Companions of Christ and the Heavenly Calling
Chapter 6 - Some Titles of the New Dispensation
We are occupied at this time with that great thing that God is doing
in this dispensation. He is constituting a new, heavenly Israel and
preparing it for the day when its King comes and it will reign with
Him forever. The members of this spiritual Israel are called, "the
companions of a heavenly calling" - the companions of Christ.
The point at which we have arrived just now, is that in the
constituting of the spiritual Israel, God is following the
same line as He took with the earthly Israel, but with the one
great difference: that with the earthly He followed temporal
lines; with the heavenly He is following spiritual lines,
but they are both one in principle. We have seen
something of this, but we are going to see a little more of it today.
I think it must be perfectly true that this is what God is
doing. The letter to the Hebrews is the great document of the
transition from one Israel to another, and there are
many evidences in that letter of this truth. If anybody has any
doubt at all,
there is one fragment which I think should settle all such
questions. You look at chapter 12 of the letter to the Hebrews, and
read the section from verse 18:
"For ye are, ye are not come unto a mount that might be
and that burned with fire, and unto blackness, and darkness,
and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of
words; which voice they that heard entreated that no more word
should be spoken unto them: for they could not endure that
which was enjoined: if even a beast touch the mountain, it
shall be stoned; and so fearful was the appearance, that
Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake."
Well, that is the old Israel being constituted at the mount. The
word is to us: "You are not come to that. That is
not God's way of constituting His new Israel." "But ye
are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the
living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable hosts
of angels, and to the general assembly and church of the
first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge
of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to
Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the blood of
sprinkling that speaketh better than that of Abel".
I think that settles all argument! If we only had that
paragraph in the New Testament, we'd know what the difference is
between the old dispensation and the new, we'd know the difference
between Judaism and
Christianity, we'd know the difference from what they were in
what we are in.
But that is not all: that is only a part of the whole argument.
I would have you note some of the titles that are in this letter
are evidences of this truth.
To begin with, we have:
We all know that Israel was looked upon by God as His family. To
Pharaoh God said: "Let My son go". And the
evidence is too much for us
to even follow through, Israel of old
was, in a certain sense, looked upon by God as His family.
They were His children, and in a certain sense, He spoke of
Himself as their Father.
Here, in this letter of transition from the old Israel to the
new, that idea is carried over into the spiritual realm. Hebrews
chapter 2, verse 10: "For it became Him, for whom are all
things, and through
whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to
make the author of their salvation perfect through
sufferings. For both He that sanctifieth and they that are
sanctified are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed
to call them brethren, saying, I will declare Thy name unto my
brethren. In the midst of the congregation will I sing Thy praise.
And again, I will put my trust in Him. And again, Behold, I and the
children which God hath given me."
You will notice that that is a whole list of quotations from the Old
Testament. Formerly, it related to the old
Israel. Now that Israel has been set aside, but God is taking
up in a new way this principle of family life in relation to
Himself. His Son is "the firstborn among many brethren"
we are "children of God, through faith, in Jesus Christ".
Probably you have noticed that the very first idea of God was
a family - the idea of family was born in the heart of God. This is
official society. This is not some institution. The deepest thing in
heart about us is to have us as His children, and you, who
know the Bible, will be able to quote to yourself many
passages, such as: "Like as a father pitieth his children,
so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him". We could
build up a tremendous mountain of references to God as Father,
and His people as His children. God could have made an
organisation of people into a kind of society. He could have
called some from this place and some from that, and then He could
have given them
the title of some denomination and said: "Now you are members
of this denomination. You are formed into this organisation."
But God never had any such idea. His idea is a family, and
Lord Jesus said that He came into this world especially to
reveal God as Father - "I have made known unto them thy
name... I have given them thy name". The
name of God which was most on the lips of the Lord Jesus was the
name "Father", and God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our
hearts whereby we say the same thing as the Lord Jesus said, by the
same Spirit which was in Him, by which we say "Abba, Father".
