John 14: 21-23
Psalm 119: 1-8
Colossians 3: 12-15
1 Corinthians 13: 8 (to “fails”)
Revelation 4: 1-4
I seek help, beloved brethren, to say something about being brought into moral accord with God. I would like to speak of it in relation to four different settings from the Scriptures we have read. Firstly in relation to the mind of God, then in being brought into accord with the will of God, then being brought into accord with the love of God; and lastly in being brought into moral accord with the administration that proceeds from God.
It is not by mistake that I have read the same section as was read yesterday evening and in some measure I have similar thoughts about the section to present. If there is a measure of repetition, may the Lord grant us grace to receive the force of the word. It is sufficient that a thing should be said by a divine Person once. If it be said more than once, then there is particular emphasis that we have to own and recognise. It would be understandable that it is in the mind of God that there should be moral accord with us in relation to His own thoughts. God’s standard is Christ. That has been said many times and if I have one overriding exercise in view of this occasion it is that throughout what is said may Christ be honoured.
God has given Him the highest place in glory on high. He is worthy of it. He is worthy of the supreme place in our affections, and His word and commandments deserve to have our greatest attention. I thoroughly agree with what was presented on the past evening, that we must be obedient to the word of the Lord. The word “commandment” is used in this section and while it conveys an indication of the Lord’s mind for us it carries the additional thought that it is presented in such a way that it bears divine authority in the speaking. The Lord has a right to speak with divine authority. I would go as far as to say that every divine communication carries authority with it. It may be at times that God speaks in all the blessedness of His grace and with all the appeal of His love; we can never disassociate the thought of authority from divine speaking and therefore it calls for obedience on our part to answer to the light presented. Perfect obedience was a very precious feature that marked the Lord Jesus as a Man here.
I find it most interesting that we have three very precious references in a prophetic way to the ear of the Lord Jesus. We are told in the Psalm, “ears hast thou prepared me”, Ps 40: 6. That was at the point of His entrance into manhood. We are told later in Isaiah, “He wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the instructed” (Isa 50: 4), which would allude to the course of His manhood here. In Exodus it is said, “his master shall bore his ear through with an awl”, Exod 21: 6. That is a prophetic reference to the irreversible commitment of the Lord Jesus to carry out in its entirety what the will of God required. He has gone even to death. He never turned back and He never could on account of the blessedness of His perfect obedience. These references call our attention to the ears of the Lord Jesus as a Man in all His blessed perfection. Is it not appropriate then that we should have hearing ears in relation to what God might say, and that we should hearken to the importance of His word? I would include in my thoughts the written word of God. We are in days when some people are very willing to express their opinions about a great variety of things and sadly sometimes harmful opinions are expressed which are entirely contrary to the authority of God’s word. What do we do? Do we go by the general consensus of opinion about matters or do we stand by the regulating authority of God’s word? We must be obedient to the authority of the divine word. God’s mind has been set forth; how blessed that that is so. How thankful we should be for the unfolding of the mind of God, and what a wonderful unfolding there has been. God spoke in many parts and in many ways before but there has been no speaking like the speaking “in Son”, Heb 1: 1, 2. The heart of God has been made known and not only His power and divinity, great as they are.
Men often fail to move in the true fear of God, not understanding the mighty power that God has to give effect to every requirement of His holy will. God has wonderful reserves of power. We have yet to see some of them released on the earth, although much will be brought out when the church is taken to be with Christ. God has mighty reserves of power but the particular character of His speaking at the present time is in all the blessed appeal of grace as set forth in the glad tidings. Oh the wonder of God’s heart of love! What wonderful speaking continues in the testimony at the present time: the testimony to God’s grace. Has there been an answer in obedience from every heart here to the appeal of God in love? I would just take a moment to say, do not trifle with these things, dear friend. God speaks in grace, He speaks once, and He may speak many times. Some of us can look back on our own lives and recall many, many times when God graciously spoke to us. That reflects the marvellous grace of God and His wonderful patience, but it provides no opportunity for trifling with the importance and the solemnity of God’s word. If He speaks, hearken to the appeal of divine love, and obey.
I not only make mention of the importance of answering to the word as coming from divine Persons, but I make reference to the wonderful appeal that would come home to our hearts from considering the compensation and the reward of hearkening to the voice of the Lord Jesus. It says here, “He that has my commandments and keeps them, he it is that loves me; but he that loves me shall be loved by my Father”. How precious are these words of the Lord Jesus. They set out the portion of those who hear His commandments and keep them. It is love’s opportunity to respond to the appeal of the Lord’s authoritative word and to come into the enjoyment of all the blessedness that flows in affection from the Father towards us because of our recognition of Christ. What things we are brought into in the sphere of Christianity! He further says, “If any one love me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our abode with him”. What rich compensation on account of adhering to the words of the Lord Jesus and going by the authority of all that has been communicated to us. We are in days when we should value these things, because sadly sometimes there is a public turning away from the authority of the word of God.
