"Selections from the Writings and Ministry of G. V. Wigram."
Publisher: Horner. CBA3430.
The tenor and subjects of our prayers will ever he in accordance with our knowledge and apprehension of God, and of the relation in which we recognise Him as standing towards us and we to Him. Thus, if we regard God as having given us only the hope of the attainment of salvation by Jesus Christ, our constant desire before God will be for the brightening and strengthening of that hope, as that which we feel to be needful for our comfort and peace of mind. But as to any farther revelation which God may have given of His mind and purpose, we can feel but little interest, whilst there remains a doubt as to our being personally concerned and having a portion therein.
But if we are enabled, in the undoubting simplicity of faith, to take our stand upon the sure foundation which God hath laid for every sinner, in the incarnation, death, and resurrection of His beloved Son, our desires will naturally go forth after the knowledge of more of what is the purpose of God, in connection with the manifestation of the Glory of Him in "whom we have obtained an inheritance." Now, one great design of God, in the gift of His Son, was the manifestation of His love. His power, His unspotted holiness, must be exhibited; His justice, as the Supreme Governor, must take its course. But in Jesus, all can be displayed and exercised in love. God is love. And in Jesus "dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." What Jesus expressed of God was love, as set forth in that short summary in his own blessed words: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). Thus the first step of a sinner's knowledge of God is, that he so loved him.
But it is in the farther increasing knowledge and apprehension of the love of Christ, that we are led on to the fulness of God. Now this is the prayer of the Spirit of God, He who maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God; asking, of course, only for that which it is our blessing to receive and know, and God's glory to bestow and communicate. We are too apt, judging of God by the narrowness of our own hearts, to remain satisfied in the attainment of a clearness of hope as to a future and final deliverance, looking upon the glory to be revealed as no portion of our present knowledge. But this is surely wrong, it is all the portion of faith now. "We have the mind of Christ," and the Holy Ghost abiding with us and in us; and although "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him," yet "God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit, for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God" (1 Cor. 2). It is true, that in present circumstances, as being yet in the body, and in the region of sin, that we "see through a glass darkly," but yet it is "all things," and thus our power and capacity of understanding are now, in kind, though not in degree, the same as they will ever be. But we are not sufficiently careful to distinguish between the perceptions of the natural mind, and the perceptions of the spiritual mind by faith. "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned; but he that is spiritual judgeth [discerneth, marg.] all things" (1 Cor. 2:14, 15).
Being born again, and having spiritual life and perception, we are capable of receiving the things of the Spirit of God; and it is in the exercise of our spiritual powers, in the diligent study and meditation of what God has revealed, that we grow up "unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13). To be satisfied with any measure of attainment in divine things, is fleshly, natural; or, to be satisfied with less than God has seen fit and necessary to give — "the fulness" — "all things." But the true secret of our willing ignorance is, that every step of attainment in the knowledge of God, involves painful self-denial and crucifixion of the flesh. It is the prevalence of the "carnal mind," which is "enmity against God," over the "spiritual mind," which receives and delights in the things of God, as being of Him. Thus there is so much of death in our life, for the "carnal mind is death" — "the spiritual mind is life and peace."
Oh, how much of present joy and peace in believing should we experience, if, at once discarding from our hearts all fellowship with the "weak and beggarly elements of the world," we took our stand practically and constantly on the "sure foundation" of Jesus Christ and him crucified, yea, raised and ascended to God; "growing up into him in all things, which is the Head." Hence, indeed, would the deep vistas of eternity open to our view, stretching out in peaceful calm and light — the King in His beauty — with all around subject in the holy and blissful harmony of love. The fellowship of all this would give joy and repose to the soul, in the trying scenes around us, and the conflict within us.
The testimony of the Spirit in the Scriptures, is characterised as being to Christ — "the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow" (1 Peter 1:11). "And beginning at Moses, and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in ALL the Scriptures, the things concerning himself" (Luke 24:27).
Christ is the mystery of God. God "created all things by Jesus Christ" (Eph. 3:9). "All things were made by him, and without him was not any thing made that was made" (John 1:3). "All things were created by him and for him, and he is before all things, and by him all things consist" (Col. 1:16). "I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last" (Rev. 22:13). The mystery of Christ is "the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all" (Eph. 1:23); the man and the woman, in the great purpose of God — "This is a (the) great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church" (Eph. 5:32). "And he is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead" (Col. 1:18).
In Genesis we read, that "God created the heavens and the earth," and man "in his own image;" and He looked upon all that He had made, and pronounced them "very good." But we find that both the heavens and the earth became defiled by sin. "The angels kept not their first estate" (Jude 6) and man, listening to the temptation of Satan, likewise fell and sinned, in disobeying God. Thus did the design of God seem to be frustrated and the course of this world, dead in trespasses and sins, has ever since been running on in sin unto death, under the power of him who has the power of death. But God's purpose was not defeated, for it was in Himself He purposed, "according to the good purpose of his will," — "according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord," — "before the foundation of the world," — not as depending at all upon the obedience and rectitude of His creature, but upon Himself. And herein we learn the needful lesson — that, separate from God, there is no endurance for the creature, and that it is only by the grace of His own imparted power that the creature can live. All God's dealings have tended to show us what we are, yea, more, what all creatures put on their responsibility of obedience must be; and what He is — God — the sustainer of all things. Thus man continued to stand, apparently upon his own responsibility, but as a sinner, and incapable, for ages, but with obscure intimations, known to faith, of grace. "The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ" (John 1:17). And the incarnation of the Son of God contains the whole of the mystery of God (developed to faith by the Spirit), as to creation, redemption, and the sure standing and continuance of the creature, by grace, IN HIM — "by him all things consist" — "in him was life." Thus, in the gospel by John, the especial testimony to the Son of God, we are at once led back, by the Spirit, to that which was before the visible creation existed. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1). "And the Word was made flesh" (ver. 14). This, as the sure foundation of the state of things, thereby to be made known and manifested, and as enduring, and that wherein shall be shown the TRUTH of that said of man, "in the image of God" — and of all things — "very good."
