shone in Christ has never changed, it has never altered. The scripture uses the expression, as the brethren know, “as the truth is in Jesus”, Eph 4: 21. How could that ever have altered? It has not, but through God’s mercy, believers have been recovered to what shone in its pristine glory and has been maintained through centuries of time by the Holy Spirit. For, if we can see the truth in Jesus objectively, so the Spirit has maintained it subjectively in the hearts of those lovers of Christ who have been there even in the darkest of times when there was little outwardly responsive to God. You think of the hymn written by Bernard of Clairvaux, who was born in the 11th century, (a time that is sometimes spoken of as the Dark Ages), when he could write,
Jesus! the very thought of Thee
With sweetness fills the breast
The light was there, and there was one to take account of it. That same hymn-writer wrote another hymn - It is not in the hymn book that we use - but he speaks of the Lord,
Thy countenance transcendent -
O life-creating Sun
To worlds on Thee dependent! -
Was bruised and spit upon.
The light was shining in his soul, and I simply say that because the light has remained constant whatever the outward circumstances of Christendom might have been, but God has worked in recovery to bring persons back to it. So light is a feature of John’s ministry for the last days, the Lord as the Light of the world, and then in his epistle, “But if we walk in the light as he is in the light,” - that is God - “we have fellowship with one another” (1 John 1: 7); so recovery in relation to fellowship requires the acknowledgement of the light of the Christian dispensation, light as to Christ and the assembly, light as to Christ glorified, a Man at God’s right hand and the Spirit here. God’s work in recovery, you might say, begins with the light, and conditions are created thereby in which life can subsist. As we have been taught, on the first day we get light, on the second atmosphere, on the third food, on the fourth rule. And these are the conditions into which life can be introduced, first in its variety on the fifth day, and then man, the top-stone of God’s creation, on the sixth. God has in mind to produce a result for Himself.
When we come to Mark’s gospel, I just read the first verse and want to touch on it because Mark himself was a recovered man. He went away and then he came back, serviceable for the ministry. Again many will know what has been said: that Mark departed in the sunshine of the Acts and was recovered in the gloom of 2 Timothy. Why is that said? Because God works in recovery even in the darkest of days. He is able for it. And what is the feature of recovery that is drawn attention to here? Recovery draws attention to Christ, not to the person recovered. Mark begins, “Beginning of the glad tidings of Jesus Christ, Son of God”. He does not spend time speaking about what a poor person he was, and about all the things he did that were wrong; he points immediately to Christ. Think also of Peter. You could say of Peter that he was a recovered man, and did he speak about his own failings? No, but he recognises them in what he says as to the Lord Jesus, “who when reviled, reviled not again; when suffering, threatened not; but gave himself over into the hands of him who judges righteously”, 1 Pet 2: 23. As a recovered man, he was able to judge that in which he himself had failed, rather than speak about it. He spoke about Christ as the Model who has been left for us that we “should follow in His steps”, v 21. So Mark also draws attention to Christ. You look through the gospel according to Mark. There are certain features of it, but one in particular I draw attention to is that Mark regularly draws out where there is unbelief, because I think unbelief militates against recovery, and that is why Mark speaks so strongly about it. Even at the end it says of the Lord that He “reproached them with their unbelief and hardness of heart”, Mark 16: 14. I reproach myself because sometimes I pray for recovery, and I pray perhaps because I think I ought to do so, rather than because I truly believe that the Lord is able for it. What is He not able for? “With men it is impossible,” the Lord says, “but not with God; for all things are possible with God”, Mark 10: 27. Think of what the Lord has done. God’s Man has brought about, in righteousness, conditions in which God can recover the whole of mankind to Himself. Now not all accept it; as was rightly said earlier in this meeting, we have to come in alone. Not all accept it, but we have been taught, that the whole world stands provisionally reconciled to God on account of what Christ has done. So God is righteous: “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself” (2 Cor 5: 19), and He is righteous so to do in the light of the glad tidings of Jesus Christ, Son of God.
I go on to Ephesians because a further feature of recovery, I believe, is that of reconciliation, and that is what comes in here. Now, if we look at what we may regard as impossible, who would have thought that there was any possibility of reconciliation between Jew and Gentile? It says of the Christ whose blood has been shed, “For he is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of enclosure”. What recovery has been made possible by the cross! The things that stand between one person and another were dealt with at the cross. They were all dealt with there, washed away in the blood of Christ, all the features of the man that offended taken away by the Man in whom there was no offence. “Him who knew not sin he has made sin for us, that we might become God’s righteousness in him”, 2 Cor 5: 21. The work of the cross is a wonderful thing. The hymn-writer says,
O the cross of Christ is wondrous!
There I learn God’s heart to me;
Midst the silent, deep’ning darkness,
“God is light” I also see.
When that darkness obtained, when darkness covered the land from the sixth to the ninth hour, yet ’“God is light” I also see’. The darkness there was impenetrable as Christ suffered at the hands of a holy and sin-hating God, and yet what a light dawned upon man as a result of the death, the blood-shedding, the burial and the resurrection of Christ. What a light dawned on man, and that light has not stopped shining. The work of the cross takes away the features that prevent reconciliation from taking place. What are these features? Well, we cannot go over them all but they include pride: that went at the cross. You think of the offering of the red heifer, including as it does the cedar-wood, the pride of man, the scarlet, anything that would magnify, and the hyssop, that sense of humility on which we might come to lean too heavily. They are all cast into the burning. They go; they do not have a place; they are all finished at the cross. And the learning of the Gentiles against the religious standing of the Jew all goes at the cross. You think of the inscription on the cross in Hebrew, Greek and Latin letters. The Greeks with their education, the Jews with their religious standing, the Romans with their military might, all went at the cross. So what stood between man and his God was dealt with, but also what stood between man and man was dealt with there, “that he might form the two in himself into one new man, making peace”. The Lord says in Matthew’s gospel, “Blessed the peace-makers”, (Matt 5: 9), and He knew what it would cost them to make that peace that would allow the two to be formed into one new man, “having by it slain the enmity”. The enmity was not put aside or stayed for a while: it was put out of sight; it was slain. So that is what God does, and that is what God is able to do, and there is what He produces.
Well, there is access, of course: I do not go into the detail, but there is access through Christ and by one Spirit to the Father in order that there might be privilege and response, and there is “a habitation of God in the Spirit”. Why is that? Because God’s house is here and it is available in order that the gospel might go out so that more might be secured for this place of blessing. It is not reserved just for a few. God has all in mind, “a habitation of God in the Spirit”. If you look at Luke’s gospel chapters 14 and 15 you see the house of God in operation, and Christ in His place: “Give place to this man” (chap 14: 9), and “my house may be filled”, v 23. Luke 14 and 15 deal with the house of God in its operation in view of securing persons in response to God. “A habitation of God in the Spirit” has in mind that there is a dwelling-place for God from which this message of recovery and blessing can go out, but the great end is “to him be glory in the assembly in Christ Jesus unto all generations of the age of ages. Amen”. Every true heart has found its place in the assembly, and I use that in its broadest sense as including all believers who have the Spirit. Every true heart would acknowledge that he or she is a recovered person, brought back. Mr Darby has an impression of that,
Father, Thy sovereign love has sought
Captives to sin, gone far from Thee;
I thought of reading about David who recovered all and brought all back, 1 Sam 30: 19, 20. He recovered everything then he brought it back and made it serviceable to God. Christ has recovered all and brought all back, and what He has secured as a result is glory to God “in the assembly in Christ Jesus unto all generations of the age of ages. Amen”. Well, may we be encouraged. For His Name’s sake.
17th December 2013