Psalm 24: 7 - 10
John 21: 24 - 25
Acts 1: 13 - 15
Ephesians 1: 19 - 23
I have a simple impression, beloved brethren, as to how great the assembly is because of her appreciation of divine Persons and divine things. We had some impression of that on Lord's day from Acts 20 when we spoke of “the assembly of God, which he has purchased with the blood of his own”, v 28. It is not the word redemption that is used there, which would suggest atonement from sin, but the thought of being “purchased” brings out the intrinsic value of the object that was before God in the assembly. A brother referred to the “pearl of great value”, Matt 13: 45, 46. Think of God's estimation of the assembly. I feel challenged as to my appreciation of the assembly, but think of God's estimation, that it was “the blood of his own” that He gave to secure such a vessel. It is a vessel that would then become such an accompaniment, we may say, to His own beloved Son.
We read first of all in Psalm 24. Here we have a scene of glory. I think it has been linked to when the Lord was received in glory. “Lift up your heads, ye gates; yea, lift up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall come in”. Think of what a time that was when Christ was raised from amongst the dead. It says elsewhere in Scripture, “whom heaven indeed must receive”, Acts 3: 21. He was not only received up to glory, He “has been received up in glory”, 1 Tim 3: 16. Think of all that Christ is. So the writer asks the question, “Who is this King of glory?”: and later, “Who is he, this King of glory? Jehovah of hosts”. What a One He is! It links to the millennium when Christ will come in His glory and be seen publicly. There is a reference to the gates: “Lift up your heads, ye gates”, perhaps the gates suggest more what is public; “and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors”, suggests more what is internal. Think of the appreciation that the whole universe will have of Christ: the assembly's appreciation of Christ, and Israel's appreciation, and also the nations', when His glory becomes manifest and becomes public. But at present the assembly has a unique appreciation of Christ and His glory, and of God and His glory. It says here, “Who is this King of glory? Jehovah strong and mighty, Jehovah mighty in battle”. What we sang in our hymn comes into that, God in Christ went on alone. It was referred to in prayer -
None could follow there, blest Saviour,
When Thou didst for sins atone;
But then too the Name, “Jehovah strong and mighty, Jehovah mighty in battle”, includes the wars of the testimony. There have always been the wars of the testimony, throughout the whole dispensation. We find that if we look at Mr Darby's ministry or look at 'The Recovery and Maintenance of the Truth', or Mr James Taylor's ministry; we find that there has always been conflict in relation to the truth. Yet it says, “Jehovah strong and mighty, Jehovah mighty in battle”. It is His battle, it is not ours, and the ground on which we seek to stand is the ground that God has secured in Christ. We speak about the principles of the truth, and rightly so, but these principles are not the brethren's principles but God's principles. They are not new; they have been established by God since the beginning, and here we have this encouragement that Jehovah is strong and mighty, Jehovah mighty in battle. That comes first; I think there is order here. You may say the principles are presented in verse 8: “Jehovah strong and mighty, Jehovah mighty in battle”, and then we have the persons presented in verse 10: “Jehovah of hosts”. There is a divine order in that, as we seek in simplicity to be faithful to the principles that God has established, you can have confidence in God that He will help us take care, and He Himself will take care, of the persons. So we have “Jehovah strong and mighty, Jehovah mighty in battle”, the principles, and then we have, “Jehovah of hosts”, the persons. And then the result is seen in the last sentence, which is just one word, “Selah”. It is one word meaning peace. If we follow this order, the peace that is established is definite, it is permanent, and there is no compromise involved in this peace. It stands on its own in that one word, “Selah”. This order is also presented in the scripture we read on Lord's day where Paul announced the kingdom of God, which would involve principles, and then he says, “I have not shrunk from announcing to you all the counsel of God”, v 27. Counsel suggests what is operational. It is not only purpose, which may be viewed abstractly. Counsel involves what is worked out in persons. Again we may say there is a divine order, the principles and the persons. We also see in Acts 20 what begins and ends with an embrace. We might say that love covers it all. Whatever ground we take it must be motivated by love, love for God, love for Christ, love for the truth, love for the saints.
