Hebrews 2: 11, 12
Ephesians 2: 18
John 20: 17
RFW I would like to use this reading to enquire into how we proceed in the service of God, as we term it. I am conscious that there is a certain unique character about this gathering. We have, on the one hand, fairly large numbers of younger people who are interested in the truth and have enquiring minds and, on the other, we are privileged to have with us elderly and experienced brothers and sisters who have followed up the good teaching and have been thoroughly acquainted with the truth. I would therefore like it if we could go over why it is that we proceed in a certain way following the Lord’s supper. We will know, I am sure, that there is nothing prescribed as to the order in which matters proceed, but we do know that that which governs the Supper itself is, so to speak, prescribed - Paul uses that word in 1 Corinthians chapter 11 (v 17). So we have partaken of the Supper. The Lord says as to the bread, “this do in remembrance of me” and as to the cup, “this do … in remembrance of me” (1 Cor 11: 24, 25) so there is an element of prescription in the partaking of the Lord’s supper which should govern the mind and affection of every believer. Every believer, therefore, should be exercised, rightly so, to answer to what the Lord says: “This do in remembrance of me“. So in that way we show forth the death of the Lord, as that chapter speaks of it. Having done so, perhaps it might be thought we could close the meeting and go home. We have answered to the Lord’s request. We have broken bread and partaken of the cup and we might say that that is all that is required. But that is not what happens. There is something that proceeds from that point forward and that is what I wanted to enquire about; not in any way, as the brethren will understand, to question what is done, but to reaffirm and establish why we proceed to speak to the Lord Jesus, why we speak to the Holy Spirit and why we speak to God the Father; and why that is the order in which we address these blessed divine Persons.
I read these scriptures to give us a basis for our conversation. There are many other scriptures, I am sure, which may also come in which would bear on our subject but, in speaking of it, I would particularly like, if I could, to draw on the elder brethren because many of them know that the way in which these things have been established was not without great exercise and the spirit of enquiry. The service, as we know it, did not come about all at once, but gradually, it seems to me, the truth unfolded as to how things should proceed and I thought it would be good to use this occasion just to reaffirm these matters in our minds and affections.
JDG That is very interesting. We were speaking lately, some of us, about the fact that now when we come together we break bread immediately, but the brethren did not always do that.
RFW Quite so. Just say why that should be.
JDG Well, I think gradually over the years we have been helped to see, quite some time before my day mainly, that the important thing was that it was the Lord’s supper. We had gathered together to remember the Lord Jesus; so it would be right to proceed. The brethren came to it gradually.
RFW They did, yes. There was, I understand, the feeling that the partaking of the Lord’s supper was something that had to be worked up to. That idea is prevalent in many of the great religious bodies around us, that the partaking of the Lord’s supper is something that needs to be worked up to and that only a select number, indeed, can at any time be capable of partaking of it.
JDG So we gather together as prepared vessels, do we not?
RFW We were speaking this morning in the home about the matter of the feast of unleavened bread and the passover which lead up to the Lord speaking of the bread and the cup in the gospels. That side underlies it, so that we keep the feast. We are those who are committed to what is true to the death of Christ, but then as we come together, what is before us? It is to remember Him in the way that is prescribed.
RT Another thing that had to be established in those days is that we do not remember a dead Christ; it is a living One we come to remember. I think that helps, that it is not the sin question that we come together about, but it is a living One, and as a living One, He will lead us into living circumstances.
RFW So that is the wonderful thing, that that blessed Person comes to us as we gather to remember Him and partake of the emblems in that way. As a living Person, the Lord Jesus comes to us and do you think that that great truth is the underlying essential matter for what proceeds?
WL And as He comes to us, the service of God begins. It is not an appendage at the end of the meeting.
RFW It is not an appendage. It begins because He comes to us, as we truly believe, from where He is. He comes bringing all the joy and blessedness of the heavenly realm with Him. We would understand - I speak subject to help and correction - that He comes to us because the Holy Spirit is with us. Is that so? As we know, the Lord does not come corporeally. During the forty days, He did appear in a corporeal form, but now He comes to us because the Holy Spirit is here with us.
WL There is a recognition as He does come in of who He is, do you think?
RFW That is another matter that the brethren were helped to understand, is it not, that, as the Lord Jesus comes in amongst us, there is the immediate recognition of the greatness of His Person as the Son of God?
DBR We are made aware that we are the brethren of Christ, so beyond the prescription. Do you think we touch kindredship with Christ and I wondered if that was essential to enjoy before we proceed or as we proceed, we might say?
RFW So would you say everything then really depends on some apprehension of His coming in and that He is with us, and would you agree that it is right that we proceed on the basis that the Lord does come to us, that we truly believe that the Lord Jesus comes to us in the breaking of bread?
