by T. Austin-Sparks
What more can we say and how better can we say, than "more of Thyself. Oh, show me hour by hour more of Thy glory. Oh my God and Lord, more of Thyself in all Thy grace and power, more of Thy love and truth." Incarnate Word, answer that prayer in this hour we ask, in the name of the Lord Jesus, amen.
In our consideration of the great transition from one humanity exposed, discredited, judged, and set aside, to another: tested, perfected, and installed in glory in our Lord Jesus Christ, we have come at length in the closing hours of this time together, to the all-governing vision in the light of which this transition becomes both clear and very practical.
And we saw yesterday that with the apostle Paul to whom this vision, this "heavenly vision" as he called it, was the secret and key to his whole life's ministry when he saw the Lord Jesus risen and glorified, four things became clear to him in that vision.
The four things we have mentioned: the place and destiny of man in the Divine economy. Secondly: the nature and dynamic of ministry in this dispensation. Thirdly: the nature and purpose of the Church now and in the after-ages. And fourthly: the immense significance of Christ crucified, risen, and exalted, in these other three things.
Now, yesterday we were occupied with the first of these four things. This morning we proceed to the second: the nature and dynamic of ministry in this dispensation. And we're feeling our way along, whether we shall get right to the end of the four is with the Lord.
The Nature and Dynamic of Ministry in This Dispensation
The apostle said: "It pleased God to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the nations." Now we must stay for a moment to ask and answer one question: what do we mean by 'ministry'?
I think we need a revised version of this matter of ministry. Immediately the word "ministry" is mentioned, people's minds think of someone, perhaps with a Bible in their hand, standing up and teaching out of the Bible, or someone preaching the gospel to the unsaved, someone having been shut up with their Bible studying it and making some notes and coming out into public and giving the result of their Bible study. Something like that is usually associated in the mind with the word 'ministry'.
It may be that here this morning when I speak of ministry in this dispensation, some of your minds at once think of something with Bible in hand on a platform or in a group, a circle, teaching and preaching. I hope the Lord is going to upset that idea entirely before we are through.
The New Testament, of course, does have two things to say about this matter of ministry. It does speak about special, personal gifts for ministry in the Church. He gave, the ascended Lord, "gave some apostles; some prophets; some evangelists; some pastors and teachers". These are specific personal ministry gifts in the Church, and put a circle around that word 'in'. Get your mentality adjusted again over that, you'll see what I mean in a minute. There are these personal ministry gifts in the Church; but, the New Testament has much more to say about the ministry of the Church itself, and it does say that these personal gifts in the Church are for the purpose of enabling the Church to fulfil the ministry, to do the ministry, to be the minister of Christ.
If you remember the passage: "and He gave some, apostles; some, prophets; some, evangelists; some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of the ministry." Don't put any break there in your sentence: "the perfecting of the Church, (the 'making complete,' that is) of the Church unto the work of the ministry." I heard Dr. Campbell Morgan once say in this very connection with this passage: "and God help the minister whose Church does not fulfil the ministry!" And it is in that second that we are occupied this morning.
I am not going to talk about apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, these specific ministries, but about the ministry of the Church. And you know that the two letters with which we have been mainly occupied this week (the two letters to the Corinthians) have in view, and very clearly and emphatically so, the ministry of the Church. All that the apostle is saying is with this background of the fulfilment of the Divine ministry in Corinth. And as those letters are a vehicle down through the whole dispensation to our own time, it's what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church about its ministry.
In the first letter of Corinthians, the apostle is dealing with all those things which either frustrate or spoil the ministry of the Church. In the second letter, he comes out very much more clearly and emphatically on the matter of the ministry as he uses these words: "seeing then that we have this ministry"; and you must remember that the apostle is writing to a church, a local church. He is not just talking about his own ministry, he has much to say about that, but he is speaking of the Church's ministry and the "we", the "we" is the church at Corinth: "we have this ministry". And we know the associated phrase: "we have this treasure in vessels of fragile clay". Is that only apostles? No, it's all of us. We come to that again presently.
So what we are really concerned with this morning is the ministry of all believers, or the ministry of the Church. Having said that, we can proceed to a consideration of the nature and the dynamic of ministry.
