Ephesians 2: 1-22
1 Corinthians 3: 1-23
1 Peter 2: 1-9
Two words in these passages of scripture have captured my attention: “ye are”. The passages are very rich in what is indicated by “ye are”. I counted them. There are about seventeen, possibly more, and there are many other scriptures that may be referred to where the two words “ye are” are used. I read the whole of these passages because I find it helpful to see that “the word of God is living and operative, and sharper than any two-edged sword”, Heb 4: 12. It has a penetrating, living operation. I read the context of these scriptures because my eye cast through other parts beyond just the two words, “ye are”. I am sure the brethren will bear with me in the lengthy reading, so that these passages may speak to a person’s heart.
A scripture was read in Calgary in Luke 9 where it says of the Lord, “he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers before his face. And having gone they entered into a village of the Samaritans that they might make ready for him. And they did not receive him”, v 51-53. He was turned away. The disciples were quite indignant about this. The Lord had a right to go into that village; He had a right to speak to people and He was rejected. The disciples were thinking for the Lord’s sake that this was bad, and they said, “Lord, wilt thou that we speak that fire come down from heaven and consume them”, v 54. The Lord rebukes them and says, “Ye know not of what spirit ye are”. The brother was speaking primarily about the Lord stedfastly going on to Jerusalem; he had not read, “ye know not what spirit ye are”, but that is what caught my attention.
There are times when the Lord rebukes us. The Lord rebukes the disciples and it is uncomfortable. “I rebuke and discipline as many as I love”, Rev 3: 19. Undoubtedly we can see from Scripture that the Lord loved the disciples, and He loved those disciples that He rebuked, the “Sons of thunder”, Mark 3: 17. The Lord loves us, and we are very thankful for that. We are to accept that the Lord may rebuke us from time to time; it is because He loves us and He wants to adjust us to something better.
That is a passing thought that I wanted to preface my word with – of what spirit are we?
What has captured my attention in these passages is these words, “ye are”. These disciples in Luke 9 wanted to do something. They wanted to bring down fire from heaven to consume the opposers and cause some kind of retribution. It is our tendency to want to do something; and it is good to do things. Scripture teaches us that we need to do things: for example, “love one another; as I have loved you”, John 13: 34. I find it interesting to look through any scriptures for the active verb. If you look in the Scriptures for the active verb in a sentence, it is often an imperative to do something: “love one another; as I have loved you”; “this do in remembrance of me”, Luke 22: 19. These are actionable things that Scripture teaches us. “Strive earnestly” (1 Tim 6: 12); “keep the entrusted deposit” (1 Tim 6: 20) are other examples: these are things that need to be done. As these disciples were going into that village, they wanted to do something; it is our natural tendency to want to do something, but I find that there are often times when to do something is the question on our minds: what do we do? There are times when issues and situations may be complex, what do we do? In the Old Testament it gives an active verb that does not sound very active but it says, “wait”; “wait on Jehovah”, Prov 20: 22. It has captured my attention because it is an action word, “wait on Jehovah”. That is a good thing to do, especially as led by the Spirit. There are times when circumstances feel a bit overwhelming. There is a sense that we have to do something; it can be overwhelming when you just do not know what to do. Situations are presented where you will get criticised if you do this thing; you will get criticised if you do that thing. It becomes overwhelming. It is a matter for me, I have found, just to step back a little and, rather than thinking of what to do, is to think of what “ye are” - “ye know not what spirit ye are”. What is it that you are?
I was interested that what God does is what He is; it comes from what He is. It is trying to have to contrast what to do and what we are. It struck me that what we are then becomes what we do. What is it that the scripture says that we are? These passages are rich in things that “ye are”. It is also often put in the Scripture as, “we are”; a similar thought. I see some of the characteristics coming out of this “ye are” and “we are” as collective thoughts. The words imply what we are individually, but also indicate what we are collectively. There is a collective component to this whole list of things that “ye are”.
Paul says here, “ye are saved by grace”; “we are his workmanship”; “ye who once were afar off are become nigh by the blood of the Christ”; “ye are no longer strangers and foreigners, but ye are fellow-citizens of the saints and of the household of God”; “ye also are built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit”. Here is a negative one: “ye are yet carnal”; more positive: “we are God’s fellow-workmen; ye are God’s husbandry, God’s building”; “ye are the temple of God”; “the temple of God is holy, and such are ye”; “ye are Christ’s”; “ye are a chosen race, a kingly priesthood, a people for a possession”.
When I read through all of that it just really struck me how rich it is for a believer, that what we are is to be viewed from the divine side. If we reflect on that and contemplate that it will ultimately shape and form what we do. I am not going to focus on what we do but simply on what “ye are”.
