It is always good that we should have some precise idea of what the end in view really is. We are working toward an end, but it will be as well if we see at once what that end is, and the end is this precisely - the need and the provision for the Lord's people to be in a position of spiritual power and effectiveness in that realm where things count most, that is, in the realm of principalities and powers and the world rulers of this darkness and spiritual hosts of wickedness.
In many cases there will be a full understanding and appreciation of what I mean when I say that such a position is becoming increasingly indispensable. The Lord's people everywhere, I mean the spiritual people of God everywhere, are feeling a lack of spiritual power, of spiritual ability to cope with the situation. What they have and what they have known is not proving equal to the new situation, and for the part of many, there is a sense that the forces of evil are more evil and more terrible now than they were. That, of course, is not actually the case, but the consciousness of it seems to be growing upon many, and that we have moved in the course of the years into a new realm where what at one time was efficient and effectual would no longer meet the situation. Something more is needed. While the Lord is the same, the Spirit of the Lord is the same, as the Lord moves on according to the dispensation and its peculiar order and purpose, the instrument of the Lord has also to move on, and the movement is not only an onward movement, but an upward movement, and the instrument for the dispensation being the church, the church has got to move not only onward, but upward, and that explains the new situation.
There is a very illuminating little fragment in the prophecies of Ezekiel concerning the house, the temple. It says that as the temple grew upward, it enlarged. The sentence is this: "It enlarged upward". Speaking naturally, that would make it top-heavy, but the spiritual significance of that is easily perceived, that spiritual enlargement comes by going up, and the more earthbound you are, the closer to this world, the smaller is your spiritual measure - that has always proved true - but the more heavenly you are, the larger, the greater, the fuller, is your spiritual measure. Of course, that is wholly in keeping with what we were saying in our previous meditation about every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ - enlarging upward.
But now the point is this: the need is for a new position unto a new power, a new position on the part of all the children of God individually and as the church collectively, to be expressed as far as possible personally and also in the Divine unit, which is the spiritual family. The spiritual family from God's standpoint is God's unit. When I speak about the spiritual family, I mean the twos and threes or the companies here and there, who really function in a position to which they have been brought so that what the Lord is really seeking to face us with at this time is the need and the provision for a new position unto new power, which power is not only dunamis, that is, force, but exousia - authority. The two must go together. But we must recognize that this power comes from the throne and the throne is not just some thing; it is a spiritual and moral position in Christ. It is the authority of a spiritual position. That is the source of the power.
So then, it is not only that we are to be on the earth as Christians believing certain things, holding to certain doctrines and being familiar with the many aspects of truth. I am sure that you feel how poverty-stricken even the fullest measure of that is, so far as real spiritual power is concerned. You and I have met many people who have gone from one thing to another. They have gone in for sanctification and sanctification teaching. They know all about that. They have gone into Second Advent teaching and they have got all that, and then they have gone in for something else and they have gone the round of special emphases, and they are as miserable as sin. There is no real victory in life or in countenance. They can discuss all these things with you ad lib, but there is no power, no impact in their life. They have got it all in their heads, but as for counting in real effectiveness, there is very little of it, and the Lord deliver us from simply getting the teaching, whatever it may be, even the teaching of the heavenly position of the church or even the teaching of the heavenly authority of the church. What we want is not the teaching; it is it, the thing; it is the reality.
Then, we are not here on the earth as a church holding certain doctrines and beliefs and following out a certain course of things which is the order of the New Testament. It is just as possible to be bankrupt in spiritual power while you hold the most exact apprehension of New Testament church order as it is in any other matter. You may have the last word on New Testament order for the church and be spiritually null and void. Now, that does not mean that the doctrines go for nothing, nor that church order goes for nothing, but it does mean that these things, without the essential position and power, do go for nothing; they do go for nothing without the effectual outworking.
The need is not that we should discard any truth or make light of anything that is in the Word of God, but that we should be in a position where the enemy cannot do as he likes with us to keep us under and make us helpless, but where we, in Christ, are above. Now we see what the Lord is after, and I believe that that is the thing which is bound up with these meditations - a new position for us all, a new spiritual position of power, and that in one particular realm.
