The Christian's Special Relationship and Privileges.

1902 138 The New Testament clearly shows that since the Lord Jesus came, truths have been made known in distinctive reality as to the heavenly family and the church of God. During the Lord's life He spoke unmistakably of both, outside anything previously revealed, though the fulness of its blessedness was even farther reserved, until He was risen and glorified, and the Holy Spirit given as the power to make it good. The heavenly family we have fully declared, in holy life and relationship, in both the Gospel and the Epistle of John. Indeed its special nature and character awaited its relation in the person of the Lord God, of whom John speaks as the Only-begotten Son that is in the bosom of the Father: "He hath declared Him." No wonder therefore, that divine life and relationship depended upon Him, as it is written "To as many as received Him to them gave He power (title) to become children of God."

These realities are further unfolded in John 17 by the Son of God Himself, where love's eternal purpose is touchingly breathed forth in communion with His Father, that may well call forth everlasting praise and worship. Though He came into the world in grace, and presented Himself to be received, neither the world nor His own people recognised Him, but rather rejected and cast Him out. Thus, so to speak, all was lost as to His rights and glories, and He was without a throne and people, having no home in the world He created, to which He came in light and love, as a giver and a Saviour. All was of no avail, as far as the heart of man was concerned; yet it was then sovereign grace and purpose shone, with the fulness and blessedness of special relationship and privilege, respecting the heavenly family. On the threshold of the glory from which the Lord Jesus came, He turned upward from this dark world to His Father, expressing precious words as to a new set of people of whom He could say "Not of the world as I am not." Indeed the many loving utterances of John 17 surpass anything revealed in the past or even coming blessing for Israel, in the day of their Messiah's established kingdom, in power and glory, when the now rejected Lord will have the nations for His inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession.

The recipients of such grace, and objects of so glorious a purpose of relationship and blessing, have but to accept and adore, not only for the place given, but for the wondrous work, its basis. Therein all the will of God was accomplished, as the Son Himself said, "I have glorified thee on the earth; I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do." In the inexhaustible and unfathomable depth of such a fact, it is not to be wondered at, that its outcome should surpass all gone before, and that the Son Who, having nothing in the world but the cross, should have those given to Him by the Father, to Whom He would manifest the Father's name. Yea He declares the reality of eternal life, by the knowledge of God now revealed. "And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent." Thus eternal life and relationship are blended by Him, Who put the Father's name upon those given to Him out of the world, and of whom as the risen one He speaks (after redemption was accomplished), "I ascend unto My Father and your Father," etc.

Distinctive is the relationship, which is now fully known by the indwelling Spirit, Who bears witness to believers of being children of God, according to the manner of the Father's love, and purpose. Moreover it is formed and established in a world knowing not the Son, nor those belonging to the Father, who are nevertheless destined to shine in the likeness of, and share glory with, the Son, Who declared, "The glory Thou hast given me I have given them." Precious holy destiny! that justly calls forth the worship of the heavenly family, and keeps them in true separation from a world knowing them not, and hating both the Father and the Son. He prayed for them saying, "All Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine, and I am glorified in them." Such the marvellous oneness of the heavenly family, as again stated by the Son, "That they all may be one, as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us."

Truly such language exceeds anything past or future of earthly privilege, or as known to the disciples when following their Lord down here; Who begets the testimony to the world, that the Father sent the Son. By-and-by, when all the heavenly ones are in the same glory as the Son, will the world know the Son, as the sent One of the Father; also that saints unknown are equally loved with the Son. Weighty realities, for every member of the heaven-born family to ponder! Whilst admitting so special a relationship with its many privileges, the truth should assuredly have its sanctifying effect; for the Lord has bound up present sanctification, with Himself the standard and object of it. "For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth." Let us be mindful too of this present sanctification, coupled with the Lord's parting promise, "I will come again and receive you unto Myself that, where I am, ye may be also." Every child of God by the Holy Spirit may well desire to have a deepening sense of these holy privileges and responsibilities, crowned with his experience of what the Son said to the Father, "That the love wherewith Thou halt loved Me may be in them and I in them."

The truth of the church of God is equally, if not more, distinct and special, than of the heavenly family; though the term "church" is to many very vague, particularly in these days of human thought and judgment. But for this there is no ground, when we turn to the unerring scriptures about the church of God founded upon Christ, the Son of the living God. Indeed in such a day as the present, when in the true moral ruin and nearing end of all in the professing church and the world, with judgment at the door, it is most important to learn what God is doing for its abiding blessedness. It is not only in saving precious souls, and by the death of His Son bringing them to Himself, in holiness, righteousness, and peace, but giving such a place in His church.

