28 February 1957, at Kaohsiung,
I have been occupied with a big question
today. We have been having many meetings during the past two or
three weeks. For nearly two weeks we have had large meetings in
Taipei, and in these last few days we have been having meetings in
many other places, and now we have come here and are having some
more meetings. The question that has been occupying me today is:
"Why are we having meetings?" What is the purpose for some of us
coming halfway around the world and others who have gathered
together from various places; what is the object of it all? I feel
that I should use the time this evening in trying to answer my own
question. I feel that there is a very real answer to that
Now, I am not going to take any
particular passage of Scripture. There will be the whole Bible
behind what I have to say tonight, and I trust that you will
believe that I am speaking with the Bible as my background.
So we begin to answer the question, and
the first thing that we will say is this:-
God Has a Great and a
The Bible reveals that God is occupied with this
great and glorious purpose indeed. The whole Bible is one great
and wonderful revelation that God is a God of purpose. All the way
through the Bible, God is shown to be governed by a definite
purpose. God has not created this world just so that the world
should be created. God has not created man just so that man should
exist. Nothing that God has done has been intended to be an end in
itself, but everything that God has done relates to a definite
The Bible shows us that God, before He
made anything, had a purpose in His mind, and that He made all
things for that purpose.
Now, that first thing has two or three
different aspects. First of all, when God created man, it was so
that man should be the vessel of God's purpose and that man should
be in a definite relationship with God concerning His Purpose. The
object of man's existence is to be in fellowship with God
concerning His eternal purpose.
I do hope that you will not just listen
to the things that I say, but that you will apply them to yourself
as I go along. You see, we men and women in this place
tonight, the very meaning of our being here in this world is that
God has a purpose. There was a purpose in God's heart in bringing
mankind into being. We are a part of that mankind, therefore our
existence was intended to be in relation to God's purpose. But
then something went wrong.
When God created Adam, He brought Adam
into a very wonderful fellowship with Himself. God came down and
walked with man and talked with man. There was wonderful
fellowship between God and man, and man and God, and then things
went wrong and that union of man with God was broken. That was bad
enough, but that was not the worst of it, another thing came
Man came into a relationship and union
with Satan. The relationship which had existed between man and God
was broken and that relationship has passed to Satan. And because
of that, God's purpose was suspended. Of course that was the
object of Satan's interference. Satan had some knowledge of what
God's purpose was, and he set himself to frustrate the purpose of
God. And so he brought about a relationship of man with himself.
The Bible shows us man's relationship to Satan. It says that the
"whole world lieth in wickedness" so that the children of Adam are
now the children of Satan and not the children of God. That is
what the Bible definitely stated, but then God moves again. He
moves to recover that relationship between man and Himself so that
His purpose could be fulfilled.
So we have three movements: the first
was man's union with God, the second was man's separation from
God, and the third is man's reunion with God. All that we have in
the Bible has to do with those three things. Let me repeat them.
the union between man and God with God's purpose in view.
man separated from God and united with Satan and God's purpose
man's reunion with God in Jesus Christ and God's purpose
Now I want you to notice this very
important thing; all that we have in the Bible and especially in
the New Testament, has to do with one thing. After the first three
chapters of the Bible, where this breaking of fellowship with God
took place, all the rest of the Bible is occupied with this one
thing: it is a return movement to God. Let us note the movement.
Firstly, everything was in God and all
things were in Him. Man was in God, creation was in God; that is,
God was the sphere of everything. All things were in Him.
Secondly, there was a departure out from
God. Things came out from God and went into Satan, so that all
that which was in God came out of Him and went into Satan. Satan
is called the prince of this world. He is called the god of this
world and as I have quoted, the whole world lies in the hands of
Satan. First it was all in God and then it departed out from God
and went into Satan. Now the Bible, and especially the New
Testament, sees this return movement unto God. That is the
explanation of the Lord Jesus.
The great truth about the Lord Jesus is
that He abided in the Father. He said, "You shall know that I am
in the Father," and He abided in the Father. The great effort and
work of Satan was to get Him to come out from the Father, to get
Him to act without the Father, to speak without the Father, to do
things out from Himself instead of out from His Father.
Satan was all the time trying to bring
this separation between Christ and His Father. He was trying to do
with the last Adam what he had done with the first Adam: to
separate Him from God. But in the case of the Lord Jesus he never
could succeed. Jesus abided in the Father and nothing could bring
Him out; and in that way He destroyed the work of Satan; in that
way, He secured the purpose of God.
