The Church The Instrument Of The Throne
With that brief word on
the primary aspect of the supreme objective, we pass to
what I have called the secondary aspect: but it is only
secondary in that it is dependent upon the primary.
This—the means for the attainment of the supreme
objective—is the instrument in which all those
features and factors of the Throne are vested, to which
they are committed and entrusted. In order to repudiate
the rights, the claims, and the interests of the Throne;
to bring dishonour and reproach upon it; to curtail or
wipe out the sphere of its influence; to rob its subjects
of their prosperity and well-being: in order to do all
this, the enemy must destroy or put out of action the
whole force in the field—the vehicle and means of
operation of that Throne, the instrumentality of its
effectiveness. That vehicle is the Church. It is to the
Church that all those interests of the Throne are
committed; it is in the Church that they are vested.
But let us not consider that word ‘Church’ objectively: let us bring it right to ourselves, and apply every word personally. In this matter we need not fear that we shall be too subjective, too self occupied or introspective. Our conception of ‘the Church’ must not be of something vague or mystical. Wherever even two or three are gathered into the Name, there is the Church in real, though minute, representation, and everything begins there. And so it is that these tremendous things in relation to the Throne, as the supreme and ultimate objective of God and the enemy, are focused upon us as a part of the Church.
The Groaning Of The Creation Related To The Church
There is a sense in
which it can be said that all the trouble centres in the
Church. Like the prophets, one of whom was addressed as
the “troubler of Israel” (1 Kings 18:17), the
Church is the ‘troubler’, not only of Israel,
but of all the nations and of the kingdom of Satan. Even
in our own day, there is a great deal that corresponds to
those tremendous convulsions in Egypt that led up to the
ejection of Israel. That is the explanation of much that
is taking place in the nations today. Convulsions in the
nations—what for? Well, Paul says that “the
whole creation groaneth and travaileth”—why? It
is waiting for “the revealing of the sons of
God” (Rom. 8:22, 19). It is toward the birth, the
manifestation, the precipitation, of that which God has
ultimately in view, that there are these convulsions in
the nations. That may seem a big thing to say, and
indeed, if we had not Bible ground for saying it, we
should be saying something too big. But all those
convulsions in Egypt were because of a people in their
midst who had to be got out—and the power behind
that kingdom was not prepared to let them out! The
hierarchy of wicked spirits that were the real rulers of
the land of Egypt did not want that people out, because
they knew that the emancipation of Israel would
constitute the greatest possible menace to their hold
upon Egypt and other nations of the earth.
Centuries later, when Israel was again in captivity, there were upheavals in Babylon. Through the prophet the Lord said: “I have sent to Babylon, and will bring down all their nobles” (Isa. 43:14, marg.)—what for? To get the People out. Convulsions in Babylon! And there are plenty of convulsions in the nations of the world just now. I believe that the trouble is largely because of the Church. Once the Church is extricated and out, while there will be disintegration, judgment and so on, Satan will breathe more freely here. But, whether this be a right interpretation or not concerning national and international upheavals and tumults—and I think it is—there is no question whatever as to whether or not it is true about the kingdom of Satan. The cause of the trouble, disturbance and upheaval there is this other force that is in the field. It is the troubler.
The Conflict Focused Upon A True Expression Of Christ
Now, immediately there
is a movement towards the practical expression of
anything approximating to the Church as it is revealed in
the New Testament—especially as revealed in such
fullness through the Letters of the Apostle Paul
—disturbances take place which are more than human,
for which there seems to be no rational explanation. This
should give food for thought. It is profoundly
significant that no comparable spiritual disturbance
arises when Christianity is anything short of this. There
may be a presentation of doctrine without organic
expression: that does not worry Satan very much. We may
be orthodox and as sound as it is possible to be, and
still not meet the full force of Satan’s objection.
But let an organic expression of the Church for practical
purposes be brought into view, and you will find trouble
coming from everywhere and nowhere!
Again, when Christianity is a formal, ecclesiastical system, without spiritual power, Satan does not trouble either himself or it one little bit. When Christianity is a mystical, aesthetic, artistic, soulish imitation of spirituality, Satan is not at all troubled—rather very pleased. He is delighted when mysticism is interpreted as spirituality, and multitudes are held in the illusion. When there is profession without organic reality, there is no trouble. When there is but a name, a title, a designation, without correspondence to the Divine pattern, it is left to go on its way unchallenged. When there is an organization, an institution, without a heavenly nature and spiritual character, its course is more or less unchecked. But let the Lord bring into view something that really sets forth Christ corporately, and then there is trouble—trouble, such as we have said, that cannot be explained along any natural, human lines at all.