DBR I do. This word in Hebrews says “all of one”. I understand that is not oneness as united to Christ; it is oneness of kind. So really all that can have part in the assembly is what is of Christ in the saints, do you think?
RFW Do you understand that what proceeds, then, depends on the apprehension of the distinctiveness of His Person and His glories as He manifests Himself? So there is this great matter that He has brethren, “he is not ashamed to call them brethren“. Now you have used the word kindredship, and many of us may not understand what it means. I wonder if you would just open that up.
HP Mr Taylor points to the fact that it is important that, as we come in, we do not first see the emblems; we first meet the brethren (vol 7 p137). I wondered if that lays really the basis for this going on.
RFW Yes, we meet the brethren as those who have been faithful to the Lord during the week, and we assemble; so the expression “when ye come together in assembly” is used in 1 Corinthians 11 v 18, and “we being assembled to break bread” in Acts 20: (v 7). So assembling involves that there is affinity of affection and that we find, as it were, our place in relation to one another. Just say more about kindredship.
DBR Well, there is the side of the death of Christ that meets our liabilities, but there is the other side of the death of Christ that what is produced out of that is fruit like Himself. It is on that ground really that kindredship is established. As the Lord is known amongst us, the ground changes. We assemble in the wilderness, but then we move on to heavenly ground because we are like Christ, do you think? Therefore we would be with Him. Do you think that is right?
RFW So is it then that all that we are as associated with Christ has come out of His death? That is, we carry nothing over of what is of the flesh into that realm, but it is what we are as of Christ and out of the death of Christ. So, we might say, had Christ not died, we could not have any links with Him at all. We could not have any link with Him, certainly, in His risen life had He not died and taken away our sins that we might be associated with Him where He is, as out of death.
RG Is it the working out of, “Except the grain of wheat falling into the ground die, it abides alone; but if it die, it bears much fruit“, John 12: 24? It is of the same character, do you think?
RFW It is a very wonderful thing. The idea of kindredship comes in, does it not, when the bride was to be sought for Isaac? She had to be of his kindred. That is where I understand the thought is introduced. Is that the right reference I am making in Genesis? In Genesis 24 the servant is sent to take a wife. He says, “take not a wife for my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am dwelling; but thou shalt to go to my land and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac”, v 3, 4. So we have introduced in type the idea of kindredship, that is, she was to be from the same family, the same basic derivation and that, in its application to ourselves, involves what we are saying, that we are out of the death of Christ and thus kindred to Him.
JM Is that what is stressed here, “For both he that sanctifies and those sanctified are all of one”? It is not that they are ‘all one’ but they are “all of one”. That really brings out the great thought of kindredship.
RFW So His own distinction is maintained always, is it not? “For which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren.” Now John Brown said in his address that we do not refer to the Lord as our brother. Just help us about that.
JAB Well, first of all we have to be aware that that thought is becoming increasingly prevalent in evangelical Christendom and indeed I have had one or two conversations with dear brethren about it. I think first of all we go by scripture and the Lord is not referred to as our brother anywhere in scripture, but secondly do you think, bearing in mind what Mr Mitchell has said about “all of one” but not ‘all one’, He always retains the uniqueness of who He is. To call Him our brother begins to verge on familiarity and would start to erode the distinctiveness of the blessed One to whom we are responding on Lord’s day morning. Would that be right?
RFW I fully agree. The statement “make perfect the leader of their salvation” (Heb 2: 10) comes just before this; so He is distinctive in every relationship. As you say, as instructed by the word of God, that is not a term that we would apply to the Lord Jesus.
JAB It is very interesting that despite that being what I thought quite a recent thing, there is a reference in Mr Darby’s volumes about just that matter and when I was able to identify that and show it to one or two, that helped greatly to establish what you are speaking about. (See Collected Writings vol 17 p294.)
RFW It is helpful to see that these things are not new, but the truth is all in scripture and if we keep within the banks of scripture, as we have often been taught, we are kept right in our thoughts. So, whilst we rejoice in this thought of “all of one”, His distinctiveness remains.
JM Intimacy and nearness come out in a very beautiful way at the Supper and what immediately follows the Supper, but do you think that alongside that we should not forget who He is and therefore, as you say, as He manifests Himself to us, it is only right that there should be that sense of worship in our souls.
RFW That is something that we learned through teaching and we saw how right it was. The Lord may not stress that side but it is there and it is right that we should recognise it.
JM You would not carry it on, but I think that as the Lord manifests Himself to us the immediate thing in our spirits would be worship because of who He is and the greatness and glory that is His.
RFW Yes, indeed, so there are plenty of scriptures that would support that thought. We do not have a pattern to proceed on or a prescribed order but through spiritual enquiry and seeking light and guidance, we can see the rightness of responding worshipfully to that blessed Person.
GAB One of the first things the Lord says as coming out of death is “go to my brethren“, John 20: 17. Mary did not go to the Lord’s natural brethren. She knew where to go because this was a completely different order of things on the other side of death.
