Hebrews 1: 1-4
1 Corinthians 2: 6-13, 16 (last sentence)
1 Peter 4: 7-11
I seek help, beloved brethren, to say something about the importance of communications. It is very evident that it is one of the subjects considered by men to be of prime importance at the present time. The numerous devices and systems contributing to communications between persons and around the world are advancing rapidly, and have such an astonishing place in the times we live in, but nothing can ever surpass the communications from divine Persons. I seek help to say a little about the outstanding importance of these divine communications, so that, on our part, we might have a ready ear to hear not only what has been said but what is being said at the present time. The brethren will appreciate that I feel a considerable responsibility resting upon me here at this time because Peter, as we have read, indicates that if anyone does speak, he should speak “as oracles of God”. It is a vital thing to be able to communicate the living mind and word of God for the moment. I might be helped to say what would be perfectly in accordance with the Scriptures, but to speak “as oracles of God” is more than that. It would not conflict in any way with what is set out in the Scriptures, but it involves the communication of something in a special and living way with immediate and direct importance from God.
There has been no speaking like that of God in Christ the Son. That is the subject which is introduced here in Hebrews 1, the subject of God speaking “at the end of these days”, and He “has spoken to us in the person of the Son”. What distinctive, marvellous speaking, “in the person of the Son”. John in his gospel refers to Him as “the only-begotten Son” who has declared God. He has made God known and announced that wonderful Name. He who dwells in the Father's bosom has made God known; the love of God has been brought out into expression. The marvellous range of divine attributes have been brought into expression in the Son Himself. What can be known of God and communicated to men has been so fully expressed in the Son.
The subject of divine speaking is very great, but almost immediately the writer to the Hebrews proceeds to say something about the greatness of the Son. It seems to be of importance that we should all have some distinctive impression of the glory of the Son of God. The language here is profound language. Another has said that it seems as if human language is put to the utmost test to give expression in some way to the greatness of all that has been expressed in the Son and communicated by Him. The language here is outstanding; it says, “who being the effulgence of his glory”. No one has seen God at any time; He remains the invisible God according to His greatness and deity, but what can be expressed has been brought into radiant expression through the Son. He is the effulgence of God's glory; what a remarkable expression! I would not presume to encompass the fullness of that wonderful thought in what I am saying now, but I can see this, that in the Person of the Son, God has been pleased to draw near to His creature man. The radiance of God’s glory has been and is expressed in the face of Jesus Christ. God's intention has been to speak through Him to men. Think of the wonder of the link God has in communing with His creature man. God drew near right at the beginning, and He must have felt it very keenly that, when coming to speak to Adam and Eve, He found that they had hidden themselves through guilt of conscience in order to seek to keep out of the immediate presence of God when He should draw near. What a sad thing!
God's pleasure is involved in what He would say to us, and continue to say to us at the present time as well. What marvellous things have been brought into expression in the Person of the Son. It says He is “the expression of his substance”, the expression of the substance of God. I hesitate to say much on that remarkable expression save that I understand this to be involved in it, that what might be made known of the vast range of God's blessed nature and His attributes, all that substantially characterises the deity, has found expression in the Son, “the expression of his substance”. We can hardly fathom the depths of what these words convey, and yet they give us to understand in some way that the importance and greatness of the Son is being so highlighted in order to give us to understand the significance of the communications to us in the Person of the Son.
