27 February 1957, at Kaohsiung, Taiwan.
As we are going to continue this evening where we left off last night, I think I had better just go back a little way over the ground we have covered. We saw last night that Jesus seems to have been following the pattern of Israel. The people of Israel as a nation were the seed of Abraham. Jesus said to a leading member of the Jewish nation, "You must be born again". In saying that, He seemed to be setting aside the seed of Abraham and introducing another seed. That is the only conclusion to which the Jewish rulers could come. They would say, "He is not accepting us as the seed of Abraham! He does not recognize us; and He said that as the seed of Abraham we cannot enter into the kingdom of God. He is saying we must be born again; that is, we must become a different race."
So Jesus in the very first place seemed to be introducing a new nation and, of course, He was. And then we saw that Jesus chose twelve apostles. That was another idea taken from Israel. There were the twelve sons of Jacob, there were the twelve tribes of Israel and now Jesus chose twelve apostles. To the Jews, He seemed to be taking away their number twelve and transferring it to another people. He seemed to be building another kingdom upon the principle of Israel, and of course, He was!
Then He chose seventy and sent them out and that was another idea in Israel. Moses chose seventy elders. He gathered seventy men around him, and those seventy men were the heads of the father's houses in Israel. And they came to Moses to obtain the mind of Moses and then Moses sent them back to their own places to make known his mind there, so that all the house of Israel was governed by the seventy sent from Moses. Now Jesus had taken over that idea. He had put Himself in the place of Moses and He had chosen seventy to represent Him and to send them out to speak about Him.
Well, that is almost as far as we got last night. We are going a little further this evening, but before we go further, I have some more to say about that.
Christ Always in View
The important thing for us to recognize is that Jesus was not really imitating Israel, but what He was really doing was showing that Israel was an imitation of Him! Where would those ideas in Israel have come from? It was God who chose Abraham. It was God who made Abraham the father of that nation, it was God who made Israel the seed of Abraham. It was God who arranged the whole matter of the twelve tribes of Israel. It was God who gave words about choosing the seventy elders. All that did not start with Israel; it started with God. All of these came out of the mind of God and when you get into the mind of God, you only find one thing. The mind of God is not centred upon a lot of things, there is only one thought in the mind of God. God has never done anything without His Son in view. So that when He chose Abraham, He had His Son in view. When He chose the seed of Abraham He had His Son, the Lord Jesus, in view. When He arranged the nation of Israel into twelve tribes, He had His Son in view. We shall see that more fully in a few minutes. And even when God directed the choosing of the seventy elders, He still had His Son in view.
God has never done anything without the Lord Jesus in mind. So we have to say that Jesus was not imitating Israel, but everything in Israel was an imitation of Christ. To put that in another way, all those things in Israel were but a passing illustration of the Lord Jesus in some way, they were pictures of the Lord Jesus. But when Jesus comes, He is the reality and not the picture. All those things were but earthly figures, He is the heavenly reality. So let us look again for a few moments at this matter of the Divine Seed.
The Divine Seed
We have seen that Israel after the flesh was the seed of Abraham that was chosen of God's seed. The Lord Jesus is God's Seed in a Divine way. What Abraham and his seed were on the earth, the Lord Jesus is in heaven. He is God's Divine Seed. He is the Son of God. Jesus did not begin in this world at all. His home was not on this earth and how often He said, "I am come down from heaven, I am not of this earth." His home was in heaven. This Divine Seed does not belong to this world. Now, Abraham was an illustration of that. God said unto Abraham, "Get thee out of thy country and out of thy father's house into a land that I will show thee." Now I expect some of you know the meaning of the name "Hebrew". You do know that the Jews are called Hebrews, and "Hebrew" simply means "the man from over there", that is, the man from the other side of the river. There is a suggestion in that. You see that the seed of Abraham were a people from beyond; the people who do not belong here, but they come from somewhere else.
Now this Divine Seed, Jesus Christ, does not belong here. He is the true Hebrew who has come "from over there". He said, "I came down from heaven." This is the spiritual Seed of God. Now keep that in mind, because we are coming back to it in a minute.
