"To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:
These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right
hand, he that walketh in the midst of the seven golden
candlesticks: I know thy works, and thy toil and patience, and
that thou canst not bear evil men, and didst try them that call
themselves apostles, and they are not, and didst find them false;
and thou hast patience and didst bear for my name’s sake, and hast
not grown weary. But I have this against thee, that thou didst
leave thy first love. Remember therefore whence thou art fallen,
and repent and do the first works; or else I come to thee, and
will move thy candlestick out of its place, except thou repent.
But this thou hast, that thou hatest the works of the Nicolaitans,
which I also hate. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the
Spirit saith to the churches. To him that overcometh, to him will
I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of
God" Rev. 2:1-7.
"And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the several gates was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass" Rev. 21:21.
In our previous meditation, we were considering the main object towards which the Lord is working and will work in His true people to bring out into revelation and manifestation a people in His Son, having His glory. Everything in His thought and action has that one object in view - the glory of God, and we said that for us that end has got to govern all the details of our lives every day. We went on to see that the City is the sum total of the features of the Lord Jesus brought to perfection in His own so that what we see in the Lord Jesus personally is brought out at length in that corporate organism. And the first thing was transparency, truth, absolute honesty and reality.
The Balancing of Truth and Love
You notice that to Ephesus the Lord said, "I know... that thou canst not bear evil men, and didst try them that call themselves apostles, and they are not, and didst find them false." That is only saying in other words, "I know that you hate unreality, insincerity; you are tremendously jealous for the truth. You have investigated, gone into this matter of these people's profession and claim, and you have sought it out and proved it to be false in your jealousy for truth, for reality and sincerity" the very thing that the Lord must have. Then He comes back to those very people and says, "Yes, but even so, though I find that, that in itself does not justify me in preserving your lampstand in its place, your vessel of testimony." There is something that must go with it and these two things are exceedingly difficult to keep together - love and truth; absolute jealousy for reality, honesty, sincerity and truth - and love, divine love. There is your task, there is your job, to get those things together.
You see, this kind of jealousy for truth in itself can make us suspicious, separate, critical, legal and hard, if it is alone. God must have it. It is of tremendous importance to have this downright honesty and reality from the very core of our being. He must have it, but it has to be balanced, it has to be covered, it has to have something going hand in hand with it, or the testimony and the glory are not there. Our jealousy, zeal, and passion for truth and reality may be without glory. We have all sinned, we have all fallen into that, the glory has not been there, the radiance of the Lord's glory has not been there even while we have been so concerned about reality and truth.
One Street of Pure Gold
So, when we pass from the beginning of the Revelation to the end, to the City, we come to all these things which suggest and present the idea of purity, truth, transparency, but we come to the other thing as well: "The street of the city was pure gold like transparent glass." Pure gold, yes, transparent. Oh, I can see so clearly what this means. What is this gold? What is this street? Our hymns talk about the streets of the New Jerusalem, "Its streets, I am told, are paved with pure gold" - but the Bible does not say so. We all have to live in one street when we get to glory! There will be no nice little places somewhere out the back there where you can detach yourself and get alone. There will be one thoroughfare, and we are all going to be on it spiritually - I am not talking about geography now, beloved. Then there will be no 'hiving-off', no cutting ourselves apart, no getting out there in some place of our own. It is going to be the fellowship of unfeigned love, that is, transparent love, the unfeigned love of the brethren (1 Pet. 1:22); unfeigned, as pure and clear as glass. We are simply going to have to live together - oh, will there be any compulsion necessary? We shall then be together. That gold is His love and we will all be together in that love unfeigned.
It seems to me that there is no other way possible of realizing the Lord's great end - His glory - there is no other way possible than the way of unfeigned love. While we are here in these human frames, in this human life as it is, we shall always be so diverse, different, and perhaps conflicting. There will always be that with which we shall have to bear and forbear; we shall never, while we are here, come to perfect understanding. We may come to a large measure of understanding and a large measure of inward oneness, but we shall never be free from at least the possibility of conflict, dividedness and strained relationships because of our different way of viewing things, our different mentalities. You have one mentality; I have another. We all have different mentalities, even over the things of the Lord. I do not think we could ever find an absolute unanimity along the line of discussion and threshing things out and getting together to talk on all these points. No, let us face it quite frankly - we cannot do it, it will not be done. But are we then to abandon all hope because that is not possible here? No, beloved, I believe that there is another line of infinite possibility which makes this impossibility less a matter of despair, and that is the line of His love shed abroad in our hearts, not feigned love. Feigned love is something which we work up, conjure up and make believe. We say we love one another, we mean it perhaps, and we are trying to keep that up, but that is feigned love. His love is something of infinite possibility which Satan has no power over. A fellowship in the love of God, the love of the Spirit, is something against which Satan will break himself and something which brings great glory to the Lord.