But redemption required that there should be blood, death, resurrection; and all these intervened, before the full declaration of the hidden mystery could commence — and that He should take His place as the Head of all things, in order to the Spirit's testimony going forth as to what was (John 7:39). But now is come forth from the Spirit, the full announcement of the mystery of "the dispensation of the fulness of times:" and, surely, to know our place and portion in those arrangements which are to be enduring, and for ever built up securely in God, must be a matter of the highest interest and importance; and also, in knowing that we have a portion therein, to be enabled now to enter into the mind of God, in the revelation of the mystery He has given, should be a subject of interest. This is our present portion, for we have the Spirit, the earnest of our inheritance. It is in the knowledge of what we are in Christ, as before God, and what God is to us in Christ, that we are capacitated to receive the further communications of the mind of God, as to what Christ is to all things, and this in order to our being "filled into all the fulness of God." It should be the subject of our prayers, the object of our unwearied diligence, to be filled with God, and to have His mind in all things. It is the power, ever so regarded in Scripture, of our deliverance from this present evil world, into the world of faith — God's world — into that state of things which shall endure with the permanency of God, under the headship of the Lord Jesus Christ. And this, as God's object and purpose, should be our object and desire, in attaining true knowledge and understanding therein. It is, moreover, the true secret of power and facility in the discharge of those duties, which more especially belong to our present position and circumstances as being in the world, as the children of God here, in a place of testimony and service to Him. We may observe that this prayer of the Spirit by the apostle (Eph. 3:14) is on behalf of those who had been made partakers of the "riches of his grace," in redemption through the blood of Jesus, and who had been sealed with that "Holy Spirit of promise, the earnest of the inheritance . . . to the praise of his glory" (Eph. 1:13). It is now on the ground of glory that the apostle prays — "according to the riches of his glory." It is not only of grace, though all be of grace, but of glory, that we are made partakers, "who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory, that your faith and hope might be in God" (1 Peter 1:21).
The character in which God is recognised and addressed here, is, "the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named" — the whole family thus as named of Him, standing in the same relationship to God, and the glory of God, as He Himself does (Eph. 1:3). And, indeed, in any recognition short of this, the whole character and subject of the prayer would be unmeaning and presumptuous. But this is true, and the character and standing of every believer in Jesus, as known to God, and as being one with and in Christ in resurrection life. Thus, in the declaration of the Lord after His resurrection, "I ascend to my Father, and your Father, to my God, and your God" (John 20:17). This more fully shown by the Spirit, as sent from Jesus, returned to the bosom of the Father, as showing us "plainly of the Father," in the abundant testimony of the Spirit, in the epistles to the churches. "Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father" (Gal. 4:6). "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ" (Rom. 8:16). "Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light, who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son" (Col. 1:12, 13).
Hereupon the apostle prays, that we may be "strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man," the "new man" in Christ Jesus; — strengthened in that which alone is capable of receiving and understanding farther communications of God — that which is of God, born of God, begotten of God, a new, a spiritual and a holy nature. "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith, that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God." That all that Christ was and is to us, and all that He has done and will do for us, may be constantly and habitually present with us — not drawn away by objects of sense, and present attraction, but having Christ as the one great subject of our meditation. And what a blessed field of thought is here! — Bethlehem, Nazareth, Capernaum, Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem, Gethsemane, Calvary, the crown of thorns, the cross, the grave, Emmaus, Mount Olivet, Heaven, the right hand of God — "a little while, I will come again." And all this of Him, who is the Eternal Son of God, the Word, in the beginning with God, and God — the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, yet Himself truly man. We sometimes hear of the first principles of the truth — but the first principles are all; Christ is the way, the truth, and the life; He is all and in all; the beginning and the end, the first and the last; the beginning of faith, the end of faith; wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption; the power of God, the wisdom of God, the glory of God, the love of God; and, O blessed thought! "Ye are complete in Him."
"It is thus when strengthened in spirit, Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith, our power and capacity to "comprehend" become enlarged and expanded, and this in proportionate measure, progressive and increasing; "the love of Christ that passeth knowledge." We come to know that here is the unfailing stream of love, gushing forth in unabated freshness and fulness, through the ages of a boundless eternity. It is that wherein GOD shall be known to the whole family in heaven and earth, when every cloud of sin for ever removed, the calm and hallowed light of His unveiled glory shall shine forth, to gladden their hearts for ever. The love of Christ is that wherein the boundless, infinity, the fulness of God is, and shall be manifested.
Its height is hidden in God, coming forth thence, as the counsel of the infinite mind, in the beginning, of which all we can know or say, is, that "God was."
Its depth is infinite, it has reached below the lowest possible depth of sin and pollution, and distance from God, even beneath that depth where there was no hope.
Its breadth comprises the utmost limits of God's creation, to gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and on earth.
Its length too is infinite as God and eternity. When God ceases to be, and eternity comes to an end, then, and not till then, shall we find the limit, of the love of Christ.
In a word, it is the fulness of God, into which it is our joy, our blessing, our portion present and future, to be filled; and this, in the increasing comprehension of the love of Christ. IT IS THE LOVE OF CHRIST, THE FULNESS OF GOD.
"Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding, abundantly above all that we ask or think, according, to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the Church by Christ Jesus, throughout all ages, world without end. Amen."