The enemy is, in fact, bitterly opposed to any real, living, organic expression of Christ in his territory. For such an expression really represents the Throne of God, in effect and in impact, and therefore there will be trouble. The forces of Satan in any and every way are set against the realization of that. From apostolic times until now, there never was an expression, however small, of the Church in its heavenly, spiritual and eternal character, that was not the object of the most determined and many sided effort of Satan to destroy it. There is a great deal of history bound up in that statement. This is, after all, just the meaning of Ephesians 6:12 and onward, is it not? “Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities... powers... world- rulers of this darkness... spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” But long before Paul wrote those words, Paul’s Master, the Lord Jesus Himself, had spoken about this great Satanic opposition. He spoke of “the gates of Hades”—which I understand to mean ‘the councils of death’ —as being active with the determination to prevail against the Church.
Now it would be far too big a matter for us to try to range the strategies and tactics of the enemy in this connection. But let us note two things.
The first is that the Throne—with all that that implies—is most closely affected by the representation of Christ—whether good, or bad—that is found in the Church; that is, according to whether Christ is, in fact, represented or misrepresented. The Throne is affected more directly and immediately by the Church than by anything else. That is the fact.
Secondly, we need always to remember that secondary causes are not primary causes. Would that we might be more alive and alert to that! We are caught almost every time on that matter. Things happen: people behave in such and such a way; circumstances arise; there is strain, tumult, tension and what not; and we attribute everything to the secondary cause—to the person or the persons concerned, to the circumstances, the conditions, or whatever it might be. We do not go straight to the first cause. We fail to recognize that behind everything is this sinister force; behind that person’s behaviour there is something more; behind all this there is something at work with no less an objective than the undermining of that Throne—its honour, its glory, its range and sphere of influence, its rights and its claims and the well being of its people. In many a little, seemingly casual, ‘happening’, it is nothing less than that which is involved: but we take it on as something in itself, and wrongly make the secondary cause the first.
In the previous chapter I said that there are many things that we should attribute to our own foolishness, rather than to the Devil. But there is this other realm, and lest you think I am exaggerating, let me bring you to the Word. Some of these so called secondary causes—failure to recognize which leads to the defeat of the Church, or the set back of the Army—are actually found in this letter to the Ephesians, the great warfare letter of the Church.
“The Exceeding Greatness Of The Revelation”
In the three great
chapters at the beginning of this letter, we have
presented the Church of God; that marvelous vessel, that
Divine masterpiece, born in the counsels of God in
eternity past. I fear that the chapter divisions
sometimes prevent us from recognizing the continuity, the
unity of the whole document, and from passing naturally
from one stage to another. But here we have the
presentation of this great thing—it is as it were
brought out from eternity and shown to us. And this
presentation, comprehended in a few hundred words of
human language, is something which for well-nigh twenty
centuries has defeated and defied every attempt to fathom
it, and today it is drawing out and extending men more
than ever before. That is not exaggeration. Can you
fathom it? Look again at some of the shortest sentences
in those first three chapters—they will defeat you!
Now, the subject matter contained in the second half (chapters 4–6) of the letter ranges itself into four sections, the first two short, the last two long. Whilst we shall review them very briefly, let us not fail to apply them.
(a) “Walking Worthily Of The Calling”
Paul, having thus
presented the Church, now, by a perfectly natural
movement, passes to a consideration of the practical
consequences. His opening words are full of challenge and
test. “I... beseech you to walk worthily of the
calling wherewith ye were called, with all lowliness and
meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love,
eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit...” (Eph.
4:1–3; vs. 3 R.S.V.). Now, these are things that are
directly related to certain very common ‘secondary
causes’. But this whole immense purpose, that has
been unveiled, divulged, as out from eternity, rests for
its true expression, for the proof that it is no mere
vision, no mere idea or ideal, but a reality—it all
rests upon our ‘walking worthily’. It rests
upon our walk. Everything depends upon our lowliness,
meekness, patience, our forbearing one another in love,
our eagerness to keep the unity. Does that challenge us?
But those are our spiritual weapons in the field, and
much grace and faith is needed if they are to be used
Oh, the provocations, the annoyances, the irritations! —all that comes upon us in the course of a day to make our life a contradiction and our walk unworthy! The challenge to lowliness! The snare of self-assertiveness, loudness, occupying the limelight, bringing ourselves into view, drawing attention to ourselves, wanting people to take note of us—all that and a thousand other things contrary to lowliness and meekness! “With patience, forbearing one another, giving diligence to keep the unity”—so our Revised Version; the Revised Standard Version has: “eager to maintain the unity”—eager, eager to maintain the unity! Ah, that is a battle, a tremendous battle, a desperate part of the conflict. The enemy is particularly persistent and persevering with things like these, because they make a caricature of the Church, and they touch the Throne.
