- The Peril of Shallowness. What Christ has done for us may be a matter of very great joy and rejoicing and satisfaction; but contentment in that realm and with that side alone may just prevent that deep work which is necessary, which comes by the complementary side of the truth of Christ’s work, the subjective.
- The Peril of Delayed Maturity. Closely related to this is the peril of making the Christian life static, settled, where it has reached the point of accepting all the objective truth by faith and staying there, and not going on beyond that in spiritual experience.
- The Peril of Contradiction. Their attitude says in effect, “I am saved, it does not matter what I do. I shall never be lost.” Their very certainty of salvation opens the door for inconsistencies and contradictions in their lives which never reach their conscience, simply because they say they have no more conscience of sin.
- The Peril of Truth Taking the Place of Life. Progress, of course, is recognized as necessary. No true believer would sit down and say, “Well, now there is no more progress to be made.” But for many who have so strongly taken up the position upon the objective work of the Lord Jesus in its perfection, the matter of progress is not a matter of life, it is rather a matter of truth; that is, to know more rather than to become more.
- The Peril of Missing The Prize. Salvation never was a prize. You can never win or earn salvation; it is a free gift. But to settle down with salvation in its fullness and its finality means for a great many a failure to recognize that there is a prize that of which the Apostle Paul spoke when he said: “I press on towards the goal unto the prize of the upward calling…” (Phil. 3:14). Paul was never in fear of losing his salvation. When he said: “Lest… after that I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected” (I Cor. 9:27), he was not thinking of losing his salvation, but he was aware that there was something that he could miss; he could fall short of something, that which he called “the prize”; and he related to its attainment a growth in his spiritual life: “Not that I… am already made perfect.”
In the day in which we believe in the Lord Jesus on the ground of the perfection of the work of His Cross, we receive perfection of salvation, and enter into all that salvation to its very last degree. We shall never, though we were to live for centuries on this earth, we shall never in Christ be one little bit more perfect than we are in Him in the very moment that we believe. All that is made good to us in the day that we believe. There are no questions, no hazards, no risks, the thing is settled, it is ours; full and complete in Christ. The Blood of the Lord Jesus has dealt with the whole sin question, root and branch, once and for all, for us. The question of condemnation has been forever settled. You cannot have anything more utter than this NO condemnation! “There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” It does not say: ‘There is no condemnation to those who have faithfully been going on with the Lord for years’. It says: “to them that are in Christ Jesus.” And when are you in Christ? You are in Christ the moment that you believe in relation to His work on the Cross for your salvation, and in that very moment you enter into the place of NO CONDEMNATION, and freedom from condemnation cannot be more complete than that.
The tremendously important thing is for us to have that settled in our own hearts. We are saved, we are forgiven, we are delivered from condemnation. In Christ we are perfect. He is our perfection, and that perfection of His is ours through faith. The people who have the purest, clearest, fullest heart-grasp of that are the happiest people, the people who know joy. The people who have not grasped that are disturbed people, they have not the fullness of joy, they are always afraid, anxious, worrying about their salvation, doubting; and the enemy plays many tricks with people who have not settled that once and for all.
Now that is the blessed truth of what is objective in salvation for the believer as in Christ. That salvation of ours in its perfection has been put beyond the reach of anything that can throw a doubt upon it, or raise a question about it beyond the touch of anything that can bring it into uncertainty.
We know that He is there in heaven, and we know that a very great deal is said in the Word about His being there; but why is He there? In the first place: How did He get there? Now you will notice if you look into the Word that whenever the heavenly side of the ascension of the Lord Jesus is presented, that is, whenever the matter is looked at from above, it does not speak about His going up or His ascension, but it speaks about His being received up. In the first chapter of the Book of the Acts it is recorded that as the disciples were looking up into heaven after the Lord Jesus had been taken up from among them, two angels appeared and said to them: “men of Galilee, why stand ye looking into heaven? This Jesus, Who was received up…” (the Authorized Version says taken up). That is an angelic, or a heavenly, standpoint, and the word “received” represents something more than just the fact that He ascended to heaven. It carries with it this fact, that it would be impossible for the Lord Jesus to be received in heaven if He had not perfectly accomplished the work which He came from heaven to do. But it was because He had perfected the work which He came to do, and there was nothing more to be added to it, that heaven received Him, and it was a great reception!