Well now, that enables us to come into very close touch with this letter to the Ephesians in which we were dwelling in our previous meditation, the first part of which, as we have seen, has to do with the heavenly calling of the church, which part is bound up with the division marked by the first three chapters of the letter. The second part, Ephesians 4-6:9, deals with the heavenly conduct of the church. And the third part, from Ephesians 6:10 on, treats the heavenly conflict of the church.
We were occupied with the little phrase (peculiar, as we have noted, to this letter), "in the heavenlies", and we were seeking to get into that phrase. We said that it is intended to convey to believers the fact that what is now true of Christ as Head and as Representative, is to be of full avail and account to His members. That raises several questions.
The first question which arises is as to whether Christ's present enthronement is a matter for our future good only, or for present value. That is a question which brings us immediately to the point. Is Christ's present enthronement something only for our future good - that is, because He reigns now, we shall reign afterwards? Because He is in heaven now, we shall be there later on? Because of that enthronement, speaking of His having overcome and being victorious, we shall eventually overcome and be victorious? Is that all? Or has it some present value, not only for our keeping now - to be kept by the power of God - that is included; but more - does the present enthronement of the Lord Jesus have a bearing upon our position as now overcoming the forces which have been overcome in Him? Is there to be now in us and by us an expression of the meaning of His throne in that spiritual realm, the realm in which He stripped off principalities and powers, made a show of them openly, triumphed over them in His cross - are we to know anything about that now? Well, that carries with it some other questions, the asking and answering of which will be an analytical way of getting at the inclusive answer.
Can we divide between Christ's death, resurrection, ascension and exaltation as to their present values for us? Can we take the value of any one of these separately and have all that is meant by the whole? No, of course not! Can we take the values of the death of the Lord Jesus apart from His resurrection? Can we take the values of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus apart from His ascension? Can we take the values of the death, resurrection and ascension apart from His exaltation? Is it not rather true that the last phase of that cycle includes all the others for present purposes for the church, and that each of the others only leads to the next and by successive stages heads up to the final - His exaltation? Is not the last the very object of the others? Did He not die and was He not raised and received up into glory in order to be enthroned? We cannot divide between these things. We cannot just live upon the level of the values of Christ's death and have all that God intended. We must go right through with Him to the throne to have the full provision of God. That leads us to another still wider question, or to enlarge our circle, and then move inward again.
Do the Scriptures authorize the believer, [and show] that believers are intended to know and experience a present union with Christ in ascendancy over spiritual foes? Well, we have got to answer that. Do the Scriptures warrant such a position? I am not going to start at Genesis and go through to Revelation to answer the question, but I think we can give the answer in some comprehensive way fairly briefly, and the first answer, in the first and all-inclusive way, is found in the significance of Christ Himself. What does Christ signify? What does He mean? Where does He come in; what is His position, His capacity? Well, we will answer that.
Man's Fivefold Need of Christ
First of all, what is the need for Christ? To see the need for Christ, we have to see man's position and man's condition which brought Christ in, for we verily believe that Christ came into this world as He did because of a position and condition in which man was found. What is man's position and condition which brought Christ in? Well simply, it is fivefold.
Firstly, man has become separated from God. That is his position. Secondly, man has become alienated from God; that is man's condition. Separated - yes. You can be separated in a certain sense without being alienated. You can be distanced without being hostile, but man is both distanced, separated, and alienated. The New Testament clause is "alienated from the life of God". Alienated - that means some positive element which has come in to make a difference in nature; not only a distance from, but a difference in condition. Alienated from God.
Further, man is represented as in a spiritual sense being dead to God. It is not necessary for us to draw our Scriptures to bear that out. We all know quite well what the Word of God teaches on that matter, and that the very nature of new birth, regeneration, new creation, is life from the dead. Well, it is man as dead to God. That means, of course, that he is outside of the realm where, while he is in that position and condition, God can do anything with him. He has got to get into another realm which is life and not death. At present God can do nothing with the distanced and alienated man.
In the fourth place, man is represented as being bound and helpless in another power as outside of himself; evil powers have taken charge, are in possession. "The whole world lies in the wicked one". Man bound and helpless by reason of a power greater than himself. And lastly, man is found to be in a position which the Scriptures describe as "vanity". That is, he is rendered totally incapable of reaching the destiny for which he was created. "Vanity" is what we mean when we say, after countless efforts to reach a certain position or achieve a certain end, "It is no good, it is all in vain, it cannot be done!" It is given up as a hopeless position, and the Word of God declares that the creation itself was subjected to vanity.