There is something really profound and glorious about divine speaking in the Person of the Son, He who upholds all things by the word of His power. I do not know that I considered too much until recently this remarkable reference that He upholds all things “by the word of his power”. We think of God introducing things in creation by a word of power, but they are upheld by the Son, “by the word of his power”. That is another amazing statement brought out by the writer here. Think of the Son currently speaking in whatever way He may be pleased to do so in order to uphold all things. That comes as a very great encouragement. You might fear the course things are taking and be distressed at times by the way things are apparently going, perhaps even among believers. Be encouraged that the Son is able to uphold everything. He would speak to our hearts again today in order that there might be an upholding of divine interests among the saints here. He is upholding everything by the word of His power. Christianity and the testimony here will never collapse; that is an impossibility. So long as the Spirit of God is here, my understanding is that there will continue to be divine speaking and that there will most certainly be power for the maintenance and preservation of everything that is of God to the end of the dispensation. Such a Person is the Speaker who has “made by himself the purification of sins” and has “set himself down on the right hand of the greatness on high”. How great He is! I say these things to leave some impression upon our hearts of the majestic glory that is embodied in the Son of God to bow our hearts worshipfully before Him, and to encourage us to have a much readier ear to hear what is being said at the present time. How important to hear what the Lord would say; Do you have an interest, and an ear to hear what is being said at the present time?
These things are made good through the active service of the Holy Spirit among us. The mind of Christ is being unfolded; the Spirit communicates the things of Christ to us. What a wonderful service He renders! No wonder those words are so often repeated in Revelation, “He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies” (Rev 2 and 3). Oh the remarkable communications that are continuing! If we have an ear to hear we will discern them and they will be for our preservation and growth. In a certain sense the whole range of truth is out; Christ has brought all that into full expression, and has caused the fulness of that to be set out in clarity amongst His lovers here through the gifts given in order that there should be no doubt left as to the blessedness of the revealed truth. So these things may be known and enjoyed by us as our great inheritance, and we may be brought into the living appreciation of them by the Spirit.
Now the apostle Paul, as we read of in Corinthians, was used in an outstanding way to convey these things to the saints. Christ is the truth; He bears that wonderful title “the Word”. The expression of the mind and heart of God has come out in wondrous glory in the Person of the Son. One of the hymn writers says,
Whose title is the Word (Hymn 224),
Think of that, One who has such a title, “the Word”, the very expression of the mind of God embodied in Him. The apostle Paul was granted this remarkable ability to be a mouthpiece, more than a mouthpiece, but he was a mouthpiece in so far as he was appointed to communicate these things to the saints, not in human wisdom, nor in anything taught by man, but in power in a living way by the Holy Spirit. These precious things have become part of our great inheritance to cling to and enjoy. I believe someone said to Mr Darby at one time that we need to get back to first principles. His reply was, 'No, I never leave them', CAC vol 10 (Outline of Luke’s Gospel) p246. That is a very sobering thing for us all to consider. If we are all moving in the gain of the living communications from Christ as Head, there could not be disparity and differences of outlook among us, nor could there be confusion of speaking or communication amongst ourselves. That is part of the import of this chapter finishing off with these remarkable words, “But we have the mind of Christ”. That is the outcome of each one individually drawing from that same blessed Source, so that as found in the assembly it can be said of those belonging to it, “But we have the mind of Christ”. Things are made livingly good in the souls of the saints as the mind of Christ is conveyed and brought in, in power, by the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul sought to serve in that way. We may say that the apostle Paul is not here now, which is very evident, but the things conveyed by Paul are. We need to cherish the truth as set out, not only by the apostle Paul, but by those used of the Lord Jesus to speak on His behalf. Thank God for the gospel writers with all the treasure contained in the holy writings. Thank God for the other apostles who served with distinction too, these great ministries that have been set out and recorded in the written Word for us. These things form part of a treasure. It speaks here of “wisdom which God had predetermined before the ages for our glory”. That is a very precious word, as if God had in mind that a certain vast range of things should be treasured up until the time became appropriate for their communication and dispensing amongst those who love Him down here. He loves us; we give thanks to God for that, but you will notice those words further down where it says in verse 9, “Things which eye has not seen, and ear not heard, and which have not come into man's heart, which God has prepared for them that love him”. Are we truly found as lovers of God who have an ear and an interest to take in these marvellous things that have been communicated? How we should cling to the value of the treasures that have been unfolded for our blessing.