The characteristics of what we are can be summarised in three groups: what we are from a divine position, what we are from a possession standpoint, and then what we are from a purpose perspective; position, possession and purpose. You can look at the matter from those different characteristics; they are interwoven. Ephesians 2 highlights in my mind what “ye are” from a position standpoint. In verse 8, “For ye are saved by grace, through faith; and this not of yourselves; it is God’s gift”; in verse 13, “but now in Christ Jesus ye who once were afar off are become nigh by the blood of the Christ”. How wonderful that is, the position we are in from a divine standpoint; it is nothing of ourselves but it is all of God, all of Christ. That position is one of nearness, “ye … are become nigh”. “Ye … are become nigh by the blood of the Christ”. If you reduce that to what our position is - nothing of ourselves - it is that we are near to God. From God’s side we are near to Him because of the blood of Christ. That is our position: ye are near.
It struck me that all of these passages, written by the apostle Paul and the apostle Peter - Ephesians, Corinthians, 1 Peter and 2 Peter - are written to believers, they are written to Christians, they are written to followers of Jesus. I make the assumption that I am speaking to Christians, believers, followers of Jesus. That is an assumption, because I do not know everybody’s heart in this room. I am thankful that God does because these scriptures are written to confirm us in the Christian way, to give glory to God. It would be a shame if there is someone in this room who does not know that nearness to God because they have not trusted in the blood of Christ. Now is the opportunity to know that Jesus died for you, He shed His blood for you, and you can trust Him. As a result, your position before God is in nearness.
I say these things because we live in a culture, especially I have noticed in this area here, that I would characterise, in a general way as a Christian culture. In Calgary it is not so much that way. Canada was once considered a Christian country but it is now considered a ‘post-Christian’ country. It considers itself a pluralistic country. There are a lot of different thoughts, persuasions, and so; oftentimes, we live in a culture in which we interact with things that are not according to God, and are not near God at all. It could be that as we are growing up - especially the young ones here - you come into situations where you are brought up against things that are not Christian at all. I can thankfully say, as looking around all the young people here, that I believe all have been brought up in Christian households and environments. That is a very blessed thing but you need to own your own relationship with the Lord, and accept what work He has done for you personally, if you are to come into these blessings and know that nearness, the nearness that God has in mind. It is very important that you have your personal links with the Lord Jesus, and that you accept that you “are saved by grace, through faith, and this not of yourselves; it is God’s gift”; how wonderful a gift it is. I trust that each person has accepted that gift and values it, and understands that their position before God is one of nearness as we have here - “ye who once were afar off are become nigh by the blood of the Christ”. It is our position before God; ye are near.
In 1 Corinthians we have this idea of “ye are” - both as a characteristic of a position and a possession. It is all interwoven - position, possession and purpose. In 1 Corinthians 3, we have what really caught my attention, “ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s”; this sense of belonging, of ownership. We have been speaking about what is owned. There is a claim; “ye are Christ’s” implies you are owned by Him, you are His, and you belong to Him. It is collective again; ye are, we are. It is nothing that we can claim in the sense of something from our side; it is all from God’s side and we accept that and enjoy that. This possession; “ye are Christ’s”: what a possession to think that Christ values His saints so much that we belong to Him. He has given everything to get that possession. How valuable that is. How much we should appreciate it, and I am sure each person in this room does. How wonderful it is to be a possession, “ye are Christ’s”. As you contemplate it and let it enter into your soul, how it would affect us and shape us and it would cause us to give glory to God to be thankful to Jesus. I hope that is the case with each one of us.
When we come to 1 Peter, I cannot say a lot about this, but I would rely on the Spirit of God to have the words, a scripture and the Spirit’s actions in our hearts and in our consciences, to have us respond to such wealth and richness. It is what we are from a divine standpoint. In 1 Peter 2 we can see the idea of “ye are” as a position, and we can see things from a possession standpoint: “ye are a chosen race, a kingly priesthood, a holy nation, a people for a possession”. But from here it really points to what our purpose is: “that ye might set forth the excellencies of him who has called you out of darkness to his wonderful light”. It is a purpose which is collective: “ye are”. There is a purpose that we might show forth these great excellencies that God has bestowed, that He has allowed us into. He has laid claim to us, has given us a possession, that we “might set forth the excellencies of him who has called you out of darkness to His wonderful light”, so that we might have our part in being a testimony to the God who has given so much in Jesus.
We have that little phrase in Ruth too, “Ye are” there - “Ye are witnesses”, Ruth 4: 9. It was addressed to the elders of the city, but later it says, “We are witnesses”; it was about the people also witnessing these great thoughts of redemption and what has been purchased. It becomes a testimony, a great testimony, “that ye might set forth the excellencies of him who has called you out of darkness to his wonderful light”. In this position of nearness, in being a possession, a divine possession, it is so that we might be by purpose a testimony to His great light.
These are the simple thoughts about these wonderful passages of scripture. I read a lot, but it is simply the words, “ye are”, and that great list, that captured my attention. It is a great exercise to work through and see what other scriptures point out that “ye are”. It is not what we do, although there are many scriptures that say what we need to do and should do, but the emphasis is more on what “ye are”. It is a very blessed thing, for our encouragement and confirmation. The Christian way would be to give glory to God, from what “ye are”.
27th November 2015