Companions of Christ and the Heavenly Calling
Chapter 7 - The Two Beginnings
Hebrews chapter 3, verses 1 and 14, only by way of refreshing your
memory, not by way of insulting it! "Wherefore, holy brethren,
partakers or companions of a heavenly calling... we are become
companions of Christ if we hold fast the beginning firm unto the
end." Companions of Christ and of a heavenly calling... and we are
seeing that this letter to the Hebrews embodies the whole of the
character of the dispensation in which we live. It is the change
from the old earthly Israel, to the new heavenly Israel.
sorry for those friends who have only been able to join us today,
but I am more sorry for myself than for you - we are today exactly
halfway through this conference, which means that a great deal has
already been said. It is quite impossible for me to gather you
into what is being said by going over all the ground covered. I
trust that the Lord will help you to fall right into the course
that He is taking. So we go on with a further fragment of this
matter of the new Israel as the companions of Christ in a heavenly
This morning we are going back to the beginning of this history,
because we have been seeing that God is following, in a spiritual
way, the line that He took the first Israel. He took a certain
line with Israel in an earthly way; He is taking that same line
with the new heavenly Israel, but in a spiritual way.
It would be a very wonderful thing if we were to spend some
time in seeing God's line right from the beginning up to
Christ. There were many generations which came to an end. In one
place there is a large summary of what came and what
finished. It says, "So-and-so lived, and he lived for so long..."
and then it says "and he died". And that is said about a long list
of people - they lived and then
they died. But right through there is one line that lives and
never dies; it is the line moving straight through history right
Christ and you can clearly follow that line.
Now, at a certain point in that movement of God, we find ourselves
in the presence of God's beginning with Israel. It has now moved
from individuals to the point where the nation comes into
view. So far it had been individuals; it had been Abel, and Enoch,
and Noah, and all those antediluvians, as they are called. But
when it comes to Abraham, we come to the point where a nation
comes into view; it is Israel, the Israel of history; that is, the
Israel of this
And this morning we are going to note the beginning and how God
began with Israel, and how the
principle of that beginning is transferred to the new,
heavenly Israel in Christ. And it is very impressive that you have
the beginning of the first Israel in the New Testament, and you
have it in
the book of the Acts. Now note that's a significant
thing because the book of the Acts is the link between the old and
the new. The focal point of the transition from the one to the
other is in the book of the Acts. And interestingly enough, it is
in the discourse
of the martyr, Stephen. The old Israel killed Stephen and out of
the death of Stephen sprang the new Israel.
The first thing that Stephen said to the old Israel was this.
Chapter 7 of the book of Acts and verse 2: "The God of
glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Ur of the
Chaldees". "The God of glory
appeared..." that was the first movement to the old
Israel, and that is exactly the first movement to the new
Israel: it is the appearing of the God of glory. We are seeing in
the New Testament this beginning.
Turn again to the Gospel by John: "In the
beginning was the Word... and the Word was made flesh and
tabernacled among us..." now note: "and we beheld His glory". Turn
again to the letter to the
Hebrews chapter 1: "God...
has at the end of these times spoken unto us in His Son...
who is the effulgence of His glory". The God of glory appeared...
has spoken to us at the end
of these times in His Son... who is the effulgence of His glory.
First of all, then, it is:
God is Breaking into Human History.
is how it was with the first Israel. Away there, in Ur of the
Chaldees, a pagan country with two thousand other gods, the
God of glory broke in and changed the course of history. He took
His first step toward the securing of Israel.
The first chapter of John is God in glory breaking
into human history in a new way. Now that, of course, is in the Bible, in the Old Testament and in
Testament, and you may mentally put it out there and view it
in an objective way. But you must just take hold of that and bring
it right into this room and bring it into the rows of people and
let it come right on you personally, because this relates to you
to me personally. It is you and it is me who are called by God to
be the companions of
Christ in a heavenly calling; this belongs to all of us.
The very beginning of our history as God's heavenly Israel is the
intervention of God in our lives. Perhaps to some of us it was
unexpected as it was to Abraham in Ur of the
Chaldees. We were living our lives in this world, we were mixed
up in the course of this world, the god of this world ruled our
lives. Well, there we were, just one in a great crowd... and
then God broke into our lives. And when God breaks into a life
there is no
doubt about it: there's a turning-point in history, in our
history. And the
nature of the change is that we no longer belong to this
world. We have become members of a new Israel; in other
words, of a heavenly
people with a spiritual nature.
It may not have been with
us just as it was with Abraham, but it is essential for every
one of us to know that God has entered into our human history.
