1 Corinthians 11: 24-26

Hebrews 10: 19-22

Galatians 4: 1-7

Ephesians 1: 22-23, 3: 19-21

AJMcS  I wondered whether we might converse together over the distinctiveness of Christianity.  I do not mean the distinctiveness of Christianity compared to the religions of men because that goes without saying.  I mean the distinctiveness of Christianity compared to the experience of Israel in the past dispensation, and the experience of the Jewish remnant after the rapture, and even the experience of Israel in the millennium.  I think we have been helped to see in the recovery of the saints to the truth that the dispensation, which we have part in, is distinctive.  I thought it might be helpful for us to raise the level a little in thinking about that.  I feel for myself that I often need to lift up my eyes and get a fresh view as to how wonderful and glorious Christianity really is.

         The scriptures that I have referred to involve certain features that are distinctive to Christianity.  First of all the Lord’s supper is an occasion that is distinctive to this dispensation.  It was not held in the past and it will not be held in the future.  Paul received a distinct revelation from the Lord Jesus and placed the Supper in the assembly.  What is highlighted in 1 Corinthians 11 is, “This is my body, which is for you”, that is for the assembly; and further, in relation to the cup “as often as ye shall drink it”; the “ye” there being the personnel of the assembly.  We partake of the Lord’s supper every week, and it would be good for us to be reminded as to the glory and grandeur of what we can experience each Lord’s day as we gather together, because it is truly something that is peculiar to Christianity.

         Hebrews 10 also presents something that was not experienced in the past dispensation.  Also, I think as we follow the teaching through Ezekiel in chapter 41, it is clear that it is not the experience in the dispensation to follow, so that it is really for Christians to have boldness for entering into the holy of holies by the blood of Jesus”, v 19.  What a wonderful thing that is, beloved brethren.  As you read the Psalms you find godly men with godly experience, but they generally do not rise to the level of the holy of holies.  However, the Christian, through the blood of Jesus, is able to enter in through the veil and prove in a vital way the blessedness of what it is to be in the immediate presence of God.  I think that is a wonderful thing, and something no doubt we will get help to converse over.

         In Galatians 4, we learn that we are now in the time of sonship.  We no longer need to have experiences continually that some of the saints had in the Psalms.  We often say that Romans 7 is not Christian experience, although it may well be the experience of a Christian.  So the struggle presented there is not meant to be the continual experience of a Christian because we are now in the time of sonship, and “God has sent out the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba Father”, v 6.  While Mr James Taylor remarked that the Spirit of sonship will pervade all in the Father’s house, (vol 1 p168) this scripture shows that the saints of the present dispensation are distinguished from those who went before in that the Spirit of God’s Son is sent into their hearts.  We are therefore able to enjoy the Father’s love in an intimate way that far surpasses that of any other family.

          In Ephesians 1, the whole prayer should be borne in mind, because the Ephesian saints needed the eyes of their heart enlightened, as we also do.  At the end of the chapter we see that this was in view of understanding that the assembly is able to share in the headship of the Lord Jesus and adequately set forth every feature of His glorified humanity.  I take it that what underlies that thought is union with Christ.  It is perhaps more developed in chapter 5, but it is only the assembly as being able to experience the love of Christ as united to Him and be formed after His glorified humanity that is able to come out and publicly express Him in the world to come.  It is our privilege now to experience union with Christ.  That is something that is peculiar to Christianity.  There is no other family that is united to Christ.  It is our experience, or at least it ought to be ours as Christians.

         Finally, in Ephesians 3, it is glorious to remember that the Father is the Father of every family.  That is most important to lay hold of, but there is only one family that is “filled even to all the fulness of God”, v 19.  Think of the glory of all that the assembly is able to contain in the way of the blessed revelation of God Himself in this dispensation.  The assembly is also the only family that is said to be “in Christ Jesus”, v 21.  There is something distinct and unique to the assembly in all these scriptures.  I should say that I know we can have a reading on each of these scriptures in their own right, but I thought if we went over them freshly, we might stimulate our hearts to go in more for these things.  That is simply what was in mind.

JCG  These are very wide-ranging matters that you have brought up and I appreciate what you say as to the distinctive character.  It would bear on the beginning of Hebrews that in these last days God has spoken to us “in ... Son”, Heb 1: 1, 2.  That would suggest the revelation that God had in mind, would it?

AJMcS  Just so.  You think of the way God revealed Himself in the past dispensation, if it is correct to speak about revelation in that context.  God was known as the Almighty, then Jehovah, and in the millennium, while He never goes back from the truth of the economy, nevertheless, the thought of the Most High God comes in.  There is something about the present dispensation that is unique and distinct, and it is for us to go in for it, do you think?

JCG  Indeed.   So that you started with the Lord’s supper, which is very precious to all those who have the Spirit and enjoy entering into the remembrance of Him.  Could you say more as to the two points you made?

AJMcS  Well, in thinking about this scripture, it occurred to me that the passover was a memorial of an event, but the Supper is the remembrance of a Person.  Not simply a Person who died, though that is involved in it, but rather a Person who is living, and who through His supper takes the opportunity to present Himself living to His own.  The Lord’s supper is for the assembly.  That is simply what was in mind.  ’This is my body, which is for you’, and ’as often as ye shall drink it’.  That is the saints of the present dispensation.