RFW Those brethren were the disciples. She went to the disciples. She knew where to go. The disciples are the same persons from another standpoint, perhaps, so it is interesting to see that the saints can be looked at in different connections. We have here “my brethren” and then there is the expression “in the midst of the assembly”, which would bring up in our minds other thoughts, and then, as we know there is the great idea of sonship, so the saints can be looked at in these different relationships. All are true in their place and, I think we have been taught, are of equal value, the brethren of Christ, the assembly and the sons of God.
CKR Do you see the hymn that we sing to the Lord Jesus after the Supper as being a great influence and help because this is the testing bit often, to move out of what is local, out of the wilderness condition, into the realm where He now is? We are going to be occupied now with Him as He is on the other side of death and the centre of a heavenly company.
RFW Do you think it is very encouraging that we actually experience these things? I was thinking this morning that there was no way in which we could have ended the meeting after we had partaken of the bread and the cup because that blessed Person had come to us and He was active in love and in grace and He was looking, we may say, for a response. That blessed love that He showed in death was bringing out a response from the hearts of His own and it is encouraging that, even in the small companies in which many of us find ourselves, we prove that this operates. The great exercise, it seems to me, is not to make it formal or ritualistic, but that there might be the real experience in life of the presence of that blessed Person and what that presence engenders in our souls.
JAG Derivation would attach to the brethren, but you could never attach that to Him. Do you think that we are conscious that we have affinity with Christ on this line of new creation?
RFW You will need to help us more so that we all understand what that means.
JAG “So if any one be in Christ, there is a new creation; the old things have passed away“, 2 Cor 5: 17. It is completely beyond all that is natural that belongs to flesh and blood.
RFW So that we have a link in life with a Man who is out of death and that is, as you say, beyond flesh and blood. So there is some quickening touch imparted to our souls as the Lord Jesus comes in. That would depend on the presence, no doubt, of the Holy Spirit, but then that quickening touch is a real thing, is it not? Our affections are quickened and we find, as you say, affinity with that blessed Man.
JAG We are conscious of wonderful liberty when He comes in, there is a change.
JDG So Jehovah says in 1 Samuel 16 when he comes in, “Arise, anoint him; for this is he“, v 12. That is spontaneity in answer to Christ coming in.
RFW Yes, and you often find that someone gives expression to something which causes that quickening touch to take place in our spirits. Someone, by the Spirit, gives expression to something in praise and thanksgiving to the Lord Jesus that causes our hearts to respond.
JCG We often quote Gideon. He says, “They were my brethren, the sons of my mother“, Jud 8: 19. Does this bear on this matter of what affinity we have in kindredship? I was thinking of the need for the reality of the experience and not merely the expression of it. It is a real matter that as we break bread and enter into the manifestation of the presence of the Lord. We realise what is proceeding, do you think?
RFW Something that is proceeding in life. I am conscious of the fact that many of us, and certainly the older ones here, have broken bread hundreds and hundreds of times in our lives and this is not doctrinal truth in an abstract way that we are speaking of, but this is what has been experienced. So that we have in our measure proved the reality of these quickening touches and have known what it is to be absorbed with the glory and blessedness of that Man.
RT This passage we are looking at, “For both he that sanctifies and those sanctified are all of one”, that is a love matter, is it not? He has sanctified Himself for us. That is His love, is it not? And His love drawn out to these sanctified ones so that that binds us up together in the way that He would move.
RFW That is very helpful, because we may just think of the doctrinal teaching as to sanctification and how it has been accomplished and so on, but it is very fine to see that this is love in operation. The brethren are particularly for the heart, the affections of Christ, are they not? He has His brethren now and they particularly, we might say, engage His affections, His love.
RT He says to the Father in John 17, “I sanctify myself for them”, v 19. He has retained manhood in view of having us with Him to enter those heavenly courts above.
RFW That is a very fine touch. We may sometimes just think of that as having in view “that they also may be sanctified by truth” (John 17: 19), but yet it is also in view of the Lord enjoying these wondrous relations with His brethren, enjoying what His love has secured.
JS When the Lord comes in, He is therefore anxious to move into the enjoyment of these relationships where love can be known.
RFW When the Lord comes in, we would understand He has the Father’s praises, the praises of God, before Him, but yet on the way to that these blessed relationships with Himself are entered into and experienced. I thought - and I would say this subject to correction - it is the way that the Lord Jesus presents Himself to us that draws out the response of His brethren and the assembly to Him. His distinctiveness as “firstborn among many brethren” (Rom 8: 29) is apprehended, the glories that belong to Him in manhood alone, and then we have the wondrous realisation that we are “all of one” with Him. We have some sense of His joy in having His brethren, as has been remarked, the answer to His own affections.