I am not here to criticise authority in government, but I do observe that sometimes legislation is passed which runs contrary to the word of God. We must stand by the authority of the Scriptures. We must be marked by this principle of obedience, and it carries its own blessed reward in the enjoyment of the Father’s love toward us and the manifestation of Christ, because He makes Himself manifest as well. We read that “Judas, not the Iscariote, says to him, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself to us and not to the world?”. The Lord had indicated He would manifest Himself to those that love Him. It is not characteristic of the world to express love for Christ. It is the scene of Christ’s rejection. Oh that we might enjoy and appreciate our place amongst the sanctified company, those who have been set apart in order to be for God where there is love for Christ and love for His word, and where the manifestation of Christ may be enjoyed. This beautiful thought is expressed of divine Persons coming to make their abode. What do we know of these things, beloved brethren? They spring from attention to the divine word. I leave that among us because I think it is a starting point. If I do not have an understanding of the mind of God I do not know how to proceed. We have no need to be in darkness. It is a terrible thing to be in the darkness. If you are in the darkness you are without God and you are without hope. Light has come in and involves the communication of the mind of God, and that light then becomes law. If God communicates His mind then the light of the revealed mind of God becomes regulatory towards us and that is why I read from Psalm 119.
It is a section that we may not too often draw upon. It sets out the earnest exercise of a soul having some understanding of the law of God and His testimonies and His commandments so that his walk should be regulated accordingly. I have just been indicating that light becomes law to us and as that is worked out in a practical way we are brought into moral conformity to the will of God; to walk in accord with the will of God. How delightful that is to God Himself. He found a full answer to that in all the moral perfection of the Lord Jesus in His pathway here. Oh what excellence marked the footsteps of the Lord Jesus! Think of the Father taking account of the movements of His own beloved Son as He pursued that pathway here in perfect accord with the will of God. Was there ever a step out of place? There never was. There was opposition against the Lord Jesus; there was temptation even from Satan himself; there were times when the Lord Jesus felt the coldness and hatred of men but never did the Lord step out of the pathway of God’s will. Having committed Himself to fulfil the Father’s will He proceeded to carry it out in every detail in divine perfection as a Man here. The standard is Christ. God is operating to form a great family at the present time.
There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that the family that is being formed at the present time will be brought into perfect accord with the mind of God. Each of the personnel will be clothed entirely according to God’s mind. We shall have bodies of glory like unto His body of glory, Phil 3: 21. Christ will carry out that wonderful act and will transform these bodies into conformity to His own body of glory. He has the mighty power to do it and He will transform these bodies of ours. It is a wonderful thought that we shall be brought into perfect accord even as to our bodies. We are told about that in Romans 8, “whom he has foreknown, he has also predestinated”, for such a place of favour before God, “to be conformed to the image of his Son”, v 29. That is an area that is outside of contention and dispute, and springs from the declared mind of God from eternity. What a wonderful hope the believer has.
My point for the moment rather bears on the work that is proceeding now. That is, that we should be morally conformed to Christ now and brought into accord with the mind of God in a practical way through inward formation. That is part of the wonderful service of the Holy Spirit at the present time. Some may wonder about the use of the word ‘moral’. It does not appear in the text of Scripture although you will find it in helpful footnotes in several places. Clearly the import of the word bears upon us because it shows how God has brought in clear distinction between what is good and what is evil and revealed His mind about it. He is working in order that we may be formed according to the perfect good that has been expressed in Christ. We use the expression, ‘the moral perfection of the Lord Jesus’. If we do so, we would do well to say, 'perfect good in the midst of all evil'. The divine standard is there. God will not take anything into eternity in this wonderful family that falls short of the divine standard in Christ. What God is working out at the present time in a moral way in the souls of the saints is to bring us into perfect accord with His own peculiar delight in Christ His well-beloved Son.
That bears on our understanding of the mind of God and it bears on us being formed and helped to walk in accordance with the will of God and the ways of God. These things found their perfect answer in the Lord Jesus. They were a source of delight to His Father’s heart. God did not hide His delight in His own beloved Son. The heavens were opened and the voice was “uttered to him by the excellent glory: This is my beloved Son, in whom I have found my delight”, 2 Peter 1: 17. What delight the Father had in calling attention to Christ. We were reading a passage recently in our local meeting and the expression was used “boasting ...... in Christ Jesus”, Phil 1: 26. A young brother asked why we should be told to boast. That is a healthy enquiry, for we have no cause to boast in ourselves, but if we are making much of Christ Jesus then that is honouring to God. God’s delight is in Him. Let us be preserved from making much of ourselves, and from seeking any place of importance amongst the saints for that it is not according to the will of God. The will of God is that Christ should be magnified among us and formed in us. May the Spirit of God graciously operate in our hearts to form the true characteristics of the family in us so that the heavenly character of the family comes into expression in a greater way.