And once more referring to the apostle, the particular apostle who is writing these letters, let's remember that he is a representative or an example ministry. That is how he speaks of himself through these letters; what was true of him as to ministry, he was saying, has got to be true of the Church. He didn't put it in this way, but this is very clearly what he is saying: "What is true in my ministry, as to its source and its nature and its power, has to be true of all believers, and of the Church." He is a representative minister, not an exclusive one; he may have dimensions beyond anyone else's, but that is just his representative character. The Lord is saying by this man that here you have an example of what ministry is and how ministry is produced and what are the principles and laws of ministry, and, inclusively, what is the background of ministry. That is how you must look at the apostle, as a great minister, quite true, but as in principle a representative minister; in principle.
A Representative Minister
And he begins, it all began here, he goes right back to the Damascus Road, to the beginning of his Christian life and ministry. For you will remember that it was there, there right at the commencement, when the Lord met him on his way to Damascus that the Lord gave him his commission: "to whom I send thee, to whom I send thee". And he goes right back to his conversion, to the beginning of his life in union with Christ, and he says this: "as to life, as to vocation, ministry, that I might proclaim Him among the nations, God revealed His Son in me." There you've got the source of everything! It is this vision of the Lord Jesus that is the nature of the ministry, that is the source of the ministry, that is the dynamic of all true ministry, that is, all true ministry in this dispensation. This dispensation issues and proceeds from an in-shining of Divine Light revealing Jesus Christ. "It pleased God to reveal His Son in me." That gives us a secret.
Oh yes, Saul of Tarsus is on the way to Damascus, and on the way he saw a Light from heaven. Objective, objective: something that blinded him from without. That Light turned out to be the glorified Lord Jesus, and Paul is saying here in this fragment to the Galatians, that he not only objectively saw that Light and that glorified Man, but something happened inside of him. Inside of him! He said: "Jesus of Nazareth whom I am on the way to persecute and whose persecution has become the one passion of my life - Jesus of Nazareth, that impostor (as I believe) that evil man, that deceiver - this is He? [That carries with it an overwhelming significance!] He has been here amongst us, walking the streets of Jerusalem, Galilee, up and down the country, that same One has now appeared to me, that same One! Not a different One (only in appearance and in knowledge) but the same One. What does this mean?" And away to the desert he went to dwell upon this.
And that Light which had shone on him was shining in him, and he was seeing and seeing, seeing the significance of who? God's Son? Oh yes, quite true, but no: Jesus of Nazareth, glorified - the Man! The Man! The Man having reached the ultimate of God's intention for man. That's what it's about: "Because I knew Him as a man, whether I saw Him in the flesh or not, I knew Him, all about Him as a Man amongst men; and human eyes could not discriminate between Him and other men, only there was something about Him that was different, but He's a Man amongst men, and this is that same Man - transfigured": he had to think in the light of that inward revelation.
People who know the Greek here know that this word: "It pleased God to reveal His Son in me," the word is subjective-objective. Is that too technical? "Yes, I saw objectively, but I also saw subjectively," and until that happens, dear friends, we are not in the way of effectual ministry.
You may be seeing by what is said to you throughout this week, you may be seeing in a sort of objective way, everything objectively. Oh yes, oh yes, that's very wonderful; very wonderful, but has it broken through from the objective to the subjective and you say: "My word, I have never seen it like that, I have never seen Him in that way." That is what happened to the apostle, and it was, I say, the beginning both of his Christian life and of his ministry; and they both went together. Have you got that?
Do you know that you as a believer, as a Christian, are constituted for ministry from the day of your new birth? That you are ordained a minister the moment you are regenerated into this new Humanity? Do you understand that? Don't wait for the day when someone will ordain you to the ministry. No, no. No, no! Your calling from the beginning is unto ministry. It may be difficult to swallow, but let's go on.
Paul said about this, that it was, it corresponded to, what happened at the creation. And such a wealth there is here, we never hope to even touch it. He said (in second Corinthians now, the great letter of the ministry): "God who said, who said: Let there be light, let light be, has repeated that Divine fiat in a spiritual way in our hearts, has shined into our hearts"; has said in the darkened human hearts: "Let light be!" Has shined into our hearts with what object? "To give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." For those of you who have heard this before and have heard me say it before, bear with me if I may just stay for this moment with that word 'glory'. Oh yes, it was objective glory for Saul of Tarsus which he saw, but what is that glory? What is the glory of God?