GBG We often think of what is feminine for the heart of Christ. Is this what is masculine for the heart of Christ?
RFW I have sometimes been exercised about that, because the thought of brethren is masculine and then we speak of the marital side, which involves what is feminine. I find it sometimes difficult to make that change, but help us about it.
GBG I just think it is a wonderful thing that He is in the midst of His brethren and has this affinity, you might say, in a masculine way. We have an affinity with Him as His brethren. Rebecca, as soon as she saw Isaac, “sprang off the camel“, Gen 24: 64. She realised she was suitable for Isaac. Does this underlie that, this feeling of suitability?
RFW The conversations she had with the servant along the way no doubt prepared her for that state of suitability, so she saw “the man that is walking in the fields to meet us” (Gen. 24: 65) and “she sprang off the camel“. As our dear brother in Belfast told us, she saw the man whose work was done. He was walking in the fields; he had nothing left to do. The Lord Jesus comes in in that way. His work is done; He is free to spend time with His brethren and with His bride.
QP I just wonder if it helps with your enquiry as to why the service of God flows out of the Lord’s supper to refer to Luke 24: when the Lord Jesus comes in, He says, “Have ye anything here to eat?” v. 41. He is really seeking something for Himself, and in Genesis 24 there is that beautiful figure of the servant seeking something for himself and in John 4 there is the Father seeking. Do you think that would underlie the service of God?
RFW That is helpful. All these scriptures, I think, in their time have helped the brethren into an understanding of how to proceed in what the Lord Jesus is seeking. We should greatly value what has come to us in the way of instruction in this great matter because it is greatly to be cherished. The greatest privilege we have is to have part in that service, to provide something for the heart of the Lord Jesus Christ and in response to divine Persons. It seems to me to be an immense privilege and favour, do you think?
DBR Does that then lead us on to the great matter of union? We are “many brethren” (Rom. 8: 29), but the assembly is an entity and I wondered if union really brings us onto the true ground of the whole service of God? When you touch union, you are really on heavenly ground. In Genesis 24 it is not only kindred, but it is “my land”, v. 4. That would be heaven for us, would it?
RFW That is helpful. As we know the word ’union’ is not found in scripture, but the thought of it is there in “one flesh” and it is perhaps the most testing thing that we face, to know anything of the experience of union with Christ. I wondered if we see the glorious place Christ has in relation to the assembly it would help us to enter into the truth of union. Would you say that?
DBR Therefore we can speak of a heavenly Man and a heavenly bride. As I understand it, the great thought of the bride is exclusive to the assembly. We are touching something very specific and very glorious and completely according to the purpose of God, that Christ should have a bride wholly suitable to Himself.
RFW , The reference to ”the Christ also loved the assembly” in Ephesians 5 v 25 helps us to apprehend something of the greatness of the love of Christ for the assembly. So does the truth of union involve that we are brought to Christ where He is, as you say, the heavenly Man? That is, it is the enjoyment of relationship with Him that is outside of everything here but that belongs to the place where He is.
JM As we experience union with Him, we learn what is really in His own heart, do we not? I think if you are united to someone, you love what he loves, you think what he thinks. Does that not give us some understanding of what is in the Lord’s mind as He proceeds in the service of God?
RFW So what is in His mind is that He would sing the Father’s praises. He would desire to use the saints for this great matter, use the assembly for this great matter, as linked to Him, as bound up with Him.
RT Union is “of his flesh, and of his bones”, Eph 5: 30. In the type really she has no past history.
RFW You could tell us, now, just what that means, that the assembly has no past history.
RT Well, it is “of his flesh, and of his bones”. Brethren may have had past history and that was dealt with in the death of Christ, but when you come to the bride, she has no past history, she is “of his flesh, and of his bones”. She is like Him.
RFW So the type comes in there before the question of sin comes in at all. The type in Genesis 2 has nothing to do with the question of sin because it has not entered in, but it shows the mind of God, that the assembly is linked with Christ quite apart from that question, quite apart from dealing with the question of sin. Now we know that we actually arrive at it practically through the moral way, as being redeemed, but the type would indicate that we should apprehend the thought of God that the assembly should be linked with Christ through His death quite apart from the question of dealing with the matter of sin. Is that what you understand?
RT Rebecca did not need to go through a course of instruction. What he found in Rebecca was somebody who was willing to go. She rose above all the hindrances that were there. She was ready to be conducted in the Spirit’s grace to the heavenly Man.
RFW To find her part with Him. He was “comforted“, it says, “after the death of his mother” (Gen 24: 67), so we must bring the side of affection and love into the matter of union as well, must we not?
JMar Could you help us in relation to singing in regard to the service of God? I think it is very affecting how it comes in here.
