28 February 1957, at Kaohsiung, Taiwan.
I have been occupied with a big question today. We have been having many meetings during the past two or three weeks. For nearly two weeks we have had large meetings in Taipei, and in these last few days we have been having meetings in many other places, and now we have come here and are having some more meetings. The question that has been occupying me today is: "Why are we having meetings?" What is the purpose for some of us coming halfway around the world and others who have gathered together from various places; what is the object of it all? I feel that I should use the time this evening in trying to answer my own question. I feel that there is a very real answer to that question.
Now, I am not going to take any particular passage of Scripture. There will be the whole Bible behind what I have to say tonight, and I trust that you will believe that I am speaking with the Bible as my background.
So we begin to answer the question, and the first thing that we will say is this:-
God Has a Great and a Glorious Purpose.
The Bible reveals that God is occupied with this great and glorious purpose indeed. The whole Bible is one great and wonderful revelation that God is a God of purpose. All the way through the Bible, God is shown to be governed by a definite purpose. God has not created this world just so that the world should be created. God has not created man just so that man should exist. Nothing that God has done has been intended to be an end in itself, but everything that God has done relates to a definite purpose.
The Bible shows us that God, before He
made anything, had a purpose in His mind, and that He made all
things for that purpose.
Now, that first thing has two or three different aspects. First of all, when God created man, it was so that man should be the vessel of God's purpose and that man should be in a definite relationship with God concerning His Purpose. The object of man's existence is to be in fellowship with God concerning His eternal purpose.
I do hope that you will not just listen to the things that I say, but that you will apply them to yourself as I go along. You see, we men and women in this place tonight, the very meaning of our being here in this world is that God has a purpose. There was a purpose in God's heart in bringing mankind into being. We are a part of that mankind, therefore our existence was intended to be in relation to God's purpose. But then something went wrong.
When God created Adam, He brought Adam into a very wonderful fellowship with Himself. God came down and walked with man and talked with man. There was wonderful fellowship between God and man, and man and God, and then things went wrong and that union of man with God was broken. That was bad enough, but that was not the worst of it, another thing came about.
Man came into a relationship and union with Satan. The relationship which had existed between man and God was broken and that relationship has passed to Satan. And because of that, God's purpose was suspended. Of course that was the object of Satan's interference. Satan had some knowledge of what God's purpose was, and he set himself to frustrate the purpose of God. And so he brought about a relationship of man with himself. The Bible shows us man's relationship to Satan. It says that the "whole world lieth in wickedness" so that the children of Adam are now the children of Satan and not the children of God. That is what the Bible definitely stated, but then God moves again. He moves to recover that relationship between man and Himself so that His purpose could be fulfilled.
So we have three movements: the first was man's union with God, the second was man's separation from God, and the third is man's reunion with God. All that we have in the Bible has to do with those three things. Let me repeat them.
First, the union between man and God with God's purpose in view.
Second, man separated from God and united with Satan and God's purpose suspended.
Third, man's reunion with God in Jesus Christ and God's purpose recovered.
Now I want you to notice this very important thing; all that we have in the Bible and especially in the New Testament, has to do with one thing. After the first three chapters of the Bible, where this breaking of fellowship with God took place, all the rest of the Bible is occupied with this one thing: it is a return movement to God. Let us note the movement.
Firstly, everything was in God and all things were in Him. Man was in God, creation was in God; that is, God was the sphere of everything. All things were in Him.
Secondly, there was a departure out from God. Things came out from God and went into Satan, so that all that which was in God came out of Him and went into Satan. Satan is called the prince of this world. He is called the god of this world and as I have quoted, the whole world lies in the hands of Satan. First it was all in God and then it departed out from God and went into Satan. Now the Bible, and especially the New Testament, sees this return movement unto God. That is the explanation of the Lord Jesus.
The great truth about the Lord Jesus is that He abided in the Father. He said, "You shall know that I am in the Father," and He abided in the Father. The great effort and work of Satan was to get Him to come out from the Father, to get Him to act without the Father, to speak without the Father, to do things out from Himself instead of out from His Father.
Satan was all the time trying to bring
this separation between Christ and His Father. He was trying to do
with the last Adam what he had done with the first Adam: to
separate Him from God. But in the case of the Lord Jesus he never
could succeed. Jesus abided in the Father and nothing could bring
Him out; and in that way He destroyed the work of Satan; in that
way, He secured the purpose of God.