It is as to that five-fold position that Christ is brought in and He answers each point in His person and in His work.
1. Christ - and Man in His Separation from God
He answers the first - man separated from God. How does He answer that? He answers that in His person. The very incarnation of the Lord Jesus is the answer to that. It is wonderful to recognise the tremendous value of the person of the Lord Jesus in all this. The Lord Jesus did not come in to stand between as a kind of reconciler in an objective way, saying, "This brother and this brother have become separated from each other. Now I would just like to bring them together again", and then it is like that in an outward way. That is not the reconciliation of the New Testament. That is not the gospel of reconciliation. The Lord Jesus has not come to do that sort of thing in an objective way. His very person is that - God and man made one in a single entity; Son of God, Son of Man, in one person; man and God united. When you make it one person, it is exceedingly difficult to divide. That is the Old Testament figure all the way through. Wherever you find Christ represented in symbol or type, you put these two things into one - God and man. Take your ark of the covenant - you have got your wood and your gold brought together and that is one person. Or in any of the other numerous symbolisms of Christ in person that you have in the Old Testament, it is the bringing together of God and man in one person. Misapprehension of that can lead to all sorts of false doctrines, but we must not, in our fear of false doctrines, sacrifice something. We are in Ephesians and what I have in mind all the time is that phrase - "in Christ Jesus", "in Christ", "together in Christ", and the incarnation of God in Christ is the most intimate oneness of God and man as in a single person.
What is the meaning of this that you and I love so much in John 17 - "That they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in us... And the glory which Thou hast given Me I have given unto them; that they may be one, even as we are one; I in them and Thou in Me, that they may be perfected into one".
Now, if I had said that without the Book, it would be false doctrine and heresy at once, but there it is. What is the meaning of that? Blessed be God, the truth is that when I by faith come into the Lord Jesus, God no longer sees me as what I am in myself, but He sees Christ as me. That is the great truth - Christ as me. Righteousness which is by faith in Jesus Christ means that what Christ is, is God's view of me and I am in Christ. The incarnation has bridged the gap between God and man by bringing in one Man who is God and man, and then faith (you can call it mystic if you like, it does not matter, it is real from God's side), faith says that that oneness which is between God and man is my oneness with God and God's oneness with me in Christ. Christ in His very significance, at the very first point of His coming in, the incarnation, answers the first need related to man's position - separated from God. Let us make more of the Lord Jesus than we have done! It will save us from a thousand troubles. That is only the first thing, but it goes a long way.
2. Christ - and Man in His Alienation from God
He answers the second point - man's alienation from God - that is his condition, and He answers that by His death. In the death of the Lord Jesus, man's condition is met - that is man's nature, the positive thing - and sin: the alienating element, the hostile antagonistic element in man - sin. Whenever you touch the death of Christ, remember you are dealing with the sin question. "He bore our sins in His body on the tree". "Christ died for our sins". It was a death which was a death to sin. That is Romans 6. "In that he died, He died unto sin once for all", and in the death of the Lord Jesus the element antagonistic to the Divine nature has been met and destroyed in Him, by Him.
You and I will never know victory over sin, only as we know Christ in exaltation. Don't forget that. It will require an apprehension by faith of the full victory of the Lord Jesus over sin to bring us to holiness. I can put that in another way and in other words. We shall need to know His Lordship as established within our lives in order that we may know victory over sin. There are a great many people who are enjoying salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus, but in a limited sense. Salvation from guilt and condemnation, salvation from judgment, punishment, and hell, salvation which entitles them to heaven, salvation which, of course, works out in many ways in particular details. But there are multitudes of the Lord's people who have apprehended Christ as Saviour and are enjoying the fact of His being Saviour, but who are not knowing a life of victory and a life of spiritual and moral ascendancy, and the lack in such lives is the lack of the sovereign Lordship of Jesus Christ; not that He is not their Saviour, but somehow they have not come into a vital relationship with His absolute Lordship, which is the embodiment of His victory. Well, His death has met the power of sin, the alienating factor, but that death must point on to something more.
