An Address


(Scriptures read John 20:19-23; John 21:18-22; Rev. 2:1-7; Rev. 3:14-22.)

1919 303 In these scriptures I have read there is something very solemn for our consideration, and yet there is blessed encouragement — the Lord's encouragement, and we do well to thank God for all His grace and mercy to us, and take courage.

The scriptures show us that it is becoming in a day of gloom, when everything seems against us, when everything wears a dark aspect, to do as David did at Ziklag: he encouraged himself in the Lord his God. His followers who had left everything, and for love of him shared his rejection, were now ready to stone him, and he was shut up to the Lord.

This was one way in which David was a man after God's own heart — he ever turned to the Lord. When his guilt was so great that no provision of the law in the dispensation in which he lived would meet his case, he cast himself upon the multitude of God's tender mercies. Never distrust the love of Christ, but ever turn to Him, and you will be after God's own heart.

We were reminded today of the prayer of Epaphras. I think he had been greatly used of the Lord at Colosse, but had been neglected; yet he loved them, as Paul loved the Corinthians, and could say, though the more abundantly, I love you, the less I be loved. And that is just the liberty we have down here by love to serve one another; not to be looking every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. How deeply interested we ought to be in the things of Christ! May our hearts go out in prayer for all the church, every day!

The character of Epaphras' prayer is well worth notice; he agonized for them, and desired that they might stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. The service of prayer is open to every brother and sister. If we were subject and obedient in nine-tenths and doing our own will in the other tenth, can we say that we are doing His will at all? Some take the law as a rule of life, but what is God's standard for His beloved children? Himself. Far beyond the claims of the law. "Be ye therefore imitators of God as beloved children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour."

It is sweet to realize, however much we fail, there is never any failure in the Head of the body; the members may sadly fail, but not the Head. And the body will be complete in glory, for the Lord would not be satisfied to be in the glory and leave one member out.

This time the Lord calls a day — "In that 'day' ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you" — a day that extends from Pentecost to the Rapture, and is characterised by the presence of the Holy Ghost on earth. We who are indwelt by the Holy Ghost are one Spirit with the Lord: we are joined to Him, are members of Him as Head, and of each other.

These scriptures, in picture, bring before us the grace of God in beginning to form the church, and our blessed privileges and responsibilities up to the very end. These two chapters in John are brimful of precious truth. It is not of ten we get dispensational pictures in John, but there are some; and here we get first the portion of the church, and afterwards that of the remnant; and the Lord showing the wonderful superiority of the place we are in.

You will remember that Thomas who represents the Jewish remnant, said, "Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into he print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe." He was not present on the first occasion when we get a picture of the church, but the Lord appeared again the next first day of the week, and Thomas was there; so the Lord said to him, "Reach hither thy finger and behold my hands, and reach hither thy hand and thrust it into my side and be not faithless, but believing." Thomas was at once convinced and said, "My Lord and my God." Then Jesus said to him, "Thomas because thou hast seen me thou hast believed; blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed." They will look on Him, by and by, and mourn: real repentance will be wrought in them. The Lord does not say "Blessed Thomas," but blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed. That is characteristic of the present time. "Whom not having seen ye love, in Whom though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory."

On this evening of the resurrection day the disciples were assembled, the doors being shut for fear of the Jews. They knew what the Jews had done to their Master, and He had told them "if they have persecuted me they will also persecute you," so they were a trembling, fearful, company. There they were, not knowing what was going to transpire — a gloomy prospect for them. But Jesus knew all about them: all about their sorrows and fears, and knew the gladness it would bring to their hearts to have Him in their midst. So, "the same day at evening … came Jesus." Jesus, the sweetest name in heaven and earth. There is no name, or love like His, our safe, unfailing Friend.
"Earthly friends may fail or leave us;
One day soothe, the next day grieve us;
But this Friend will ne'er deceive us;
Oh, how He loves!"
His love never changes, and in Him we have an infinite ocean of blessedness that is never diminished. A little drop of which is enough to make our cup run over! This Jesus is the same yesterday, and today, and for ever the blessed One Who loved His own and loved them to the end, Who had died for them, Who had gone through all the woes of Calvary for them, and had exhausted all the wrath of God for them! In the type the fire consumed the sacrifice, in the Anti-type the sacrifice exhausted the fire; but the love is not changed, that remains undiminished, and when we are in the glory the Lord will not love us more than He does now.

