Henry W Jensen
John 17: 11, 20-21
1 Corinthians 1: 1-3, 9-10
Ephesians 4: 1-3
Philippians 2: 1-11, 14-15
We are in a school setting here for these meetings; so I thought I might give everyone an assignment. When a brother reads the scriptures, you sometimes wonder how he is going to connect them. So, can you discern what I am going to speak about? Secondly, I would like you to find where it is the Lord is praying for you and me in the portion read first in John 17. This is distinctively the Lord’s prayer. The prayer that the Lord Jesus taught His own is often referred to as the Lord’s prayer, where He told them to speak to their Father as their heavenly Father. “Thy kingdom come, let thy will be done”, and so on, Matt. 6: 9. But this is really the Lord’s prayer in John 17. We have another one of course, which we will not read today, His prayer in the other three gospels in Gethsemane; what a prayer that was, in perfect subjection to the Father’s will.
I may refer to another scripture later besides these I have read. Perhaps you have already determined what I have in mind to speak about? We have been speaking together in these meetings of the marvellous character of this present dispensation, and the marvel of the fulness of the time of this dispensation. Scripture says, “when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son”, Gal. 4: 4. There was a great period of time that elapsed before Jesus came into this world; but the fulness of time has come and we are in it. We are in the fulness of time when the Lord Jesus Christ has come down into this world and been here among men. Oh, it is a wonderful time because God had in view this time from the outset of His operations, before the beginning of His movements here on the earth and in heaven; He had this time in mind in His purposes. Think of God making purposes, long before the world was even made. “The counsel of his own” will is referred to in Ephesians 1: 11. You wonder at the counsel of God’s own will. It says there in Ephesians 1, “according to his good pleasure”, v 9. God has had good pleasure in working out the purposes of His thoughts, and we are in that time of their being worked out. We are in the time He is working out the greatest of His purposes in relation to the assembly. What a wonderful time it is! We were impressed, too, with what our brother has said about the dispensation being one of the administration of things. God is administering things through Christ by the Spirit, and we are in that administration. How wonderful that is.
Now I read in John 17 and I gave you an assignment to see if you could tell where the Lord is praying for you and me. It is not in verse 11. In verse 11 He is praying for the disciples who were there with Him, the men that God had given Him, men that the Father had given Him. It is wonderful to think of that. The Father sovereignly picked out certain men there in the area of Galilee, and you might say He assigned them to Christ, like assigning them to a class and assigning them to a teacher. And those men had followed the Lord Jesus through His pathway here and here He prayed for them: He prayed that the Father would keep them; He prayed that the Father would sanctify them. Where I read He prayed that they might be kept as one. He says, “as we”. Who are the “we”? He was speaking about Himself and the Father. How wonderful the perfection of that oneness! He has in mind that these disciples should be maintained in oneness, as He was in perfect oneness with the Father. Think of the perfection of the oneness of Jesus with the Father. We have spoken during these meetings of how every word of the Lord Jesus was in full accord with what the Father would say to men at that time. Everything that the Lord said had in view the revelation of the Father. His ears were opened to hear what the Father would say day by day. Think of a Man like that here on the earth, a perfect Man in every way. And He had these disciples, and He desired that they might be kept in oneness. It is a similar word to unity, is it not? It is similar - but I think it could be thought of as even more intimate. Sometimes you see a man and a wife who have lived together for some time and you say that they are just like one together: they think together in the same way; they reason together in the same way. Their purposes are alike, and so on; that is what oneness involves, I believe. And He had in mind that these beloved disciples of His, who had been with Him all this time, should be maintained in oneness. And they were.
If you turn to Acts 1 and 2, you find that they were in perfect oneness. How wonderful that was, even before the Spirit came. When the Lord Jesus ascended to heaven it says that they came back to Jerusalem and went into the upper chamber, and they were together as one in continual prayer. How wonderful that was, that they were taking on the Father’s grace to be kept as the Lord had prayed for them. Then in chapter 2, on the day of Pentecost, they were all together in one place when the Spirit came down. What oneness there was with them, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Three thousand were added to them in the first preaching of Peter. And they were all in oneness together, persevering “in the teaching and fellowship of the apostles, in breaking of bread and prayers”, Acts 2: 42. They were united and in oneness; the Lord’s prayer was carried out by the Father as they were there together in oneness.