What is the Glory of God?
We have been hearing in the second session about the God of glory appearing to Abraham. What is the glory of God? The glory of God is His absolute satisfaction with anyone or any situation. When God is satisfied, something emanates from Him. You know that in simple ways in Christian experience. If there is something over which you may have had a battle, a real battle, and you have got through to what the Lord has been trying to get you to and the battle is over, and you're responsive wholly to the will of God, what happens? Oh, it's such a sense of blessing inside, isn't it? The crisis and battle is over, there is rest and peace and joy within; that's [just enough]. That's glory! That's glory because it's on the way to that ultimate accomplishment of the whole will of God in a Humanity when the glory will be universal. God is satisfied. You see, the "glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" just means this: the Lord Jesus was so satisfying to the very nature of God that there was about Him something of peace and rest and joy. He carried with Him the satisfaction of God: "I do always those things which are pleasing Him", that's the glory.
Don't think of glory just as this objective, shining, blazing something, think of it as shining into your hearts. If you say to Jesus Christ, that is... oh, how can I explain it? I want a morning on this alone. It is just this: that inside we have come to the place where we are satisfied with the Lord Jesus and meet the satisfaction of God. Do you know that? "Not what I am, Lord, but what Thou art - that, that alone, can be my soul's true rest. Thy Love, not mine," that's glory. So Paul said: "God carried out this new fiat in my heart, and in your heart, Corinthians. He's shone in. He said, 'Let light be, and there was light.'" It was a Light that was never on land or sea, "the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."
Now that, I say, is the spring of ministry. The spring of ministry. What is it?
What is the Ministry?
What do you mean by ministry? Get your revised version now, mentally, about this. Ministry is the outshining of Jesus Christ from our lives; that's all. That's all! You don't need to have gone to convocations; you don't need to have any artificial or mechanical means. You may study your Bible, and you may give the most wonderfully organised and arranged Bible readings, but the question is: is that ministry, or, are you emanating Christ? Are you transmitting Christ? Is Christ coming through your teaching? Are people sensing Christ; not your study, not your library, not your commentaries, not your versions, not your translations (which so many keep always in view and you know where it came from).
There was a preacher who was always quoting without giving the source of his quotations: this book, that book, this authority, that authority. And there was a man sitting in front of him who knew it all, knew where he got it from, and every time he made a quotation, he'd say the author! But that's not all. The preacher got so annoyed with this man, he said, "I do wish you'd be quiet", and the man said, "Himself!" Well, if we're laughing at ourselves, it's alright. Do you see the point? Where has this come from? Where did we get it? How did we get it?
I am not saying Bible study is wrong, but I'm saying, through it all, has Christ appeared and is He appearing? And you may be a preacher, a Bible teacher of renown, and it may stop there. The whole question is whether I am officially that, or just a humble member of Christ, without any public gift at all. Without any human ordination, I can be ministering Christ, in some way ministering Christ, and that's the ministry. That's the ministry! That, I say, is the source of the ministry. The apostle is making it that: "It began in me and is going on in me, and all that I have to say to you, you believers, is what I am seeing of the Lord Jesus: a growing, inward unveiling of God's Son."
Now, how does that, as the source of the ministry, that's the source of all ministry from beginning to end, how does the ministry grow, proceed? And in these letters, especially in the second letter to the Corinthians, it's going to touch us quite deeply, acutely, I think, on this matter: the procedure of ministry, the growth of ministry. How? How? More study, more books? Is it? Oh, no, oh no, dear friends, that's not the way of a growing, continuing ministry. And ministry has got to grow all the time, deepen and enlarge all the time. How? Will you please, not just at this moment, but again pick up your second letter to the Corinthians. And before you have got very far, indeed almost immediately you're in that letter, you come on some words which are repeated; repeated again and again. What are they? Afflictions; consolations.
Underline those words right at the beginning of the second letter. And in that connection the apostle brings forth his great, his own great experience: "I would have you know what befell... so great a death. We had the sentence of death. We despaired of life. We were pressed out of our measure." Then, right through that letter, the apostle is constantly striking that note of sufferings, sufferings, sufferings.
