"Making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him; having the eyes of your heart enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe" (Eph. 1:16-19).
"Till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a full-grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13).
Just link the passages together, the "Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him... till we all attain unto... the knowledge of the Son of God".
There are two or three things here of which we must take careful note. First of all, the word 'knowledge' here is, in itself, an indication of what the apostle means. It is not the ordinary simple word, it is 'epignosis': full knowledge. "Till we all attain unto the full knowledge." There was an initial knowledge which had a tremendous effect, as we have seen in our previous meditation. Here it is a further knowledge or an ultimate knowledge, the full knowledge of Him.
Another thing is this, that it is by the Holy Spirit that this knowledge is made progressive and final. In Acts 1 we saw that the Holy Spirit coming upon them produced this revelation of Christ in their hearts. They saw the significance of Jesus of Nazareth as set in the great Divine interpretation. That had a tremendous repercussion in the world; it was initial. Now here, at a point much further on where believers such as those who formed the church at Ephesus have had a remarkable initial experience, the revelation of the Lord Jesus had a great effect in their lives to the point of rendering all their costly and precious things of no account; they piled up their libraries of valuable books which amounted to a considerable price and set them ablaze, so that they went up in smoke. That was consequent upon seeing Jesus, but although they have had a very real spiritual experience and a very powerful revelation of Him in their hearts, here, some time and distance on, they are being told by the apostle that the same Holy Spirit who had done that, could do something which was still far transcendent of all that had been, bringing into the realm of superlatives of the Divine eternal counsels - the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the full knowledge of Him. And if the first would have a tremendous effect not only in them but in the world, would not this other have at least an equal effect?
The revelation of Jesus Christ is not intended just to be something of opinion, something that we know in terms of Christian technique. Divine revelation is usually in its outworking revolutionary, and if there is no revolution following what we call 'revelation', then there is something wrong with the revelation, or between the revelation and us, for true Divine revelation must have a tremendous effect in the life. Take the example of the apostle himself who wrote this letter. We know what a tremendous thing that unveiling was in his own case when he, on the way to Damascus saw who Jesus of Nazareth really was, how utterly blinding and paralysing it was, and revolutionary, effecting what nothing else in all this world would have brought about. To emancipate an utter, abandoned fanatic from that to which he is committed fanatically by any kind of argument, persuasion or even force, is a most impossible thing.
Here is this Saul of Tarsus, and he is blind, abandoned to the Jewish position, to his traditions, his history, his inheritance, that whole system of things, committed with all his being to vindicate it. What are you going to do with a man like that by argument, persuasion or force? Nothing at all! He saw who Jesus of Nazareth was and that did it; it was done. That revelation effected something that nothing else would ever have brought about. But even that man with all the greatness of the revelation and its effect in his life, himself came to realise not once nor twice, that there was a revelation of Jesus Christ which far exceeded and transcended anything that had been, and he lived his life in the grip of this consciousness, that Christ was infinitely greater than ever he had conceived, that he was but on the fringe of a vast realm, on the shores of a mighty ocean. To his last hours he would press on that he might know Him. And Paul bound up the full and final knowledge of Christ with the complete emancipation, not only of himself, but of the creation. When Christ is manifested, when Christ is known in fulness, then all chains will fall off by the transformation of everything. It is a matter of the effect of knowing in this kind of way, by the Holy Spirit. (See Romans 8.)
Revelation by the Holy Spirit
May I pause here for this parenthesis? There is all the difference between knowing these things by studying the Bible, and knowing these things, although in the Bible, by the revelation of the Holy Spirit. I am not talking to you about the content of the Bible as something in itself, all of which you can get as to the letter, phrasing, doctrines and system by studying this Book as you study any other book. I am talking about the Holy Spirit coming through and making living what is here so that all that we have seen in any other way is as though we had not seen it. That is the second new thing that is necessary. It is not a new apprehension of the teaching of the Bible in its verbal statements of truth. It is that the Lord's people should have a Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, an act of the Holy Spirit to enlighten the eyes of their hearts that they may know, in order to come to the full knowledge of the Son of God. That is simple, and as a statement may not sound very much, but are there not many of us here who feel that we really want to know, to know in a new way what we have known for a long time? We know it. "There he is, he is talking about Ephesians again; we know it!" We know all these verses, it is the thing we have been brought up in, we are steeped in it. But what is the effect in the world? What is the impact of it? It is not just a knowledge of the truth, but the coming in of Jesus Christ. If the Lord Jesus comes in after His resurrection, if He comes in as the risen One, something must happen. Things cannot be just as they were.