3. Christ - and Man as Dead to God
He answers man's third position or condition as dead to God and He answers that by His resurrection. "He died unto sin once for all; but... He lives unto God." Man is dead to God by nature; the resurrection of the Lord Jesus meets that position. We said that, as being dead to God, man is outside of the realm where God can do anything with him. He has got to be brought into the realm where God can do something with him, and the realm where God commences His work is the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and in the sphere of His resurrection God takes up His purpose in us. There is no hope of our realising God's eternal purpose until we are really on resurrection ground, and that is why it is so important that resurrection Life should be functioning in us because it is by the law of the Spirit of Life, that God proceeds towards His end. And whenever God is going to carry His people further on towards His end, it will have to be by reason of a new accession of Life.
Now, do recognise this. If you and I are going up higher, if we are going to come to this new position, this final, ultimate, position of ascension and exaltation Life with the Lord, it will need to be by a new, mighty accession of Divine Life. We know it because the very sense of the need of the new position today is brought about by this awful sense of the intensity of spiritual death upon us and around us. It seems like an invasion of the powers of death into the very atmosphere in a new way and what we are conscious of is the need for the power of His resurrection.
Now, this is not just that aspect or phase of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus which brings us onto the ground of redemption. This is something more in Ephesians, but it is on the same basis. When you come to Ephesians with the end in view, that supreme end - administration in God's universe with Christ - then you have these familiar and tremendous words: "The exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to that working of the strength of His might which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and made Him to sit at his right hand... far above all rule and authority...".
Now, note what that really says. It says, in the first place, that there is a belief which is more than the belief unto salvation. When you are in Ephesians, you are dealing with things a long way ahead of salvation in its fundamental and initial sense. You come right on to the ultimate things of God's eternal thought and intention. You have come to this heavenly position and heavenly function and vocation of the church, of the saints. Now, in order to come into that in an effective way, another belief is necessary, another exercise of faith, and this exercise of faith has to do with the exceeding greatness of His power according to that working of the strength of His might which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and made Him to sit at His right hand. Can you separate between these things - the resurrection and the exaltation? Not if you are coming to God's full end, only if you are going to stop somewhere on a lower, lesser level. It says that to us-ward who believe is that working of the strength of His might, that exceeding greatness of His power; it is a new exercise of faith in relation to the resurrection power of the Lord Jesus to get us to the throne. It is further on and it is further up. But it not only says that for you and for me there has got to be this exercise of faith in relation to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, but it does say so patently that the resurrection of the Lord Jesus is intended to work out to the exaltation of the church to the place where He is. Then, if that is really what it says, we have got good, solid ground under our feet, ground for believing that God does not want us grovelling down here on the earth, but ground for believing that God wants us to know now something of that power of the resurrection to get us up above, and I believe that this is one of the 'all spiritual blessings' which we shall discover as being ours in Christ when we set ourselves to take the position where He is.
Perhaps you do not grasp the meaning of that. I do not believe we know what our blessings are until we get into the realm where they operate. Israel did not know the blessings of the land until they got into the land. You never really know blessings by hearing reports about them. If you did, you would be in a good position today after all, you have heard of what is ours in Christ, what God has called unto. If you leapt into it on the first hearing, there would be no more need for conferences. But we do not come into it that way. That is the trouble. People hear things and never come into the position where those things are a reality. If the 'all spiritual blessings' are in the heavenlies in Christ, you know nothing about them until you get into the heavenlies. You must get where they are, where their value operates.
Now then, we shall prove the power of His resurrection and the exceeding greatness of His resurrection when we take the position for which that power is intended. And when the church, the saints, and individual believers begin to see the heavenly calling and the heavenly vocation, the heavenly functioning, and by faith begin to operate in relation to it, they will discover that the Lord is with them in resurrection power there. At least, that is my experience - that you never get there either by striving or by the Lord giving you some help to get there. I have never yet found that I got into the heavenlies by the Lord coming down with resurrection Life. Have you? I have always found it just the other way, that I, in faith, have got to take a heavenly position, and then resurrection Life works. Your faith has got to apprehend your position before God comes in to substantiate. If it were the other way, then it would be a false position entirely. We should be there simply by the Lord having done something altogether apart from ourselves and we should be of no more value to the Lord at all. It is very important to see that there is a position to which God wills that we should come, and in order to come there, there has got to be an exercise of a specific faith in resurrection ascension power.