"We have this Treasure, which is this ministry: the revelation of Jesus Christ in our hearts. We have it in vessels," and I like the literal translation of "fragile clay," capable of being broken and smashed. "Beyond our measure of endurance, even unto despair, we despaired of life," and then he will give us a couple of catalogues of his afflictions.
And my, you ought to sit down and think about that if you're thinking about ministry: all that he himself met, encountered, and went through from centre to circumference. At the centre, at the centre, what? Unfaithful, disloyal, and treacherous brethren. Moving out from that centre in ever enlarging circles, there are many implications in this letter, as well as statements, of what people were saying about him: "He wasn't a true apostle. He's not one of the twelve. He never saw Jesus after the resurrection. He's not a true apostle; he is an imposter! He is a deceiver!" "As deceiving..." remember? "As deceiving... and yet, and yet". "He is just going round cadging," this is implied, getting money from Christians. "As poor, yet making many rich," you see, all these are implications; a whole list of them. "And any man, if any man has suffered, I more than them all."
Then he speaks of the many times he was in prison, how many times he received the stripes, how many times he was in the deep and shipwrecked and in the deep, how many times he was in hunger and in nakedness and in peril - in sea, on land, from robbers and fellow-Christians. It's a terrible double list that he gives in these chapters of second Corinthians. Read them again, it's no wonder that word has such a large place at the beginning of the letter: "the afflictions of Christ which abound unto us, that the consolations also..." that's something isn't it? That's how it goes on.
Do you say, "How, how am I to be a minister? How can I be an effective minister? How can my ministry grow?" I will tell you this: it will not be by your running around trying to get open doors for ministry! It will not be by your [plenty of] talking about yourself and what you've got with, you know, that thought behind: "This will make the way for me!" Oh, that's not a very pleasant realm, is it? No, not that way.
How will the ministry grow, proceed, even become more fruitful? Will you, will you dare to really say to the Lord, "Lord, make my life a ministry of Christ"? Will you dare? I wonder if you're going out of the ministry now, going to withdraw [at this time!] Believe me, dear friends, if the apostle is representative and if those servants of God who have been most spiritually fruitful (not who have done the biggest organisation, but the most spiritually fruitful, we will touch that at another point in a minute). If these are really true ministers of Jesus Christ, look at the background of their life: the secret sufferings, that hidden history with God under His hand.
There was a period where even a man like this man Paul, perhaps the greatest minister that Christ ever had, he'll say, "I despaired, I despaired of life. I was pressed beyond my measure of endurance." That's how the ministry grows.
If you are going to be a true minister of Christ, ministering Christ, He'll take you into some deep experiences, very deep experiences, where you will discover something that is going to be of great value to others; great value to others. It is the crucified and suffering servant of God who is really the fruitful one, of whom you can say: "That man is not talking out of his library, from his books, that man knows what he is talking about; he has been there. He has been in it. This has come out of the travail of his soul." That's how the ministry grows. Read 2 Corinthians again in the light of that.
Oh, I say these things to you, but God only knows how I hold my breath, for we do know if the Lord has done anything at all, so little, so little, it's been by a hard way. It's been by a hard way; the "afflictions" of Christ, that we might know the "consolations" of Christ. And what do people want? Information or consolation? I know what your answer is over that, but I want you to notice that this is something terrific in the whole cosmic realm, for after all, dear friends, ministry is not just limited to the people amongst whom we move. This kind of ministry (you may not appreciate the word) is cosmic ministry.
What do I mean? Well, I mean this: "the god of this age hath blinded the minds of the unbelieving, lest" as a precaution, as a move, a strategic move, "lest the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God should shine upon them". See how the gospel is hid, it is hid "in them that are perishing in whom the god of this age..." see? What is such a ministry? It is the undoing of that devilish work of spiritual blindness. Oh, spiritual blindness is not just natural, it is satanic, and you have got to have something that strikes there beyond the merely natural condition, that strikes right home to the source of that condition, "he hath blinded, he hath blinded."