RFW “In the midst of the assembly will I sing thy praises”. It is a scripture we have often pondered over, but singing brings our spirits together in a way that nothing else does. We are all in it with our voices and in it with our spirits and there is a note of exaltation and transport. I think that word ‘transport‘ has been used in relation to singing, so that something is produced in a united way that cannot be produced in any other way. It seems to me that that is what singing involves, but maybe you would say something about it.
JMar I was just thinking about that scripture, “For behold, the winter is past … The time of singing is come”, Song of Songs 2: 11, 12. It is a wonderful matter when the matter of singing comes in after His death. It was after His death He said “my brethren“.
RFW Hebrews 2:12 is quoted, as we know, from that wonderful Psalm 22 that sets out the sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ. This was in His blessed mind at that time and expresses His infinite joy in having a company in which He can sing the Father’s praises, that is, He can use the saints for this great purpose. What joy it gives His heart!
JM Could I enquire whether it is right to think, in the relations of Christ and the assembly after the Supper that He really tastes something of what He will actually taste when He has the assembly for Himself entirely? The scripture says, “He shall drink of the brook in the way“, Ps 110: 7. Is there not just a little touch for His own heart there of what He will actually enter into?
RFW We would trust it is so. As we know, the service of God, as we experience it, is in a provisional setting now. It is not the final thought now, but it is provisional in that we enter into it now in these conditions. We trust indeed that the Lord tastes something of the joy that will be His in its fulness when He has all the saints with Him.
JM That should really be in our minds as we proceed, should it not? You think of the more than two thousand years that He has waited for the assembly, but you think of the opportunity week by week just for Him to savour what is for His own heart in the relations that He has with the assembly.
JDG So you are not exactly taken up with His exploits. You are taken up with that Person, that Man and His love for you.
RFW Union, it seems to me, is the enjoyment of the Person in the place that he has brought us to, the enjoyment of His love and just being for Him. What a blessed thought that is!
JAG So the need of His own heart is met before the singing begins.
RFW That is fine, so we have various hymns that speak of the Lord being satisfied and that would enter into it, would it?
JAG I think it is most beautiful, because there was obviously a need and God says “I will make him a helpmate, his like“, Gen 2: 18. That position is met and the marital position is met and then the Lord proceeds with the singing to the Father.
RFW I am glad you say that the Lord proceeds, because we speak about ourselves as proceeding and we know what we mean by that, but yet the service is under His blessed direction, is it not? Sometimes you almost get the impression that we have left the Lord behind at some point, but He is conducting this, He is over the whole great matter.
RT In the Song of Songs He speaks about how much He enjoys the bride and he says, “Come with me“, chap 4: 8.
RFW That is fine. He is going to take her into places that He knows and loves and has full entrance to. Is it not very interesting - and I say this for the benefit of our dear younger brethren - how the brethren are able to bring in scriptures that bear on this great matter because this is how our understanding of how to proceed in the service of God developed. The saints as looking at and comparing and evaluating the wonderful truth as contained in the scriptures got indications of how to proceed? Would that be so?
JAB Is that why what we are speaking of now matters very much? Perhaps when we are younger we think, well, that is the way the brethren do it, but other people do it in different ways. Sometimes they do it in very different ways. They have the morning meeting with musical instruments and that sort of thing. That can be quite attractive naturally. Do you think we have to understand how much the Lord values what has been answered to in the period of what we call the recovery of the truth? I am thinking of the references to Isaac being comforted, that the Lord Jesus really values what we are speaking about.
RFW I think we could not stress that enough. I think that for myself, and I am sure the brethren would go with it. I think we could not stress that enough that what has been come to in this way through much exercise and much enquiry and much waiting on the Lord is something that the Lord Jesus values very, very much.
JAB In the town where I live there is a meeting of dear believers, some of whom we know very well, who if you trace it back would have links with what had been in Mr Darby’s day, but now in what they call their worship meeting, they appoint a chairman. Now, I do not say that to lower the tone of this occasion but to impress it on our spirits that what we are speaking about is very precious.
RFW It is, because what we are speaking of depends on the appreciation of the Lord Jesus coming in and how He proceeds then as having come in and how the Holy Spirit supports us in it, not, as you say, through any organised arrangements. We speak of the order of the service and so on, which is right in its place to have in our minds, but the vitality and the reality of it depends on the apprehension of the blessed Person who has come in and who is, as it were, conducting us.
DCB Is the Lord’s place as Head important? I suppose in contrast to what John Brown has said, we are dependent on the Lord Jesus as the One who is Head to be under the influence that He would have, to follow, sometimes to dally, sometimes to move quickly. It is His service and He is conducting it.
RFW It is His matter. We may wish to detain Him, to enjoy that blessed moment of intimacy with Himself, but He has in mind the Father’s praise, has He not?
WL I was going to ask you that. We have a very real sense of what we are to Him as His brethren and His bride and, as David Brown says, in these circumstances we would prove His headship, but then He is also considering for God as a Man.