When Jesus was born here on this earth, it was not the act of man, but the act of God. Let us go back to Abraham. What was the word of God to Abraham? He said to Abraham, "In Isaac shall thy seed be called" and what is the great truth about Isaac? It is that Isaac was absolutely impossible in a natural way. I need not stay with the details of that, but those of you who know the Bible, you know that God made it impossible for Isaac to be born naturally. When Isaac was born it was a distinct act of God which was impossible for man. When Jesus was born, it was God's act and not man's act. Now Jesus said to this leading Israelite, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." Earlier in his Gospel, John had said this: "He came unto His own and His own received Him not. But to as many as received Him, to them gave He the right to be sons of God which were born not of the will of the flesh, nor of man, but of God." These children of God are born of God and not of the flesh. They are the result of God's own act. That is the great truth about the birth of the Lord Jesus. It was something that God did and not man.
And then there is another thing about Him. In His manhood there is always a mystery. There was something about Him that other men could not understand. Jesus was always a great problem and mystery to all other people. Around Him people gathered with a lot of questions and especially the Jewish leaders. They were always asking questions about Him. They said, "Whence has this man this knowledge?" He had never been to school, He had never been to college, He had none of the learning that they had had and yet He knew a great deal more than all of them put together. They were always trying to use their wonderful intellect to get him into a corner. They gathered around Him and then by putting certain questions to Him, they would say, "Now we will get Him, now we have got Him into a corner!" and He just walked clean out away from them. He has answered their questions in such a way as to just leave them standing. They did not know what to make of this Man, and in every other way, He was a mystery.
There were three realms in which He was known. God knew Him. He was known by His Father. His Father said, "The Father loveth the Son and sheweth Him all things." The Father knew who He was and angels knew who He was. More than once angels came to minister to Him. Heaven is a great place and is quite a big place, and here is one Man right down in the middle of millions of people on this earth, but the angels knew exactly where He was. They knew exactly what His needs were and they came right there and ministered to Him. The angels knew who He was, and demons knew who He was. "I know thee, whom thou art" they cried, "The Holy One of God." All spiritual intelligence said they knew whom He was, but man did not know Him. If on one occasion man did recognize Him, as when Peter said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" Jesus said to him, "Flesh and blood have not revealed that to thee, but My Father above." It requires an act of God to recognize who Jesus is.
Now, we know of course, that Jesus was the Son of God in a special way. That is, in a way in which no one else can ever be the Son of God. At the same time, we read of the Seed of Christ. We read it last night in Isaiah 53:11, "He shall see His seed, He shall see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied." I want to make this perfectly clear: when I speak about the children of God, when I speak about the Seed of Christ, I am not meaning that we become what He was in that particular kind of sonship. There is a sense in which He is the only begotten of the Father. He stands alone in that position. But if we understand that, we are able to go on to this other aspect: Jesus has spiritual children. There is a phrase in the prophecy of Isaiah which was transferred to the Lord Jesus. You have it in the beginning of the letter to the Hebrews. It is this: "I and the children whom God has given Me". So Jesus had spiritual children. That is the meaning of these words, "He shall see His seed... He shall see of the travail of His soul."
Now, when we have seen that, we can come over from Him to His children and we have not got to go very far to find them. They are in this hall tonight. I hope it can be said of everyone here that he or she is of this family of the Lord Jesus. If that is true, those things which are true of the Lord Jesus, are true of us. We said that He came down from heaven; if we are truly children of God, we have been born from above. Our real home is in heaven, our names are in the Lamb's Book of Life which is in heaven. The Apostle said that our citizenship is in heaven. The first thing about us is that same truth of Jesus: that we do not belong here, we have come from above. Now, how do you feel about that? Because that is a very real test as to whether you are a child of God, as to whether you are of this Seed of the Lord Jesus. Do you realise inside of yourselves that you belong somewhere else, that you do not belong to this world? Something has happened inside of you which has related you to heaven, and heavenly things are the things which suit you best.
Now, we are out here in China, and one thing we are constantly made to realise is this: that your Chinese food is not the food that agrees with us best! And dear friends have been providing us with European food, but some of you brothers have been coming to our meals and we have been sorry for you trying to eat with a knife and fork instead of with chopsticks and I am quite sure you are not at home with all this. This is not what we are used to. You see the point of the illustration. The things that belong to the country in which you were born are the things which suit you best and you cannot enjoy the food of another country as you do that of your own country. Here is a simple test as to where you belong spiritually. If you have been born from above, it is heavenly food that suits you best. That which this world feeds upon just does not suit you. You are as miserable with it as a Chinese is with European food.
Now, if you belong to heaven, it is heavenly food that suits you and it is what you need. I could enlarge that principle in many ways. There are many ways in which we can test where we belong. But a true child of God knows quite well that he or she does not belong to this world. They belong somewhere else. This is not their native land. Their hearts are always going above. The Apostle puts that in a very definite way, he said, "If ye be risen with Christ, set your affections on things above where Christ is; for ye died and your life is hid with Christ in God. Set not your affections on things beneath, but on the things which are above." A true child of God always does that and I am quite sure many of you understand that.