Now that is, of course, very elementary, but there is a very great
this family conception. If some
organisation gets broken up, we don't worry very much about that;
not even if the United
Nations breaks up we don't worry very much about that, but we are
always filled with grief and shame when a
family breaks up. We feel that there is something about a
family which carries a very sacred idea. What a bad thing it
is when a family becomes divided; when children are against
one another or children are against parents, when the husband is
against the wife and the wife against the husband and so on. And
that is a mark of the devil's work at the end of the
dispensation. There is nothing more terrible in our time than
the break-up of family life. That is true isn't it? You may not know
very much about that in Switzerland, but if you go to the United
Kingdom, you go to America and to other countries, and you will see
that there is a perfect landslide in this matter. The lists of
divorces are terrible - the poor children who are left without father
or mother because of the break-up of that relationship. This is a
blow at the deepest thing in the heart of God, but it does not
The most distressing aspect of this whole thing is in the
family of God. There is nothing more terrible in this universe
than the break-up of God's family. The devil does not so much mind
denominations and our organisations, but he does object to this
family business! It is God's most cherished idea.
I think it is one of the most precious things of times together like
these. Here we are, representing quite a number
of different nationalities. Many of us have never met before
on this earth, we have not shaken hands with
one another yet, but we are all rejoicing here together as a
family. The family spirit is the most precious thing, and it
is the very hallmark of the heavenly Israel.
I have often said, in speaking about this heavenly Jerusalem
as it is presented symbolically at the end of the Bible, that
it only has one street. Our hymn-writers have led us astray on this,
they talk about the streets of gold. The
Bible says there is only one street of gold. Dear friends, we have
live on one street for all eternity! What do you say about
that? How are you going to get on with your neighbours? Don't
worry, it will be a very happy thing to live on one street;
you see, it will just be a family. And when the whole
family is just one, it is not a bad thing to live next door to one
Well, that's just a way of speaking about this;
you know what I mean. This is a spiritual relationship:
Father, big Elder Brother, and all-uniting Holy Spirit...
"holy brethren, companions in a heavenly calling". It's a
glorious thing to have companionship!
Well, I leave that there, this very first idea of God in the old
Israel is carried
over spiritually to the new Israel.
The second thing that you will see is:
The House of God.
Chapter 3 of Hebrews, and verse 5: "Moses indeed was faithful in
all God's house as a servant,
for a testimony of those things which were afterward to be
spoken of; but Christ as a son, over God's house; whose house
are we, if we hold fast our boldness and the glorying of our
hope firm unto the end".
Do you notice what that said? Moses indeed
was faithful in all God's house, for a
testimony of those things which were afterward to be
is the afterward? It is now. "Whose house are we".
of God is something carried over in principle by God
from the old to the new. Peter says that we are a spiritual
house, but there is one thing that needs to be made quite
clear here. When we use this word "house", we usually think of
a place in which people live, and that is not the meaning of
the word here. I don't know whether you can understand the
change that I am going to make, but do you know the difference
between a "house" and a "household"? A household is quite a
different thing from a house. The household is two things: one is
people who dwell there and the other is the order that exists there.
It is a
house with a certain kind of order.
This is God's house, composed of His people who are under His
order. You know God is a God of order. He is not only concerned to
things done, He is concerned to have them done in His way. It
as much to God how things are
done as to whether they are done at all. God's house is a
house which is ordered by God. Everyone in this household has to be
subjection to the Spirit of God; has to come under the
headship of Jesus Christ.
Now, of course I could take the whole conference on the house of
if you look into God's ordering of the life of Israel in the
old dispensation, you will see how particular God was as to
what was done and how it was done.
On the day of Pentecost God's spiritual and
heavenly house was brought in, and God
had His own order. And you will see how in those first days of
the life of the Church two things were happening. God was
demanding that His order should be observed. Even the
apostles had not come to fully recognise God's order. They
were holding on to something of the old order. And when the
Lord told Peter to go to the house of Cornelius,
the Gentile, Peter said: "Not so, Lord. This is not according
to the old order. I was not brought up this way. The old
system says I mustn't do that. No Lord." But the Lord is
Lord of His own house, and He made it perfectly clear to Peter
that He had brought in a new order. This was a new
Israel. Things have changed, the
Cross has made the great change: "Call not that which God hath
cleansed, unclean" - the Cross has dealt with all uncleanness
and we are
moving on a new basis.