And that love of God does not depend or rest upon any human conditions at all. You know, beloved, it is possible for people to be together who naturally, on the human ground, heartily dislike one another and yet at the same time they love one another. You say, "That is a contradiction!" Well, it may be a contradiction, but it is a glorious contradiction. It is possible for us to get above that. Suppose we come together to pray; we are lifted while we are in prayer so that, while we are the same people who, if we drop down on to the ordinary level of our humanity, are all at sixes and sevens, in confusion or disagreement, yet here we are in the Lord's presence in prayer and the love of God flows like an unbroken stream; there is no break, no rift. We have known that; you have known that. You know quite well that when you come to an impasse, a deadlock, and feel that the situation between you and someone else is an impossible one and that is all there is to it, if you will kneel down and pray together, a new hope and prospect at once comes in and you move into another realm where things are not so impossible, after all. That actually happens if only you pray together; you are in touch with the Lord.
Now, that is the end towards which the Lord is working; that is this heavenly City, New Jerusalem, but that is something that is not built at the end suddenly. Oh no, this City is not travailed for in a day, is not born in an hour. This City is being built now, and you and I are challenged now in this moment and every day with the tremendous issues of the City of God for that great end, the glory of God. And it is not to the glory of God if the Lord's people are out of touch, out of fellowship; and fellowship is a very practical thing in the New Testament.
It is all very well to talk about this love and this fellowship and being one and all the rest of it and yet to keep ourselves out of the way up in some corner, detached, and in no practical relationship. That is nonsense; that is not the truth! The Lord is practical about truth and practical about love and love which cannot bring us together is not love at all.
Well, I do not need to say a lot more about this. I feel that the Lord wants to point it out. You see what is in view. The end is that we are all found together, on one street, in pure love. That is the end and towards that the Lord is working. It is not just going to happen. It is something that has got to be wrought into us now and into which we have got to be wrought by the Spirit of God. I know and you know how immensely practical this is, and how difficult it is. That is why it is so practical. If things were just easy and came about, well, they would not have very much practical value, but here is a proposition which, on the natural side, is very difficult, and perhaps your reaction is, "Yes, but the Lord must bring it all about, we cannot do it, we must wait until the Lord does it!"
The Lord's Need of Our Co-operation
Is that right? If we took that position, we should be taking the position that our relatedness to the Lord destroys our own souls, and the Lord is challenging these churches here upon the basis of their responsibility. He says, "You have to do something in this matter, you have responsibility and you have to take that responsibility and you have to bring your will into line with My will in this. You are not to be as will-less people without souls, you are moral people with this responsibility. And while I know that you cannot achieve it by your own soul strength, by anything in your own soul, you have to bring that soul of yours, that mind, that heart, that will, into line with My purpose and co-operate with Me, and I say to you that this is something that lies at your door." When we read these messages to the churches, we cannot get away from the fact that the Lord put something at their door: "This is your responsibility! Here is My thought, My will and you know it; you have something to do about this!"
What are we doing about this matter of relatedness, fellowship, love? Are we unbalanced people to begin with, all for truth? We are getting down to the fine points, the minutiae, the intensely fine points of doctrine and truth and right and wrong. This other side keeps the balance even - not just the abstract, detached love, but the practical love which takes responsibility, but which is wanting. What about it?
This thing can be approached along many lines and dealt with from many sides. I have only crowded into a small space and a certain form of presentation of the whole New Testament, I might say the whole Bible. If you will read again your New Testament, read the Acts and the Epistles again, you will see that this is the thing which governs them and runs through them all. These are the two major things of the New Testament and because these were lacking in some places, you have the terrible situation that ensued and the testimony was not confirmed. The Lord wants the testimony confirmed, and what is the confirmation of the testimony? First, what is the testimony? It is the glory of God in Jesus Christ, in a vessel, the church, and in the churches as making up that vessel.
Love Opens the Way for Fuller Revelation
Now, on the one side, right through those letters, there is this whole question of downright concern for truth, and running parallel with it, downright concern for love. Some of them had the one without the other, the truth without the love. But you notice, if you find a case where the love was pre-eminent, there was always a large way for the Lord to give fuller revelation.
You see the history of Ephesus. You remember how Ephesus came into being - that great heart response to the Lord, though at tremendous cost. The figure is mentioned, at tremendous cost they brought all their books on magic, a great library, and it went up in smoke. A great heart response to the Lord. What is the result? Why, look what God gives to Ephesus in the way of light, truth, revelation - tremendous! No wonder that He says, "Consider from whence thou art fallen" (Rev. 2:5). Yes, love blazed up and love opens the way for light. It is better, if we are going to be unbalanced people, to err on the side of love than on the side of legality, but the Lord wants them to go together.
I am pointing out that the New Testament runs along these parallel lines, and always so practically. It is this balancing of these two matters which is in view in the very existence of the church and the churches. Do not think that the Lord gave to His servants, the apostles, the idea of just going about forming churches here and there, that it is the New Testament scheme of things to go about forming churches. That is not the beginning of things at all, that is not the truth. What the Lord was after was having in every place vessels for His glory, companies of people who were constituted by these two things for the glory of God. Let those things go or let them become unbalanced in those matters, and what does the Lord say? "I will remove thy lampstand" (Rev. 2:5). What is that? The vessel of testimony. The church will go; that local company will go. I have no interest in a thing as a thing, not just a company of people together in a place which can be called a "church". I am not a bit interested in that, but I am interested in this: that the Lord should have here on this earth people, if possible together, who really do embody these features of His Son in as full a measure as possible, free from all contradiction and inconsistency and falsehood of every kind, and filled with the love of God. Get companies like that, and you have something tremendous for the glory of God and for the undoing of all that Satan has done, because what Satan has done has always been to contradict those two things: truth with a lie, and love with division. Is that not true? The work of Satan is to put a lie in the place of truth (and for him mixture is the lie), and to put division in the place of love. I am sure you agree with that.