WL  These things are available for every Christian, ourselves included, but you could not exactly say that every Christian was in the gain of them.

AJMcS  Well, I would go further than that.  I would say that I am not always in the gain of them myself, but why not?  They are always available for us in this dispensation but there may be a tendency to take things for granted.  We come to the Lord’s supper every Lord’s day, and the tendency may be to say, ’Well, it is just another Lord’s day’, but think of the blessedness of what God has reserved particularly for the saints of the present dispensation.

TCM  The coming in of Christ and His life and His death is really what has given God the basis to introduce this wonderful system of things in great scope.

AJMcS  Yes.  Say more.

TCM  It really brings out first of all the distinctiveness of Christ.  God introduced a Man in which every thought of His was going to be fulfilled and find expression in the present time.

AJMcS  That is the thought presented in the loaf.  We need to remember that the loaf that we refer to on Lord’s day morning is not the one body that represents the saints.  It rather relates to the body of the Lord Jesus as a Man here on earth.  That body was prepared for Him by God, and in that body He filled out the will of God.  It is that which is presented in the loaf on Lord’s day morning.  We would never forget the atoning side, but the main thought expressed in the loaf is a blessed Man who came here and completed the will of God to God’s entire satisfaction.

NJH  Would the experience of union be in the Lord’s mind in the giving of the Supper?  He has already said, “why dost thou persecute me?” (Acts 9: 4), showing that He was linked so vitally with the suffering saints in the will of God as He had been Himself, but when it comes to the Supper does He not have the experience of union in His heart?  What do you think?

AJMcS  It leads on to thatIt is important to see that not only did the apostle receive the revelation of the Lord’s supper from Christ in glory and place it in the assembly, but he also received the truth of union with Christ from the same source.  There must be a distinct connection there. 

         Now, we are coming up to what some persons call Easter when there will be many professing Christians who will partake of what they call the Lord’s supper only once a year.  Well, we can experience that on the first day of every week, but the question is whether we appreciate it, as we ought to.

JCG  The fact that the Lord gave this to Paul for our time, and including the Gentiles, enhances the matter, the fact that Lord instigated the Supper Himself and then also gave it to Paul from glory enhances the level, does it not?  As you say, it should bring in a dignity that enables us through the Spirit to enter into the service of God through it or by it.

AJMcS  Yes, the brethren well know that, up until Acts 7, God is still pleading with Israel and, at the martyrdom of Stephen, it is not only the witness of Christ that is rejected, but also the witness of the Spirit.  However, in Acts 9, a glorified Christ appears to the apostle Paul.  It is at that point that the economy of local assemblies comes to light and it is in the local assembly that the Lord’s supper is partaken of.  You can see how all these things work together. 

JAB  Can you say a little more for our help about how the distinctiveness of Christianity is inextricably bound up with the distinctiveness of the Lord Jesus Himself?  I was thinking of what you said as to, ’It is a Person we remember, not an event’.  The distinctiveness of Christianity is nothing without Christ.  Could you just open that up a bit more?

AJMcS  Well in the past dispensation believers were very real.  They looked forward to something.  They had the promises but they never had possession of them.  They looked forward to the Person but He had not come.  In the dispensation that follows this one, while persons will also be very real they will not have the same link with the Lord Jesus as persons of the present time have.  The title “Lord Jesus” used here is a distinctive title used by the personnel of the assembly.  It shows that everything we have, and particularly the Lord’s supper, is bound up with the Lord Himself, do you think?

JAB  Yes, I do.  That is helpful.  Would that link, too, with the distinctiveness of the Lord’s supper in contradistinction to all the other meetings that we enjoy so much, because the saints of the old dispensation read their Scriptures and no doubt talked about them, they prayed, they were addressed by prophets and others who were moved of the Spirit to do that; but the Lord’s supper is distinctive in the same way that Christ is distinctive in a sense; is that right?

AJMcS  As we call the Lord Jesus to mind, He uses that occasion to present Himself living to us, and that is what makes the difference at the Lord’s supper.  There is a distinct manifestation of Christ Himself.  Well, if that is the case, and it is, how much ought we to enjoy that occasion.  It ought not to be a mere formality every Lord’s day. 

CKR  Say a word then on remembrance.  Remembrance appears because it is both in relation to the loaf and to the cup.  What do you feel?  That is an active matter, calling Him to mind.

AJMcS  That is exactly it.  There is an interesting footnote, as the brethren know.  Mr Darby says that remembrance ’has an active signification of ’recalling’ or ’calling to mind’’, 1 Cor 11: 24.  The footnote does add ’as a memorial’ there, but I do not think it is confined to that.  As we come together at the Lord’s supper, and through the giving out of a hymn perhaps, we can be set free in our minds from everything that has occupied us during the week.  We have the emblems before us and we are able to concentrate on what is presented to us in them and to turn our minds actively to the Lord Jesus.  He in His love presents Himself living to us as He comes to us, do you think?

CKR  I was just thinking how precious it is.  We really ought to do it every week as though it is the first time, with that freshness of wholehearted affection for Christ.  You would not be anywhere else than doing what you are doing at that particular time because of your love for Him as reflecting His love for us.

AJMcS  That is why what is presented in chapter 10 of 1 Corinthians is so important.  Sometimes brethren look at that chapter in a negative way but the point of the chapter is rather reflective.  We carry forward the thought of the Supper in our affections through the week.  As we think continually over what is presented in the cup and the loaf, we have a great stimulating factor for us to arrive at the Supper the following Lord’s day having proved ourselves, and therefore ready for a fresh manifestation from the Lord.

DCB  Do we have to bear in mind the distinctiveness of this to Him?  Christianity is distinctive because there is something that is for the heart of God particularly in this dispensation.

AJMcS  Yes.  It is not only what we get out of it (to put it simply), but it is what is for the Lord’s own heart, is it not?  He finds something in the personnel of the assembly that He does not find in any other family.  That is remarkable when you think of the moral greatness of persons who have come before us, but there is something in the personnel of the assembly that is unique and distinct to the heart of Christ.

WL  There is remembrance at the end of Malachi collectively, “and a book of remembrance was written” (Mal 3: 16), but this is superior, is it not? 

AJMcS  Yes.  Say more about that.

WL  There is something there collectively at the end of Malachi in that long gap, as we know, before the incarnation but there is a remembrance here that is unique.

AJMcS  I think so.  It is good to remember the saints and to remember persons who have gone before, but it pales into insignificance when you remember the Lord Jesus.  There is something distinctive about Him that transcends any other.

GAB  Is there some significance in the fact that the Lord in instituting the Supper did not partake of it Himself, although He partook of the passover?

AJMcS  You will need to help us as to that, please.

GAB  Well, He partook of the passover as present, but He gave the Supper to His own in view of the fact that He was going away and He would be glorified.  Is that not what marks this dispensation out as distinctive?

AJMcS  It is very interesting to bring that in.  When we come together, He is absent.  However, as we go forward in the breaking of bread, if there are suitable conditions, He manifests Himself to us.  He comes to us, do you think?  Say some more.

GAB  It seems to me that is what makes it so distinctive, that Christ is not in this scene any more.  He is in another sphere but glorified.

AJMcS  Yes, and He comes to us, not to leave us where we are.  He comes to lead us into His own circumstances.

GCMcK  In practice the disciples broke bread on the first day of the week.  You get that in Acts 20, “we being assembled to break bread”, v 7.  Does that enhance the distinctiveness of what you are speaking about?  It was not proceeding to what went before.  It is a whole new beginning really when the Lord rose from the dead, a whole new realm opening up, do you think?

AJMcS  Yes, as we know, in 1 Corinthians 11 the thought is the Lord’s supper, no doubt because of the low state in the Corinthian assembly.  However, what you bring before us in Acts 20 is very precious.  The first day of the week really involves the beginning of a completely new dispensation and our hearts can rest in the fact that everything has been secured for the divine pleasure, and there is a Man out of death, do you think?

GCMcK  I think so.

DBR  The remembrance would involve a secret side.  There is a public side here as well.  What would you say about that?  

AJMcS  I think what you say is very important.  The remembrance or the calling to mind is something that only persons who have the Spirit can take account of, but the announcement goes further than that.  It is a public matter, announcing the death of the Lord, do you think?

DBR   I think so.  It is an important thing that that is done in the assembly; I mean the local assembly.  We break bread and we take the cup and “announce the death of the Lord, until he come”.  Say a little more about that please.

AJMcS  What I am inwardly finds expression in what I am outwardly.  The way that I call the Lord Jesus to mind and enjoy His presence can be detected outwardly in the way that I conduct myself, even at that occasion, do you think?

DBR  So really the moral side is that there must be consistency with us.  So that there is an expression, and there is power also, first of all to enter into the secret side.  But there is also capacity to represent what is due to the Lord publicly, do you think?

AJMcS  Yes.  So not only do I prove myself before I go to the Lord’s supper, but I ensure that when I come from it my behaviour is consistent with my part there.

         Well, perhaps we can move on.  What we have presented in Hebrews 9 and 10 is foundational for the Christian.  The holy of holies is presented in chapter 10 as something that is set before the Hebrew believers to stimulate their interest to go in.  Their tendency was to go back to a system where they would place a mere man between them and God.  That mere man could go into the second tabernacle only once a year, with fear and trembling, and “not without blood”, Heb 9: 7.  However, what the writer to the Hebrews is seeking to impress upon these believers is that the way into the holy of holies is now open for us to go in.  It was not open to the persons of the past dispensation.  That is the teaching of these chapters really, and I think that what we see in Ezekiel 41 would seem to indicate that there is not the same liberty to go in for the saints of the millennium.  How precious and distinctive is the present time when we can go in.

WL  In this chapter here, the section read, we have both “the blood” and “his flesh”.  Have you something to say about that?

AJMcS  You mean “by the blood of Jesus”?

WL  Yes.  Then “through the veil, that is, his flesh”.  It does not repeat ’through his blood’.

AJMcS  I thought that might come up.  “By the blood of Jesus” involves His death because His blood was shed after He died.  However, “through the veil, that is, his flesh”, as far as I understand it, involves Him in His present condition before God.  Is that what you had in mind?

WL  Exactly.  “His flesh”, it is not flesh as we understand it, but it is flesh nevertheless, something very substantial.

AJMcS  Does it link with, “And the Word became flesh”, John 1: 14?

WL  I think so.  That order comes up; He took up a new condition.  Nevertheless, it says here, “that is, his flesh”.  I do not know that I understand it too well, but that is what the scripture says.

AJMcS  Yes.  Therefore, the Word becoming flesh really involves that He entered into the condition of manhood, and that is a condition He retains.  His flesh and blood condition has been laid down in death, but He retains His condition of manhood.  There appears to be a similarity between what you refer to and Ephesians 2: 18, “For through him we have both access by one Spirit to the Father”, in the sense that in order to go into the presence of God, we require to go through Christ.

DBR  “His flesh”, to speak reverently, would point to the substantiality of Christ’s manhood where He is?  He is a real Man there, do you think that?

AJMcS  I do think that, and had He not been so then where would we have been?

DBR  There would have been no place for us.

AJMcS  I wondered that.

JAB  Could you just say more about this principle of access that comes out here?  There are very many young people here, and we have been speaking about the truth and the doctrine of some of these things, but access into the very presence of God is one of the easiest things to understand about what makes Christianity distinctive because it is so different from what went before when only a very few people, a very few priests, were able to go in.  Now the youngest believer in Jesus, with the Holy Spirit, can have this boldness.  Is that right?

AJMcS  I am sure that they can, and that is my exercise in presenting this.  Then the question I would raise in my heart is whether I have entered in.  I think, while entering into the holy of holies might include prayer, nevertheless, it is possible to pray and in your spirit not actually be there.  Our personal prayers can be on the same level as the Psalms where there is usually not the confidence in God that a Christian ought to have.  However, a believer who has entered into the holy of holies can be recognised from a certain condition of soul that can only be formed there, do you think?

JAB  That is good to bring that out.  You would not discourage anyone who feels that their prayers are like those in the Psalms because we have all been there, but you would encourage us to see that this is God’s objective, again thinking of it from His point of view.  He wants us there.

AJMcS  Yes.  There was a tendency at one time to regard entering the holy of holies as perhaps restricted to special occasions.  However, the truth is that we have the opportunity to go in at any time. 

JS  Doing that we have the support of the Lord Jesus, “a great priest over the house of God”, to sustain us.

AJMcS  Yes.  Mr Remmington used to tell us that the High Priest involves what the Lord Jesus is to us individually, but the “great priest” involves what He is to us collectively.  I thought that was interesting because we do not want to allow conditions around us to deprive us of the privilege of going into the holy of holies.  There is “a great priest over the house of God” and you can be restful that matters are in His hands and still go in.  Do you think?

JS  I think so.  I think it is very assuring that this Person would support us in taking this approach.

AJMcS  Just so.  You can place your confidence in Him.  In chapter 8, He is “minister of the holy places”, v 2.  He has a wide range within His view and you can leave things in His hands and not allow the sorrows of the present time to prevent you from entering into the holy of holies.

JSp  Would it also correspond with, “and we have contemplated his glory”, John 1: 14?

AJMcS  I wondered that, but I would appreciate if you would say some more to help us.

JSp  I understand that the holiest is more for contemplation, and how much there is to contemplate and deepen in.  I feel the need for it myself.

AJMcS  Well, there is a Man there in final conditions, and all God’s thoughts are settled in that blessed Man, do you think?  Say some more.

JSp  I cannot say much about it, but I feel there is a great system that is all centred in Christ and there is so much to feed the mind and affections on.  If we learn just to set aside a little time to go before God and see what is there in that blessed Man, it would form spiritual substance in us.

AJMcS  God has done everything from His side.  The teaching of the covenant that precedes this is most important.  The new covenant is not made with Christians.  Nevertheless, the spirit of the new covenant can be appreciated and enjoyed by Christians.  That helps us to see that He has done everything from His side to allow us to go into the holy of holies.  So when we go in we are not exactly worried about our problems or our difficulties, we know that all is settled and we can behold the glory of the Lord.

JCG  The distinctiveness of what you are bringing out for saints of this dispensation comes out in the expression, “new and living way”.  The reference to “dedicated for us through the veil, that is, his flesh” suggests the place that Christ has now as Man in glory.  It is newly made, as Mr Darby’s note makes clear.  It is totally different.  That would be what you have in mind as to the speciality of it.

AJMcS  Very good.  In the past dispensation the High Priest could only go in once a year, not without blood and with fear and trembling.  Had he done things not according to divine order, judgment would have come in.  No doubt we need to be careful in approaching God because the boldness here is not the boldness of the flesh.  It is confidence in God Himself.  He would have us to go in, and rather than something that might lead to death, it is a new and a living way.  As Mr Raven said, ‘The new and living way is from the cross to the heart of God’, Letters p244.

