Paul A Gray

Matthew 16: 18

John 10: 14, 15, 3 (from ‘he calls’); 20: 17

Isaiah 43: 1-7

The hymn that we sang (No 288) and our brother’s prayer referred to the Lord’s voice and the Lord’s speaking. The verses that we have read are the Lord’s own voice, and in each case He claims what is His own: ”my assembly”; “my sheep” (John 10: 27); “my brethren”; and then the great claim of redemption, “thou art mine”. I desire to encourage our hearts because what the Lord has claimed for His own, He is not going to allow to fail. Scripture tells us in John 3 that “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things to be in his hand” (v 35), and His hand is perfectly trustworthy. He is never going to let go of the purpose of God, nor will He let go of those who are His own.

I start with the words in Matthew, “my assembly”. It is good to start at the top. We say that it is His assembly and it will be carried through, but what does the Lord think of His assembly? “Christ also loved the assembly, and has delivered himself up for it” (Eph 5: 25); so we know the value that He places on it. He gave Himself for it and He is attending to it even now, in “the washing of water by the word”, and He will “present the assembly to himself glorious, having no spot, or wrinkle, or any of such things”, Eph 5: 26, 27. He regards the assembly as unique because it is. When Adam saw the woman, he said, “This time it is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh: this shall be called Woman”, Gen 2: 23. There was something that answered directly to Adam’s own heart; the assembly answers directly to Christ’s affections, and He will carry it through. He tells Peter that “hades’ gates shall not prevail against it”. That suggests that they will make the attempt, but they will not prevail against it because the Holy Spirit is here. She has her Head in heaven, and “hades’ gates shall not prevail”: the Lord will see to it. But He is also building His assembly. The recognition that He is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” remains the basis for the building of the assembly, and He is doing it. He is not leaving it to others to do; He is doing it Himself. What could fail of what the Lord Himself is doing?

In the quarry when the stones are being prepared, the edges may have to be squared off. We have to accept that at times. There are times of sorrow and discipline, but what is in view is the building of that which is perfect, without stain, having no need of adjustment. The adjustment takes place in the persons, but the Lord’s building is perfect. We might observe that Peter was given a wonderful revelation, first of all from the “Father who is in the heavens” (v 17), and then further a revelation from the Lord. He says, “And also, I say unto thee …” - and almost immediately Peter failed, to the extent that he had to be rebuked very severely by the Lord, v 23. But did the Father withdraw His revelation? Did the Lord suggest to Peter that He would turn back from what He had just said, “I will build my assembly”? No! We feel perhaps greatly rebuked by certain things that have come in, but the Lord is not going back on what He said He would do. And He is not turning His back on the persons either. He went on with Peter and brought him through so that Peter came through the discipline, came through the suffering, and came out like one of those “vessels of shining copper, precious as gold”, Ezra 8: 26. At the end of his life he could have been occupied with other things and thinking of the fact that he was going to die. He says, “knowing that the putting off of my tabernacle is speedily to take place” (2 Pet 1: 14) - but what does he speak about? He speaks about the transfiguration and he speaks about the excellent glory, “such a voice being uttered to him by the excellent glory … being with him on the holy mountain”, v 17, 18. Peter was ready to go, to see that Man, but yet before he went he said, “but I will use diligence, that after my departure ye should have also, at any time, in your power to call to mind these things”, v 15. So at the end of Peter’s life there was a true and living testimony to the fact that his mind and his heart were occupied with the Man in the glory, and he was no longer thinking about the discipline and the rebuke. He had got the benefit; he was a delivered man; and he was going through and carrying with him these impressions of Christ in glory.

“My assembly” is the place where these impressions can be appreciated. You do not get the transfiguration until you first have the Lord’s statement about “my assembly”. That is where the Lord’s glory is truly appreciated, and that is also the vessel to which He entrusts administration. You get “my assembly”, and then you get the glory, and then you get administration. You get it in that order, not administration first and then the rest: the glory makes way for the administration. It is all “my assembly”. When you come to Matthew 18, it is “tell it to the assembly”, v 17. There is only one assembly, and it is the Lord’s assembly, and He will carry it through to be His eternally.