Now the Lord has in mind that there should be oneness with us, and that is what He prayed about in verses 20 and 21 in John 17. He has in mind more than those disciples who were present on that occasion, more than the twelve and the three thousand that were added - although the three thousand are included in verses 20 and 21. He says there, “I do not demand for these only, but also for those who believe on me through their word”. Well, those three thousand persons believed on the Lord Jesus through the words of Peter. That was a wonderful result from a first preaching of the gospel concerning the Lord Jesus exalted in heaven, was it not? What a wonderful result that was! It shows how God can work in the souls of a great many at one time. How wonderful that He can work in the souls of everyone in this room at the same time, because of who He is. He is God; He is sovereign and He has the Holy Spirit here on His behalf. The Holy Spirit is God; He is able to work in every one of our hearts, and I believe He has been doing so in these last two days, and I trust He will do so tonight as a result of this address: work in our souls. We have been reminded that that work is going to be carried out to perfection. We were speaking about that this afternoon. He will not leave the work incomplete in anyone. Is that not wonderful? Think of the completeness of the assembly in the day to come when everyone is then in perfect oneness.
We have been speaking about all the wonderful positive things that are related to the present dispensation, but sadly there is what is negative that has come in, because there is an enemy who is against you and me, and against the assembly. We have the wonderful assurance of the Lord Jesus that hades’ gates shall not prevail against the assembly (Matt 16: 18), but it does not mean that Satan will not try. And from the outset he has been seeking to bring in disunity, seeking to divide the people of God. That is the negative side of the present dispensation. Many divisions have come in. Why do we think there are all kinds of churches around even in these small towns like Aberdeen and American Falls? There are hundreds of churches in Los Angeles where I live, all with various titles and names of sectarian groups. More than that, there have been divisions among brethren who have professed to receive truth that has been recovered. How many divisions have come in since the days of recovery just two hundred years ago? How has that come about? Because the enemy is against what God is seeking to do. What God has purposed to do He is going to bring about, but the enemy is set against Him. And he is set against you and me; keep that in mind. Someone was saying to me just yesterday that the enemy comes along when we come to these meetings. He is not far away, and he is always seeking to bring in disunity, and always seeking to cause division. These scriptures I read have that in view, that we should understand that there is what is against God in this present dispensation, and what is against His people in this present recovery. And he will continue to work in his own nefarious way to bring in that kind of division among the people of God.
I read in Corinthians because the city of Corinth was like a locality that we may have part in. You may have part in the locality here in Aberdeen, or in the locality in Calgary, or other big cities like Los Angeles, Glasgow, Edinburgh and so on. Wherever the locality is it is something like Corinth. In fact, in the ministry of those who have gone before, they have often said that most of our localities are very much like Corinth. But the wonderful thing is that Paul addresses the company in Corinth in this letter that he wrote to them as “the assembly of God in Corinth”. Is that not wonderful? He says, “Paul, a called apostle of Jesus Christ, by God’s will, and Sosthenes the brother, to the assembly of God which is in Corinth”. Think of the Lord Jesus taking account of the brethren we meet with here in Aberdeen. We must not say that they are the assembly of God, of course, because, as we have been reminded in these readings, the assembly of God is far greater than just those brethren we may be able to break bread with now. But brethren here in Aberdeen, in Los Angles, in Calgary, whatever the meeting is, seek to meet in the light of the assembly. They have the light of it; is that not wonderful to have the light of it? Paul opened up a great deal of the light of the assembly to this company in Corinth and they needed it. As we read further on, he says, “I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all say the same thing, and that there be not among you divisions; but that ye be perfectly united in the same mind and in the same opinion. For it has been shewn to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of the house of Chloe, that there are strifes among you”. Is there any strife in the company we are met with here in Aberdeen? Do we have any strife among us in Los Angeles? Is there any strife in your local meeting? That is what Paul was exhorting them about; that there was a need for them to say the same thing and be of the same mind. He was exhorting them to realise that they had been called by God as called saints, sanctified in Christ Jesus and called saints. Then he says “with all … in every place”. “With all … in every place” includes Aberdeen; “with all … in every place” includes your locality.