It rejoices our hearts to think there is no place He likes so well as in the midst of His redeemed. In John 18:2 — How did Judas know the place? The Spirit tells us "Jesus oft-times resorted thither with His disciples." He loved to have them all to Himself, and it is the same Jesus, the unchanging One up in the glory, yet with us here; He cannot give up that place. It is the joy of His heart to be the centre of His saints. "Where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst." low much there is contained in that verse. Where two or three, divine limit; are gathered (not "meeting"), divine separation; to My name, divine authority; there am I, divine presence; in the midst, divine centre.

What a delightful thing! we might have been left in some human religious system, but God has brought us to Christ's name, and we have everything in Him. Will He be satisfied in the glory without occupying the same place? Not at all. In John 17. He expresses His will once. Unbosoming Himself to His Father, we are allowed to hear, and He says "Father, I will that they also whom Thou hast given me, be with me where I am." He will have us all around Himself. How blessed! the same Jesus Who gathered them around Himself on the Mount of Olives, the same One Who came into their midst when gathered on the first day of the week. But if unchanging He changes everything for them. Here in verse 20 is the living, loving, triumphant Lord Jesus, the centre of the company, occupying the place He loves so well. If this were better understood how we should have more at the meeting — knowing that it gives Him joy to have us there. He said, "Peace be unto you." I don't believe it was just an ordinary salutation. He had made peace by the blood of His cross, and brought that peace to them. "And He showed them His hands and His side" the tokens of His passion, telling of a love that was strong as death, which many waters could not quench, though deep did call unto deep at the noise of Jehovah's water spouts, and all His waves and billows passed over His holy soul! How much we owe Him, and what a sense of indebtedness should possess our souls! How much there is to draw out our souls, to Him in praise and worship!

1919 316 In Luke's Gospel it is His hands and feet, but here hands and side. Only John's Gospel tells us of the spear. In the accounts of the Lord's death there is no mention of the blood in either Matthew, Mark, or Luke. It was from the dead body of Christ that the blood and water came forth. We owe everything to the precious blood.
"Our every joy on earth, in heaven,
We owe it to Thy blood."

We need the water too. This is He Who came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood." The blood tells us of expiation, that which meets perfectly the mind of God, Who was not only satisfied, but glorified in all His holy nature, and in every attribute. But the word of God shows us that the blood gives the believer a judicial cleansing. If not from all, not from any.

And then He would have them firmly established as to that peace, and He would have us also firmly established in that peace. In Rom. 4 you get a contrast between promise and the death and resurrection of God's beloved Son. The gospel is not a promise but something better. In the case of Abraham, Jehovah "brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them; and He said unto him, So shall thy seed be." And he believed in the LORD; and He counted it to him for righteousness." Abraham was "strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that what He had promised, He was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sa1 alone that it was imputed to him; but for us also to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on Him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences and was raised again for our justification."

Redemption is accomplished, and all that the Father was as revealed in Christ required that He should be raised from the dead. He was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, and the facts of His death and resurrection present to us the gospel. "Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." There we get the two sides: the divine side and that which applies to us.

Oh, Christ is the One who changes everything for us! It was very gloomy for the disciples at first, but is not Christ enough the mind and heart to fill? Our hearts are too large for the world to satisfy. If we go to any other stream in the hope of getting our cup filled we shall be disappointed, for upon everything under the sun has been written vanity and vexation of spirit. God has given us the blood of Christ that we might have the blessing of a purged conscience, and the person of Christ as an object for our hearts. In the new creation all earthly distinctions disappear and Christ is everything as the object. We don't want anything but Christ: in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and we are filled to the full in Him. How "blessed! They found a satisfying portion here. It makes our cup run over whatever our capacities may be, and if we have Christ as our object our cup must run over. "Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord."

Then again He says, "Peace unto you." He would have their hearts established in that. "As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you." He had been sent from heaven, the One who was eternally in the bosom of the Father, and as such perfectly. told Him out. Now He says here to them — the company He had made exceeding glad — "So send I you." We once belonged to the world, but by grace have been called out of it, and are now heavenly ones. So you see, we were in the world, and by Christ were chosen out of it; He has called us out of it, and joined us to Himself, and sent us back into it to tell Him out. Oh, that "For me to live is Christ," was true of all of us! We have no resources in ourselves to do it. We are His own as the gift of the Father to Him, and He has also made us His own by purchase, and we have become His bondslaves.