Psalm 24 gives us some idea of what that reception was: “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors: and the King of glory will come in. Who is the King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.” You see, it implies the work that He has done by His Cross, in overthrowing all His and our enemies, meeting all the demand of human need in the matter of salvation, perfecting our salvation. And so He is received up, and is at the right hand of God; and the right hand is always in Scripture the place of strength and honour. He is at the right hand of God because the work which He came to do was finished. That is, our salvation has been perfected by and in the Lord Jesus. There is nothing whatever for Him to add to it. That is the most elementary thing to say, and yet it is so foundational. So many of the Lord’s people have not yet entered into the joyful appreciation of that, that the Lord Jesus really has given the last stroke and the last touch to our salvation; that when heaven received Him, heaven set its seal to the perfected work of His Cross; and that He is there in possession of a salvation which has not still to be accomplished but which is final, full, complete, utter.
We feel the importance of saying a word with regard to Christ in heaven and Christ within the believer, that is, what is objective and what is subjective. It is tremendously important that we should keep a proper balance of truth. A very great deal of our trouble is because of there being an unbalanced emphasis upon some aspect of truth. It is good to know the truth, and it is good to rejoice in it, but it is just possible that even truth may get us into trouble. There are many perils lying in the direction of truth, even spiritual truth, and there are not a few of the Lord’s people who have fallen into those perils. It is not that they suffer from want of light, but they are suffering very much because they have not got their light properly adjusted and balanced.
Preponderance on any one side will always lead to spiritual injury, and very often to disaster. The history of many instrumentalities which have been raised up and used by the Lord is eventually the sad story of a loss of power and effectiveness because of striking an unbalanced emphasis, of putting some side of truth in a place out of proportion to that which is complementary to it.
It is not just a matter of being all-round, that is, of having everything and being in everything; but in the constitution of a body we find that one law is balanced by another. All the laws, of course, are necessary, and it is important to give due place to every function in our bodies; but there run parallel laws and functions, one balances the other. There is that which is complementary to something else. These two things are, as it were, twins, running together, and to over-emphasize or over-develop one means to throw the whole order out, and to bring about quite serious limitation and weakness, and to make things far less effective than they should be.
So it is in spiritual matters. There are always balancing truths. There is one thing, but there is something which goes with it, and which keeps it in its right measure, and causes it to fulfill its purpose and to serve its end most effectively. There is this order in the Divine creation. One thing is necessary to another to make that other fulfill its purpose to the full. That is where balance has to be observed and maintained.
When Adam and Eve followed Satan’s counsel, their union with the Lord was broken; it brought an end to the communion; it marred the likeness and made impossible its full expression; independence came in for theirs was an independent act: Satan had tempted them to act on their own, without any relationship to God at all and that all meant that faith in God was destroyed. It was something that happened in the nature. It was not just an act, but something that entered into their very nature; and so that is how we find the race.
The Lord lays His hand upon those who are to form the bride of Christ. He brings them to the place where they have to make this decision and take this position ‘I die to all that which happened long, long ago; I die to broken union, to interrupted communion, to spoiled likeness, to all independence and unbelief. I repudiate it, I put it all away; I say that belongs to a creation which I hate, and I want that to be done with, dead and buried. In Christ union is restored, communion begins again, the likeness, conformity to the Son, is taken up by the Holy Spirit; I am from this time utterly and wholly dependent upon the Lord, not to live unto myself but henceforth “unto him who for their sakes died and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:15), and henceforth my faith is in Him.’
“Christ loved the church,” and He gave Himself, for one thing, to purchase her; for the other thing, to effect that death of herself, on her behalf. We cannot kill ourselves, but the Lord Jesus has done it for us. He has died to all that other condition for us, and has risen to all this thought of God for us. So that in His death we died to all that happened in Eden, and in His resurrection we rise to all that God ever intended that bride to be. “Christ… loved the church, and gave himself up for it… that he might present the church to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing.”
That brings us to this further stage, that we are together as the Church, as the bride, on resurrection ground, and ours is no longer an independent life, even as Christians.