4. Christ - and Man as Hopeless and Bound
But then there is the other. Man, in the fourth place, is found to be hopeless and bound by powers outside of himself and greater than himself - the powers of evil. In what way does the Lord Jesus answer that position? He answers it by His ascension. The ascension of the Lord Jesus is essentially His emancipation, His liberation, release and victory over the world-rulers. "When He ascended up on high He led captivity captive". As He went out, He made a way out. "Translated out of the authority of darkness into the kingdom of the Son of His love". That is said to be our blessed position: transferred from one Kingdom to another. Well, John 17 again - "They are not of the world even as I am not of the world. I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world" (geographical, physical), "but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil one" (v.15,16). Later we shall find that the Lord Jesus has turned us from the power of Satan unto God, that in Christ we are outside of the domain of satanic authority. The essential thing for believers is to recognise that there is a heavenly position, heavenly life, heavenly resource and heavenly everything if ever they are to know the fulness of liberty and capability in doing the Lord's work, in living in the Lord's life.
Let us look at that in the other way, the reverse position. Immediately you and I get down into that realm where Satan functions and operates and has his rights, we lose our power and we lose our liberty. We immediately come into spiritual limitation and defeat. We can only know complete release as we maintain our position in the heavenlies. This is the history of the church. The church has always lost its power, its effectiveness, when it has become an earthly thing in any way. The Lord's people always come into limitation when they get down into that realm where the enemy has everything to play with. The more you and I and the Lord's people know our ascension union with the Lord Jesus as outside of this world and outside of the authority of darkness, the more we shall know our liberty and our ability to go on in the work and purpose of God.
Now, it seems to me very clear that this is the explanation of Pentecost, as we call it. The great days at the beginning of the dispensation which emerged from that day, took their rise in that day, all that took place then and all that immediately followed, was because the Lord Jesus was in heaven, because He had gone outside, and that now, by the Holy Spirit, He had a heavenly people. And you see that in all their conduct, their behaviour immediately after: they are exemplifying a heavenly life. The earthly things have dropped away. You cannot bring those things about by telling people to do them, that they ought to do this and ought not to do that. If you have got five hundred or a thousand pounds, a few houses or worldly possessions, and I say, "Go and sell all and bring the proceeds and we will divide it among the Lord's people", I do not know what might be the result of doing that. I should be optimistic if I expected to get apostolic New Testament conditions immediately and spontaneously without any Holy Spirit in it. But when you get a heavenly life by the Holy Spirit, heavenly things happen; that is, earthly things assume an altogether smaller importance than before and they are much more easily let go. And so you find that there, for one thing, they that had goods and property and so on, and sold them, brought the proceeds, and they were distributed for the saints, for the church. Get the position and the other thing is quite simple. It just happens.
Now, I say that, I illustrate it because it operates in so many other ways. "They continued in fellowship". What a struggle it is to get fellowship! What a lot of trouble there is about this fellowship matter. We are always labouring along the line of fellowship. But get a heavenly position and you have got fellowship. Get off earthly ground in union with Him in heaven and you know fellowship - it comes in spontaneously. As we have often said, teams of wild horses would never have dragged Saul of Tarsus out of Judaism and separated him from Judaism, but the heavenly vision did it with very little trouble. It was an accomplished fact out of heaven. So they preached, but they preached with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven. It is that which is heavenly and it is all bound up with the spiritual value of the ascension, that we lose our grave-clothes; not only are we raised, but our grave-clothes, bonds and limitations go when we are outside.
Oh, for an emancipated church, a people living not a false life, not a life of mere imagination, abstractions, unrealities, but really knowing a heavenly life by reason of the heavenly Spirit of the heavenly Lord reigning within. There will be liberty and we shall see that Christ in heaven answers to our hopeless, bound condition by nature.