Now you can see the meaning of the
second thing, this tremendous amount that is in the New Testament
about being in Christ. A Christian is one who is described as one
who is in Christ. You have got it on your motto on the microphone,
I don't know if you can explain that funny figure there, but it is
"in Christ" and that is the great motto used by Paul. Paul used
that phrase over two hundred times.
We are, by our new birth, in Christ; and
then the Lord Jesus said, "Abide in Me". He placed a great deal of
emphasis upon this matter: "Abide in Me". Do you see what that
means? He abided in the Father, He did not come out to Satan. Now,
He said, "You who believe are in Me, you abide in Me" and the
whole of the New Testament has to do with this matter of being in
Christ and abiding in Christ. You see, it is in Christ, a return
movement into God. That is the first thing. God has a great and
glorious purpose and that purpose can only be realized when man
abides in God.
Now we come to the second part of our
main question, that is, this great purpose of God is centred in
His Son, our Lord Jesus.
The Son of God is the Centre of all the
Purpose of God
The Scriptures on this matter are very many. They
tell us that God appointed Him the sole heir of all things. They
tell us that in Him and through Him and unto Him were all things
created. The Son is the centre of this great purpose of God.
We can understand very well now why
Satan wanted to get the Son of God separated from God. Satan wants
to capture the inheritance for himself. That inheritance belongs
to God's Son. He could not get that inheritance while the Son
abided in the Father.
Now, we were created to be joint heirs
with Christ in the inheritance. Man, in God's intention, has a
great inheritance with God and Satan therefore is always trying to
bring about this separation between Christian and God, to separate
them from Christ. That is not only true about Christians, that is
true about all men. You see, Satan wants to keep man away from
God. He will do anything to keep man away from God. He will get
man as far away from God as he can.
If there is anyone here tonight who has
not come to the Lord, let me tell you that it will not be an easy
thing to come to the Lord, for Satan will keep you away for as
long as he can, simply because you are called to this great
purpose. This purpose which is centred in God's Son; you are
called into that.
If Satan loses his control over your
life, he loses that which his heart is set upon. Let me illustrate
this from one of the Lord's parables. He told a story of a certain
man who had a vineyard and let it out to his servants and he went
to a far country. Then at the time of harvest, he sent his servant
to get the fruit from his vineyard. And the men who lived in the
vineyard saw the servant coming and beat him and drove him off. So
he sent another servant and they did the same to him. And he sent
another servant and they treated him the same way.
The owner of the vineyard said, "What
must I do?" then he said, "I will send my son and they will
respect him." And after he sent his son, the men in the vineyard
said, "This is the heir! Come, let us kill him and the inheritance
will be ours." Now, Jesus is saying this to the Jews, He said,
"You are the children of Satan. He was a murderer from the
beginning". And, of course, Jesus was speaking about Himself; God
had sent His servants, the prophets, and they had persecuted and
beaten and killed them, and at last God said, "I will send My
Son." And when they saw Him coming, they said, "This is the heir.
We will kill Him and the inheritance will be ours." You see how
true this principle was.
Jesus is the heir of all things. It all
belongs to Him, but Satan said, "Let us kill the heir and the
inheritance will be ours." Satan wants the inheritance that
belongs to Jesus. We are called to that inheritance, so Satan will
do everything that he can to keep us away from God. And if we have
come to the Lord, Satan will continue trying to get us away from
the Lord. There are tremendous things bound up in our coming to
the Lord and abiding in the Lord.
Now I come to the third part of the
answer to our main question. All of these involved an elect
vessel. There is that in the Bible which is called "the elect".
Jesus spoke about the elect. What did He mean by "the elect"?
Well, the Apostle Paul makes it perfectly clear to us what He
meant by "the elect" and what the elect is. The Church of Jesus
Christ is the elect. Those who are truly and lovingly related to
the Lord Jesus form His Church. And as we said this afternoon,
they were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world.
That is the meaning of the elect: a people chosen by God in Christ
before the world was, brought into Christ in time. It is what the
New Testament means by "the church".
Now, this elect vessel relates to the
eternal purpose. It is a wonderful thing to be in the Church of
Jesus Christ, because it is this Church which is His body which is
God's vessel for the realization of His great purpose. We are all
acquainted with some of the Scriptures that speak about that. "All
things work together for good to them that love God and are the
called according to His purpose."
Look at this passage again in the letter
to the Ephesians, chapter 1, and verse 11. Here is a clear
statement of what I have been saying. Perhaps we had better read
verse 10: "Unto a dispensation of the fullness of the times,
to sum up all things in Christ, the things in the heavens, and
the things upon the earth; in Him, I say, in whom also
we were made a heritage, having been foreordained according to the
purpose of Him who worketh all
things after the counsel of His will." What a
tremendous statement that is! The purpose of God to sum up all
things in Christ, in heaven and on earth, and then in Christ we
are made a heritage and this is all after the counsel of Him who
works all things.