But are we victims unwillingly, perhaps unconsciously of the enemy's purpose of putting the Lord's people apart? Oh, are we apart? If so, the Lord is robbed of something of His glory and Satan is gaining something. The bringing of these two things together means deliverance from false positions of all kinds.
The Practical Outworking of Love
Now come back to these Epistles. What do you have in these Epistles? In 1 Corinthians, for example, you work up to a sublime height in chapter 15. You have a heavenly unveiling of what it is going to be like in the resurrection, what a resurrection body is going to be like. "There are celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial" (v. 40). "As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly" (v. 49). When death is swallowed up in victory, the great cry goes out, "O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ... Now concerning the collection for the saints" (1 Cor. 15:55-16:1). Oh, you say, the chapters are divided! Yes, but the division is artificial. God never made those chapters; men made them years afterwards. You say that that is an anticlimax; that is coming down from heaven to earth with a bump. Not at all. That sort of thing is repeated again and again in the New Testament with Holy Spirit deliberateness. The Lord does not want you to get soaring away in the clouds and living up there in a false position of spirituality, when there are poor saints here needing your practical love. "Now concerning the collection for the saints... Upon the first day of the week let each one of you lay by him in store...". It is no anticlimax at all; it is all of a piece. The Lord is very practical in His heavenly things.
Corinthians? Well, if there are seven heavens and Corinthians is the third, you go up in Ephesians still higher, back to eternity past, "Chosen in Him before the world was"; "seated together with Him in the heavenlies"; the wonderful unveiling of the church which is His Body; the exalted Lord leading captivity captive and giving gifts to men. Those first three chapters of Ephesians are wonderful.
Now cut out the numbers of chapters and run right on. "Husbands, love your wives." "Wives, be in subjection unto your own husbands." "Children, obey your parents in the Lord." "Servants... master...". You may say, "Two different realms, two different things, anticlimax again - a drop out of the heavenlies to the earthlies!" Not at all - it is the lifting of the earthlies up into the heavenlies. How practical! Some people have no interest in that sort of thing. All their interests are up in those wonderful revelations, and their own wonderful revelations.
What is the point? You have got to keep things together. You can get out on truth and leave love, but God says these two things are twins. They cannot be separated, they are all of a piece, they are one, to be kept balanced in even proportions and very practical - only in that way. Thus love comes in to save you from a false position. What is the false position? Why, the false position would be that you were always occupied with a resurrection body and neglecting the needs of the poor saints. That is a false position. To be always occupied with your eternal location and predestination in Christ, and the heavenly glories of the church His Body - and your wife, husband, children, parents, masters and servants not having the practical love and care that they ought to have from you as a child of God, is an absolutely false position; it is a contradiction, a denial. That is not truth in the inward parts; it is a lie.
Loving with the Love of God
Let us open our hearts to this challenge of the Lord and let us respond as responsible people in this matter of love and of truth. In this chapter the word is love; come into line with that. You say you cannot; you cannot love, but the love of God can love. It is not our love that has to be lifted up to God; it is God's love that is to be shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5). And, after all, what am I, and what are you?
Are you such a loveable creature? If God looked down upon you from heaven and knew you absolutely through and through, were you such a loveable creature that He came and gave Himself and everything He had for you because you are so loveable? Was I that? No! But He has done it. We know that we are unloveable. There is a great deal about us that is hateful, a great deal more than we know. Yet God loves us.
The great example of divine love is towards Israel, Jewry. God never chose the most beautiful, loveable people or nation on this earth to be the example of His love. No, He did not; sometimes we may think He chose just the opposite. The history of the Jews is not a beautiful history at all of a loveable people, always right, and going on with hearts always towards the Lord. No, look at their history. It is written large and clear; a people needing simply infinite patience, infinite forbearance, having so many characteristics that everybody hates and dislikes, and yet it says, "I have loved thee with an everlasting love" (Jer. 31:3). "I have graven thee on the palms of My hands" (Isa. 49:16). Yes, that is the love of God.
It is the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, not our striving to love, but His love. Now, that must send us to our knees in a tremendous and continuous cry: "Oh Lord, baptize me into Your love, shed abroad Your love!" It is the only way. We are not going to solve our problems of relationship or fellowship by discussion and argument and anything to and fro like that. It is going to be only by the love of God, but it can be by the love of God. Are we going to give the love of God a chance, or are we going to stand back and wait for it to come over to us? Are we going to take this matter up, that on the ground of the love of God we are going to be aggressors in this matter? Oh Lord, make us aggressive in love!