This epistle to the Corinthians is so valid in our day. After this long dispensation we can still read this epistle to the Corinthians and find great help from it; great teaching for our learning. There is wonderful teaching in the epistle to the Corinthians, and they needed it. There were things going on there in Corinth that were abhorrent to God and they were allowing these things. And they were allowing them because of the strife that was going on in the meeting there, and division that had come in. They were not walking in accord with the calling of God. They had been called to be a heavenly people; they had been called to be here as saints. We too have been called to be saints. In fact, it says in Romans, “the called of Jesus Christ”, Rom 1: 6. According to the calling of God every believer is a saint, you know. I know there is an organisation - a religious organisation - that believes they can canonise saints every so often, and that their great leader has that power to canonise saints. Not at all! You are ‘canonised’ already as a saint by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. Is that not wonderful? If you have faith in the Lord Jesus, and have the Holy Spirit, you are a called saint! Oh dear young people, take that in. Can I move as a saint, and can I act in accord with my calling? Can I live that way in accord with the great high calling that is ours? That is the test, is it not? What a test it is all the time. Paul says further, “God is faithful, by whom ye have been called into the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” What a calling that is: called into the fellowship of God’s Son; and we have part in it beloved brethren, do we not? It is a wonderful calling to think about! This was written about two thousand years ago, and the same thing applies at the present time. There is such a thing as “the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord”, and we have part in it. That is part of the wonder and glory of the present dispensation that has been extended to our time and generation. How wonderful that is. But can I live in accord with the high calling of God in Christ Jesus? What a test that is day by day!
Well, I read too in Ephesians because it is remarkable that as Paul wrote such an outstanding epistle to the assembly in Ephesus concerning the greatest heavenly line of truth that there is in the Holy Scriptures, yet he has to speak to them about the importance of walking worthy of the calling. It says there in chapter 4 where we read, “I, the prisoner in the Lord, exhort you therefore to walk worthy of the calling wherewith ye have been called”. Oh, the exhortations of Paul, how important they are! And how we need to take account of them because they are for our benefit; not only for the Ephesians but for us. We should be here as believers walking worthy of the calling, the calling of God. Sometimes, I suppose, we are hardly aware that that God has called us, called us out of this world, to be apart for Him; called us in view of being separate and apart as we have been speaking of it in our reading today, separate and apart from this world, and realising that we have a heavenly portion. That is what Paul is exhorting them to do. Think of him as a prisoner in the Lord writing these things. You wonder at it, Paul in prison and, rather than bemoaning the fact that he was in the prison, writing to the various assemblies and various individuals while he was in prison. He was writing of the glorious things of God to them, exhorting them to walking worthily of the calling. He says about our walk, “with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, bearing with one another in love”. What wonderful features those are to mark any believer: meekness, lowliness, bearing with one another. That helps us in our localities, does it not? Sometimes things come into our local settings and we may be too quick to bite and devour one another rather than exercising long-suffering with one another. But then he goes on to say, “using diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the uniting bond of peace”. I want to focus on that word ‘diligence’, “using diligence”. How diligently are we pursuing the things of God? How diligently are we pursuing this matter of unity? I fear from some of the things I hear at times that brethren have forgotten that they need to be diligent about maintaining unity and oneness with their brethren. It is a vital matter to realise that we have that responsibility. The unity of the Spirit is one thing, but we have a responsibility to seek to maintain that and to use diligence to do so. I think it is remarkable that this is brought into the epistle to the Ephesians. It shows that even persons who have received the highest level of ministry concerning heavenly things, and the purposes of God and all that God has purposed to bring his people into, the blessings, the rich blessings that we have been reminded of; “every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ” (Eph. 1: 3); that company needed to use diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the uniting bond of peace.