Well, what about the day-to-day then? Well, we come to “my sheep”. He knows them individually: “he calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out”. He says, “I am the good shepherd; and I know those that are mine” - that is one thing, but then He says - “and am known of those that are mine”. As we know Him, we see that He is set to carry through all that is His because He holds it on the Father’s account. He says, “as the Father knows me and I know the Father”: think of that! He is beginning to open up these bonds of affection that exist, ever existed, but we are brought into them. He introduces them in this gentle way in John 10. He has more to say about this later on, but in order that there might be a righteous basis laid, He says, “I lay down my life for the sheep”: that was prospectively for all of them. He does not say, ‘I lay down my life for my sheep’ although that is in fact what it amounts to, but every one was in view: “I lay down my life for the sheep”. Why? So that they might become “my sheep”. This is the Creator speaking; they were His already; He had rights in creation over them, but He would establish too rights in redemption. “My sheep hear my voice”, v 27. Well, what a wonderful thing to hear His voice! As the hymn says,

Enough, that we have heard Thy voice,

And learned Thy love’s deep woe -

Thy glory, Lord: this living waste

To us no rest can give; (Hymn 47)

Well, why? Because the One who has claimed us is the One who desires to hold us and will carry us through.

In John 20 it is “my brethren”. Now, would we ever have said that if He had not said it? But He did. He claims us as His brethren: “go to my brethren”, identifiably His; “For both he that sanctifies and those sanctified are all of one; for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren”, Heb2: 11. What a dignity is conferred on those whom He would gather around Him, those in whose midst He would stand, “in the midst” (v 12), indeed, and what a place, surrounded by his brethren! They are like Him. When Gideon refers to his brethren, he says, “They were my brethren, the sons of my mother”, Judg 8: 19. Why had he said that? Because he had been told “each one resembled the sons of a king”, v 18. The One who is the King of kings and Lord of lords, the One who said in this very book, “My kingdom is not of this world” (chap 18: 36) says, “my brethren”. He claims them as His own.

Now, if the Lord has these claims, “my assembly”, “my sheep”, “my brethren”, are we therefore to be concerned about whether He will carry things through? And that is why I want to touch on Isaiah, not to go into the detail, but this brings together creation and redemption: “Jehovah, that created thee”, but then, “I have loved thee; and I will give men for thee, and peoples for thy life”; so there are rights of redemption expressed here too. But “I have called thee by thy name”, it says. It may be said that refers to Jacob and Israel. It does, but it also refers to each of us individually, although the reason I read this was in part because God has never given up His thoughts about Israel. It is two thousand years since Israel turned their back on their Messiah, and for that whole period of time Israel’s praise has been silent, and yet God has not given up His thoughts about them. Therefore, I trust, it might be for our encouragement to understand that God does not give up His thoughts about His own. He will carry through and bring out in victory all that His heart was set upon. He speaks to them about what would pass over them: “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee”. That is because this is the One who stood against the Jordan; it overflowed all its banks. He says, “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee … neither shall the flame kindle upon thee”. That is because when the flame of judgment kindled, the judgment was borne by the Lord. He took the place that we should have taken: “neither shall the flame kindle upon thee”. God is not looking on us in view of judgment or condemnation. The judgment has been borne by Christ on the cross. We know that “God, having sent his own Son, in likeness of flesh of sin, and for sin, has condemned sin in the flesh”, Rom 8: 3. The judgment has been borne and the condemnation been dealt with, and God is looking on us with favour; so in that same chapter Paul says, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and of death”, v 2.

He says, “For I am Jehovah thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour”. Now, if we are His people, is He our Saviour? Yes, He is. Can each of us say, ‘My Saviour’? He goes on to exalt them, “Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee; and I will give men for thee, and peoples for thy life”. Now, you would not have said that about Israel if you looked at what they did in responsibility, but that is not God’s view and He will bring them all back. “I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from afar, and my daughters from the end of the earth” - and this is important - “every one that is called by my name,” - none will be missing - “and whom I have created for my glory: I have formed him, yea, I have made him”. What God has made for His glory He will bring through to His glory, and the glory will belong to Him because it is all His. It came from Him in the first place; He is the source of glory; and He will have an answer in glory eternally in those whom He is set to bring through.

I trust that these thoughts will be for our encouragement and that the Lord might bless them for His Name’s sake.


Word in meeting for ministry in Grangemouth

6th June 2017