26 February 1957, at Kaohsiung, Taiwan.
There are a lot of personal things that I would like to say to you, they would be about how glad I am to be back again with you in Kaoshung. I remember my last time with you the year before last with great joy and I believe that this is going to be a time that we will also remember with thankfulness to the Lord. But I am not going to take our valuable time speaking personal words. We are here with serious business, we want to talk about the Lord and I believe that you are prepared to do some very real work. And I would like to prepare you for hard work; that is, I am going to expect that you will work together with me in the Word of God.
I am quite sure that you have not come here just to hear pleasing little things, but you want to get to know the Lord better and that is the object of our being here. So I am going to ask you to really give yourselves to this business, and during our time tonight, to really work with me in the Word of God.
I am going to ask you to begin by looking at a few passages of Scripture. We will begin with the prophecy of Isaiah in a very well known chapter: Isaiah 53:10,11. Now will you just try to remember these verses, "Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him, he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul and shall be satisfied."
Now I want you to notice two statements in those verses, which are very alike: "He shall see His seed" and "He shall see of the travail of His soul".
Now will you keep that in
your mind and turn over to the New Testament to another well
known chapter in the gospel by John, chapter 3 at verse 3:
"Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto
thee, Except a man be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of
God". Now let us put our passages together before we go on.
"He shall see His seed... and He shall see of the travail of His
soul and be satisfied." "Verily, verily, I say unto thee,
Except a man be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
Now shall we read verse six of John 3: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born anew". Now I want you to go over to the gospel by Mark, chapter 3, at verses 13 and 14: "And he goeth up into a mountain and calleth unto him whom he would: and they came unto him. And he appointed twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach."
Will you keep those passages in mind and then go over to the Gospel by Luke at chapter 10 and verse 1: "After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come." Now I hope you will be able to remember all these passages because I am going to add one more and that is in the letter to the Hebrews, chapter 12 at verse 22: "But ye are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem."
I wonder if you recognise what all those passages of Scripture represent. What we are going to think about tonight is what Jesus began to do and what He is continuing to do.
What Jesus is Doing
You remember that when Luke wrote the Book of Acts, he began by saying, "The former treatise of all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day when He was received up." Now, as Luke is beginning to write another book, he really means to say, "I am going to write about what Jesus is continuing to do and to teach since He was received up" and seeing that Jesus is still doing and teaching, this matter comes right down here tonight.
Luke's second volume was never finished. The story that he started to write was never completed. For some reason, Luke broke off his story. He just left it with the Apostle Paul in prison and told us no more. I do not know what might have been Luke's reason for not going on, but if the Holy Spirit was leading Luke to write, I know why Luke did not go on. It was because the story will go on long beyond Luke's life. The story would go on for many hundreds of years after that. That story could not be finished until the Lord comes back again. So the story is going on today. We still live in the day when Jesus is continuing to do that which He began when He was here.
That leads us to ask what was it that Jesus began to do and to teach? If we can answer that question, we will know why He is still continuing teaching and doing. Now, all these passages which I have just asked you to read, tell us what Jesus had begun to do. We take the first two: Isaiah 53:10-11 and John 3:5. In Isaiah 53 we have these words about the Lord Jesus: "He shall see His seed... and He shall see of the travail of His soul and shall be satisfied." Now, the Jewish nation was always called the seed of Abraham. Anybody who knows anything about the Bible or about the Jews knows that this is true. The Jews always speak of themselves as the seed of Abraham. That means that from Abraham came a certain nation that is the Jewish nation.
The Jewish nation is quite a clearly defined nation. There is no mistaking them. If you meet Jews, you know quite well that they are quite a distinct people. No matter where they are all over the world, they still retain their distinctiveness as a people. My point is that the seed of Abraham is a clearly defined nation. It is a nation on this earth, which everybody can recognize. Now listen to these words. These words are spoken about the Lord Jesus: He shall see His seed and He shall see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied. What did Jesus begin to do? He began to bring into being a new nation, another distinctive people, a people who can be recognized just as clearly as ever the Jews could be recognized. That is what He began to do. And all His teaching was about this new people that were coming into this world and that is what Jesus is going on doing and teaching now. He Himself is producing a new nation, a new kind of people.
A New Nation
Now you see what He meant when He said these words to Nicodemus. Nicodemus was interested in the matter of getting into the kingdom of God. Nicodemus was a son of Abraham, he was of the seed of Abraham; a representative man of the seed of Abraham. There is no mistaking Nicodemus. If you had seen Nicodemus, you would have said, "Behold an Israelite indeed". You would say that there is no mistaking that that man is of the seed of Abraham. That man comes to the Lord Jesus, he is interested in this matter of getting into the kingdom of God. Jesus said this to him, "You may be of the seed of Abraham, you indeed be a representative man of Israel, but you do not belong to the nation that I am forming. You are not the fruit of My travail and so you must be born anew; that which is born of the flesh is flesh" by which the Lord Jesus meant "That which is born of Abraham belongs to one race, but that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit and that is altogether a different race".