In our previous meditation, we were thinking of the initial thing: Christ coming in His witnesses. Here it is a new coming in of the Lord in this way: that what we know, what we have had as a deposit for centuries, what is so familiar to us as the Bible, comes under the action of the Holy Spirit and we realise that now we know what we thought we knew. It is not just this mental kind of knowledge; it is spiritual, it is alive, it is potent, it means something in our enlargement, our emancipation, our release; it means something welling up in us. Oh, I feel that that is the new thing, or a part of the new thing, that is needed today amongst the Lord's people! I get so many letters and very often there occurs a phrase like this - "I teach the Bible", "My business is to teach the Bible", and "I am very glad to have anything you can send to help me teach the Bible better." That may be alright, but so often for me that represents just business. Will you understand or misunderstand me if I say that our business is not to teach the Bible? Our business is to reveal Jesus Christ.
Step back a bit. Take up the matter of progressiveness in the revelation of Jesus Christ unto fulness. It says in the book of Exodus, chapter 17, verse one: "All the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, by their stages, according to the commandment of the Lord." They journeyed by their stages. The Lord has arranged our spiritual journey in stages, and these stages, if you will look at the illustration in the case of Israel, were on this wise: they came constantly to fresh crises in their history. A crisis arose in which very serious issues were involved, no smaller issue than that of whether they were going any further or not; sometimes whether they were going back or whether the whole purpose of God in bringing them forth was going to be forfeited. That hung upon each successive stage or crisis, and they could not take the next stage until they were free of all that which had bound them hitherto. That amounted to this: there is no more until you have adjusted, until you have got free.
The Conditions for Revelation
Now let me show you how that worked out, and works out in a very much larger way. There was all the purpose and intention of God, and a very great one, bound up with Abraham. God had it, God knew all about it, but Abraham could not know it until he was in a certain place which meant he was free from all that had been up to that point. "The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran" (Acts 7:2), and what did He say? Did He say there in Ur of the Chaldees, 'I have chosen you, I will bless you and make you a blessing, in your seed shall all nations of the earth be blessed?' Nothing of the kind! All He said was, 'Up and out!' When he had come into the place, in other words, when he had shed all that lay before that place, then the Lord appeared unto him and gave him the revelation of His purpose. There was something which had to be shed, something of which he had to get free. Well, you can see that applied again and again all the way through.
Take Jacob. Not while Jacob was in Padan did Jacob get the light of the house of God. It was when he came into the place where God's sanctuary was to be, when he came to Bethel, and you know that the bringing back of Jacob to Bethel finally and fully did represent some stripping. Jabbok was no small thing in his history. It meant some getting clear of a lot of things in which Jacob had been very interested and with which he had been greatly occupied. But not until he got to a certain position which represented that stripping, bringing down, emptying, cutting off, weakening, smiting of his strength, not until all that was done could he get the real meaning of Bethel, the house of God.
Go a stage further. When God wanted to reveal to Israel the great eternal thought of His dwelling in the midst of men and having His sanctuary among them, He had to wait until Israel was out of Egypt and in the wilderness. There must be a history, a whole state of things left behind, they must emerge, they must be free, they must be there with the Lord in His place before He can reveal to them the great meaning of God tabernacling with men, having His habitation in the midst. It was a position, a stage, which had much bound up with it.