We often say that the assembly is a vessel heavenly in origin and destiny, which is perfectly true. I always like to add this thought that it is heavenly in origin, character and destiny, JBS vol 7 p14. What is being formed of true assembly character is something that is entirely in accordance with the mind of God. What God is forming in the souls of the saints is a perfect work. That is a feature of the Spirit’s work. It is perfect in the soul of the believer at any point according to what has been formed. The Spirit never forms imperfect work: He is a divine Person and His operations are perfectly in accordance with the counsel that has proceeded from God Himself. The work of the Holy Spirit is distinctive in its glorious nature. What has been formed and written in the hearts of the saints will neither be deleted nor amended. It is written indelibly there according to His perfect work and will go through into glory. That is a marvellous thing about the work of the Holy Spirit that is being currently formed in the souls of the saints. You may feel weak in your body or you may feel as if your mind is beginning to fail a little and you cannot remember all the things that you once remembered, but God does the writing in the heart. He does not write it in a failing memory. The Spirit is able to recall things to our minds, and graciously serves us in that way too, but the work of formation is an inward work in the souls of the saints. It is a work of new creation, meantime housed in old creation vessels. We are soon to have bodies of glory that will be completely in accordance with the new creation sphere into which we are to be brought. All this is proceeding meantime so that we should be brought into perfect harmony with the will of God in our pathway here. May we be preserved from projecting ourselves and from causing confusion or disarray amongst the saints. He is the God of order and is operating in view of a glorious answer being wrought out among the saints down here.
I would now like to say a little about the love of God. What a wonderful thing it is to be brought into accord with the love of God. The measure of my stature is largely judged by the measure of my formation in love; that is a sobering thought. We may have access to devices to help us to become expanded in our knowledge of things. It is well and good if they are used wisely, but the measure of our true stature is the measure in which we are formed in love. Love provides wonderful opportunities. Some of the features to be wrought out in love amongst the saints are outlined in the section that we read from in Colossians. What scope there is for these activities in love to proceed amongst us! Would we not admit that there is always opportunity to bring out the grace of the Lord Jesus in a practical way in our relationships with one another and in the promotion of what is proper to the family and in the sight of God?
I would like to speak about Epaphras who constantly prayed that the saints should be preserved according to the will of God. He was local in Colosse and spoke to Paul about his local brethren. He did not criticise them, but told Paul about their love in the Spirit. That is a beautiful thought. I do not wish to be hard in my comments, but I just pray that we may all be preserved from harmful gossip and be helped to speak well of our local brethren: they are among the brethren of Christ; they belong to the heavenly family every bit as much as I do. When Epaphras was telling Paul about the saints, he was not at that time resident in his local meeting; he was in the prison as a fellow prisoner with Paul in Rome. He never gave up his love for his brethren. There is always room to add love. Perhaps you think there is not as much love amongst the saints as there should be. Beloved brother, beloved sister, that is love’s opportunity for you. Take up the opportunity to add love. Even to brotherly love add love. I may feel I have fulfilled my obligations to my brother and nothing more can be done. “Love never fails”. Perhaps something else can be done. Oh to have wisdom to know how to apply love in order to bring in an answer to needs among us. Does love ever conflict with truth? It never could, for both proceed from God, love being His very nature. Truth includes the glorious unfolding of the mind of God. The two things cannot conflict, it is not possible. Light from God helps us to know God’s mind, and being obedient to it helps us to walk according to His will. Love provides the ability to work it out in a practical way amongst the saints so that what is perfectly consistent with the truth may find its workable expression and happy enjoyment among us as belonging to the family.