But every one of those things can be carried into the realm of what we call ‘secondary causes’. ‘But he did so and so... she said so and so... and I got upset... and I have a right to be upset!’ That is looking at things as they appear on the surface, instead of looking right through the things and seeing something else. Ah, yes; if we look deeper, we shall find that there is a primary cause. Often the very timing of the thing proves that—it is so sinister and so uncanny. Or a consideration of where the attack comes from, or the why of it, may reveal its true source. But we are not always alive to that. We get caught in the thing and defeated, and all our wonderful conceptions of this marvelous Church count for nothing—they just go to pieces.
(b) “The Unity Of The Faith”
We turn to the second
section, chapter 4:4–6. Here, quite briefly, the
thing challenged is the peril of making something extra
to Christ the basis of unity. “There is... one Lord,
one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all”.
That is the basis of unity. But it is possible to make a
division by means of that, if you are so minded. I have
heard people ask, ‘What does the “one
baptism” mean?’ Some say: ‘Of course it
means the baptism of the Holy Spirit’, and others:
‘Of course it means the baptism of
water’—and at once there is a division on the
very fundamentals of unity! I do not think that either of
those interpretations necessarily applies here. What it
does mean, I believe, is this: that ‘we were all
baptized in one Spirit into one Body’ (1 Cor.
12:13), and the “one baptism” is baptism into
Christ. You can say that it is by the Holy Spirit, if you
like. I challenge you to say that it is by water. No one
is baptized into Christ by water. They may testify to
baptism into Christ by means of water, but that is
another thing. The one baptism is that, when we believed,
we were all baptized in one Spirit into one Body.
The issue, then, is: Are you in Christ? Have you been baptized into Christ? That is fundamental to unity. If we make something more to be a basis of unity, then we split the unity, we destroy it, we contradict the truth of the oneness. This foundation is sufficient. If we knew all that is included in this “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father”, we should have enough. If we live according to that, we take a lot of ground from under the enemy. Immediately we begin to add to that, as the basis of unity, then we begin to give the whole position away. Our special interpretations and teachings and doctrines have no value whatsoever as a basis of unity. All that matters is the foundation, and that is sufficient.
(c) Holiness Of Life
The third section, chapter 4:17—5:20, is a long section, containing a great many things and covering much ground. But if you read the section through, you will find that it all amounts to this: holiness of living, personally and relatedly. And remember that the enemy is against that. He triumphed in the greater part of the churches in Asia along that line. The chief thing that the Lord had to lay at their door, in His messages through the Apostle John, was corruption, defilement, wrong in the moral life. Paul, here, has much to say on this matter of holiness, first in ourselves individually and then between us and others. For if the enemy can touch us and spoil us on that ground, he has struck at the Throne: he has brought reproach upon it, he has limited the sphere of its influence, he has robbed us and others of our inheritance. And that is searching!
(d) Human Relationships
Finally we have the
fourth section: chapter 5:21—6:9. This section
deals, in the main, with domestic relationships—
husbands to wives; wives to husbands; children to
parents; parents to children; servants to masters;
masters to servants. And these relationships present
peculiarly good opportunities for enemy activity. But
here, again, we are so insensible to reality that we
habitually make these secondary causes the primary ones.
How often it is that provocations and strains and
difficulties in these family and social relationships
have the effect of putting us spiritually right out of
action, of crippling or even nullifying our spiritual
life. And, again, these things often come up in such an
uncanny way. Can we not learn this lesson from our
defeats? So often the enemy comes along, either through
the wife or the husband, in relation to something of very
great spiritual interest that is about to emerge. We may
know nothing of this—but he knows! The same thing
may happen with regard to the children; the Devil can
play many tricks through them.
So the whole range of these relationships is brought in here. The point is: we must not always lose our heads and straightaway blame the persons concerned. If we do, we have lost the battle. Let us first of all, if opportunity offers, go quietly away and say: ‘Now, what is the enemy up to—what is he after? There is probably something more here than just this upset, however real and justified it may seem. It is quite true that this and that has happened; it is not imagination: but is this the beginning and the end of it? Cannot this be completely destroyed from behind? Cannot this be dealt with at Headquarters?’ You see what I mean. On a hasty and superficial view, we might take all these things for primary causes. But quiet and prayerful reflection will enable us to recognize them as in all probability only secondary ones. We must not make secondary causes the criterion, but must get behind them to the hidden primary cause—in this case the activity of the great enemy.