"And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost." Forty days after, He said they should be baptised with the Holy Ghost not many days hence; and the Holy Ghost came down ten days after. But here, I judge, most of us would see the more abundant life the Lord had previously spoken of. They had life before, but, now more abundantly. I have no doubt, it is that which is spoken of in Rom. 8, "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus." We are upon resurrection ground, and the eternal interests of our souls are placed beyond the reach of any change. Would that we had a larger estimate of it!

While that is true, I cannot help thinking that in the picture of the assembly we are reminded how every blessing is connected with the Holy Ghost. All this remains with us by the grace of God.

I remember that five years ago, at the last Conference, the verses read in John 21 were touched upon, but it will be well to look at them now in connection with what has already been before us.

Peter and John are representative men. Peter of the early days of Christianity — days of power and miracles — even the shadow of Peter was used for the healing of the sick. But those days were to end. Peter himself was to die a martyr, as foretold by the Lord. In contrast to this when Peter desired to know John's future, saying to the Lord, "What shall this man do?" the Lord, replied, "If I will that he tarry till I come what is that to thee? Follow thou Me." So that in a sense we get John up to the coming of the Lord. It would mean this too, that the Lord's triumph over death is so complete that it is simply a question of His will as to the duration of the life of His saints upon earth.

The Lord's words concerning John would evidently suggest that the features presented in John and his writings would remain to the end. John followed the Lord, we too nay all follow Him; he also leaned on His breast at supper, and said "Lord, which is he that betrayeth Thee?" John valued the love of the Lord, and hides himself behind the words, "the disciple whom Jesus loved." In Luke 22 we read, "And when the hour was come He reclined, and the twelve apostles with Him," and we learn that John occupied the nearest place. Reclining next to the Lord he could pillow his head upon His bosom — thus telling us of sweetest intimacy; and the like intimacy is ours if we value it.

I firmly believe that God gives us of Christ all that we value. Keeping close to the Lord will save us from many a snare. John is in the secret of the Lord as to the betrayer, and is used of God to tell us of the many anti-christs. He also teaches us that the two tests of truth are the person of Christ and the written word. There is nothing so jealously guarded by the Holy Ghost as the person of Christ; and we ought to be on our guard, surrounded as we are by betrayers, and never should we consent to a speck being put upon the spotless One. John not only tells of the many anti-christs, but he is the one chosen to give us the promise of the Lord as to His coming: "I will come again, and receive you unto myself." This blessed hope will remain.

Just a closing thought as to those verses read from the Revelation. In chapters 2 and 3 we have God's church history, giving an account of the course of that which was set up in divine righteousness (the golden candlesticks) as a responsible witness for Christ in the world. But everything fails in the hands of man, and the church is no exception. The church has utterly failed, but at the end the Lord presents Himself as the true and faithful witness.

In the first church, Ephesus, there is much to commend: their labour, their patience, their attitude toward them which were evil, the Lord also commends them for testing those who assumed to be apostles. They had borne, they had patience, and for His name's sake had laboured and had not fainted. Now, if there had been no more said to this church, we should be ready to say, Here is a perfect church — everything exact, orderly, correct.

In listening to brethren sometimes, I feel that such an assembly, as here described, outwardly correct, would satisfy them. But it did not satisfy the Lord. He wants our hearts, our love, our affection, so He says to the angel of the assembly, "Nevertheless I have against thee that thou has left thy first love." This is the beginning of the long line of evil culminating in Laodicea, which has to be spued out of the Lord's mouth.

Sad as was the state of the Laodiceans, they had high thoughts of themselves. Let us be warned. Let us heed the Lord's solemn words, "Because thou sayest, I am rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor and blind, and naked; I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear, and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve that thou mayest see."

Here the Lord discloses that they were minus the three great Christian essentials, minus divine righteousness, minus the true Christian character, and minus the Holy Ghost. Because of their evil state the Lord has to take an outside place, but still waiting to be gracious: knocking at the door of the assembly. Because of what the Lord is to the very end may we be encouraged. May we be kept humble and may it be our desire that God in all things be glorified. I trust this will be the result of our having been together the past few days. J.A.T.