The "he" is the god of this world, and the trouble at Corinth, the trouble at Corinth as the whole of the first letter shows, is that the world has laid its deadly, paralysing hand upon those people. The world, do remember, dear friends, do remember this, and it's a tremendous thing to say, but it is true, that the old humanity lies under a curse. Does that sound strong? But have you never said, "this accursed self"? It's this accursed self that's in the way all the time. Perhaps you've not used strong language like that, but that's what it is, isn't it? Oh, the curse.
Yes, that humanity lies under a curse from the beginning, and this world lies under a curse. It lies under a curse which means that that humanity and this world can never go through to God's end as it is. The end of that humanity and of this world is what? Destruction. Removal right from the face of God. Paul saw this, he saw the influence, the world of Corinth had come into the church at Corinth in its mentality, its manner, and [type], and procedure; how the world does it. How the world does it! What does the world do? Well, let somebody do somebody else a wrong and that wronged person is away to the courts, to get his rights. That's how the world does it, that was at Corinth, and so I could go on.
Oh yes, our natural man lies under a curse, our old humanity lies under a curse. It cannot because God has put His veto on it, it cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God. It's vacant; and this world is vetoed, as to God's things. And who has done it? The god of this age, the prince of this world. And when God breaks in (I don't know whether Pember is right or wrong; I think there's a lot of truth in what he says that the condition that we find at the beginning of the book of Genesis, the darkness, the chaos and so on, was a judgment upon a former creation; well, if you like that, alright) in darkness God said: "Let there be light," because darkness is not of God; it's of the devil. And here we have it in the spiritual heart: "he hath blinded" - the god of this age, blinded and brought into darkness this old humanity and when God says, "Let there be light," the work of the devil is undone, the judgment is removed and that should be the effect of ministry!
The ministry of Christ should be: out of darkness, into Light. And you remember, do you remember the commission to the apostle Paul at the beginning? Just a little secret: the first sermon that ever I preached was on these words: "To whom I send thee, to turn them from darkness to light." And that's the right translation, or rather, that's the wrong translation, the right is: "That they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive an inheritance." This is ministry: the turning from darkness to Light, from the power of Satan unto God, to have an inheritance which they lost in Adam. It is very full. That should be the impact and influence out of our presence as ministers of Christ.
You know, when He was present, He did say a lot of things; He did preach, mostly to His disciples, preparing them for their work ahead. But it was not only what He said, [the feature] was as much what He said as it was His personal presence. He would come somewhere and He hadn't said anything, and demons cried out: "I know Thee, whom Thou art; the Holy One of God." They could not hold their peace. His presence dragged them out. His very presence was an exposure of man, an exposure of Satan: His presence. And that is the ministration of Christ.
Oh Lord, make us ministers, make me a minister, as far as I can bear it, that the impact, the impact, the registration, the influence may be people moving into the Light. Moving into the Light, really seeing the Light in an inward way. Ah, the Light, not of truth, or even of Scripture to begin with, but through Scripture, the Light of Jesus Christ.
That's all I have time to say this morning about ministry, unless I add this word, again from Corinthians: the test of ministry is in its eternal value. Now, the apostle Paul associates the two things: affliction and eternal value. He says, "Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while..." (now don't stop there, get your conjunction) "...while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; (passing, transient) but the things which are not seen are eternal."
The test of our ministry is perhaps not going to be what we see in our own lifetime, but what is afterward, going on to eternity. Don't you want, when you get to glory, to discover that you meant far more than you knew you did, that there was a great deal more value in your being here than ever you saw? Oh, this soul life of the old humanity does want to see, it is always doing things to see: see the result, see the value. "While we look not at the things which are seen." I think that is one of the most testing words in the Bible to the old man. Isn't it? Oh, how can we live on what is not seen and what is in the eternal future and be satisfied? That's not the old humanity, but it is the New; the eternal value of ministry.
Now I'll go on for a little while to the next thing.
The Nature and Purpose of the Church Now and in the Ages Afterward
That's great, isn't it? And here again, we need a revised version, a revised version of what we mean when we speak of the Church. I suppose few men have talked and written more about the Church than I have, but on this very thing I find that I am being forced, forced to a revision - not to abandon what has been said, taught, and believed, and acted upon, but as we go on, a great deal that we did at the beginning, of what we called our "church teaching", a great deal has, shall I say, broken down.