Now turn over to chapter 3, verse
11: "according to the eternal purpose which He
purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord." And you notice that those
words are addressed to the Church. It is the Church that are
called according to His purpose. It is the Church which is to be
the vessel of God's purpose concerning His Son.
At the end of one of his prayers
in this letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle speaks of the
Church in this way, "the Church which is the Body... the
fullness of Him." The Church is the fullness of Him, so this
great purpose involves this elect vessel. We are brought into
this great purpose of God to be the fullness of Christ.
The next thing that I want to say
in answer to our question, is that all God's interest and all
the activities of God are related to His purpose concerning His
Son. Now, that is not only a statement made, that implies
something for us. Do you want to be in the way and in the place
where God will be active concerning you? If you want that to be
so, then your whole life must be centred in Christ. All of God's
interest and activities are concerning His Son. If you and I are
in Christ, we are in the place where God is most interested and
most active. Do you really want God to be interested in you? Do
you really want God to work in you? The way in which that shall
be is by your being centred in Christ. When we come into the
Lord Jesus, we come into the place where God is most interested,
where God is most active.
The Place of the Cross
One more thing, this is the explanation
of the Cross of the Lord Jesus. For one thing, the Cross is the
place where the prince of this world was cast out. It is by the
Cross of the Lord Jesus that men are taken out of the power of
Satan and brought into Christ. It is in the Cross of the Lord
Jesus that we die to our relationship to Satan and rise with a new
relationship with Christ.
The Cross of Christ is God's instrument
of securing His eternal purpose. The Cross means our union with
Christ, firstly in death, and then in resurrection. I have just
said that it is in the Cross that Christ broke the power of Satan.
If we are truly crucified with Christ, it means that the power of
Satan is broken over our life. If we are raised together with
Christ in resurrection life, we are no longer under the power of
Satan, we are under the power of God and that brings us onto the
ground where His eternal purpose is recovered. This eternal
purpose is the object of all the Holy Spirit's activities. The
Holy Spirit has come for this particular purpose: to work in
relation to God's eternal purpose in the Church.
This Eternal Purpose
Well, I don't know how much of this you
are grasping. It is a tremendous thing that God presents to us and
this is why we are having this meeting. I know quite well that
Christians need encouragement and it might be a good thing for
some to be meeting for the encouragement of the believers. I know
that believers need more instruction in the Word of God, and it
might be quite a good thing for having some meetings for that
sometimes. But I feel the greatest purpose for which we have
meetings is that people should know what a great thing they are
It is no small thing to be a Christian.
It is not just a matter of being helped to live a better life. It
is not just a matter of having joy and peace in our hearts. And it
is not only a matter of escaping judgment and going to heaven. The
real meaning of being a Christian is that we are called according
to this eternal purpose.
There is a great purpose of God behind
our being Christians. All that which God has destined for His Son
is brought over to us. We are brought into all that when we are
brought into Christ. All the ages of eternity to come are going to
reveal the meaning of this great purpose. I say again that it is
no small thing to be a Christian. And what has been on my heart
today is just this one thing: Oh, that I could make this people
see what a tremendous thing it is to be in Christ and what an
immense background that is to being a Christian!
I am quite sure that if you could only
see that, you would feel that to be a Christian is a far greater
thing than you realise. There is something for which to live.
There is something for which to suffer. There is something for
letting the Holy Spirit do His work in us. There is something worth
abiding in Christ for. We are the called according to His purpose, so
I say as my last words to you:-
It is a Great Thing to be in
Being in Christ links us up with God's
thought before ever the world was. Being in Christ links us up
with the realization of that Thought in eternity. Eternity past
and eternity to come are centred in that "being in" to come. May
the Lord open our eyes to see the meaning of this.
So we are, in having these few minutes
for this little bit of teaching, trying to help one another along
in the Christian life. We are having this matter brought to us
that we might help one another. What a great thing it is to be in
Christ! May the Lord help you to see that.
I think I would like to close with just
turning you to one fragment of Scripture in the letter to the
Romans, chapter 11, verses 34-36. And this is a comprehensive
statement, "For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who
hath been His counsellor? Or who hath first given to Him,
and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of Him, and
through Him, and unto Him, are all things. To Him be the glory for
And I think I will close with the
last words of one of Paul's prayers, "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."