DUPLICATE WITH "AN APPEAL"
In our Editorials
we have referred much to the tragedy of spiritual conditions,
particularly to the divided state of Christians. It is a matter
which no one really concerned for God's glory can easily set
aside, or fail to have as a constant burden. Reflection upon this
whole matter leads to the prayerful desire to be able to do
something toward what the Bible calls 'healing the hurt of My
people'. This can be carried little or no further than an appeal,
but in so far as this small instrumentality can affect the Lord's
people, we venture to make such an appeal. As we see it, there
are only two grounds of hope in this direction, but if they were
taken we are certain that a wholly new and fruitful situation
The first part of
the appeal, therefore, is that the people of God, and
particularly those in responsibility among them, shall -
illustration of what this means is presented to us in
considerable fulness in the New Testament, and particularly in
Paul's letters. We can narrow these down to two - 'Corinthians'
and 'Ephesians'. One is the earthly; the other is the heavenly.
What is meant by
the earthly is clear in 1 Corinthians, especially - for our
present point - in the early part. Implying that it is wrong for
supposedly spiritual people to be or to act so, the Apostle uses
the words: "Are ye not men?" (3:4). This clearly means,
as the context shows, that spiritual and heavenly people are not
allowed to proceed as the rest of men do. The immediate
connection (although it applies to all the other things) is that
of divisions, and circles, bearing particular names and taking
the character of natural preferences. This might be
temperamental, doctrinal, emotional, intellectual, or 'spiritual'(?). Whatever the causes or occasions, Paul says this behaviour
is "natural" and "carnal" - it is acting as
"men". In a word, it is earthly. At best, he says, it
is childish, or 'babyish'; it does not signify any spiritual
stature. Looking at Christianity today by this standard, we
cannot fail to be painfully impressed with how little the Church
has grown up.
But that is the
negative side. When we turn to 'Ephesians', we find ourselves in
the presence, not only of the oft-repeated words, "the
heavenlies", but of the realities and characteristics of
that realm. Here is the "one body". Here is the
"unity of the Spirit". Here is heavenly wealth, walk,
warfare. Here is relatedness and inter-relatedness. The Apostle -
nay, the Holy Spirit - has no restraint in giving out of the
fulness, that it may lead again to the fulness of Christ. Here
are the measureless dimensions of eternal thoughts, counsels,
purpose, and love. Here is ascendency over disappointment,
frustration, discouragement, and earthly limitations. Here is
grace transcendent and triumphant. Yes, truly we are on heavenly
ground here, while all those things are bitterly true down below.
To be "seated together with him (Christ) in the
heavenlies" is no mere ideal, fantasy, illusion, beautiful
concept, or sublime teaching; it is real because of the literal
counter-realities to which it is set in contrast.
This is as much
the work of grace, to be apprehended by faith, as is our initial
Would that the
Church - believers, and their leaders - could first see it, in
the way in which the prayers in this letter show that it should
be seen: could then, by faith, take it: and henceforth positively
and resolutely refuse to come down on to the earthly ground of
Corinthian divisions, strife, pettiness, and nature!
But what is the
way thither? How can it be?
This leads to the
second part of our appeal: it is to -
Ground of the Cross
knew about the Cross. They were "in Christ", and there
is no way into Christ but that of the Cross. Yes, but even so,
the Apostle said that in visiting them it was his considered,
resolute, and premeditated determination that he would 'know
nothing among them, save Christ, and him crucified' (2:2). There
was a knowledge of the Cross which either they did not possess,
or else they were violating. In 'Ephesians', the death and
resurrection 'togetherness' with Christ is foundational to all
that fulness of heavenly position. In Corinth, the value of the
Cross was in what it meant for them, rather than what it
meant in them. There is undoubtedly a difference in these
aspects, both as to position and as to results. The fuller aspect
may have a deeper application to the natural life - but, again,
both in one are presented to us for our apprehending by faith.
The Cross not only
deals with our sins and our condemnation: it deals with all our
earthliness, our natural ground, which is so fruitful in those
works which bring dishonour to our Lord. We are especially
thinking of this spirit which produces or ferments jealousies,
rivalries, contentions, criticisms, and all that is not love.
If we would take
heavenly ground and the ground of the Cross, the Holy Spirit
would be able to cause the things which really do not matter to
fade from their importance, and to give the Lord's people a
loving concern for all who are His, just because they are His,
and not 'ours' in any earthly way.
First published as an Editorial in "A Witness and A Testimony"
magazine, Nov-Dec 1956, Vol 34-6