Revelation 3: 14; 19: 11
We have been reading in this book locally and, prompted by the hymn that we sang (No 160), I recalled a comment made during the course of these readings, that drew attention to the Lord being spoken of as faithful and true in the circumstances of both these scriptures. We think about chapter 2 and 3 and the different local assemblies that are addressed by the Lord. He sends these letters to these local assemblies. I think we would do well, in seeking to understand them, to have respect for what has been said, that while they may have been addressed to individual local assemblies in which various characteristics might be found, they are not quite so exclusive as that. In many cases all these characteristics may mark us. It is as if the Lord presents Himself in different ways so that the whole assembly, wherever it is manifested, might get the gain of what He has to say. Our minds dwell a great deal on local assemblies because that is the way we meet and that is all that is available to us, but I think the Lord never has anything less in mind than the assembly, - “on this rock I will build my assembly”, Matt 16: 18. He does not say on this rock I will build seven assemblies, but “on this rock I will build my assembly”.
I wondered whether there was something to assure and establish us in thinking about this, not so much in the context of Laodicea, but in the context of the present state of the church. We ourselves may have little to do with it publicly. The emphasis on the principle of separation according to 2 Timothy 2 tends to give us a closed-up view of what the assembly is. But, whatever the state of things, there is the assembly. The Lord speaks to the assembly, I think, when He speaks to Laodicea here and He speaks as the faithful and true. I think that the Lord presenting Himself in that way, whether to one local assembly or to all, is a word to us until the end.
That is why I refer to the scripture in chapter 19, because it shows that even after the time of the assembly on earth is ended and there are still things to be put right on the earth, the Lord still comes out with the name, the faithful and true. We might ask what being faithful and true implies. One thing that His being the faithful and true implies is that He undertakes work that has been given Him to do, and carries it through deliberately and for God Himself. He carries it through and will carry it through until the end. It is clear, therefore, that there is no room in the assembly itself - and therefore no room in local assemblies - for anything other than faithfulness and truth. These things slip by us sometimes but they have been set out in Jesus in a way that is to demonstrate to us the character in which He was here as Man, and in which therefore we are to be here in our manhood as well.
There is no dilution of these things. He does not present Himself to Laodicea saying, ‘be faithful in your circumstances’; but what He speaks about is His character and, if He comes among us, that is His character. One occasion on which we speak especially of the Lord coming among us is the Supper and He has this characteristic even then. He has been faithful and true up to the point when He undertook the work which the Supper recalls to us. Faithful and true to God, but faithful and true to the work that the Father gave Him to do, “I have completed the work which thou gavest me that I should do”, John 17: 4. He is faithful to the One who had given Him instruction and who would maintain things according to Himself here; and according to the will of the One on whose behalf He has come. He was true as well. One thing in which Satan secured an advantage over man from the beginning of the creation was that he did not tell the truth. He said, 'Has God said?' Then he says, 'It is not so, I know something better than that', and he would bring out something that opened the door to the falsifying of truth right down to the present day, Gen 3.
There are other scriptures that show that, if you look for truth in the present day, you might have quite a difficulty in finding it publicly. You hardly need to know anything about public affairs without seeing that that is the way in which things are. Newspapers delight in talking about spin, and what that means is that it is not the truth that is being presented. This is what people are fed on in the present day, variations of the truth in order to make things plausible. But the standard which has been set out in Jesus is, “These things says the Amen, the faithful and true witness”. It cannot be qualified or adjusted. I think one service of the Spirit to us is to maintain in our minds the characteristics of faithfulness and truth. One thing you can see in 2 Timothy is that Paul is exhorting the younger man to be faithful until the end and that requires that the truth is there.
I do not say these things as pointing to any failure to maintain faithfulness and truth, but it does us well to keep before our minds and rehearse the characteristic elements of Christianity, which are those by which the Lord appears among the assemblies; and, in the assembly, the character in which He appears is faithful and true. We are to learn from it: “learn from me; for I am meek and lowly in heart”, Matt 11: 29. That did not hinder His being faithful and true: He did not turn things into a plausible form in order that they might be better received, but He went on with faithfulness and truth; and unless that were so we could not rely on Him. But, beloved, we can rely on Him.
I refer to the scripture in chapter 19 because it shows that when all the matters relating to the assembly on earth are finished, and those belonging to the assembly are with Him, He maintains that attitude still while there are things to be dealt with on the earth. It implies to my mind that there will never be a time when faithfulness and truth are not to be the characteristics of Jesus which are to be manifested in His people. We shall already be with Him in the time to which Revelation 19 is referring. But it is a time for the completion of a work, the completion of a time of service, the completion of things that have borne on the testimony. Things still have to be adjusted on the earth and adjusted according to the standard of what He is Himself. It says, “one sitting on it, called Faithful and True, and he judges and makes war in righteousness”. These things are characteristic of Him and therefore are to be characteristic of those who have part in the assembly at the present time.
I refer to what we have had this evening already about the householder and the bondmen (Matt 20: 6) because what comes out in part of that chapter, and what Jesus is saying is that the householder was faithful and true to what he had said in everyday affairs. People did not like it, they wanted a variation on it, they thought it not fair. He was faithful and true in what he had done in practical detail of daily affairs.
These scriptures were suggested by the hymn: there is that characteristic in Jesus and we may, as following Him and learning from Him, be more and more ready for that bright and blessed hope to be consummated, and we shall be with Him. These things are practical and the Lord would have us bear in mind that it is in practical affairs that the testimony has to be demonstrated.
May the Lord help by reminding us.
4th September 2007