It was not something in the first place from our side, but it
was something from God's side. He took the initiative,
perhaps in some
wonderful way, or in some very simple way. It may belong to a
moment in time, or it may belong to days, weeks and months. But
the fact is that God came in where we were. How did
God come in? And how has He come in? How should we put it, if we
wanted to put it into
words? Well, it says here about the old Israel: "The God
you put it like that as to your experience?
Well, you see these words here in the New Testament explain that.
God came in
Jesus Christ, and in Jesus Christ is the glory of God. And as we
seen Jesus Christ, we have come into touch with the God of
glory. In these words of Hebrews 1: "God
has spoken to us in His son". And all those who know
that Jesus Christ has come into their lives really do know
that the God of glory has come in. And so, after saying that the
Word became flesh and dwelt among us, John says,
"and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from
And what is the glory? "Full of
grace and truth". You notice
in the New Testament grace and glory always go together.
If you want to know what the glory of God is, it is the
grace of God, and if you want to know what the grace of
God is, it is the glory of God. It is the glory of God to be
gracious. God glories in being gracious, and when you know the
grace of God, then you know the glory of God. The glory of God
will always come to us along the line of grace, and so,
because of grace, we shall be able to say: "and we beheld
Now, perhaps you know that that word "glory" is one of the big
words in John's Gospel. If you have never done so, I advise
you to go through that Gospel and underline the word "glory".
Now, just a little word to the young Christians who have not done
a lot of Bible study yet. I hadn't thought of saying
this, but perhaps it will be helpful. I do not profess to know
a great deal about the Bible, indeed, I know very little of the
Bible, but I'll tell you how I started to study the Bible. I
box of coloured pencils and I bought a new Bible. And I came first
of all to the gospel by John and I gave a certain colour to the
through the Gospel. Of course, I put green always where the
word "life" is found! That's the colour for life; you see it all
around - green speaks of
life. I put blue wherever the word "glory" is - that's
the colour for heaven. I put red wherever the blood is, or
anything to do with
the blood or the Cross - and so I went on. I had a
wonderful result in the Gospel of John when I was finished!
And to this day if I want to say something about Life, why, it's
all there in green! Now that's only a suggestion, and I think you
might find it a very simple help. There are a lot more colours
than those three!
Now I'm speaking about glory, glory is one of John's great words,
all the references in John to Christ's glory are related
to His supernatural person and His supernatural power. When
John said "We beheld His
glory" he was writing many, many years after the Lord
Jesus had come and gone. John's gospel is one of the oldest of the
New Testament writings. Probably all the
other apostles had gone to the Lord when John wrote his gospel.
And so John was looking back over all that history and he was
putting into certain words
his impressions, and as he thought of the Lord
Jesus, His life, His work, His teaching, and everything else
about Him, he summed it all up in this: "and we beheld His
How did he behold His glory? He beheld His glory on
many occasions, He beheld His glory by a whole series of humanly
situations. Now there's another line of study for you! Go to the gospel by
John and see how many impossible situations you can find! Oh, that
gospel is just full of impossible situations. Think about
the marriage in Cana of Galilee, when the wine failed. It's a
humanly impossible situation. Go into your next chapter with
Nicodemus and what is
it that Nicodemus is saying? "How can a man be
born when he is old?" - an
impossible situation! Think of the woman of Samaria. She had
tried everything to find that satisfaction. An impossible
situation! You see you can go right on like this. And in all these
situations, Jesus came in and turned the impossible into
actuality. And so it says at the end of the account of the
marriage in Cana: "This first of miracles did Jesus in
Cana, and showed forth His glory". That was the principle
governing everything. It
does not always say that in exact words, but if you went back
with that woman of Samaria into the city and heard her
shouting to all the people in the city: "Come, behold a man, is
not this the Christ?" you would conclude that she had beheld His
And so you go right on to Lazarus. Jesus said: "This sickness
is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God
glorified". And in the difficulty being faced by those sisters in
they could not accept altogether that their problem
was going to be solved at once, and they said: "I know
that he shall rise again in the last
day", Jesus said: "Said
I not unto thee, that if thou believedst, thou shouldest see
the glory of God?" You see, the glory of God in Jesus Christ
what God could do that no other could do. It was the
supernatural Person and power of the Son of God.
That was the glory of God.