When you turn to the New Testament, you can see quite clearly that the great revelation of the resurrection of Jesus Christ with all it involves, all that it carries with it, waits upon something. Until men are in a certain position, have reached a certain stage, it has no real meaning or value until death is the most awful reality. The Lord had to allow everything to go into death with the death of the Lord Jesus, and for that death to be a terrible reality. You can only understand that joy that they were slow to capitulate to, afraid almost to allow themselves to accept, the joy of His resurrection, in the light of the dark background of the awfulness that death had meant, His death. What a terrible thing His death had meant to them; it carried everything away with it for them. Not until they were there could they really appreciate the meaning of His resurrection.
That is a spiritual truth. We cannot come into the real understanding, value, joy and power of His resurrection only as it is set over against, not once, twice, but many times, a background of a new experience of death. You have got to come there before you can go on into the greater meanings that God has in things. These are the New Testament basic realities.
You begin with the resurrection, but out of resurrection springs one great thing, one great prospect. "God... begat us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, unto an inheritance incorruptible" (1 Peter 1:3). But for whom is the inheritance? The inheritance is reserved for sons. Upon resurrection you find in the New Testament there comes into view the prospect of sonship. I am not talking about childship, being born again. I am talking about the greatest thing that God and heaven has ever revealed concerning man: the prospect of sonship. It is an immense thing, this matter of sonship, not just relatedness to Him but all that that means in its full realisation, and that comes into view through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
But something else is required. We have in Romans: "...declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead" (1:4), in Galatians, (and Galatians is sonship) the liberty of sons, that for which Paul is travailing again: "My little children, of whom I am again in travail until Christ is fully formed in you" (4:19). He goes on with all he has to say about sonship: "Because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts" (4:6); the liberty of sons. It is the tremendous prospect of sons.
But what is necessary? Well, the great knowledge of sonship depends entirely upon the place of the Holy Spirit in our lives. I am not now talking about receiving the Holy Spirit. These Galatians had received the Spirit. Paul said to them - "Having begun in the Spirit..." (3:3). Galatians is this: the difference between proceeding in the flesh and in the Spirit. "Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now perfected in the flesh?" It is the place of the Spirit in us that relates to this matter of sonship. He says, "Where the Spirit is Lord, there is liberty" (2 Cor. 3:17), and it is the liberty of Sonship, the untrammelled, unhindered position of the sons of God.
I cannot stay with the glories of sonship. I am indicating this one thing: the progressiveness of the apprehension of Christ is marked by stages, each of which makes a new demand as to what is in the past. Here the bondage of the flesh and the rule of the flesh and everything that means that the flesh has a place in our life to control us is finished and done with, and it is the absolute Lordship of the Spirit. Only so can this greatest of all revelations - sonship - concerning man be realised. It is a crisis.
Going back to Exodus again, you remember it was like that. They came to a certain place and they murmured and they quarrelled with God and they said, "Is the Lord among us, or not?" (Ex. 17:7). It was not until all the ground of that quarrelling with the Lord had been cut off by that which represented the cross, that you have the springing well and the song of the well, the life of the Spirit, and release to go further. You see the point. The flesh is the ground of all our argument with God; it is our natural life that is the basis of all our quarrelsomeness with the Lord. The flesh is not getting what it wants, what it is after, and so it grumbles and it is displeased and offended with the Lord. It is not until that flesh is laid low that we can go on in the life of the Spirit.
Well, that is the Galatians' position exactly. They had come to a standstill, and they thought that they could perfect their Christian experience by sinking into the flesh. Paul says, No! "I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I..." (Gal. 2:20); "Far be it from me to glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world hath been crucified unto me, and I unto the world" (Gal. 6:14). The cross in Galatians is dealing with the flesh to make it possible to go on to the glories of sonship. But it is a crisis. Oh, what a crisis it was for Galatia! What a battle Paul was fighting for Galatia on this very point!