I was thinking about the tabernacle system. I was recalling that Moses was given instructions about the pattern, and the erection of the boards which held up the curtains, Exod 25, 26. The boards are like the persons, and the curtains are like the principles. If you do not have the persons the principles will not be rightly supported, but God has provided us with the persons. Let us have true regard for the persons of the saints, our brethren. There was a bar, the middle bar, which bound those boards together. That was like adding love when the middle bar was put in. It speaks very interestingly about the middle bar “reaching from one end to the other”, Ex 26: 28. We may feel that tests us. I may get on with most of the saints but find there are some that I still have some difficulty about. The bar goes from one end to the other. We need to have regard in love for all the saints. I am not putting a word upon my brethren that I am not taking to my own heart, but if there is need of more love amongst us then let us all add it. If you were to ask me if it will work, I trust without boasting, that I can tell you that I know it works. I have seen it working locally. I have seen it in practice amongst the saints and I know it works. We have the authority of God’s word telling us that love never fails, but when the exercise is practically taken up in love for Christ and for those who truly belong to the family, divine support would bring in help to make it workable. Love never involves compromise or departure from adhering to the principles of the truth. It is the very way that the workability of the truth is made possible amongst the saints and Epaphras shone in that. I do not know if he was a gifted brother or not, but he is said to be a bondman in Christ Jesus. You do not need gift to be a bondman. It is a question of taking up the exercise in devotion to serve the Lord and His people in love, and taking it up carries an outstanding reward. It brings joy amongst the saints. It cheered the heart of the apostle Paul. Even in the prison, when deprived largely for the time being of the company of his brethren in other parts and the liberty to move among them, he was cheered to learn of what God’s operations were amongst the Colossian saints as reported by a faithful bondman in Christ Jesus. I think there is plenty opportunity for faithful service among us in love. As loving one another, and adding love, it promotes what is pleasing to God.
I pass on to my final thought, in touching upon the scene in Revelation. It is future, but John was given a preview. He saw a throne, and I may add that the throne comes in at the beginning of Revelation and it comes in at the end of Revelation. The whole book is encased with the thought of supremacy on the throne. God will never depart from His thoughts. God can never be forced into any situation but He proceeds according to the wisdom of His ways. Much is yet to be accomplished that John was privileged to get a preview of and it is most interesting to look into these things that have yet to be seen.
The elders were round that throne. The elders are being prepared now. They do not abruptly come into view on the heavenly scene. The term elder would rather indicate that they were persons of experience who had been formed by God in view of having their part in sympathetic interest around the throne. I link that with the thought of administration and it is suggestive of what is proceeding now. I will say for the help of some of our younger brethren that the twenty four elders do not seem to be twenty four specific persons but they are representative of the fruit of experience with God. I do not limit the thought to those of the present family. I have no doubt the thought includes the wealth of experience from other families too and of times when God has been operating amongst others such as Abraham, Moses, David and many more. It bears in a special way upon the saints of the present family, however, because there is no time of administration like the administration that is being wrought out now. There is a wonderful administration proceeding that Paul makes reference to in Ephesians 3. Things hidden throughout the ages have now not only been revealed but the administration of them is proceeding. We are under observation from heaven, beloved brethren. Heavenly dignitaries are looking down upon the all various wisdom that is to be found in the assembly at the present time. Is the administration in our localities in keeping with such a dignified thought? Are we adhering to the principles that give honour to the truth and are in accordance with it, and thus are not divergent from the authority of the word of God?
These things search us and one would speak in love to the saints in order that we all may be helped to work out things in a practical way, so that the experiences gained may indicate that we are in sympathy with what proceeds from the throne. Neutrality is an impossibility in Christianity. You cannot put neutrality alongside the rainbow which encircled the throne. It is a testimony to the abiding faithfulness of God Himself. The elders are round the throne and they are in perfect harmony with the declared faithfulness of God Himself. They are there and they are “clothed with white garments; and on their heads golden crowns”. These are wonderful allusions to the characteristics of the dignity of the experience gained from the administration at the present time that will then be suited to the scene round the throne in a future time. The present time is the time when the experience of many of the elders is being gained. It is not only experience, because I might have bad experiences as well as good experiences: I would suggest it is the fruit of experience. It will display the fruit of what is wrought out amongst the saints in proper administration according to divine wisdom.
There is need of these things being carried out in true love for the Lord Jesus whom we seek to honour in the time of His absence. He will soon take up direct administration when He takes the throne. He is presently seated on the Father’s throne and occupies that worthy place. We shall share Christ’s throne, but I know of no one else who shares the Father’s throne, save Christ Himself, Rev 3: 21. It is a witness to the place of honour that the Father has given Him. It is also a witness to the wonderful love that the Father has for Him, that He so honoured Him and glorified Him, and has set Him down there at His own right hand in glory. Oh that we may consider what is worthy of the Lord Jesus during the time of His absence when He is seated on the Father’s throne and is looking to the saints of His assembly here under the influence of His headship and under the authority of His lordship to carry out what is pleasing to Himself. It is the time when the formation of elders is being brought very close to completion so that there is sympathetic interest in wisdom and in suitability with all that proceeds from the throne. All this will shortly be brought into display, according to John’s view.
There is great value attached to the present time of formation. Let us take advantage of the Spirit’s day when the Spirit is operating down here. May we be amenable to the activities of the blessed Holy Spirit so that the work of formation in us may not be delayed in any way through obstinacy on our part or through self-will that would hinder these things. Lack of love would tend to prevent the liberating flow of divine activities among us in the family. May we be helped to honour God as coming under these worthy influences from heaven in view of God’s glory.
25th October 2014