RFW He delights in that great thought that He has the assembly available to Him to praise, as a vessel of praise.
RT Have not both the Father and the Spirit been active in regard to securing the bride for Christ, so that the Son, the Man, may have somebody for His own heart, and that being enjoyed, would He not lead us in response to the Spirit and to the Father?
RFW Now, you can help us about response to the Spirit because, as we know, there was much enquiry as to that matter. I read the passage in Ephesians because, I understand, that passage was used to help us as to response to the Spirit. Is that so?
RT It used to be at various times in the meeting. Sometimes some thought it should be in relation to the cup, to begin with, and sometimes later, but I think it is important to see that the Father and the Son were active and from one point of view, union is a terminus. That word has to be rightly understood. It is a point reached. Nothing flows out of it exactly. The Lord has the assembly for Himself and you can see that He is using what He has in the assembly that the Spirit may have a portion and the Father in view of the labours that they have had for His heart being satisfied.
RFW That is very helpful. You mean that everything proceeds as we are held in affection to Him so that, as you say, union is a terminus in that way. That is, we do not get beyond being united to Christ or being one with Him. That is the assembly’s portion and will be the assembly’s portion eternally so that everything proceeds as we are held in our affections to Him.
JM I would like some help on it, but in these closing days I wonder whether the Lord has drawn attention to the relations between the Persons of the Godhead, the holy relations between one and another, and He is bringing the assembly which is nearest to His own heart into that, and do you think that at the Supper, or what flows out of the Supper, there is movement to the Father? It is not just that it is time to go to the Father but you have a sense of what is in the heart of Christ and the holy relations that flow between Him and His Father and you move with Him in it.
RFW Yes, we feel His joy in His own relations with the Father.
JM Also, His relations with the Spirit. As we think of the service of the Spirit as having secured the assembly in substantiality for the heart of Christ, there is a response in the heart of Christ to that and He brings the assembly with Him into that.
RFW So what has been said as to the Spirit’s service in relation to the securing of the bride and the Father’s service in relation to the securing of the bride are of all importance to grasp because these are blessed, holy, real matters.
WL Say a word, please, as to the question of union with Christ and then association with Him.
RFW I am sure you could say far more than I could on that subject.
WL Well, union with Him is for the meeting of His own affections, but then, we are not united to the Son of God: we are associated with Him at that point. It is very important to understand that.
RFW Just open up what you mean by association in that sense.
WL Well, being with Him in what He has in mind for the Father and enjoying the truth, not only of union with Him in the assembly, that is feminine, but enjoying the great thoughts of sonship.
RFW So it may be difficult to grasp this, but we have to understand these different relationships. We are the same persons but we are the brethren of Christ, which is a masculine thought, but we form part of the assembly, which is a feminine thought, the assembly is for the heart of Christ, and then we are sons of God, which is again a masculine thought. We are the same persons but we are viewed as in these different relationships.
PM Does the Lord Jesus in John’s gospel bring out the personality of the Spirit in His distinctiveness? And does that help us that He is not just an influence or a power but He is a divine Person and is therefore rightly the object of worship?
RFW That is very helpful. It is a very fine thing to grasp that the Holy Spirit is a distinctive divine Person. You wonder why, in a sense, it took so long for the brethren to come to that great matter, not that the Spirit was not recognised as a divine Person, but in addressing the Spirit and being free to address the Spirit in the recognition of His distinct personality. What do you say about that?
PM The Lord Jesus speaks about “when he is come“, John 16: 13. I wondered if, although in the type in Genesis 24 He is figured as a servant, yet Rebecca would have seen something of a glory in those movements, in the treasure that he had under his hand which she had never seen before and would lead her heart in response to him as he says, give me a sip.
RFW Very good, and that servant was fully in the mind of Abraham and fully shared his feelings and his sympathies, and he had all those treasures under his hand. I have often thought of that, that Rebecca’s access to those treasures was through her willingness to go with that man. She had no access to those treasures otherwise, but as she indicated her willingness, that spirit of willingness that was with her, then he is free and able to bring these things out and put them on her.
RT The change among the brethren came about because the Spirit had always been viewed subjectively. It was pointed out in the ministry that He is to be viewed objectively, and that is what promotes worship. He is a divine Person who not only has come to be with us, wonderful fact, but who is also an object of worship because of who He is and His part in the Deity.
RFW The understanding had been that the Spirit could not be viewed as distinct or separate from His operations in the saints in a sense, but to be seen objectively means He is seen, as you say, in His own distinctiveness and His own sovereign right to operate as a distinctive divine Person. Is that putting it correctly?
RT You could never limit divine Persons to the place that they have come into. They have moved in love and come into different positions but we can never limit them as to the greatness and deity of their Person. That is what promotes worship when we apprehend it.