Now you can see the meaning of the second thing, this tremendous amount that is in the New Testament about being in Christ. A Christian is one who is described as one who is in Christ. You have got it on your motto on the microphone, I don't know if you can explain that funny figure there, but it is "in Christ" and that is the great motto used by Paul. Paul used that phrase over two hundred times.
We are, by our new birth, in Christ; and then the Lord Jesus said, "Abide in Me". He placed a great deal of emphasis upon this matter: "Abide in Me". Do you see what that means? He abided in the Father, He did not come out to Satan. Now, He said, "You who believe are in Me, you abide in Me" and the whole of the New Testament has to do with this matter of being in Christ and abiding in Christ. You see, it is in Christ, a return movement into God. That is the first thing. God has a great and glorious purpose and that purpose can only be realized when man abides in God.
Now we come to the second part of our main question, that is, this great purpose of God is centred in His Son, our Lord Jesus.
The Son of God is the Centre of all the Purpose of God
The Scriptures on this matter are very many. They tell us that God appointed Him the sole heir of all things. They tell us that in Him and through Him and unto Him were all things created. The Son is the centre of this great purpose of God.
We can understand very well now why Satan wanted to get the Son of God separated from God. Satan wants to capture the inheritance for himself. That inheritance belongs to God's Son. He could not get that inheritance while the Son abided in the Father.
Now, we were created to be joint heirs with Christ in the inheritance. Man, in God's intention, has a great inheritance with God and Satan therefore is always trying to bring about this separation between Christian and God, to separate them from Christ. That is not only true about Christians, that is true about all men. You see, Satan wants to keep man away from God. He will do anything to keep man away from God. He will get man as far away from God as he can.
If there is anyone here tonight who has not come to the Lord, let me tell you that it will not be an easy thing to come to the Lord, for Satan will keep you away for as long as he can, simply because you are called to this great purpose. This purpose which is centred in God's Son; you are called into that.
If Satan loses his control over your life, he loses that which his heart is set upon. Let me illustrate this from one of the Lord's parables. He told a story of a certain man who had a vineyard and let it out to his servants and he went to a far country. Then at the time of harvest, he sent his servant to get the fruit from his vineyard. And the men who lived in the vineyard saw the servant coming and beat him and drove him off. So he sent another servant and they did the same to him. And he sent another servant and they treated him the same way.
The owner of the vineyard said, "What must I do?" then he said, "I will send my son and they will respect him." And after he sent his son, the men in the vineyard said, "This is the heir! Come, let us kill him and the inheritance will be ours." Now, Jesus is saying this to the Jews, He said, "You are the children of Satan. He was a murderer from the beginning". And, of course, Jesus was speaking about Himself; God had sent His servants, the prophets, and they had persecuted and beaten and killed them, and at last God said, "I will send My Son." And when they saw Him coming, they said, "This is the heir. We will kill Him and the inheritance will be ours." You see how true this principle was.
Jesus is the heir of all things. It all belongs to Him, but Satan said, "Let us kill the heir and the inheritance will be ours." Satan wants the inheritance that belongs to Jesus. We are called to that inheritance, so Satan will do everything that he can to keep us away from God. And if we have come to the Lord, Satan will continue trying to get us away from the Lord. There are tremendous things bound up in our coming to the Lord and abiding in the Lord.
Now I come to the third part of the answer to our main question. All of these involved an elect vessel. There is that in the Bible which is called "the elect". Jesus spoke about the elect. What did He mean by "the elect"? Well, the Apostle Paul makes it perfectly clear to us what He meant by "the elect" and what the elect is. The Church of Jesus Christ is the elect. Those who are truly and lovingly related to the Lord Jesus form His Church. And as we said this afternoon, they were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. That is the meaning of the elect: a people chosen by God in Christ before the world was, brought into Christ in time. It is what the New Testament means by "the church".
Now, this elect vessel relates to the eternal purpose. It is a wonderful thing to be in the Church of Jesus Christ, because it is this Church which is His body which is God's vessel for the realization of His great purpose. We are all acquainted with some of the Scriptures that speak about that. "All things work together for good to them that love God and are the called according to His purpose."