Oh, what are you finding about the church today? The church. To begin with, you may be saying: "Where is it?" and looking around everywhere. You say, "Is this the Church? Is this the Church? God help us! This doesn't come up to Ephesians; far from it, it is very much more like Corinthians." What is it? What is its function now and in the ages to come? Because you know Paul always links those two: "Unto Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus through all ages, forever and ever" - the function of the Church afterward, as well as now.
Well, of course, there are various symbols of the Church. The Church is called "the House of God"; it is called a "Temple"; it is called "the Body of Christ"; it is called "the Bride" and so on. Are these different things? No, they are only aspects of one thing. Each of those definitions, or designations, or titles, is only a functionary aspect of the Church. The House of God: the House of God, the place where He lives. The Temple of God: where He is worshipped. The Body of Christ: the vessel of a Personality. This is not me; can I grammatically say, this is not I? No, the "I" is inside, a lodger for the time being; the "I" will go and the Body will stay. The Body of Christ is a function, a many-sided function of the expression of the Personality. That's all, it's an aspect. The Bride is not some other entity, as some people teach, it is not some other entity; only an expression of the affectional relationship. "Christ loved the Church, gave Himself for it... so ought husbands to love their wives...." - the affectional relationship between Christ and His Church. These are symbols of the one thing, but what is the one thing of which these are but aspects? And that's what we've got to come to, where our revision of mentality has to take place.
What is the inclusive designation? You have it in Ephesians, it is, of course, the great Church letter: He has broken down the middle wall of partition between Jew and Gentile (racial human divisions, and compartments) He has removed the division and has made of the twain, what? One new Man! You've got it now! The inclusive designation is a Man, "One new Man," a new Humanity. A new Humanity!
You'll understand what I mean when I say that you will have to have your mentality revised! How many people say on Sunday morning: "We are going to the house of God"? What do you mean? "We're going to church!" What do you mean? "This is traditional Christianity, the way it's gone, you see." Oh, we all say these things, it's the way it's talked about, but it's a mentality!
What is the Church? It is the aggregate of new creation people, men and women, Jews and Gentiles, everything, not remaining as they are naturally, Jews and Gentiles and so and so on, but just one new Man, one new Humanity. That is the Church! And which humanity is it? That touches on the function, doesn't it? There's the nature. There's the nature.
Oh, do take this, dear friends, do take this to heart, what is God doing? What is He after? Is He after making a new institution called "the Church", a new ecclesiasticism, something that has a denominator amongst men, (may I?) the Baptist church, the Methodist church, the Presbyterian church? What a contradiction in terms! Any of them! Pentecostal church. (I must say these things really to get this revision going, this mental revision, this heart revision.) Is God doing that? Is that what God is doing? Not a bit of it! He is not in it at all. He is only with the people, not with the thing.
But God is doing in this spiritual way what He did at the beginning. He is staying and proceeding, proceeding with His concept: "Let Us make Man, let Us make Man!" The Church is the one new Man: "Let Us make a Man," not an institution, or any of these things that the Church is called. No, "Let Us make a Man," and that's what He is doing with you and with me, not trying to make of us any of these many things that Christians are called and the names by which they go. He is just getting to work on us to constitute us "the Man."
You remember what we said at the beginning: He called them (man and woman) He called them "man". Here in this (and sisters, be careful how you take what I am going to say now) "there is neither male nor female" is how that is used: they. But I say, no, here it's a Man, that is, it's a Humanity. It's a Humanity!
I can't explain to you, because I don't know what that Humanity is going to be afterward in glory. Jesus answering a question about marriage and repeated marriages, (whose wife a certain man would have after all he had married afterwards) ah, Jesus said, "Ye do err... in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriages, but are as the angels." Well, that gets me out of my depth! But you see, it's a kind of Humanity that's different. It's different!
All the questions will arise: "Shall I know my husband in heaven? Shall I know my wife in heaven?" Alright, alright. Wrestle with that if you like, but we shall know in a way in which it's far better to know, however precious may have been the human relationships, husband and wife, wife and husbands, here they're precious, very precious. Oh, isn't it better when a husband and wife know each other in the Spirit than in the flesh, isn't that the best? Oh, isn't it lovely when they flow together? I am sorry for any man whose wife does not flow together with him and be his help-meet, really helping him, but is all the time trying to draw things to herself, or the other way round. To flow together, by one Spirit, one vision, one objective: that their united lives will manifest Jesus Christ in the home and in the neighbourhood. There is something very precious about that, you know.