The Father appointed all things for His Son. Those ‘all things’ were to be the joint inheritance of His Son and His Son’s bride, the Church. That comes out very clearly in the New Testament (Eph. 5:25-27). That bride was in the race of mankind, created as we are told in the book of Genesis. That bride would have to be of a certain order, a certain character, a certain kind, to be suitable to that Son. She would have to be a very special bride, she would have to be made for Him most suitable.
Then we have the story of Adam and Eve, and we know what happened through their surrender to Satan. Something spiritual happened in them, a change took place in their very nature. God had made them, firstly, for union with Himself; then for communion with Himself; and then for likeness to Himself; and in dependence upon Himself; leading to the last thing, absolute and implicit faith in Him. Those are the five things which characterize the Church according to God’s mind:
(1) Union with God, vital union, the union of one life;
(2) Communion with God, intercourse, fellowship, oneness of mind;
(3) Likeness to God, in His own image and after His likeness, taking character from Him, He giving His character and His nature to the Church; then
(4) Dependence upon Him so complete that there is no life apart from Him. (It is one of the great tests of marriage union and I should say, taking it from a man’s standpoint, a most difficult one for a wife to be absolutely dependent upon a man for every penny. There is a revolt against that in our times, but God meant it to be like that with His Church, just absolute dependence, having nothing apart from Him, drawing everything from Him.)
(5) Perfect faith in Him.
Those five things must characterize the bride of Christ.
Remember that everything in relation to the Christian is experimental. Everything in relation to the Lord Jesus is essentially experimental. It is not only doctrinal. This is not a matter of creed. It is not that we accept certain statements of doctrine or creed, and by that fact alone are brought into relationship to the Lord Jesus. We are not made Christians by the acceptance of doctrinal statements or orthodox creeds, or things about the Lord Jesus. The Church is not constituted on that ground at all, though the Church stands for certain things. Experience has to be wrought in the life and you have to become a part of it and it has to become a part of you. It is not sufficient to believe that Christ died on the Cross. That has got to come down here into our lives and become an experience, a mighty, operating force and factor in our beings.
The Church is that in which the truth has been wrought, in which it has been made experimental. Creeds cannot hold you together when hell rises to split you. No, the most ultra-fundamental creed has not succeeded in holding people together. The unity of the Spirit is a thing inwrought. Unless that is so there is nothing that can stand against the divisive, schismatic spirits that are abroad. Everything must be experimental, not merely doctrinal, not creedal. Now that is where you get to God’s reality. It is one thing to sing hymns about Christ being all, and in all, to look at it as an objective thing and agree with it; but it is another thing to be brought experimentally to the place where the truth actually works. We have to come to it through experience. May the Lord give us grace for that.
The final appeal I make is that we all should seek anew the enthronement of the Lord Jesus as supreme Lord in our hearts, in every part of our life, in all our relationships; that if there is anything we have been holding back, we should let go; if we have had any reserves, we should break now; if we have been less than wholly committed to Him, from now this should be no more, but He should be all, and in all, from this time. That should be our understanding, our undertaking with the Lord. Will you do it? Ask the Lord to break even every tender tie that is in the way of His being all, and in all. Are we prepared for that? The Lord give us grace.
Do we want a little bit of the world? Do we still voluntarily cling to this thing and that thing outside the Lord, because the Lord Jesus has not wholly satisfied us and we must have a make-weight? A worldly Christian is a contradiction in title. To have a little bit of something outside Christ is to deny Calvary and to stand right in opposition to the eternal intention of God concerning Christ. Will you take that responsibility? God determined this from all eternity concerning His Son; and can we profess to belong to the Lord Jesus and yet at the same time it is not true that He is all, and in all to us? If so, there is something wrong, there is a denial, a contradiction. We are opposed to God’s thought and purpose. Is it true that He is all, and in all? He will be that if we will go all the way.
Oh! those subtle suggestions that are ever being whispered in our ears, that if we give up this and that we are going to lose, and life is going to be poorer, and we are going to be narrowed down until we have nothing left. It is a lie! That is the thing that is countering God’s great thought for us. God’s thought for us is that one, no less than His Son, Jesus Christ, in Whom all the fullness of the Godhead dwells in bodily form, should be our fullness. All the fullness of God in Christ for us! This flesh loves to sport itself in Christian work, and tells us that if we are going to be dependent upon the Lord we are going to have an anxious time. But a life of dependence upon God can be a life of continual romance. It is there that we make discoveries which are a constant wonder.