The Sovereign Headship of the Lord Jesus
But we have not finished yet, there is still more in this full knowledge. There is something which has in it tremendous meaning and value for the Lord and for His people and that is the sovereign Headship of the Lord Jesus. I am not talking about His Lordship now in a general sense. I am very particular in the words chosen - the sovereign Headship of the Lord Jesus. God has given Him to be Head; He is the Head of all creation, He is the Head of the Body, the church. Everything of God's eternal and mighty purpose as leading up to this dispensation, as being the chief characteristic of this dispensation as the greatest of all the dispensations and as issuing from this dispensation, is to do with the Headship of Jesus Christ. What God is doing in this dispensation and the pre-eminent factor in this greatest of all dispensations in the counsels of God, is the Headship of Jesus Christ. And all those great purposes of His are bound up with that Headship. He is Head.
Now, Headship implies and carries with it something else, for you can never think of a head being something by itself. The head implies and carries with it the body and therefore there is a crisis. All that God means for us in the Headship of Jesus Christ demands a revelation of the Body of Christ. The Headship is to have all the fulness but that fulness is to be expressed and manifested in the Body, "the church, which is His Body, the fulness of Him that fills all in all" (Eph. 1:22,23). And who will tell me that a revelation of the Body of Christ is not a crisis which demands and carries with it some tremendous stripping off of old ideas? I am not so sure that it will not mean the letting go of the whole Christian tradition since apostolic times. Things are not now in Christianity upon the basis of the Body of Christ. It is a tremendous thing with a most revolutionary effect to really see the Body of Christ. I am not asking you if you have seen what the letter to the Ephesians contains. I saw that and could talk about it long before I saw the Body of Christ. This will emancipate us.
The Unity of the Body of Christ
Let me pause for a moment and apply this. You say, "Surely we must abandon that now!" Look what our Lord prayed before He went to the cross: "That they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us" (John 17:21). But where is there anything like that, that resembles that? Is not Christianity itself split and divided into a thousand, perhaps ten thousand, fragments, and very few of the fragments will have anything to do with one another? This is the problem, is it not? You come and you meet together on the ground of the body of Christ. You say, 'At least we stand for the body of Christ!' - and you are only making one more body. What are you going to do about it? Abandon it, say it is hopeless? If you do, it means you have never yet had a revelation of the Body of Christ. You are looking at the church purely from the earthly standpoint. Get back with Ephesians and see it from the standpoint of past eternity. Come on with Ephesians and see it from the standpoint of the heavenlies. What is it? It is Christ, that is all. Is Christ divided? Is Christ a thousand sects? You see what I mean. A million people and, if you like, a million different particles of what is called the church, but if Christ by His Spirit is in every one of the million individuals or parts, in their essential being, they are one. It is not what they are in the flesh on the earth, in their system, or anything like that. They are as much one as ever Christ is one, and one of the things that we have to adjust is that, to be governed by that.
We are not going to be governed by sectarianism, denominationalism; we are going to be governed by Christ. If you belong to Christ, He is in you. You can be what He allows you to be so far as association here on this earth is concerned; we are one. In outworking it may be difficult sometimes. The degree of our apprehension and of the effect of that oneness may impose limitations, but the basic thing is: Christ is not divided, Christ is one, there is one Body, and that holds good now, it has been brought about by the Holy Spirit. "In one Spirit were we all baptized into one body" (1 Cor. 12:13). If we have received the Holy Spirit and are baptized into Christ, there is a basic oneness which is a different thing altogether from these externals, these other things which divide us. The forbidding of the New Testament is to do that which divides the Spirit. Then let us be careful that we do not make truth the dividing thing between the Lord's people. The measure of truth, the measure of light, is not to divide in spirit, in heart, in our attitudes. That abominable attitude that we have more light, and that other people have not seen, divides us at once; we are looking over our fence at them. However much light the Lord gives, do not let it ever come in as a barrier in spirit between you and other children of God. To see the Body from the heavenlies is to see, not first of all what we are in the flesh and on the earth, but to see Christ, to take Christ as the great unifying factor.
That very thing can be worked out in other ways. We know in ourselves. Take your own self into a corner and ask yourself, "Am I an absolute unity? Am I a perfect oneness in myself? Is there complete agreement in my whole being? In other words, do I never find any kind of conflict and clash in myself between what is of the Lord, what is of the Spirit, and what is me?" Do you never have any argument with the Lord at all in your life, never feel any conflict within, never recognise there are two things with you yet? Why, you are full of denominations in yourself! We are all full of sects in our individual selves; we are not an absolute oneness. But there is that in you and in the next child of God and in me and in all the rest which is one thing. I know it is wrapped around and cumbered by the other thing, but there is that which is Christ which makes us all an absolute unity. It is the one entity of Christ in the many. If only we could keep on that ground, it would make very great practical differences, although it would not clear up all the problems. It would save us from our watertight, restricted positions which bring us to death and paralysis. Immediately we become exclusive in that way, we are cutting off the stream of Divine Life.
I was saying that the Headship of Christ, with all that it means as His appointment from eternity by God to sum up all things, necessitates a Divine revelation of the Body, because the fulness of Christ is Body-wise. It is the Body that is the fulness of Him, and you have to see the Body like this. Ask the Lord to give you a heavenly revelation of the Body of Christ unto the fulness of Him as Head over all things. The statement is so clear. "Gave Him to be head over all things to the church" (Eph. 1:22). Not in the church - that is quite true - but "head over all things to the church". "All things" - that is a great phrase of Paul. All things are brought into Christ, and that is to the church, from the Head to the church. All things in the Head to the church which is His Body, the fulness of Him that fills all in all.
But coming back to our point; all that is another stage in the revelation of Jesus Christ which has a crisis bound up with it. We cannot take that further step until we get clear to do it. Can you move into the spirit, the heavenly reality, of that oneness of Christ in all His members and make it an applied thing in your attitudes, your relationships, your judgments? Can you do it, are you free to do it? Or will someone have something to say - will the oversight object if you begin to work on that basis? Will the 'church' interfere? Now we are up against something; we are tied, we are not free, and it is not an easy business: "Where we have been brought up they do not believe in that, they do not agree with that, they do not teach that." It is a collision with the whole system that is not the ground of Christ. It is some thing. It is a 'church', it is an organisation, it is a mission, it is a movement, it is an institution, some thing. We have to be very careful how we violate these boundaries.
Being Made Free unto the Fulness in Christ
Well, I do not know how many of you need a word like this, but I am enunciating a law. The law is this, that the Lord has arranged our course unto that ultimate fulness in Christ in stages and each stage represents a crisis, the nature of which is a leaving behind of something, a shedding of that skin, a getting free of some trapping that is not Christ. It is man-made even though man has made it out of the Bible. Anything that hinders our going on to the fulness of Christ is not of Christ, is not of God; it has to be left. There has to be a crisis. I am not asking you to accept all this as teaching. That is what I am asking you not to do. It is no use presenting anything to anybody until they are desperate about it. What is the good of putting a good meal in front of a man who is not hungry? He will probably push it away. It is an excellent meal; for someone else that meal would be life itself, it would be glory. For that man it does not mean anything at all. It is like that. Not until we come to the place where, unless the Lord gives us some new revelation of Himself, we are finished, it is not safe for Him to give us that revelation. Revelation given on that ground would simply be something of no real value to us. It would be just dead truth. But many of the Lord's people are getting there. Whether they recognise what it means or not, that is not the point. The point is this, that many are heading up to a place where they know the Lord has to do a new thing; they will not be able to go on much longer unless the Lord does a new thing, and the Lord is heading up to a crisis. He is only making it possible for Himself to give revelation with an assurance that it will be effectual.
I have not got to the end of the revelation of Christ, but we must stop here now. You see, Christ is far ahead of us. We know nothing yet. We are called and chosen of God from eternity unto that. And yet with all, He cannot either show it to us or bring us into it until we have come to the point where the next measure of it is made safe for revelation by our being ready to let go, to stand clear, out of Ur of the Chaldees, Egypt, Padan, death, the flesh; out of the earthly conception of heavenly things. These are stages which make possible something more. The Lord must interpret the meaning of His own message to each of us personally. May He find us in exercise of heart about this, and we join with the apostle in his prayer that He would grant us a spirit of revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of our hearts being enlightened, till we all attain unto the full knowledge of the Son of God.