Look at this passage again in the letter to the Ephesians, chapter 1, and verse 11. Here is a clear statement of what I have been saying. Perhaps we had better read verse 10: "Unto a dispensation of the fullness of the times, to sum up all things in Christ, the things in the heavens, and the things upon the earth; in Him, I say, in whom also we were made a heritage, having been foreordained according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His will." What a tremendous statement that is! The purpose of God to sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth, and then in Christ we are made a heritage and this is all after the counsel of Him who works all things.
Now turn over to chapter 3, verse 11: "according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord." And you notice that those words are addressed to the Church. It is the Church that are called according to His purpose. It is the Church which is to be the vessel of God's purpose concerning His Son.
At the end of one of his prayers
in this letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle speaks of the
Church in this way, "the Church which is the Body... the
fullness of Him." The Church is the fullness of Him, so this
great purpose involves this elect vessel. We are brought into
this great purpose of God to be the fullness of Christ.
The next thing that I want to say in answer to our question, is that all God's interest and all the activities of God are related to His purpose concerning His Son. Now, that is not only a statement made, that implies something for us. Do you want to be in the way and in the place where God will be active concerning you? If you want that to be so, then your whole life must be centred in Christ. All of God's interest and activities are concerning His Son. If you and I are in Christ, we are in the place where God is most interested and most active. Do you really want God to be interested in you? Do you really want God to work in you? The way in which that shall be is by your being centred in Christ. When we come into the Lord Jesus, we come into the place where God is most interested, where God is most active.
The Place of the Cross
One more thing, this is the explanation of the Cross of the Lord Jesus. For one thing, the Cross is the place where the prince of this world was cast out. It is by the Cross of the Lord Jesus that men are taken out of the power of Satan and brought into Christ. It is in the Cross of the Lord Jesus that we die to our relationship to Satan and rise with a new relationship with Christ.
The Cross of Christ is God's instrument of securing His eternal purpose. The Cross means our union with Christ, firstly in death, and then in resurrection. I have just said that it is in the Cross that Christ broke the power of Satan. If we are truly crucified with Christ, it means that the power of Satan is broken over our life. If we are raised together with Christ in resurrection life, we are no longer under the power of Satan, we are under the power of God and that brings us onto the ground where His eternal purpose is recovered. This eternal purpose is the object of all the Holy Spirit's activities. The Holy Spirit has come for this particular purpose: to work in relation to God's eternal purpose in the Church.
This Eternal Purpose
Well, I don't know how much of this you are grasping. It is a tremendous thing that God presents to us and this is why we are having this meeting. I know quite well that Christians need encouragement and it might be a good thing for some to be meeting for the encouragement of the believers. I know that believers need more instruction in the Word of God, and it might be quite a good thing for having some meetings for that sometimes. But I feel the greatest purpose for which we have meetings is that people should know what a great thing they are called into.
It is no small thing to be a Christian. It is not just a matter of being helped to live a better life. It is not just a matter of having joy and peace in our hearts. And it is not only a matter of escaping judgment and going to heaven. The real meaning of being a Christian is that we are called according to this eternal purpose.
There is a great purpose of God behind our being Christians. All that which God has destined for His Son is brought over to us. We are brought into all that when we are brought into Christ. All the ages of eternity to come are going to reveal the meaning of this great purpose. I say again that it is no small thing to be a Christian. And what has been on my heart today is just this one thing: Oh, that I could make this people see what a tremendous thing it is to be in Christ and what an immense background that is to being a Christian!
I am quite sure that if you could only see that, you would feel that to be a Christian is a far greater thing than you realise. There is something for which to live. There is something for which to suffer. There is something for letting the Holy Spirit do His work in us. There is something worth abiding in Christ for. We are the called according to His purpose, so I say as my last words to you:-
It is a Great Thing to be in Christ.
Being in Christ links us up with God's thought before ever the world was. Being in Christ links us up with the realization of that Thought in eternity. Eternity past and eternity to come are centred in that "being in" to come. May the Lord open our eyes to see the meaning of this.
So we are, in having these few minutes for this little bit of teaching, trying to help one another along in the Christian life. We are having this matter brought to us that we might help one another. What a great thing it is to be in Christ! May the Lord help you to see that.
I think I would like to close with just turning you to one fragment of Scripture in the letter to the Romans, chapter 11, verses 34-36. And this is a comprehensive statement, "For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been His counsellor? Or who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of Him, and through Him, and unto Him, are all things. To Him be the glory for ever. Amen."
And I think I will close with the last words of one of Paul's prayers, "Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen."