1 Timothy 3: 15, 16
I trust what I have to say, beloved, is not unconnected to what we have had before. I was thinking particularly of the challenge as to how we are to appear in the testimony. I was thinking how Paul was concerned that Timothy might know how to “conduct oneself in God’s house, which is the assembly of the living God, the pillar and base of the truth”. It relates to when we are together but it would have its bearing on how we come together. Our brother has referred to the assembly, the dignity which belongs to us as having part in it. So that Timothy is exhorted in this way, to know how one ought to conduct oneself. What a privilege it is, beloved, as we think of what the assembly is for the heart of Christ; and of what He has given to secure it. He gave Himself for it. He could not have given more; in His love He would not give less. What it is for God Himself, too, as the vessel of His praise – “to Him be glory in the assembly in Christ Jesus unto all generations of the age of ages”, Eph 3: 21. It is a question then how we conduct ourselves as having part in it. It is especially manifest when we come together, but also how we come together and how we conduct ourselves as we are together. The whole question is as to the recognition of the dignity of the assembly.
Then it struck me - no doubt it has often been spoken of - that Paul speaks of the mystery of piety. We often speak of piety as walking here as having God before us. But here we have “the mystery of piety”. As we have been reminded, it is not just a question of how we are together; it is a question how we are all the time. How are we as having this great end before us, to have part in the assembly of the living God, the pillar and base of the truth? I have read of this wonderful pathway: how God has been manifested in flesh - that is the mystery of piety. I would like to understand it more, but how wonderful it is. Why should this be brought before us at this point? It suggests that something is to mark us, and there is to be seen in us something of what was seen in such absolute perfection in our Lord Jesus. There should be something here which manifests that we are persons that have had to do with God, indeed persons who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. It says “has been justified in the Spirit”. We are persons who are different, because the Holy Spirit dwells in us. There is something to be seen in us. I know it is personal and unique as to Christ Himself, but it is brought forward here in the context of the mystery of piety. Piety is something that is to mark us. It is the mystery of it and it was seen in One here who as to His Person is “over all, God blessed for ever” (Rom 9: 5); but He came into these conditions of blood and flesh apart from sin. So that it says that “God has been manifested in flesh”. But the mystery of piety is what strikes me, that there is to be something that has found its expression in Jesus which is to find its expression here; something substantial expressed in us, as it says, “justified in the Spirit”. It must be as the Holy Spirit is free with us because of our judgment of the flesh which is in us. Nevertheless it was in flesh – “God has been manifested in flesh”. I feel difficulty in expressing it. Then it says, “has appeared to angels”. Think of a time of need when angels ministered to Him (Matt 4: 11), when He was here in the condition of blood and flesh, in all the perfection of His humanity. But then, beloved, angels take account of us. We are told to observe certain things “on account of the angels”, 1 Cor 11: 10. How do we appear to the angels, who are sent forth as ministers on account of the heirs of salvation, Heb 1:14? We are to be careful in relation to them. What do angels see; how do they take account of one they have been sent forth in relation to? Then it says, “has been preached among the nations”. What a testimony this is! What a testimony the life of Jesus was, and what a testimony there is now to the One who is in glory. It says, “received up in glory”. What a hope we have spoken of - soon we are to be received up in glory. But what in the meantime is the testimony here? What is to be seen in us, to be seen in me, which speaks of that blessed Man who was here in all His perfection? All that was seen in Jesus is to be continued, “that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh”, 2 Cor 4: 11.
I trust I am not putting too much into this, beloved, but the impression has been with me today and I search my heart in relation to it; as to what answer there is to it in me. Why should it be, when Paul speaks of how one ought to conduct oneself, he immediately goes on to this great mystery of piety; and points out what was seen in Jesus? We might say reverently, it was how He conducted Himself. What a standard, but let us hold to it. And may it be that, as we are here, there might be the more in testimony to Him; and not only that but there might be more for God.
In the Name of the Lord Jesus.
11th May 2010