Well, Peter came to see it. Of course, that was not the
end of the difficulty, even for Peter, but I think that when we
come to Peter's letters, we get to a Peter who has fully accepted
the new order. "A spiritual
house", says he, "offering spiritual
But I was saying that in the Acts we have two
things: there is the movement of the Spirit of God concerning
the new order, but there is the movement of the evil
spirit against that new order. You have that terrible episode
of Ananias and Sapphira, they violated the new order of God's
house. They brought in their own personal interests, and Peter
summed it up in this way: "Why has
Satan filled thy heart to lie against the Holy Ghost?" For on that
terrible day the new order was upset. Satan
struck a blow at this new Israel, and to show how jealous God is for
His heavenly order, see what happened to those two!
God has therefore laid down the principle very clearly, and He
is very jealous for His heavenly order and that nothing but trouble
can follow if we get out of God's order. While God's order
is suspended, everything is in confusion.
Well, that's enough about the house of God for the time being,
house are we".
Then another conception, that is:
The Heirs of God.
That is introduced with the Lord Jesus Himself, in verse 2 of
chapter 1: "Whom He appointed heir of all things".
In verse fourteen we are spoken of as heirs of salvation. In
chapter six, verse seventeen, we are spoken of as "heirs of
the promise". In Romans 8, verse
seventeen, Paul says that we are, "heirs of God,
and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ".
Now, in the earthly sense, Israel were to be God's heirs. The
promise was made to Abraham that his seed should inherit the
earth: God covenanted with Abraham that his seed should be the
possessors. Israel was to be God's heir; they ought to
have become joint-heirs with Jesus Christ. But they killed
God's heir. They said, as in the parable of the Lord
Jesus, "This is the
heir: come, let us kill him". They killed Him who was "appointed
of all things", and
in so doing they robbed themselves of the inheritance.
Now comes in the church: "heirs of God
and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ". The church
is the heir to the promise made to Abraham now, and this whole
letter to the Hebrews has to do with the inheritance, the
great inheritance to which we are called as the companions of the
heavenly calling. And the appeal of this letter to us is: "See
that you don't miss the inheritance! They lost it
through unbelief; you can lose the inheritance." So the letter
uses Israel by way of illustration - the terrible possibility of
Christians losing the inheritance.
Do you notice this little word "if" that occurs so often?
"We are become companions of Christ if we hold fast the
beginning of our confidence firm unto the end" ...
"Whose house are we, if we hold fast..." That's a very big
word that little word!
A lot hangs on that word. We are not talking about the loss of
eternal life, we are talking about the purpose of
salvation; the purpose of salvation is a very much more important
thing even than being
saved. Paul says that there will be a lot of people who get
into heaven, having lost everything. All their life work will
go up in smoke; they themselves will be saved yet so as by fire.
Everything but their salvation lost. Do you
want to just get into heaven "yet so as by fire"? No, this letter
says there's something more than being saved. That is the great
inheritance, but we can miss that. Read the letter again
in the light of that.
But our point is that this principle of being heirs
of God is carried over into the heavenly Israel.
I would just mention one or two other things without very much
comment. The next thing which is carried over from the old to the
The City of God.
If you look into this letter, you will find that on several
occasions the city is
referred to. And in that passage which we read: "we are
come... to the heavenly Jerusalem, the holy city".
Now Israel, of course, had their life centred in the old earthly
Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the centre of their unity. They were all
united because of that city. That is why their males had to go
up to Jerusalem so many times every year. We have those wonderful
psalms of ascent as they came,
from the north, the south, the east and the west, a wonderful
caravan, they were singing the songs of Zion. Those psalms about
are wonderful psalms - glorying in their
city, and finding the expression of their national unity in
was the centre of their government. Their whole national life
came out from Jerusalem in government. What you saw of Jerusalem was
everything to them.