RG  Do you think that in the holiest, we not only get an impression of Christ, but we get some fresh impression of the Father’s feelings about Christ?  I am thinking about the reference in Hebrews to “the cherubim of glory shadowing the mercy-seat”, Heb 9: 5.  The Father’s affections are there and we take account of that, do you think?

AJMcS  That is interesting.  I think in Hebrews God takes pains to show His appreciation of Christ and express His complacency in Him.  He also shows us a whole divine system centred in Christ that is also in complacency, do you think?

RG  Yes indeed.  Our understanding of what John 17 speaks of would grow, “that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them and I in them”, v 26.  That would come from the holiest, do you think?

AJMcS  I think what you say is very interesting.  I have been wondering myself whether there is a difference between the holy of holies and the Father’s house.  Could you help us as to that?

RG  No, I have nothing to add as to that.  What are your own exercises?

AJMcS  I am just feeling my way and would like to get help, but as far as I know in Hebrews, the teaching generally seems to be God and Christ involving the covenant, and the Father as such is not the main point.  I think the experience of the holy of holies leads to a condition of soul that is formed in the Christian in the immediate presence of God when all around in the world is a wilderness.  However, the Father’s house does not relate to the covenant but to the family.  It is not an area that is surrounded outside by wilderness with death and sorrow, but with everything that is suitable to the Father’s own presence, and when we touch that in our spirits, we can enjoy the sweetness and fullness of that place.  Does that commend itself to you?

RG  Yes, I think that is very helpful and something to ponder.

WL  The Father’s house is an eternal thought, is it not?  What we are reading just now is something that we can enjoy at the present time, although we can enjoy the Father’s house but in its essence it is future.

AJMcS  It is.  As we often say, the house of God is provisional and the Father’s house is eternal or permanent.  It is helpful to go over the teaching as to these things.

JCG  Would you say that references to the Father’s house are more extensive?  “In my Father’s house there are many abodes”, John 14: 2.  Is it a wider thought?  The holiest, of course, is the presence of God for contemplation and worship, but there is an expansive thought in relation to the Father’s house, is there?

AJMcS   Yes.  There is room enough for every family there, and I think in its ultimate fullness that goes on to the new heavens and new earth.

CKR One of the distinctive features is that He has gone in.  Is that not a very distinctive matter, that a Man has gone in?  The ark was a distinctive central figure in the whole teaching in the children of Israel’s history.  How great it was!  But in Christianity it is a Man that has gone in, and because He has gone in we can go in, and we will finally be taken there actually to remain there forever.

AJMcS  That is just it.  It was essential that Christ came into manhood in order that the dispensation as we know it might be set on.  As you are saying helpfully, He has gone into the divine presence, and because He is there, we can be there too. 

DBR  Does that bring us to the liberty of sonship?

AJMcS  I think it does.  As we move on to that, would it be right to say that, while priesthood in the saints is not the main subject in Hebrews, nevertheless, it is implied, and the persons who go in would be kindred with Christ?  The reason I say that is that if we are Christ’s brethren along with that we are associated with Him as the Son of God.

DBR  It is important to understand that.  It is only what is kindred to that blessed Man that could really enjoy the liberty of sonship.  Do you think so?

AJMcS  That is what I thought. 

         The Galatians were Gentiles whom Paul had laboured much amongst, but after that, certain persons had come in with a wrong line of teaching and were seeking to lead them to Judaism.  Paul felt strongly enough about that to say in effect that Judaism after the cross is no better than heathenism, Gal 4: 9.  Therefore he brings in this wonderful reference in chapter 4 where he points out that, prior to the incoming of Christ, the child “differs nothing from a bondman, though he be lord of all”, v 1.  You can understand that when you read the experiences of the Old Testament saints.

DBR  ’Received it as a gift’, that is sonship, but then it says ’for the Jew was in bondage under law: the Gentile had right to nothing’, chap 4: 5, footnote.  It displaces every kind of man and leads us to share a place with Christ, do you think?

AJMcS  That is most important.  I am sure there may be many here who are thinking, ’Well, we have been brought up with these things and know them well’, but the fact is that not every Christian knows them nor has been taught them.  In fact, wherever man has been given a place in Christendom, it is possible to find persons who are in bondage and are not able to experience the liberty of sonship.

GCMcK  Does this expression “the fulness of the time” relate to your exercise as to what is special?  It was not anything provisional, was it?  We are not dealing with anything that is provisional, shadows or types, but “the fulness of the time” seems to set out sonship fully, God’s thought that He had in His heart all along, do you think?

AJMcS  Yes.  God was working towards the point when He would introduce His Son.  The way it is presented here is most important, “God sent forth his Son, come of woman, come under law”.  I think we understand that when it comes to public service, the Lord Jesus was sent after He was sanctified which would relate to Him being anointed with the Spirit at the Jordan, John 10: 36.  I need help as to this, but I wonder whether the sending here preceded that.  Is it linked with the incarnation?

GCMcK  I had not thought about that.  I am not sure I could comment on that.  It was certainly in God’s heart, I suppose.  The thought of sonship could only come to light in Christ in incarnation, but the thought must have been there in the union between divine Persons that man in sonship was really in mind, but that involves one of the divine Persons becoming Man, does it not?