RFW It is, and I think that the touch as to the Spirit that comes in is most stimulating when we have that blessed Person before us.
JAG He serves typically in Genesis 24 as the Father’s Spirit and as the Spirit of Christ. He is called the Spirit of God’s Son and various other titles or names or relationships that He fills out and serves to bring us into the consciousness of that, would you say?
RFW It is wonderful to contemplate those different titles or names and to see that each one brings out some distinctive glory of the Holy Spirit in the way that He is able to serve, but then His own distinctiveness comes out too, does it not? He is spoken of as the “the one and the Same Spirit”, 1 Cor 12: 11.
JAG As to the name, it is the Holy Spirit.
RFW You mean that is His distinctive name?
DBR He is also the Spirit of adoption. The wonder of that would have a great bearing on the enjoyment and functioning of sonship. I noticed an interesting touch in the ministry of Mr James Taylor recently. He said that that is how we will know the Spirit eternally, as the Spirit of adoption (vol 21 p267). So it is “through him we have both access by one Spirit to the Father”. Do you think the Spirit really makes us conscious of our fitness to be in association with Christ?
RFW It has often been said that a human parent may adopt a child but to give it the spirit of the family is beyond human ability, is it not? But the Spirit of adoption brings us into the realisation of the joy of the family as belonging there and never to be put out of it. It is our place; we belong there.
DBR Would that really promote the liberty of sonship as we are in the presence of the Father?
RFW Quite so.
JAB A young brother just last week at home asked me a question about this and some of the young people who are listening may be wondering the same. Why is it, in view of the greatness and glory of this divine Person that we are speaking about, do we normally just have one thanksgiving and one hymn?
RFW Well, what do you say about that?
JM Well, it is actually in keeping with the Spirit characteristically. You mentioned earlier that it had taken the brethren so long to come to the worship of the Spirit. There is another side to that and that is that the Spirit characteristically waited and worked with the brethren that Christ might become the object of their affections and when that was established in a powerful way, then what was due to Himself came forward, and I think that is characteristic of Him in the service of God. He does not occupy the main place. It is the Lord’s supper and He recognises that and He is content with the place He is given. I think it should draw out our affections to Him and our worship to Him.
RFW I think that is most interesting, because if you think of the way the truth developed, as to the Person of Christ, the sonship of Christ, the distinctiveness of His own relationships with the assembly, the distinctive place that the assembly has, and all that being established the Holy Spirit causes the truth as to His own Person to be made more prominent.
JM If you just think about that for a moment, and I say it very carefully because we must carry in our minds that He is God, equal with the Father and with the Son, but in the working out of the economy, He has taken a place in view of the Father and the Son being glorified, and I think that should draw out our hearts to Him.
GAB The servant in Genesis 24 only asked for a sip but Rebecca’s response is, “Drink, my Lord!” v 18. Even if it is only one thanksgiving and one hymn, the fulness of response comes out from the assembly: “Drink, my Lord!”
RFW I think that scripture has been used in relation to the question that John Brown raises. “Let me, I pray thee, sip a little water out of thy pitcher. And she said, Drink, my lord! And she hasted and let down her pitcher on her hand, and gave him to drink.” And then it says, “And when she had given him enough to drink …” so that I think the Holy Spirit has indicated, if we could say reverently, that that is enough. We cannot say that there is any prescription for how many hymns or thanksgivings can be addressed to any divine Person, but what we are enquiring about is how what we proceed with has come about, how the truth of it has come to us and how we are assured that it is right.
WL We have been taught and have experienced that the Father is the objective. That is the point of this, the Lord Jesus and the Spirit acting so that we might have access to the Father. It has been pointed out in regard to what we are saying about hymns and thanksgivings that the Father should have the greatest place in the service. Would that be right?
RFW Yes, and that is a test to us, I feel, and I am only speaking practically because, as we know, quite a lot of the service is taken up with the giving of the thanks. Then response to the Lord Jesus and then we have the Holy Spirit referred to. Then the Father’s portion may sometimes be lacking a little, and that is an exercise for us to seek to fill it out.
WL Yes, I think the exhortation in the good teaching that the Father should have the greatest place in the service is absolutely right.
RFW It is on the Lord’s heart according to this scripture, “will I sing thy praises”.
GCMcK We spoke earlier of how, when the Lord Jesus comes in, there ought to be a note of worship initially as He comes in in His glory. Do you think as we have this wonderful liberty to approach the Father, there should be something reverential, a note of worship, as well as liberty?
RFW I wondered, and again we are enquiring, if that is what should immediately engage us as we come into His presence. We are impressed by the greatness of that Person. Would that be so?
GCMcK We rejoice in the liberty we have, the nearness we are brought into and the knowledge of the Father’s love, but I think as we consciously come into His presence there would be a note of worship. How great He is!