We are thankful for enquiry in the temple when we can be together and, by the Spirit's help, look into these treasures that reside in the assembly. The assembly is the great vessel like the custodian of truth at the present time. Christ is absent from this scene but there is a vessel here indwelt of the Holy Spirit containing the wealth. The mind of God is to be found amongst His people. We might at times have some inclination to project our own mind and opinion about things; we must be careful for there is wisdom found amongst the people of God. The mind of Christ is to be found there; the Spirit speaks in the temple. Do not despise these things. We need to have regard and love for one another as those who have been called into the enjoyment of these treasured things; “things”, it says, “which eye has not seen, and ear not heard, and which have not come into man's heart, which God has prepared for them that love him, but God has revealed to us by his Spirit”.
This wonderful present service continues through the Holy Spirit here. I have no doubt in some way when the apostle speaks of what “God has revealed to us by his Spirit”, he would be speaking of the distinctive knowledge of these things that had been conveyed to the apostles, but then they, and Paul in particular, served in view of the communication of these things to the saints so that we should become intelligent in relation to the mind of Christ, and all that finds its continuation through the service of the Holy Spirit among the saints at the present time. That is a very precious thing. There are multitudes of documents produced by men giving advice, reports and communications about subjects. Amongst the people of God here, living things are conveyed in the power of the Holy Spirit, a divine Person who is here. They rise above things that have ever entered into the range of man's thinking. We need to make sure our own thinking does not deprive us of the enjoyment of them because persons can become so occupied with their own opinions, and own mind about things, as to miss out the relevance and value of divine speaking through the power of the Holy Spirit. Superior wisdom is brought out in the power of the Holy Spirit among the saints. Following that, reference is made to “communicating spiritual things by spiritual means”. It shows how important it is that we should sit down amongst the saints with due respect for one another where we anticipate the opening up of things in a distinctive way and by a spiritual means of communication.
One of the things I have dwelt upon a little in relation to the holy city is that we are told through the record of John in Revelation that “nothing common” shall enter it (chap 21: 27); that is, not necessarily evil, but rather “nothing common”. It seems to me that even our language should not drop below the level of assembly dignity to what might be unsuitable, even although it might be common language amongst men. We necessarily have to speak in understandable terms, but there should be holy reverence and dignity about the communication of things amongst the people of God. That is to be maintained in our conversation with one another, so that we speak in an appreciative way of the things that God has treasured up for us, as those who love Him and seek to come into the good of these things. Common language seems to be deteriorating almost day by day. There are things spoken about now and in such a way as would never have taken place in my younger days, what is common amongst men is going downhill daily. What is proper to the treasured things is maintained in spiritual dignity through the presence of the Holy Spirit here, and should mark the language of communication amongst ourselves, and in our times of enquiry. It brings about a certain restraint on what is unsuitable so that there might be opportunity for the dignity and holy character of these communications to be maintained among the saints in view of profit. What the apostle Paul said to the Ephesians was that the gifts had been given “with a view to the edifying of the body of Christ”, Eph 4: 11-12. It is not my place here to just say what may come into my mind; I have a responsibility to my Master to convey His mind in order that there might be edification amongst the saints, and I think if we all felt that increasingly we would be a more careful in the way we speak and in what we communicate in order that it might be for profit and for edification among the saints. “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him; and he cannot know them because they are spiritually discerned”.
How indebted we are, beloved brethren, to the presence and service of the Holy Spirit here. We cannot proceed without the present help of the Holy Spirit. We cannot progress in divine things without maintaining communion with the Spirit of God. How important and vital that is in our daily lives, to speak to the Spirit of God. He would delight to speak to us. Do you think it is possible for a natural man by human effort to advance himself spiritually? It can only be by the Spirit of God. It is the only means whereby spiritual things can be suitably communicated. It is only by the Spirit's service that they can be understood and taken in, and it is by His precious service to us that they are enjoyed and the fulness of the life experienced that we have been speaking of in the reading. It is by His help that they are brought out into testimonial expression here and in responsive expression Godward among the saints in view of God's glory. It is important for us to be preserved in these things, in order that there might be an area maintained where the consciousness of divine speaking is valued by us. It is not common to the world; it is distinctive to the sphere of the assembly, and the functioning of the temple where the light and mind of God are brought out.