AJMcS  I am sure that is right.  God’s primary thoughts would be His ultimate thoughts, but they all awaited the incoming of One who as Man would be known as the Son.

WL  Why do you think God waited as long?

AJMcS  I do not know.  What do you think?

WL  Well, He proved man, and in every circumstance that man failed.  So according to the beginning of Hebrews, “God having spoken in many parts and in many ways formerly to the fathers in the prophets ...” (chap 1: 1) - but this is distinctive, unique.  But one wonders why God really waited “the fulness of the time”, what is really involved in that?

AJMcS  God waited a long time, and it is clear that prior to the incarnation there were worthy persons.  In fact, there are believers in the Old Testament who were greater morally than we will ever be.  Nevertheless, there came that point when God moved from His own side and a divine Person “emptied himself, taking a bondman’s form”, Phil 2: 7.  In that condition, He was sent.  It is most remarkable when you think it was in view of, “that he might redeem those under law, that we might receive sonship”.  No doubt He came for various reasons such as to glorify God but here it is presented “that we might receive sonship”.

WL  The thought of sonship was in God’s mind for a long, long time, “Let my son go, that he may serve me” (Exod 4: 23), but the reality of it is the Lord coming into manhood, into sonship, and we coming into the enjoyment of sonship by the Spirit.  Is that right?

AJMcS  That is right, and the way it is presented here is in a corrective setting.  The Galatians were not enjoying this, therefore “the Spirit of his Son” that is sent “into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father” really involves what the Spirit cries but no doubt God’s mind would be that we might cry, “Abba, Father”.

NJH  Does the revelation of God in Christ not have a very distinct bearing on sonship as we come into it?  It is not only the manhood of Christ, the recognition of that and appreciation of it, but also that God has been revealed in that One.  Does that not give a special character to the sonship that we enjoy?   

AJMcS  Yes.  As the Son, He is one of the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  That involves God in revelation.  We are not associated with the Son as such, but as the Son of God, there are other persons who are known as the sons of God and can be associated with Him in that light.  Such have an intimacy of communion with the Father that is unknown to any other family, do you think?

NJH  It is God, “God has sent”, and then it is the Spirit and then the Father, “Abba, Father”.  That brings in, you might say, the whole realm of revelation in that glorious Man.

AJMcS  Yes, and when you think about this expression, “Abba, Father”, there seems to be almost something that is untranslatable about it. 

GBG  Is this only true then if the state is low?  I am just trying to understand this.

AJMcS  One thing I find very interesting about the apostle is that he is able to approach persons where the state might be low and bring in the most exalted thoughts to recover them.  Romans 8 shows that where persons have been through the experiences that are involved in the chapter that precedes that, the normal outcome of that would be that they themselves cry “Abba, Father”, v 15.  That would confirm that the apostle does not only use this term when the state is low.  It is to be the normal experience of a believer who is in the gain of sonship, do you think?

GBG  I just wondered if you could bring that in because it is “into our hearts”; so there is what is real proceeding here.  I need help on it.

AJMcS  The difficulty in Galatia was that although what was genuine was there, alas, wrong teaching was covering it up.  It is well to remember that there are many genuine persons in the systems of Christendom but when it comes to the experience of sonship and union with Christ, you will find that these things are almost unknown.  That is often because bad teaching has come in.  What is really needed is to be with the Spirit in this cry of “Abba, Father”.

JCG  I would like to get your thought as to the expression, “Abba, Father”.  You have more in mind about that?

AJMcS  “Abba” is a very intimate word, which Mr Darby has transliterated from the Aramaic rather than attempt to provide another term.  I think that involves a certain intimacy of relationship, which as far as I know is limited to the personnel of the assembly, although of course first seen supremely in the Lord Jesus.

WL  It is not a link with Judaism.

AJMcS  What has occurred in Christendom (and of course we have not always been free from it ourselves, if we are honest) is but a continuation of what happened in Paul’s day.  At that time, Jewish teachers followed him wherever he went and tried to destroy the work of God in persons’ souls.  What has happened in the Christian profession is that what is Jewish, and even what is heathenish, has come in.  Even though there are genuine persons in the systems of Christendom, wrong teaching has often covered up what is real and the work of God has not come into expression as it ought.

JS  Is the distinctiveness of sonship to be kept before us in the preaching of the word and the teaching.  I was just thinking, “for ye are all God’s sons by faith in Christ Jesus”, Gal 3: 26.  It is, you might say, one of the articles of faith, and because we are sons, you get the Spirit of God’s Son in our hearts.

AJMcS  You are saying that we need to keep that constantly before us.

JS  Yes, that is what I was wondering.

AJMcS  I think that is right.  Our behaviour needs to be in keeping with it as well because there is a certain standard and dignity about sons of God that you do not find elsewhere.  There were certain things permitted and allowed in the old dispensation and a certain level of behaviour such as “Eye for eye and tooth for tooth”, (Matt 5: 38) which are not in line with the principle of sonship, do you think?