The Lord Jesus tells us the nature of this nation that He is bringing, this seed that He has come to produce. He said, "That which is born of the Spirit is Spirit". This is a spiritual nation, this is a spiritual people. These people are the result of the work of the Holy Spirit. This is a very different thing from the seed of Abraham. What did Jesus begin to do? He began to produce a new Israel, but this time a spiritual and a heavenly Israel. That is what He is continuing to do.
Now, I do want you to recognize this. What are we Christians? What does it mean to be a Christian? Let me put that in another way; what is it that Jesus is doing with us? When we are born anew, when the Holy Spirit does His work in our hearts, what is it that is really happening? The answer is that Jesus is building the spiritual Israel. This Israel, that takes the place of the old earthly Israel, He is making into another nation, and just as the seed of Abraham can be recognized amongst the people of this world, so the seed of Christ are different from everybody else. That is the first fact about the Christian life: we are a new nation and we are different from every other nation of the earth.
In the case of the seed of Abraham, the difference was outward. You recognize the Jews by outward features. But this new nation is not recognized by outward features. Here we are in a different place tonight with several nationalities from this world and the majority of you are naturally Chinese, but there are some here from Denmark, and some here from Britain, and there may be some other nationalities here, but we are all one nation if we are in Christ. And that recognition is not just something outward, it is something inside. We all have something in common that is in an inward way. If we are in Christ, we are all born of one Father, we are all the seed of Jesus, we are all the fruit of His travail. This is a great inward thing and this makes us different from all others.
Well, I am not going to stay in that any longer, I must go on to the next passage that I read to you from the third chapter of Mark.
A New Government
"Jesus called unto Him whom He would and they came unto Him and He chose twelve." If you recognize it, that is a most impressive fact. If we don't recognize the significance of this, the Jews would, especially the Jewish rulers: "What is this Man doing? He has chosen twelve apostles, He has stolen the number of Israel, He has stolen away our national number and He has given it to those men. The national number of Israel is twelve – the twelve patriots, the twelve sons of Jacob, and the twelve tribes of Israel. Number twelve is the number of the seed of Abraham and this Man has stolen our number twelve and given it to His disciples. What is this Man doing?" And then you have to remember what twelve represents and this is the point that upset them most. Twelve was always the number of government. You see, the twelve tribes of Israel were intended to be in the place of government. The Lord had said to them through Moses, "Ye shall be the head and not the tail." Israel was intended to be the head of the nation, to govern the nations. Number twelve is the number of government. Now Jesus had stolen that and given it to His disciples. What was He doing? He was setting up a new government. You see what He is doing, He is setting up a new people to govern the nation.
You carry over that number twelve to the New Testament and you begin with the twelve apostles, and when you get to the end of the Bible you find twelve everywhere. But what is twelve connected with at the end? It is connected with the new Jerusalem. It has twelve foundations to its wall. In those walls of foundation are the names of the twelve apostles of the land, and it has twelve gates and there are twelve angels; the measurement of the city is 12,000 furlongs. You see twelve is everywhere. What does this mean? Well that city that is presented there is a symbol or a type. It is the picture of the Church and the Church is God's chosen instrument for government for all the ages to come. You see in the Church that the number twelve is everywhere. That is only God's way of saying that the Church is called by God for government in this universe. That is what Jesus began to do. He new what He was doing, He knew He was doing a tremendous thing, He knew that what He was doing would bring all the dispensation of the Jewish against Him. He chose twelve and what a terrible thing to do, for that was just the thing that would upset all Israel! He was starting all over again. The government had been taken from the seed of Abraham and given to the Church.
You and I, dear friends, if we are of the seed of Christ, we are called to that very great honour. We are called to fellowship with Christ in the ages to come in the government of this world. The Lord Jesus, by His teaching, is trying to teach us or train us how to govern. Now, we all understand that this is spiritual. We know quite well that the Church isn't governing this world in a temporal way now, but He is training us for government. All the experiences that He is allowing to come to us are to train us to overcome, to have dominion. He gave them authority over unclean spirits and over all manners of diseases. You see, He had called them to this great government. Now that is a spiritual thing. The Church is called to deal with the forces of evil and to govern them. The Church is called to deal with spiritual diseases and to bring spiritual diseases under its control. I could only say this little bit, I hope there is a little hole through which you can see a very big world... if you will put your eye to that little hole, you see on the other side the whole great purpose of the Lord.
You are called to govern in the ages to come. Christ is going to govern this universe and we are to govern with Him. That is what He began to do when He chose twelve. I said that He did a tremendous thing when He chose twelve. The Jewish rulers recognized what He was doing and they said, "We will not have this Man to rule over us." You see, they had seen the significance of this. They said, "This Man is going to set up a new government and we will have nothing of Him, we will get rid of Him and all His ideas of government." They crucified the Lord Jesus because He was setting up another Israel and He was setting up another government, but it wasn't a temporary government of this world. He said, "My kingdom is not of this world," and He said, "My disciples are not of this world." This is a spiritual and a heavenly seed, this is born from above, this government is spiritual.