Revelation And Warfare Related
Now you will notice
that the four passages, or sections, that we have just
considered are placed between Paul’s mighty
unveiling and presentation of the Church and his great exposť
of the spiritual warfare over it. A significant position!
Here is this matchless thought of God, the Church,
presented. Here, at the other end, is the warfare with
myriads of evil spirits. And, sandwiched right in
between, we find husband and wife, and wife and husband;
children and parents, and so on. Do you protest that
there is no connection!? I submit, in reply, that the
“therefore” of chapter 4, verse 1, holds this
middle section, concerning our conduct and behaviour, in
direct relation to the preceding revelation; saying in
effect: ‘Therefore, unless you watch these
relationships, all that revelation counts for
And the “Finally” of chapter 6 (which word does not mean ‘Last of all’; it means ‘Now, taking everything up from this point onward’, ‘Gathering everything up to go on’)—that “Finally” gathers into the battle both the revelation and the conduct. “Finally, be strong in the Lord... For our wrestling...” This is all part of a tremendous fight. It is as much a part of spiritual warfare to deal with all the things which you may regard as the trivial commonplaces of everyday life—as much a part of the great spiritual warfare and the great issue of the Throne, as to be right out in the naked battle with the enemy himself.
In closing, we note that all this that we have seen carries with it certain serious implications. It says this, to begin with: that the holding of the doctrine of the Church, as in Ephesians 1–3, without corresponding life and walk, may sabotage the whole issue. We may have the conception of the Church —wonderful terms, wonderful ideas; we may talk endlessly about it, because it is so marvelous, so fascinating—but is it working? Is it really working? Are we truly in it? The answer will only be found in our daily walk and conduct, in all the so called ‘commonplace’ relationships that we have mentioned. That is the answer. It is really a matter of how much we are in this with all that we are and all that we have.
I remember hearing Dr. Campbell Morgan make a very challenging remark. He said: ‘Allow me an impossible proposition: Supposing Christ is to be defeated, what do you stand to lose? How much of you is invested in this matter? Do you stand to lose everything if Christ is defeated?’ Yes, it is an impossible proposition, because He never can be defeated. But supposing that in some way or other He is defeated in us, what do we stand to lose?
At The Heart Of The Conflict Is The Throne
Again, to divorce all
these practical matters from the interests of the Church
and from spiritual conflict is to have no dynamic with
which to deal with them. Do you grasp that? If you cannot
deal with these domestic situations effectively: if you
are just struggling with them—‘he is such an
awkward husband’, ‘she is such a difficult
wife’, ‘those children are such a
handful’—if you are struggling to cope with
them, and you know that you are not getting very far, may
it not, after all, be a Church matter, that you have not
an adequate background for dealing with the situations?
May it not be that you are trying to deal with it as
something in itself, instead of bringing it into relation
with the Lord’s testimony? that you are not
recognizing that this discord, this disagreement between
you and your husband or your wife touches the Throne,
touches the Lord’s honour, and must be dealt with on
no lesser ground than that? It is not merely a
matter of settling our little domestic problem—we
must have a dynamic for dealing with situations in
general. And it may be that, when we bring these things
into the right realm, recognizing that they are a part of
the great spiritual conflict in which the Throne is
involved, we shall find things happening surprisingly.
But we come back at length to where we started. Beyond and above all this detail, the dominant issue is that of the Throne: its honour and glory; its sphere and range of influence; the rights and claims and interests of the Throne, and the well being of the people under it. Everything comes back to that, for that is the object of the conflict. In our homes, and in our local companies, let us cease to criticize, to judge, to condemn, looking at one another, and laying the blame at the door of things and people; and let us see if our problem ought not to be dealt with from behind. And let the Church deal with it so, in any locality. Let the Church face the situation squarely: ‘Look here, the Lord’s Throne and the Lord’s honour are touched by this. We believe that God raised up this instrument and vessel: if so, it was in relation to the Throne. It is necessary, therefore, that this vessel be a true representation of the Church, according to the Word of God; and hence we realize that all Hell will be out to spoil it, to mar it, to wreck it, to destroy it.’
Why is this so? Not because the enemy cares anything about you or me, as individuals, or about any little local group or company, as something in itself; but he has his eye on that Throne, and our situation—either in the home or in the church—is touching that. Let us adjust to this reality—for it is all here in the Word, it is true; let us deal with matters in that way. Let our attitude be: ‘This situation must not proceed any further; because of what is involved, it must not remain another day. The enemy must at all costs be spoiled in this!’