JDG We are really speaking about “the ascent by which he went up to the house of Jehovah” (1 Kings 10: 5) in Solomon’s day. It is the house of Jehovah that is the objective, the Father‘s abode.
RFW We just had a touch this morning about this scripture in John 20 and the way the Lord uses the word “my”. He says, “my brethren” and then He says, “my Father and your Father, and ... my God and your God”. So we are in the presence of the Lord Jesus in this great matter. He is with us, He is conducting us and He is supporting us, but there is an infinitude of meaning in the use by the Lord Jesus of the word “my”.
JM You could never use the expression ‘our God’ as including Christ because there is what is unique to Himself, and His knowledge of God is infinite. Ours is not. It is finite and we have just to accept that.
RFW “My Father” implies His infinite knowledge of the Father and all that the Father is. He would have us alongside of Him but there is a reverential feeling for the Lord Jesus even as associated with Him, as Mr Lamont has been saying.
RG Have we not been taught that when the Lord in John 17 says, “And I have made known to them thy name, and will make it known” (v 26), He is looking forward to this expression now, “my Father and your Father … my God and your God.” The “will make it known” is something that is understood because the Spirit is now with us.
RFW So it is an immense favour that His Father is our Father - what an immense thought! And we can speak to Him in that way as “our Father”. I do not know if there is any other person in recorded scripture who speaks to the Father as “my Father”. Paul uses the expression “my God”.
NJH I am asking for help, but why is the “to”, “[to] my God” put in brackets by Mr Darby? Could we get help on that? “to my Father and your Father, and … my God and your God.” I am asking the question.
RFW What is your own thought as to it?
NJH I wonder if it is to elevate the Father in our minds while it is a more extended thought in God. I am just wondering if the Father’s position is intended to be more in our minds, but I am asking the question.
RFW The Father comes first evidently here, so it would seem that the “to” could be left out. But if it can read, “I ascend to my Father and your Father, and … my God and your God”, then the thoughts of Father and God are, you might say, forever linked. The thought of the Father is not to be separated in our minds from the thought of God. As you say, in this ascending line, the Father becomes prominent, because we are in His presence in liberty as having the Spirit of adoption and in the relationship of sons. These are wonderful words to use. It is the reality of the experience of them that would exercise me.
JAG Do we need to think a bit, perhaps, about the Father representing God in that sense?
RFW I wondered if that was in it. Please say more.
JAG I felt perhaps we need to touch on that in the service because we speak to the Father and then we go onto God as manifest in the three Persons.
RFW Quite so, so the Father, as you say, has never left that place and, in a sense, we never get higher than that. Is that so? We speak to God as made known to us in the Trinity which is perhaps wider but not higher than the thought of Father.
DBR Say a word about the families named of the Father (Eph 3: 15).
RFW I am sure you can say something.
DBR Well, there is a distinctive family and thank God we belong to that and that will remain in eternity as I understand it. “The assembly of the firstborn” (Heb 12: 23) will remain distinct even in eternity. I just thought, as we are enjoying the presence of the Father and the glory of who He is and the glory of the Father’s operations, we would have a sense that there is a whole area that stands in some measure in family relations to the Father. They are named of Him. I would value your help in it.
RFW I am glad of what you say as to the distinctive nature of the family of the firstborn to which we belong. Am I right in taking from what you say that that distinctive position will remain? We have the final thought of God and men presented in Revelation but there will still be that which is distinctive to the assembly family. Do you understand that that is the truth?
DBR I do, and that magnifies the favour that you spoke of yesterday that we have been brought into, that we belong to that distinctive family, but nevertheless I think Mr Coates uses the term that every family is bound under the headship of Christ (Outline of Song of Songs p142). Every family is named of the Father so there will be some glorious thought of praise from every family in the light in which they know Him.
RFW So that praise, in a sense, is anticipated now in the saints. The only praising family now is the assembly. Is that so? As we speak of the Father, and we have it in some of our hymns, ‘Father of every fam’ly‘ (441), for example, we are expressing our joy in the fact that He has all these families who will be responsive to Him and that He has reached His great thought, that is to have responsive, affectionate praise and worship from men in family relation to Himself.
RG So ‘Father of every fam’ly’ must mean that every family will have some feature of sonship according to their measure, but never in any sense equal to the family in which we have part.
RFW I am thankful for the re-statement of these great matters because I think it is important for us to understand them. We may not fully grasp the greatness of them, but I think it is good to have these truths stated and to hold them in our minds and affections and to wait on the Lord to give us more understanding and feeling in them.
JMar Mary did not only deliver this wonderful message but she said, I have “seen the Lord” - wonderful experience for a person like Mary of Magdala! She had missed Him. She was broken-hearted, but here she is saying I have “seen the Lord”.
RFW That is very fine, so that in a sense underlies all we are speaking of, some experience of the presence of the Lord Jesus with us, all through this great matter.
22nd October 2006