You see, this is one thing which was true of the Lord Jesus and is true of all His Seed. I said that the birth of the Lord Jesus into this world was God's act. Man had nothing to do with it. That Holy Thing was born of the Holy Spirit. That is the statement of the Scripture. Now, in our own way, this is true of the children of God. If we are children of God it is because God has done something that no man could ever do.
I said with regard to Abraham that God had deliberately made it impossible for Isaac to be born. So that Isaac should be God's work, and no one else's. That is a principle which is carried over to Christian life. How many of you, before you were born again, did try in every way to become a different person? I think you would never have come to the Lord Jesus if you had found that you could be that different person! You tried in every way to make yourself different and perhaps many times you said, "Now, I am going to change my behavior. I am going to stop doing this thing and I am going to do the right thing." Well, how did you get on? You tried to change yourself and you found that it was impossible. Perhaps you tried to get other people to help you to change yourself, perhaps you began to go to church. You might have asked other people to help you, but it didn't do what you wanted, and no one could do it for you. There was nothing that could make you the different person that you wanted to be. You see, God was making it impossible for you or anybody else to do that, except Himself.
If we are true children of God, we are the result of something that only God can do. Every Christian ought to be able to say that I tried in vain a thousand ways. I did everything that I could to make myself a new man or a new woman, but I found that it was impossible. And then I came to the Lord Jesus and God did it. This is something that only God can do and that is what every Christian ought to be: the result of a work that only God can do and that was true of the Lord Jesus and it has to be true of us.
There might be in this place tonight someone who does not know the Lord Jesus. Let me stop here to say a word to you. Perhaps you are one of the people trying to make yourself better; perhaps you are trying to get other people to be better. Let me say first of all that it will never work; for it is only God who can do it, but then let me add this at once: God has done it thousands of times in thousands of cases. He has done it in most of the people here tonight. He can do it for you and He will do it for you. Only God can do it, but that is the very thing that He wants to do.
And then there was a third thing that we said about the Lord Jesus. He was a mystery to all other people. I wonder if you realise how true that is of you if you are a child of God. I think we realise that that is true. The people of the world look at us and they look at us as though we were people from another world. They just don't understand us and they cannot make us out. That ought to be true of every one of us. Jesus in His great prayer for His disciples said this, "They are not of this world even as I am not of this world. I have given them Thy words and the world has hated them because they are not of the world." The world cannot understand the true children of God. There is something mysterious about such, and what we said about the Lord Jesus is true of the children of God in this respect.
If you are one of the children of God, how are others going to be able to understand you? They will only understand you when they receive the same Spirit as the Lord has given to you. You see, Peter said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus said, "Blessed art thou for flesh and blood have not revealed this to thee, but My Father in heaven." That meant that just at that moment, the Spirit of God had shown Peter who Jesus was. Just at that moment, Peter had received the touch of the Spirit of God and he understood who Jesus was. We only understand one another when we have received the same Spirit. We do understand one another because we have the same Spirit. This is one of the wonderful things about Christians.
You see, we don't understand one another's earthly language. There are a lot of things about us that people on this earth cannot understand about one another. I don't understand your Chinese way of life and I expect you don't understand our European way of life. Here we are and we don't understand one another's language, but there is a way in which we do understand one another, there is a language which we all speak and understand, and it is the language of the Spirit. We understand one another because we all have the same Spirit. The world has not received the Spirit, therefore it doesn't understand the children of God.
Government and Authority
Now we go on to this matter of the twelve apostles. Last night we pointed out that the number twelve in the Bible means government. It is the number of government. The nation of Israel was made up of twelve tribes and the nation of Israel was intended by God to govern all the nations of this world. The number twelve is the number of government. You may like to look at that number in the many places that it occurs in the Bible. You will see that it always referred to government.
Now let us look at the Lord Jesus. He has constructed His new kingdom upon the principle of spiritual government. Jesus had an authority which was greater than the authority of this world. He had spiritual authority. You remember what the people said about Him, they said, "He spake as one having authority..." and not as their scribes, and yet the scribe was supposed to be the authority in Israel. If anybody wanted to know what the Lord said, they went to the scribes. If anybody wanted to know what the last word on any matter was, they went to the scribes. The scribes were the seed of authority in Israel, but the people said about Jesus: "He spake as one having authority and not as a scribe." They recognized in Jesus an authority which was superior to the authority of this world.