Then I read in Philippians because I think we get in Philippians 2 the way that this can be worked out so easily as we come under the great influence of the One who has descended, who went down. Let us remember first of all that Paul was also writing this from prison. Here you can see his feelings in these first few verses of chapter 2. What feelings he had for God’s people. He says, “If then there be any comfort in Christ”. Oh, think of how the apostle needed comfort in Christ being in the prison where he was. “If there be any”, he said; “if any consolation of love”. Think of how he loved the saints and he was seeking for “consolation of love” from those beloved Philippians where he had been in prison before. He had been in prison in Philippi once before and the outcome was that a local assembly was formed there, a local company was formed. Lydia was there, “whose heart the Lord opened to attend to the things spoken by Paul”, Acts 16: 14. The jailor who was converted as a result of the earthquake that took place that night at midnight was there. A company of saints developed as a direct result of the Lord’s own work in Philippi. That is the company that Paul is writing to here. He says, “If then there be … any consolation of love”; oh, how he loved those persons and they loved him. Then he says, “if any fellowship of the Sprit, if any bowels and compassions, fulfil my joy, that ye may think the same thing, having the same love, joined in soul, thinking one thing”. Oh how intimate that is. That is true oneness, you know. He is speaking about oneness here; unity, yes, but true oneness. “Let nothing be in the spirit of strife or vain glory”; what a test that is, because sometimes things are not easy in a local setting. Sometimes things develop that cause this kind of spirit of strife. He says, let nothing be in that spirit - “let nothing be in the spirit of strife or vain glory, but, in lowliness of mind, each esteeming the other as more excellent than themselves; regarding not each his own qualities, but each those of others also”. What a high standard Paul is seeking to keep the Philippians on. And he would keep us on a high standard too, in lowliness, and in meekness - which is not natural to us, most of us anyway. Thank God that there are some that are meek and lowly in their nature, but most of us need this exhortation.
And then he says, “For let this mind be in you”. Oh, what an example: “let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus”. How often we have read this, have we not? Over and over again we read this, “For let this mind be in you”! Let this mind be in me. Let it be. In other words, do not block it. Do not get in the way of a mind like Christ; a descending mind; a going-down mind. It is just one step down at a time that Paul goes over here. He says, “who, subsisting in the form of God, did not esteem it an object of rapine to be on an equality with God”. Can you take that in? Can you understand that? How great that is! Then he goes on to say, “but emptied himself, taking a bondman’s form”. Oh what contemplation we should have over those words. Meditate on these things, dear young people; take time to meditate. Our brother was saying you need to take time to read the Scriptures, too. Take time to pray. All of these things are important. But meditate on this passage as to the down-stooping grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the descending mind. Is that the kind of mind that I have? To go down? To be lowly? To take on service like the Lord did? It says, “taking a bondman’s form”. Think of the Lord of glory, who is God Himself, coming into manhood, being here among the human race, and taking a bondman’s form. Then it goes on to say, “taking his place in the likeness of men; and having been found in figure as a man, humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, and that the death of the cross”. How often we have read this but we need to ponder it. We need to meditate upon it, and it fixes our hearts in love for Christ, does it not? How He loved us! All this was in view of His love for His people and His love for the assembly and His love for His God and Father; that He would come into this form in full accord with the great counsels of God, so that He might reveal His purposes and make them known to us. He took a bondman’s form, in the likeness of men, to make known to His people the great thoughts for this present dispensation that we have been going over together. How wonderful that is!
Next we should just remember those other verses that we read, and they tell us that He is exalted. The result of His down-stooping is that the Father has had great delight in exalting the Lord Jesus. It says, “God highly exalted him, and granted him a name, that which is above every name”. What a name Jesus has. I have a little pamphlet on the Name of Jesus; the writer of this pamphlet tells how the name of Jesus has continued to be in glorious power in spite of it being assailed over the centuries, and it continues to be the precious Name that is available to men for salvation and eternal blessing. Then Paul says that “every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to God the Father’s glory”. Every knee shall bow; every tongue confess. It is not that way in the world now. I assure you that this scripture will be fulfilled in a day to come. Every knee, somebody said, not just one of your knees - every knee will bow. It is very remarkable to think of that.