5. Christ - and Man in Vanity
Finally, man in vanity cannot reach his end, cannot attain unto that great destiny that was in the thought of God before times eternal, and how does the Lord Jesus answer this? By His exaltation. What do you see in the exaltation of the Lord Jesus? What do you see in the Lord Jesus in the throne? We see Him as our God, our Lord, our Saviour, but do we see Him as ourselves? We have become accustomed to the term - a Man in the Glory - a perfectly legitimate and permissible term. Do you see yourself there in the glory? Do you not see that the Lord Jesus is there as inclusive Representative of that one new Man, that new creation, to come to glory, to reign, to reach God's end - for what is the destiny of man in God's thought? It is that. When you see the Lord Jesus in the throne, you see what God intended for you and me, and what He still intends for us. Christ has reached the end of our course.
Now, Ephesians says that His being there is our being there. "Has... made us sit together in the heavenlies in Christ". You see the 'together-ness' of Ephesians is this: that what He is as there, is ourselves as there. While yet there is another point from which we view ourselves as pilgrims and strangers, that is only another aspect, not a contradictory one. This letter makes the thing something that is already concluded:
Has chosen us in Him.
Has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Him.
Has quickened us together with Him.
Has raised us together in Him.
Has seated us together in Him.
His being there, in the eye of God, is our being there. If you and I can apprehend that strongly by faith, we will stop worrying as to whether we will ever get to glory. It is that very worry as to whether we are going to get there that is taking the 'kick' out of us. Let us get both feet settled on an Ephesian position - what Christ in heaven means for our faith, that, as surely as He is there, we are there already in the thought of God, for God does not dwell in yesterday, today and tomorrow. God is in the eternal Now, and a thousand years hence is now with God, and when God says, "Has", that is now.
You see, you cannot move on into the real vocation and the real conflict of the church until you have got the calling settled, until you are there quite surely. You are going to be told about your conduct, but, as we shall see, your conduct will be an awfully difficult, onerous thing unless you have got the vision of your calling. If it were any other way round it would upset everything for us. How wonderful the Holy Spirit is! He comes along and He says, "Now, look here, this is what God's thought is for you and God's intention is for you, and what God has not only meant and intended, but provided for you, what God has secured for you, in His Son. This marvelous, unspeakably wonderful thing! This, that you with His Son shall be His administrative instrument in His universe in heaven and on earth through all the ages of the ages! This is what God has called you to. Now then husbands, love your wives!"
You have got to apprehend everything in the light of the calling, the objective. And in the light of that you say, "My word, if that great thing is going to be weakened or jeopardised by my conduct, whether it be in my domestic circle, my business, or in this world, then God help me, it shall not be! Anything in my home life that is going to cast a shadow over that thing shall not be." We will deal with it in the light of that. We will not deal with it as a merely earthly, domestic, family affair. No, we will remove it. Yes, our conduct will be touched upon in all directions.
How am I going to enter into this warfare? How am I going to walk worthily of the Lord? How am I going to prevail in this conflict? Only as I am settled on the foundation of my calling in Christ: what Christ is and what Christ has done, what my position is in Christ now. If it still sounds remote, do take this to the Lord! It is so bound up with the new position of spiritual power.
You see the significance of the Lord Jesus, how He answers in His person and His work the whole situation which represents man's need in order that man may come to that for which God has chosen him in Christ before the foundation of the world. But we have got to apprehend this. It has got to be an apprehending of Christ in His person, and surely that lies behind the Lord's Table. Whenever we come to the Lord's Table and we eat together of that one loaf, we are testifying to this first glorious fact bound up with the very incarnation, the Body of Christ. "A body didst Thou prepare for Me". As, in the Spirit, I take by faith that very person of Christ, I find my union in Him with God, God and man united in that incarnate person. I take the loaf in declaration that I have been made one with God in Christ; not now as some separate entity, but as part of one Body, and that the Body of Christ, in which Body God and man have been joined.
I want to keep these things in their right realm, to see the glory of the thing that we do. It is not 'the Communion Service'. It is the spiritual meaning of union with Christ. This is what we must see - the need for apprehending Christ at every point: His person, His death, His resurrection, His ascension, His exaltation, in order that we may know the fulness of God's thought about ourselves - reigning union with the Lord Jesus now spiritually, and in the ages of the ages literally.
The Lord write it in our hearts!