This expression at the close of the chapter seems to be a very remarkable one, “But we have the mind of Christ.” Think of a vessel here with the capability of understanding and taking in things and expressing them in such a way that they should be in perfect accord with the mind of Christ Himself. What delight the Lord must have in what is resident in the body of the saints here where the expression of His own mind is to be found. I would like to have a greater appreciation of that. I think it involves respect for my brethren and appreciation of those who have been called by the grace of God to be participators in these holy things. There is an atmosphere among the saints that contributes to the liberty of divine communications.
I then read in Peter's epistle. There is a background first of all indicated, “But the end of all things is drawn nigh”; we are in those times. If it was appropriate for Peter to say, it is of all the more relevance now. We are surely in the last days. “The end of all things has drawn nigh:, be sober therefore, and be watchful unto prayers”. What a time we are in when we feel the need of being watchful that we might not be caught up by all the communications in the world around us, many of them so defiling, and at best but common. We need to be watchful and marked by prayer, watchful and waiting in view of the coming of the Lord. We are in the last days; the coming of the Lord has drawn nigh. How near we are to the moment of our rapture, to be taken out of this scene to be with Christ above, and to be like Him. Then will follow His appearing; have we some sense of being prepared for these times? Certain things contribute to it.
Peter goes on to say, “but before all things having fervent love among yourselves”. That would seem to be a prime thing, “fervent love among yourselves”. That is not difficult to understand but we may find it testing to work out. Perhaps there are certain persons that we find just a little uncomfortable to work with, and to speak to and commune with. May the Lord help us to be preserved with fervent love among ourselves. It is indeed a matter of prime importance. Then he says, “because love covers a multitude of sins”. I do not set about to define exactly what that might be, but I can see that if there is not a spirit of love for one another it becomes very easy to take issue with a multitude of things instead of bringing in love in order that there might rather be a covering up of things that can be suitably covered in view of the promotion of divine interests among us. It says, “hospitable one to another, without murmuring;” and then, “each according as he has received a gift, ministering it to one another”. How graciously the Lord has provided for the maintenance of His interests; we all have something. To each has been given “a measure of faith” (Rom 12: 3), and we have each been the recipients of divine grace. The intention would be that these things should be liberated in their value among the saints in view of the mutual profit among us of what is pleasing to the Lord, “as good stewards of the various grace of God”.
Then he says, “If anyone speak - as oracles of God; if anyone minister - as of strength which God supplies”. That is a sobering word. We are privileged to have times of divine speaking among us; we gather in view of these occasions for ministry and at other times; it is an opportunity for distinctive speaking to be heard among us. This is quite a searching word the apostle uses here, “If any one speak - as oracles of God”. He is almost suggesting that unless someone can bring in some living touch in relation to the mind of the Lord and in a suitable way, then he should rather not be speaking. Anyone that does speak has to speak in this way. That is not to prohibit persons from speaking, but rather to make way for the liberty of heavenly communications to be opened up among us, that they should not be obstructed but rather liberated in power in view of profit. “If any one minister - as of strength which God supplies; that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ”.
Following that he then progresses into one of these passages that we would call a doxology, that is, a spontaneous outburst of worship to a divine Person, “to whom is the glory and the might for the ages of ages. Amen”. What a beautiful touch that is in the course of bringing out these thoughts as to the suitability of communications amongst the saints. The apostle's heart rises in view of yielding glory to God Himself, “that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ”; it is to God that he raises this ascription of glory through Jesus Christ. We can easily see, I think, beloved brethren, how fruitful the answer would be in view of divine glory where conditions proper to the assembly are maintained among us and the distinctiveness of divine speaking clung to.
I just appeal to all our hearts that we might have a ready ear to hear what the Spirit might say, as we are exhorted to do, and that there might be an increasing desire among us to have respect for what is of God amongst the saints so that these things may be ministered among us and suitably taught in view of the growth and preservation of us all to God's glory.
May it be so for His glory!
15th October 2016