Finally, the apostle says one more thing in verse 14: “Do all things without murmurings and reasonings”. Murmurings and reasonings are things that are common to us, are they not; murmuring about this, reasoning about that? He says to do all things without that “that ye may be harmless and simple, irreproachable children of God”. We know how children ought to be, harmless and simple. This is the children of God. And we are exhorted to be simple; simple and irreproachable. That is, nobody can cast stones at you, or reproach you, because of the way that you are conducting yourself. And then he says further, “irreproachable children of God in the midst of a crooked and perverted generation; among whom ye appear as lights in the world”. Well, how testing that is. Am I really that? As I move about in my neighbourhood, as I move about in my community, is there any light that shines from me? What a test that is! As you go to school, is there any light that shines from you in your school life? As you go to your work, is there any light that shines? It does not mean that you have to go in preaching all the time. There is a certain element of light that is shining out of a believer in the way that he conducts himself, and the way that he does not take part in certain things that transpire in his surroundings at work or at school. All those things make God’s children like shining lights in the world, and that is what the apostle has in mind for the Philippians and for us. It is a wonderful thing to think of that.
All of this is in view of being united in these things, is it not, dear brethren? And being in oneness with one another. The enemy is always going to seek to bring in division. He is never going to let up, never going to give up. He will always seek in some way to bring in murmurings and reasonings and schools of opinion. I was noticing a very remarkable thing in Galatians. There are certain things that the apostle writes about to the Galatians that he calls “the works of the flesh”. And then he speaks about the fruit of the Spirit. It is in chapter 5 of Galatians and it says, “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strifes, jealousies, anger”, v 19, 20. I suppose we would all agree that those are the works of the flesh, would we not? But then he goes on to say, “contentions, disputes, schools of opinion”. Those are works of the flesh too, “schools of opinion”; and yet how many times schools of opinion have developed have arisen among brethren. Those are works of the flesh according to what Paul is saying here. We would all agree about murders and drunkenness and so on, would we not? Can we agree that schools of opinion, contentions, disputes and so on are works of the flesh? But then the positive thing is that he outlines this cluster of nine things as the fruit of the Spirit. That is in verse 22: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, fidelity, meekness, self-control: against such things there is no law”. Oh what a cluster of fruit that is! We had fruit there at the table at noon today, all those different fruits. This here is the fruit of the Spirit. The Spirit is seeking to bring about fruit in your soul and mine. These wonderful aspects of the fruit of the Spirit – “love, joy, peace …” - ending with self-control; oh let them be, dear brethren, worked out in our souls as we continue on in the fellowship of God’s Son and bearing fruit by the Holy Spirit.
One other passage I would just like to read because it is very, very solemn; and it is also in Galatians. It is in chapter 2: 11 which may bring home to us forcibly how the enemy can work. It says, “But when Peter came to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be condemned: for before that certain came from James, he ate with those of the nations; but when they came, he drew back and separated himself, fearing those of the circumcision; and the rest of the Jews also played the same dissembling part with him; so that even Barnabas was carried away too by their dissimulation”. That is a most remarkable thing that Paul wrote to the Galatians, showing how the enemy attempted to get in so early in the history of the assembly, so very early using the great apostle Peter in this matter of dissembling. Now if the enemy could get in through such a wonderful servant as Peter, and seek to divide the brethren, he can certainly do it through you and me. Let that come home to us. And he has done that throughout the dispensation. There have been great men who were teachers even, among Christians, who have brought in dissimulation, men who have done just what these men were doing; and Paul had to withstand them to the face to correct the whole matter. How wonderful that he was able to do that in the power of the Spirit.
I just read that as a warning to us that there is that possibility always present. No matter how far along we get in the development of the truth amongst us, there is always that great danger. I am not seeking to end the meetings on a negative line but only to remember the exhortations of Paul the apostle and the prayers of the Lord Jesus that the saints be maintained in oneness. Even as the Lord Jesus said, “as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me”. What a prayer that was! May we be maintained, dear brethren, in oneness and unity, bearing fruit by the Holy Spirit that indwells us, glorifying God in our movements and conduct here and being worshippers in the assembly. The Father seeks such as his worshippers, such as you and me.
May it be so for His Name’s sake.
At three-day meetings in Aberdeen, ID