I had a son, whom the Lord took three or four years ago. He was my son, as my son, well, we had a good relationship, there was no strife between us as father and son, some fathers find it difficult to talk. But, but he and I had such spiritual fellowship that I could open my heart to him as fully as I could to anybody, and more than to most people. He was not only my son, he was my spiritual friend! You know what I am talking about, that's how we are going to know, and it will be a better kind of knowing. Don't worry, then, whether you'll know your husband or your wife. Oh, you will: "Then shall I know, even as I have been known by the Lord".
Let's get on. The vocation of the Church now and in eternity is going to be just the emanation of Christ.
The Emanation of Christ
It is now intended to be that, and God help us, help the so-called church. Oh, it is not this and that and one or more of a hundred things that are the idea about the church today, it is all boiled down to this one thing: the presence of a different kind of Man - in the individual and collectively.
Taking it universally, are you not impressed with how Peter, having passed through the great transition from the old Jewish humanity, has got right through after his battles with the Gentiles at Caesarea, and Cornelius' house, after his battle down at Antioch when James and the elders came down from Jerusalem, he withdrew himself from eating with the Gentiles ("dissimulation" Paul called it). When he got through it all (thank God Peter got through it all) what did he say? Opening his letter, it's wonderful: "To the saints, scattered throughout Pontius, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. Ye in Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, Bithynia, you're all scattered. The dispersion has taken place, and you're all scattered, you say, and yet you are a spiritual house, one House. Not so many houses, but one House. Everywhere." What is this? It is where the Lord is dwelling in men and women. In men and women!
The Church universal, according to the Divine concept, is just one Man in the earth. It's wonderful, isn't it, how we discover that when we meet somebody we have never met before and they are the Lord's, until you begin to ask or they begin to ask, what you belong to! If you just begin to talk about things of the Lord, oh, one Man, one blessed Man, it's like that. Well, that's very elementary isn't it, it's very simple, but that is what the Church is universally, that is what the Church is locally.
Locally, when people come into the local company, they don't come in and say, "Well, this is how they behave, this is what they do: they have baptism, they have the Lord's table, and they have this form of worship." No! These things may be all right, they may have their place, they may be a part of a Divine order, but what is it they're to meet? Not our baptism, not our Lord's table, not our method of procedure, not our technique, but "God is in this place!" they meet the Lord. They may not be able to put it like that, they may not be able to define it or explain it, but the impress is: "There's something there, these people have got Life, these people are in the good of something that you won't find anywhere else, that I haven't found anywhere else." (Shall we put it that way?) It's the Lord. Oh, that all our local companies were just like that, in whatever way we go on, the thing that impresses: "The Lord is here, the Lord is here."
I have moved from the universal to the local company, I am going to move down to the individual. To the Corinthians, the apostle said: "Don't you know that your bodies are the Temple of the Holy Spirit? He dwells in you." I am a microcosm of the Church, (or intended to be) a microcosm of the Church. What is it? What is true of the universal is true in my case, it is Christ that people meet when they meet me. Need I say any more this morning? I think that's enough.
There's very much more of course, to be said, but time has gone, and it's enough. I can say more in half an hour than you can live out in a life! But here it is, what broke upon this man Paul's heart was not something that he studied up, read up, or worked out in his mind, he saw Jesus as Lord, and all this, all this.
And I will say this: you don't know anything about the Church if you haven't seen Jesus Christ, however much you have read and talked about it, if you have not seen Him, you do not know what the Church is. If you have seen Him (and He is a lifetime of seeing) when you see Him you begin to see and go on to see what the Church really is. It's not a thing, an it; it is a Him, it is a Person Who is dwelling in persons; that's the Church.
Make the truth live in us, oh Lord. May that Divine fiat take place, light shine into our hearts, and the eyes of our understanding be enlightened that we may see light in Thy Light. For Thy name and glory and satisfaction's sake, amen.