The writer of this letter to the Hebrews is speaking about
the approaching day, when that will have gone forever, or, to
satisfy the people who believe that the Jews are yet to occupy
Palestine and have another Jerusalem - it was gone for
a whole dispensation. Jerusalem today is the very symbol of
division. The Jews have one bit and the Arabs have another,
and they cannot live in peace together. It's the symbol of
disunion, and with God it does not stand. It has been given
over, but He has brought in His heavenly Jerusalem - "You
have come to the holy city, the heavenly Jerusalem".
We have been made "to
sit with Him in the heavenly
places, in Christ Jesus". All our unity, as the new
Israel, is centred in Him
above. There will never be true expression of unity amongst
the Lord's people, only when they have a heavenly uniting
unity is in heaven, not on earth. Our government is from
heaven, not from earth. As Paul says, we are "fellow-citizens
with the saints" - our life
is hid with Christ in
Yes, the city exists. God's thought concerning the City has been
carried over to the spiritual Israel.
Then the next thing:
The Flock of God.
These are all wonderful conceptions of the old Israel! If
that Israel was God's family, the house of God, the heir of
God, the city of God, so Israel was thought of as God's flock,
God's sheep: "He led them like a shepherd" it says. That idea,
of course, lays behind the cry of the
prophet Isaiah: "All we like sheep
have gone astray". Israel was God's flock. He was Israel's Shepherd.
We shall dwell more fully upon that later - indeed it's a very large
matter in this new relationship to the
Lord; one of our sixteen things in John's gospel.
But God has carried this over, it is a very precious thought
of God concerning the heavenly Israel. We are "the sheep of His
pasture". So we come to the end of this letter to the
Hebrews, we have this beautiful word: "Now may the
God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that
shepherd of the sheep..." our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the
sheep. There is a sense in which that spreads itself back over the
whole letter. The companions of Christ are His sheep: "My sheep know
Me and I know them... My
sheep hear My voice, and they follow Me:
I give unto them eternal life". That's a grand idea for sheep isn't
it? We'll just leave it there for the time being.
I remind you of the last thing and close for this morning. It is:
The Kingdom of God.
We all know that Israel of old was God's kingdom, the kingdom
which God was king. Do you remember that when they chose Saul
to be king, Samuel was very distressed about this and he went to the
Lord and told Him about it. The Lord said: "They have not
rejected you, they have rejected Me from being King". Israel was
God's kingdom and of course the Old Testament has a very great deal
to say about that.
When we come into this new Israel what a lot there is in
this letter to the Hebrews about the kingdom. I will not ask you for
the moment to look at all the references, but the last of them is
this: "Wherefore, receiving a
kingdom that cannot be shaken..." The
Greek tense is: "Being in process of receiving a kingdom
which cannot be shaken". We are His kingdom, people
under His kingship and government.
We will have much more to say about that later, but I
think we have said enough this morning to show that this is a very
thing. In a spiritual way we have come into all that which
foreshadowed in Israel of old. To that thing, to that Israel, the
Lord Jesus said: "The
kingdom of heaven shall be taken away from you, and
given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof". And Peter
saith, "we are a holy
We are the inheritors of all that God ever meant for His
people. In us, that is, in His true church of this
dispensation, God is in process of realising all that which He
had foreshadowed through many, many centuries.
Well, these are many words, they are wonderful ideas, but I hope they
go further than our heads; I hope they go to our hearts. We are a
very privileged people. The great need of our time
is for Christians to know what God has called them unto. They
do not know, dear friends. You can go over this world and find
the majority who have no idea of these things. They know
that Jesus came into the world as the Son of God, He lived
His wonderful life, did His works, gave His teaching, died an
atoning death and rose again, and is coming
again; but they don't know one bit of what it all means, that
is, what it is all unto; the great eternal purpose of God in
it all. They are mostly quite ignorant of the things about
which we have been speaking today, and that is why Christianity
is in such a deplorable state today. They have not been given true
instruction, they have not a true understanding of
purpose in His church through Christ Jesus. It is a very
wonderful thing that we have come into in this dispensation.
And I say again, I hope it goes to your heart and deeper than your
heads. And when I have said all this, and your heads may be tired,
you may be feeling that just now you can't take much more, I'm sorry
to tell you that I'm only just at the beginning! There is much more
of this very thing that God has to reveal yet, and a little more,
perhaps, He will show us this week.