That the Lord Jesus did indeed come to seek and to save the lost is surely a truth to be sounded forth far and wide. But rarely is the blessed fact rightly declared, that Christ is building His church, against which the gates of Hades can never prevail. This important fact was reserved for the Lord Himself to declare, as He does in Matt. 16, when as the rejected Messiah He speaks of Himself as the Son of Man. Asking men's judgment as to who He was, He finally puts the same question to His disciples; and Peter replies, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." Then for the first time the Lord states His intention of building His church on the immoveable rock of His blessed Person; and assuredly the material of the newly declared structure would be in character with it. Whatever aspect the building may assume, all would be worthy of Himself and His death.

We can all see that Peter, being a stone for the building, was the first servant by the power of the Spirit of God to preach Christ risen and glorified; and by the same power were sinners saved, and added to the new assembly. How plain that the building was formed of souls saved by sovereign grace, who became part of God's church, which the apostle in his Epistle designates as a spiritual house in contrast with the Jews' material temple, or Jehovah's house. Moreover those forming it were a holy priesthood; so that, instead of Aaron and his sons, all believers now are priests, belonging to the spiritual house, with holy liberty to offer up spiritual sacrifices by Jesus Christ. This truth was more fully made known, not indeed by the apostle of the circumcision, but by the apostle to the Gentiles, who also unfolded the church as in the mind of God before time began, or world was founded. The same Paul speaks of it in many aspects as the one new man; a holy temple; the habitation of God; and, not least, as the body of Christ.

All this the Epistle of divine purpose (to the Ephesians) clearly sets forth, together with the signal truth of the mystery hid in God but now blessedly revealed, as to its origin, nature, character, and glorious destiny. Alas! how rarely these truths of abiding reality, with the work of the Spirit of God in reference to them, are spoken of and dwelt upon even by true believers. A cry is often seriously raised, Where is the pure gospel of Christ, and the needed atonement preached? To this may be added, where is the further truth of the church inquired after, even in its least form? Who seeks to know, what the new man does mean or the holy temple growing to completion and heavenly glory? where are those that desire to know and own, with holy consistency, the habitation of God by the Spirit? Conversion we mercifully know and hear of; but it is usually followed by joining one of the varied denominations, each having its own claim to the slighting of the only church of God for all believers. Not this only but the same Spirit who quickens the sinner and seals the believer is He Who forms all believers into the one body; as it is written, "For by one Spirit were we all baptised into one body;" "God set the members every one of them in the body, as it pleased him" (1 Cor. 12:13-18).

Thus Christ's body, with its membership, leaves no place for human thought or will. It is for each believer to receive these God-formed relationships, and act upon the divinely appointed communion proper to it. The truth is clearly laid down in 1 Cor. 10. 11, where the breaking of bread is set forth, the one loaf, the true and only outward expression of the one body of Christ. No less is the remembrance of the Lord in His death enjoined as the saint's holy privilege on the first day of the week, until He come.

Yet, it is largely said in these days of ruin and indifference, that the truth of the fellowship of the one body cannot now be acted upon for reception and discipline. Were it so, the breaking of bread would only be to individually remember the Lord in His death, without any expression of the one loaf or one body according to 1 Cor. 10:16,17. Thus would privilege of the highest order be sacrificed for practice; and the truth of God's workmanship, forming the church in union with Christ its living Head, be completely lost in its intended responsibility for the choicest collective fellowship of all the members. Nevertheless, if obedience sadly lacks, God's side of the truth cannot fail, whether as to the church as Christ's body, the holy temple growing, or the habitation of God by the Spirit. Indeed that which is the object of the Lord's special affection must and will have its corresponding answer, when "He shall see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied." Blessed indeed for faith to look away from failure and ruin (save to judge responsibility as to it) and dwell in holy meditation on the unceasing love of Christ, in its past, present, and future, as declared in Eph. 5:25-27.

Having given Himself for the church, it is not surprising that He should sanctify and cleanse it, which He is now doing, as He will assuredly present the church to Himself glorious, without spot, wrinkle, or blemish. This then is the crowning point of the true church for Christ who, for nearly nineteen centuries, has been waiting on high for the moment to receive her to Himself. Isaac welcomed Rebecca to his tent in Canaan. Christ will call us up on the cloud in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, and receive us to Himself He will have the church as His bride for the glorious marriage in heaven. Till then, surely, the precious truth of the heavenly family and the church of God is what the abiding Spirit would have all believers know and enjoy. Assuredly the Holy Spirit has not given up His purpose and action, any more than His present testimony and work in the gospel. He is ever true to the Father and Son Who sent Him. However complete be the ruin, His purpose goes on in spite of the many names and parties, humbling and appalling as this may be. The Spirit still gathers to the Name and Person of Christ, the unfailing Head of the church; so that even the twos and threes, obediently responding to His action, may prove the value of His promise in Matt. 18:20: "For where two or three are gathered together to my name, there am I in the midst of them." How important therefore to keep His word and not deny His name! The Lord Himself, Who says He is coming quickly, create, exercise, and establish His own in grace and truth, in obedience responsive to His will and word, for His name' sake. G.G.