You may be nearly dead one minute and in the next the Lord gives you something to do and you are very much alive, dependent upon Him for every breath you breathe. But thus you come to know the Lord. Then after that experience you are just as helpless and dead again for a while, but you remember that the Lord did something. Then He does it again; and so life becomes a romance; yet no one would ever guess you were depending on the Lord for your very breath. It is a very blessed thing to know the Lord is doing it, when you could not do it at all; it is, humanly, naturally impossible, but the Lord is doing it!
God’s thought is not Christianity; it is not churches as organized centers of Christianity; it is not the propagation of Christian teaching and enterprise. God’s thought is to have a people in the earth in whom, and in the midst of whom, Christ is all, and in all. That is the Church. We have got to revise our ideas. In the thought of God the Church begins and ends with this: the absolute supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ; and what God is always after is to get together those of His people who will most fully realize that thought of His, and be unto Him the satisfaction of His own eternal desire, the Lord Jesus in all things having the pre-eminence, and being all, and in all. He passes by the great institution, the so-called ‘Church’ and He is with those who in themselves are of a humble and contrite spirit and who tremble at His word, and with whom the Lord Jesus is the one and only object of worship and adoration. Such satisfy the heart of God. Such, for Him, are the answer to His eternal quest.
You notice the word of God says that. Look at it again in Colossians 3:11: “Where there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bond-man, freeman; but Christ is all, and in all.” There they have “put on the new man, that is being renewed unto knowledge after the image of Him that created Him.” Look closely into that and you will find this is the corporate man, the Church, the Body of Christ, “the fulness of Him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:23), and there, in that corporate man, there cannot be Greek and Jew. Note the words. It does not say where Greek and Jew come together in blessed fellowship. No, you have not got nationalities in the Church; you have got rid of all nationalities, and you have now one spiritual new man, a new creation, where there cannot be Greek, Jew, bondman, freeman.
In that Church there is one new man, not a combination where Anglicans, Wesleyans, Baptists, Congregationalists and all the rest come together and sink their differences for the time being; that is not the Church. In the Church these differences are not merely covered up for the time being; they do not exist. There is one Body, one Spirit. The Church is this, “Christ is all, and in all”.
What is The Church? (Video Bible Study – Session 1 of 7) by Pastor Doug Riggs
What is Christian service according to the mind of God? It is not necessarily our having a very full program of Christian activities. It is not that we are always busy in what we call ‘things of the Lord’. It is not the measure and amount of our activity and business, not the degree of our energy and enthusiasm in the things of the kingdom of God. It is not our schemes, our enterprises for the Lord. Beloved, the test of all service is its motive. Is the motive, from start to finish, that in all things He may have the pre-eminence, that Christ may be all, and in all?
You know the temptations and the fascination of Christian service; the fascination of being busy, of being occupied with many things; having your program, schemes, enterprises; being in it, and always at it. There is a peril there which has caught multitudes of the Lord’s servants. The peril is that it brings them into prominence, it makes the work theirs; it is their work, their interests, and the more they govern the thing and run it, the more pleased they are.
There is a great difference between Christian service as mere enjoyment of activity, with the fascination of it and all the advantages and facilities it provides for ourselves, and its gratification to our flesh and this: “Christ all, and in all”. Sometimes this latter is achieved by our being put out of action; and then is the test, as to whether we are, or are not, quite satisfied to be altogether put out of work if only the Lord can be the more glorified thereby. If only He can come into His own, it does not matter a scrap whether we are seen or heard. We are getting somewhere, in the grace of God, when we are quite content to be put up in a corner, unseen and unnoticed, if thereby the Lord Jesus can come into His own more speedily and fully.
The challenge of service according to God’s thought is just this: What are we doing it for? Do we want to be in the work because we like to be busy? Or is it utterly and only that, by any means, He may come into His own, that God’s end may be realized? If He can be all, and in all, by our death as well as by our life, have we come to the place where we truly desire “that… Christ may be magnified in my body, whether by life, or by death”? (Phil. 1:20). That is the explanation of service from God’s standpoint.