Matthew 16: 13-16
I venture to speak a little, dear brethren, about this remarkable expression, "the living God". Men have not thought good to keep God in their thoughts, and where they do allow any thought as to God they relegate Him in their minds, you might say, to the distance as if He was not to be heeded, or He was not active. But as believers we are brought into the wonderful light that we are connected with a living God. Even as to dead saints, He "is not God of the dead, but of the living", Matt 22: 32. All live to Him. He is the God of resurrection, the living God. He makes Himself known in wonderful grace; through the Lord Jesus He has made Himself known. In the revelation to Peter here, He gave him an apprehension of Christ in this wonderful setting, that He is "the Son of the living God". Jesus and the disciples had just left the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the Lord had warned them as to their leaven, v 6. They had left behind a system that was dead because the Lord Jesus was introducing the disciples into another realm, and the Father was active in it too; it is a realm of life, a realm of divine Persons. The doctrine and teaching is so valuable and so important, dear brethren, that we ought to pursue it energetically and seek to cut "in a straight line the word of truth" (2 Tim 2: 15), but always remembering that we have to do with divine Persons themselves. They are active, and where God is He speaks. If it is His house, He speaks there, He is known there. It is the house of God, the assembly of the living God. So we are in days when God can act and does. He is not in any sense quiescent, and He would introduce our souls into a living system of things quite apart from any of the deadness that would mark Judaism, or the emptiness and deadness that would mark paganism. He would deliver the saints. This gospel does that, delivers the saints from such things. This is an expression that comes into Hebrews too, "the living God": "See, brethren, lest there be in any one of you a wicked heart of unbelief, in turning away from the living God" (Heb 3: 12), because the Hebrew believers were in danger of doing that and going back to a dead system, to dead works. That is an expression that is also used, "dead works". We have to apprehend divine grace in that wonderful living system where God is known and God is active. It is a living system.
That being so, and as having part in it, the question would arise as to ourselves whether we are living. Spiritually, are we alive? Is there life with us? Is there some sense of that, that through divine operations and through the gift of the Spirit there is spiritual life in our souls? If there is no life, in one sense there is nothing. You see that in natural things, but think of spiritual things. If there is an outward form, even great activity without spiritual life, what is it? What is it for God? What is it for the saints? What is it for our meetings? Everything in one sense depends on the fact that there is a living state of things. It begins with individuals. Peter’s ministry introduces the thought of the Lord Jesus as the living Stone, and then he adds that the saints are living stones, 1 Pet 2: 4, 5. It seems a paradoxical expression, but still the structure the Lord Jesus has built consists of living stones, and they come to Christ as the living Stone. I speak as desiring to enter into this more, to have some sense of a realm of life. All around, everything you touch in the world is marked by death, moral death. There is no life in it. The world is a morally dead system, and it leads on to death itself, the wages of sin, but we have been given light as to a realm of life, we have been given light as to a living God and as to a living Lord, the Lord of life. How great He is, the Lord Jesus! God is the God of resurrection and the Lord Jesus is "the resurrection and the life", John 11: 25.
I believe that as we receive the Holy Spirit our souls would be attached to the Lord Jesus as beyond the power of death, so that we are delivered in our souls in a very real way, not only from the fear of death and the power of death but from all that is dead, and we are introduced into a realm of things where the Lord Jesus is known and where there is spiritual life in our souls. We want to try to nurture that amongst ourselves, dear brethren. How do we do that? We cannot bring in life. That is the divine prerogative; God does that and the gift of the Holy Spirit is essential to that, but then I suppose we can nurture one another, we can edify one another. At the very least we can bring in food for life. The Lord Jesus is that. He is the living Bread. We have food that sustains life. Not only are we given life, we have the gift of the Holy Spirit, and are given food that sustains us in life.
So that could be one thing we could do, individually ourselves appropriating Christ and also seeking to feed one another and encourage one another in this way, contributing something that would bring in spiritual life in our souls. Life shows itself. If there is spiritual life it shows itself. We look for it in the children and are thankful for what we can see when it begins to come to light in them. We can see it in our brethren locally and generally. We see where there are signs of maturity that do not relate to the flesh or the world or what is natural. Something more than that appears. We are still in flesh and blood and what is natural is not set aside and has its place in regard to righteousness in the world, making our living and so on, because there are responsibilities that we have. That all has its place. But you will not find spiritual life simply in natural relationships as natural relationships. There is really another realm of things that depends entirely on the Holy Spirit to touch, to find something moving in your soul, something moving in your affections, Christ being the great Object. We have been taught that life in the creature needs an object (JND Synopsis Vol 5 p51); not so in God, but in a creature life needs an object. We have a blessed Object in the Lord Jesus, drawing out of our affections and thoughts towards Him, and we have the Holy Spirit linking us with Him too.
These are just some thoughts that came to one that over against all that is dead, whether here in this world or among the Pharisees and Sadducees. The Sadducees denied the resurrection. Over against that there is a living God, and a living system of things centring in His beloved Son. It is over against paganism too, for the Thessalonians "turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God", 1 Thess 1: 9. Think of the darkness that marked their souls before they discovered there was such a One as "a living and true God" and they discovered He had a Son. How blessed that is! Here we have it, "the Son of the living God". Thus we are introduced into this thought of the living God as it becomes light to our souls. We understand also that this realm of life is a realm of affection, "Son of the living God". It is the realm where Christ is, drawing out the Father’s affections. He has done that and He continues to do it. It is the realm where the Father loves the Son. In one sense, spiritually there is not an enormous difference between life and love. They are very close together spiritually. Surely if we know what spiritual life is, it must involve that we are enjoying divine love. May it so more amongst us. It would be our prayer that there might be here in this city a more vigorous and consistent expression of spiritual life in all of us, rather than any sign of decline or of lapsing into what is merely of nature or of the flesh.
1st July 2008