In the second scripture we read we have the reference in verse 25, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which if they were written one by one, I suppose that not even the world itself would contain the books written”. What skill, we may reverently say, the Spirit used to record the different accounts in the Gospels as to the pathway of our Lord Jesus here. How great His activity was in the relatively short life that the Lord had here, and it says, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which if they were written one by one I suppose that not even the world itself would contain the books written”. I think we can say that these books are in the assembly, and I do not suppose there is a greater library than what belongs to the assembly. Think of the library of the assembly; the assembly really is the library of heaven, the library of the universe. I suppose the largest library in the world is the British Library in London, but there is no library like the library of the assembly because everything that has been revealed of Christ is treasured in the assembly. What a wonderful matter that is! This is John writing and as we look at the beginning of John's gospel it says that “No one has seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him”, John 1: 18. Everything that has been declared of God, everything that has been revealed of God, is treasured in the assembly. The world could not contain these books but the assembly can! It is a wonderful vessel which has been secured throughout this dispensation. In the world to come it will be seen. Everything that is to be known of Christ in the millennium will be seen through the assembly. If you think of her as a library, what a point of reference the assembly will be to Israel and to the nations, the one through whom even now “the all-various wisdom of God” (Eph 3: 10) is made known. What a vessel she is, almost too great for us to fully comprehend, but nonetheless there is a wonderful vessel, the assembly, that is an expression of what God had in mind to make known and has made known.
So I read in Acts and was thinking especially of what it says in verse 14, “These gave themselves all with one accord to continual prayer, with several women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren”. What a touching reference it is, “and Mary the mother of Jesus”. John brings before us not only the pathway of Christ but the Person of Christ. The assembly has a full appreciation of all that can be known as to the Person of Christ, but where we have read in Acts would bring before us that the assembly also has a full appreciation of the manhood of Christ, and that nothing that belongs to the humanity of Jesus, the manhood of Jesus, has been lost. It has been preserved in the assembly. I think that is why it says, “and Mary the mother of Jesus”. It is all gathered up. Think of that. Think of what this means to God. That is why the assembly is so precious to God. He would not allow any impression of Jesus as a Man here, as a perfect Man before Him for His own pleasure, to be lost, and He has a vessel in which the preciousness, to put it simply, of Christ is preserved, preserved in the assembly. How wonderful a vessel the assembly is!
Then lastly we read in Ephesians where we have the truth presented at its height. We read a few verses but I was thinking especially of verse 22, “has put all things under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the assembly, which is his body, the fulness of him who fills all in all”. Headship in Colossians is more personal. What a moment that is in the believer's life when he reaches Colossians because the headship of Christ impresses itself upon him. Personally and morally, He is before all in the greatness of His Person, but here in Ephesians it is more official. It is what God is doing. We read of that, “and what the surpassing greatness of his power towards us who believe, according to the working of the might of his strength, in which he wrought in the Christ in raising him from among the dead”. Then it speaks about His Name, “and he set him down at his right hand in the heavenlies, above every principality, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name named” - now think of this - “not only in this age, but also in that to come”; and then, “and has put all things under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the assembly, which is his body, the fulness of him who fills all in all”. What a vessel she is! We sometimes think about the assembly having the nearest place to Deity and perhaps this is a scripture that would bear that out, because I think the reference we have to “the fulness of him” must be a reference to the fact that Christ is a divine Person, and what underlies “all in all” is deity. We clearly understand that the assembly has no part in deity, but how great she must be if she can be described as that “which is his body, the fulness of him who fills all in all”.
Well, may we be encouraged, beloved brethren, by thinking about this wonderful vessel. What marks us in our weakness and any breakdown in the testimony is one thing, but this vessel in all its prestige and glory remains intact, remains complete. There is a view in which there is no breakdown. It is His body; that is what we read: “which is his body”. There is no breakdown in the thought of the body. The assembly remains a glorious vessel for the pleasure and glory of God and of Christ. May we be encouraged, for His Name's sake.
3rd June 2014