JS  Quite so.  So when the Lord in Matthew’s gospel is speaking about the assembly, He introduces Peter into it on the basis of sonship, “Then are the sons free”, Matt 17: 26.

AJMcS  Very good.  I am glad that you bring that in because in chapter 16 of Matthew’s gospel, Peter receives the revelation of Christ as “Son of the living God”, v 16.  However, before we come to the practical working out of the truth of the assembly in chapter 18, we have association with Christ in sonship brought in at the end of chapter 17.  That is the only basis on which we can go forward and take up practical assembly exercises, do you think?

JS  Well, I am impressed with that.  We enter into assembly exercises in the liberty and the intelligence of sonship.

AJMcS  Quite so.  It is the only way to do so.

JSp  Is it of significance that the Lord Himself uses this expression?

AJMcS  Yes, I think that, but that is a deep scripture and I would be glad if you would say something to help us.

JSp  The fact that we can use the same language as the Lord and, in our own limited way, have the same feelings as the Lord, is part of the distinctiveness.  I was thinking earlier of how God signalises this dispensation of His own, “God’s dispensation, which is in faith”, 1 Tim 1: 4.  There is the same kind of order of manhood down here in an extensive way.  It must be wonderful for His own heart, do you think?

AJMcS  What I find so wonderful about this scripture is that the Lord used this term in circumstances of the greatest pressure whereas the tendency might be for us to reserve this expression for circumstances of the greatest privilege.  The wonderful thing about the Lord Jesus was that even when He was in great pressure, He could use such an intimate expression.

TCM  So do you think we should be helped to open our minds and our hearts to the great matter of the need for intelligence in this and our affections.  It is not just “the Spirit”, but “the Spirit of his Son”, as if we would have some understanding of the greatness of the Father and what He has in mind.  I was thinking of the intelligence side of understanding what is suitable for the Father.

AJMcS  Just so, I am sure that sonship involves intelligence.  Do you mean that “the Spirit of his Son” involves that we understand the Son’s appreciation of the Father whereas the Spirit of the Father may more involve the Father’s appreciation of the Son? 

PAG  Is it right to say that not only is this dispensation distinctive, but what we have in it is uniquely attractive?

AJMcS  Say some more and help us.

PAG  Well, the name of the Lord Jesus, “no one can say, Lord Jesus, unless in the power of the Spirit, 1 Cor 12: 3.  What you have spoken of as “the new and living way”, and now this opportunity, we might say, to cry “Abba, Father”, and then the matter of union - these are attractive things for believers.

AJMcS  That is really my exercise because I think in ministry we should present what is attractive.  Mr Stoney’s ministry, for instance, shows his desire to bring before the saints the fullness of what God had in mind for them and then urge them to go in for it.

DBR  The term that Paul uses at the end of Romans, does that correspond with what our brother is saying?  He says, “I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of Christ”, Rom 15: 29.  I understand that is sonship.  It is the greatest of God’s blessings for man.  “The fulness of the blessing of the Christ”, how attractive that is!

AJMcS  That is the only way to approach ministry.

DCB  I was just wondering about the thought of an heir.  All these remarks that have been passed would bring that in, “but if son, heir also through God”.  Everything, the fullness and the richness and the blessing, all that belongs to God is available to us in the present dispensation.

AJMcS  I am sure that is right.  “Heirs of God, and Christ’s joint heirs”, Rom 8: 17.  I wonder if that would take us to Ephesians 1 because as Mr Darby said as to the Lord Jesus, ’Whatever He created as God, He inherits as Man’ (Collected Writings, vol 21 p324).  Thank God, He does not inherit it alone!  He has the assembly united to Him to share with Him in His headship.  Is that right?

DCB   Yes, that is very fine to see.  The breadth of all that is in the divine heart is for us and we are sharing with Christ.

AJMcS  As we know, in Ephesians 1 there is a prayer that precedes the verses that we read which really involves that the appreciation of this is not automatic.  It requires a certain degree of spiritual enlightenment and intelligence in order that we might appreciate it.  Nevertheless, the great result of it all is that we understand and enjoy that we are part of a vessel that is able to share with the Lord Jesus in His headship and adequately set forth every feature of His glorified humanity.  You do not find that in Israel, no matter how blessed they were, or the remnant or those in the millennium.  That is distinctive to the assembly.        

AMB  Is the result then divine workmanship, and particularly the work of the Spirit, the One of whom it says in the scripture in Galatians, “God has sent out the Spirit of his Son into our hearts”.  That must be formative.  It must bring about a tremendous result, and is this the result that we see in these verses in Ephesians 1?

AJMcS  We often say that we are sons of God before we are members of the body of Christ.  Membership of the body of Christ is consequent upon reception of the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit has a certain pattern according to which He works.  When you think of the beauties and features of the Lord Jesus, it is remarkable to think that conformity to Him involves every moral feature of His glorified humanity.  That must be the result of the Spirit’s work, do you think?

AMB  What do you think of what Paul says at the beginning of 1 Corinthians?  These are thoughts that would not come into man’s heart.  They are in God’s heart.  That is where they began and He has imparted them to us, and by giving us the Spirit they live in our hearts and we are able to respond to what is in God’s mind and God’s heart.