What was the nature of the authority of Jesus? The authority of Jesus was that He had a knowledge which was personal and first hand. His was not a knowledge that He had got from the schools or books. Jesus knew in Himself. He never had to say, "Now, So-and-so said..." He said, "I say unto you." He knew the Father in a personal way. Everything that He knew, He knew in His own heart. That is the kind of knowledge that gives authority. If you and I can say, "Now look here, I never got this out of any books, I never got this from other people. God showed me this Himself. God has made me to know this in my own heart" then that puts you in a position of real authority.
Let us take a simple illustration from the New Testament. Here is a poor man who was born blind. You have the story in the ninth chapter of John. This man is brought into touch with Jesus and Jesus gives him his sight. Then all the important people in Israel gathered around. Mark you, these are the people who claim to have authority; these are the people who think they know everything. They begin to ask questions. They cannot explain this at all and they are completely at a loss to know what to do with this matter. Mark you, they are the people who were supposed to know, and here in the presence of this miracle it is quite clear that they do not know. With all their knowledge, they were in a position of absolute weakness and defeat. Here is this poor man, he could never have been to school, he could never have read anything; probably he knew very little or nothing in this world and certainly no one would look upon him as an authority on anything. But listen to what he said, "There are many things that I do not know and that I do not understand, but there is one thing that I do know, whereas I was blind, now I can see!" I want to say that that man was possibly in a way higher than all those people that were around him. All their wonderful intellectual knowledge could not help them in this situation and right in the midst is a man who said, "I know! And if you ask me how I know, I can't explain it, but I know. The fact is I was blind, now I see." I suggest to you dear friends, that that is the best kind of authority. It put that man in a very much stronger position than all those around him.
We are dealing with the number twelve which means spiritual government. There are many things that I do not know, there are many things that I cannot explain, but one thing I know is that the Lord has given me new eyes and I can see now what I never saw before. That is spiritual authority. You see, that authority makes the wisdom of this world very foolish.
I will just say one other thing before I close. It is another side of this authority; the authority which makes this world just serve the Lord Jesus. When He rose from the dead and He met His disciples, He said, "All authority has been given unto Me in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go ye into all the world and lo, I am with you all the days." Now just see the point: "All authority is Mine: for that reason, you can go all over the world and I, with all the authority of heaven and earth, shall be with you." Did that prove to be true? I ask you to read the Book of the Acts; we have that whole book in the Bible which is devoted to this one thing. It is the book which showed that Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth. I cannot take you through that book, but you can read it and you can see how Jesus was making this very world serve His purpose.
This world set itself against Him and His people, intending to stop the spread of the gospel. It threw His apostles into prison, it killed some of them, it persecuted the whole church, but what was happening? Jesus was using all that to further the gospel. Here is the company of believers in Jerusalem. It had become a large company of thousands. So that the devil said, "We will destroy them." And there arose a great persecution, then they were scattered abroad and because of persecution they spread the gospel. Satan said, "I will stop them!" and Jesus said, "I will use your very work to go on." That has been happening again and again. Jesus is making the work of Satan serve His kingdom. Jesus used the persecution of this world for the furthering of His gospel.
The Apostle Paul told us that this had happened in his case. He suffered many persecutions, he suffered stripes and imprisonment, he was hated by this world, but he just wrote this: "I will have you know that the things that befell me have only been for the furthering of the spread of the gospel." Now he has brought us to this authority. The history of the church is just that. The history of the Christian life is just that. Satan is against us and he causes us much suffering because we belong to the Lord Jesus. The world is against us and we have many difficulties because the world is against us, but what is it doing to us? Instead of killing us spiritually, it is only increasing us in our spiritual life; instead of driving us from the Lord, it is driving us nearer to the Lord. All this is the growing of the character of Jesus in us.
Jesus is using our suffering for His furtherance of His work and for our spiritual increase. We are in the authority of Jesus and He has said to us, "In the world you shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. Because I have overcome, ye shall overcome also." So we see in the Lord Jesus that there is this spiritual side to the thing. This is the real thing. What was in Israel was only an illustration. What is in the Lord Jesus is the real thing. The one thing that you and I ought to be able to say if we are children of God is that it is a very real thing. This life with the Lord Jesus is far more real than anything else. This is not a theory, this is not a doctrine, it is a great reality. May the Lord give us understanding in all this.