Well, I am quite sure you
recognise that, we could spend many hours on that. Now we go
to another passage that is in Luke 10.
A New Representation He appointed seventy.
Jesus appointed seventy. What is the meaning of this? This is
another very deliberate act of His. He knew what He was doing
and again the Jewish rulers knew what He was doing. You go
right back there in the Bible to the books of Moses and you
will find that there were seventy elders in Israel. These were
heads of father's houses. These men were gathered around Moses
and they were the helpers of Moses. You see, they represented
the whole of Israel. There, around Moses, were seventy elders.
They represented the whole nation. Their number was seventy
and Jesus appointed seventy.
A New Representation
He appointed seventy. Jesus appointed seventy. What is the meaning of this? This is another very deliberate act of His. He knew what He was doing and again the Jewish rulers knew what He was doing. You go right back there in the Bible to the books of Moses and you will find that there were seventy elders in Israel. These were heads of father's houses. These men were gathered around Moses and they were the helpers of Moses. You see, they represented the whole of Israel. There, around Moses, were seventy elders. They represented the whole nation. Their number was seventy and Jesus appointed seventy.
What was He doing? He was taking the place of Moses and He was gathering seventy men around Him to represent this new nation that He was setting up. That was a terrible thing to do. Right in the eyes of the Jewish rulers He appointed seventy and He sent them forth. He sent them to every city and place where He Himself would go. In all the cities and villages where they went, they represented the Lord Jesus. They were like the elders of Israel who represented Moses and represented this nation. Jesus was just following the pattern of Israel but He was doing it in a spiritual way. You see that what He began to do, He is going on with that now.
Seventy is just a symbolic number. It is the number of spiritual representation. The twelve is the number of spiritual government, and seventy is the number of spiritual representation and Jesus is still moving on that principle. What is He doing? He is calling men into association with Himself in order to represent Him in places.
Let us go back to Moses.
You see these seventy elders who were the head of the houses of
Moses, these seventy men came into the presence of Moses. They
got the mind of Moses and then they went back to their house
and they told the people there what Moses wanted done. The
people there came to know the mind of Moses through them. Now
you see what Jesus was doing. He was bringing men into
association with Himself in order that He might send them out
to represent Him everywhere. So that if anybody wants to know
what Jesus desires, they will go to His representative and
that, dear friends, comes right to us here tonight.
The Lord Jesus has called us into fellowship with Him. Why has He done that? That He might put us all over this world to represent Him; that men and women might know the mind of the Lord Jesus through us. You see, He is building a new nation for a new government and put a new representation of Himself in the nation. Now that is something for you to think about.
A New City and Temple
We have come to our last passage, Hebrews 12, and what does it say? "Ye are come unto Mount Zion and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem." What is this? That is still following the old pattern; Mount Zion was the city of the great king. In the Old Testament Mount Zion was the city of David, the city of the great king. Jerusalem was the centre of government for the whole land. Now it says here, "You have come to Mount Zion" but it's not the Mount Zion of the Old Testament for you are come to the heavenly Jerusalem, you are come to Jesus who is the great King. Mount Zion is the city of the great King. You are come to the heavenly Jerusalem, the centre of government of a new heavenly country. This is what it means to be a Christian.
I am going to finish there tonight. It is all very impressive to know what Jesus began to do and to teach, and He is continuing to do and to teach that. I could go on with quite a lot of other things, I could bring you to the temple and I can show you that Jesus is building another temple, another house of God, but I am not going to give you too much tonight. He is following the old pattern, but the old things have passed away, all has become new. It is a new spiritual temple.
We are the seed of Christ, we are the fruit of His travail. It is in true believers that He sees the travail of His soul and He is satisfied. Believers are the new Israel; believers are called and chosen for the new government; believers are called for the new representation of Christ in the nations; believers are called to be a holy temple in the Lord; believers are God's new house. You see, when Israel after the flesh refused the Lord Jesus, they lost everything and He has given it all to the Church. He said to the Jewish rulers, "The kingdom of heaven shall be taken away from you and be given to a nation bringing forth the fruit thereof" and it is His believers who are that nation. The kingdom of heaven has been given to us.
Now may we all walk worthy of the Lord, may the distinctiveness of that Character be seen in us, that everybody can see the difference between us and all other people; that we are a special people, the character of heaven is in us and the likeness of Jesus is seen in us and we are learning everything that spiritual government means.
You may not have understood all that I have said, but do not just go away and say "I do not understand it" and think there is nothing in it, I want to tell you that there is everything in it and you just ask the Lord to give you understanding, to see what a wonderful thing it is to be of the seed of Christ, to be the fruit of His travail and a special heavenly people who are called to reign with Him forever and ever and to be unto God a temple, a dwelling place. That is something of what it means to be a Christian and that is not a small thing. The Lord help us to understand it.