AJMcS  I am glad you bring that verse in because that also shows the distinctiveness of the dispensation.  In the past, persons were not able to understand or appreciate these things, but in the present dispensation, the Holy Spirit is here in order that we might be able to enjoy them, do you think?

AMB  Yes, I do, and our affections must be bound up in this, must they not?  The Spirit is sent forth into our hearts, and then also these are the things that God has prepared for those that love Him.  We are here together this afternoon as a company that love Him, and in hearts that love God there can be formation by the Spirit according to Christ.

AJMcS  Just so.  What a wonderful thing it would be if there was a result from this meeting, in hearts being led out more towards Him.

WL  It is a most remarkable expression and confirms what you have been saying, “the fulness of him who fills all in all”.  We speak about Christ being unique, and that is true, but we belong to a vessel that is “the fulness of him”.  There is no lack or want in the assembly, is there?

AJMcS  Just so.  So the One who “fills all in all” implies the deity of Christ, although I notice Mr Coates said that although this scripture involves that, it is said of the Lord Jesus as ‘the exalted Man’, JT vol 33 p211.  When you think of His glorified humanity, it is wonderful to think of the greatness of the assembly, able to share with Him in His headship and set forth every feature of that humanity.

WL  Does this link with “the assembly in Christ Jesus”, Eph 3: 21?  What do you say?  I am wondering if it is a similar thought, “the fulness of him who fills all in all” and Ephesians 3, that climax there, “the assembly in Christ Jesus”.  It is sublime, is it not?

AJMcS  It is sublime.  In Christ Jesus” involves formation, and the remarkable thing is that the assembly is not only “the fulness of him who fills all in all” but can also “be filled even to all the fullness of God”, Eph 3: 19.  I know time has almost gone, but we should speak about the experience of union.  It is a wonderful thing to think that you can be part of what is exclusively for Christ.  In the experience of union, we can appreciate that there is nothing else before the assembly save the Lord Jesus, and nothing else before Him save the assembly.  Israel never had that privilege.

RG  I was going to ask, if what we are saying now bears on the question our brother raised earlier as to why God waited so long.  God was not quiescent through the previous dispensation, He was carrying this hidden in God and He was setting out in the types He brought in and setting out examples for their learning and education.  So Christ and the assembly is really in God’s heart from the very beginning.

AJMcS  It is fine to bring that in.  Where would we be without the teaching in the types to open up what is set forth in the New Testament?  One other thing about that is that the persons that God was working with, prior to this present dispensation, will not be part of the assembly as the holy city, but they will have a place in it.  You think of the greatness morally of these persons and how they will be in a suitable environment there.  They will be in the holy city even thought they will not be part of it.

WL  And they will have bodies of glory.  It was once suggested that that was exclusive to the saints of the assembly.  It is not.  To get into the holy city you must have bodies of glory.

AJMcS  That is right.  I think it is important.

RG  Just to refer to what Peter speaks of, “the Spirit of Christ which was in them”, “searching what, or what manner of time” 1 Peter 1: 11.  Really God was working in relation to the assembly although it did not become clear until the incoming of the Spirit.

AJMcS  The Spirit of Christ appears to suggest the feelings that were expressed in these persons.

DBR  In your opening remarks you referred to display.  It is really the millennial scene here, is it?

AJMcS  That is what I understand because it states “not only in this age, but also in that to come” v 21.  Would it also be right to say that, while in eternity the prominent thought is the headship of God there is also an aspect of Christ’s headship that is known by the saints?  What do you think?

DBR  I do think that.  The very fact it says “his body”.  I used to think “his body”, the thought of the body of Christ, was a provisional thought but it is not, it is an eternal thought.  It is a wonderful thing, is it not?

AJMcS  It is indeed.

DBR It far supersedes the idea of the twelve tribes.  The twelve tribes could never express what the one body can express.  The one body really expresses perfectly Christ, does it not?

AJMcS  Yes.  So there is no real type of the one body in the Old Testament.  However, perhaps we have said enough about that.  In chapter 3, there are many families and every one of them will know something of sonship.  That is remarkable but there is only one family that is able “to be filled even to” not ’with’ as we often say, but “filled even to all the fulness of God”, v 19).  I take it that involves God as revealed in Father, Son and Holy Spirit and that the assembly is capable of containing that revelation in a formative way.  That formation underlies the response that is given from the assembly under Christ to God so that in Christ we are able to respond in a way that is in keeping with this wonderful revelation of God.

JCG  Your exercise was that we should look for help through the Spirit of God and the Lord standing by us to appreciate some of these thoughts currently as we enter into the service of praise.  Is that your thought?

AJMcS  Well, the Father’s Spirit would help us on that line in relation to the inner man.  I find that encouraging because we see some of the saints beginning to grow old but we can thank God there is no diminution in the inner man.  There is only increase there, and the Father’s Spirit can strengthen that.  Brethren have often proved the way the Father’s Spirit has been operative in the service of God to ensure that our aged brethren along with us all are able to respond in worship to God.


4th April 2009