And dear friends, that is why we sometimes have
such a difficulty in getting through. Perhaps you have often
been troubled because of the difficulty that some soul has in
getting through to the Lord. It almost seems as though the
Lord does not want to save them! They go through difficulties,
sometimes for days, weeks or months, and you know all the time
arguing, they're bringing up their problems, and nothing seems to
happen. And then, at last, it does happen and they come through.
Why is that? God is saying emphatically: "This is going to be
of Me, and not of
yourself". No man or woman can save himself or herself;
with all the goodwill of other people to help, they cannot save.
of a soul is an impossible thing but for God, and God sees
it that it is put upon the supernatural basis. And very often
He does not come in until we have come to the point of despair -
but He does come in then.
And what is true about salvation is so often true about our
spiritual history. Again and again we are brought to the point
where situations are quite impossible where man is concerned.
We cannot solve that problem ourselves, we cannot change the
situation ourselves. If it were that we were only people of this
world, we might be able to
do it, but somehow or other, because we are the Lord's people,
it just doesn't work. All our cleverness fails. Naturally
there is no reason why we should not get on, but the fact
that we just do not. We try everything, we are greatly
perplexed. We are being brought more and more to despair, and we
are being brought to the point where we say: "Well, only the Lord
this!" - and that is exactly what the Lord has been working
for. When the God of glory appears, He appears as the God of
glory. Do you see the point?
Well, I said that the word "glory" in
John's gospel is connected with the supernatural
power of Jesus Christ, and we only learn who Jesus is by
coming up against situations in which He only can help us. The
more we are going to learn about the Lord Jesus,
the more impossible will life be here on
this earth and the more impossible will situations become.
Well, that's the beginning of the God of glory.
Note the next thing:
God's Glory in Abraham Reached its
Climax in Sonship.
There were many things in the life of
Abraham which needed the God of glory to come in and so we read
that in different situations "the Lord appeared unto Abraham". But
the climax of all God's appearances to Abraham was in
connection with Isaac - that is, it was bound up with this
matter of sonship. The covenant of God with Abraham was going
to be realised along the line of sonship; all God's
purposes in Abraham were bound up with Isaac.
Of course, at the
beginning Isaac was an impossibility, but at the end he was
still greater an impossibility - "Take now thy son, thine only
son, whom thou lovest... and offer him a sacrifice". Here is all
the promise and covenant wrapped up in Isaac,
to be slain with a knife. This is an impossible
situation! Isaac to die? There's no possibility of another
Isaac, indeed, I doubt whether Abraham would have wanted
another Isaac. It was a matter of life or death to him; a
quite impossible situation if Isaac lies dead on the altar.
But you know what happened and you know what the New
Testament says about that, it says: "he received him back as by
Has ever anybody raised someone from the dead but God? Men can
do a great deal in prolonging life, and they think that they are
reach the time when they will raise the dead. Well, we haven't
reached that time yet, and we shall see whether God will
surrender His own one prerogative - that is, to bring back a
departed spirit into a dead body. That is God's act, that is
resurrection, not resuscitation.
I was saying that the glory of God reached its climax in
Abraham's case along the line of sonship. Later on we shall
have to look at this more closely in connection with Lazarus,
but let us come back to our beginning.
John 1 again, "We beheld His glory". How do we
behold His glory? "He
came unto His own, and they that were His own would not receive
Him. But as many
as did receive Him, to them gave He the right to become sons of
God", He gave them the authority to be sons. That's
our history. We, here this morning (I trust it's true of
everybody) are able to say: "By God's intervention I am a
child of God." And then you notice how John analyses this: "which
born, not of the will of the flesh, not of blood, nor of the
will of man, but of God". Children of God by the intervention of
God, by a
direct act of God, born from above, made
children of God. The glory of God revealed in Jesus Christ
Are you glorying in the fact that you are a born again child
This same John, all those years afterward, with a very full heart
wrote these words: "Beloved,
now are we the children of God, and it does not yet appear what we
shall be. But when the children are full-grown, we know that we
shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is". And connected
with that, John says: "Behold, what
manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we
should be called sons of God".
Oh, it's a wonderful thing to be a child of God! Anyway, John said
and he knew what he was talking about.
The glory, then, is in sonship. And I think I'm going to leave it
there for this morning, perhaps if I say much more you will forget
what I have said. But it is just at that point, you see, that
the Israel comes into view: Abraham's seed through Isaac. It's
the nation that is coming into view now and, as we have said
said to Pharaoh: "Let My son go". And that word "son" was a
comprehensive word, it embodied the whole nation. God saw that
nation as one son and He would not surrender one fragment of that,
because sonship is such a complete thing. Pharaoh said "Well,
just let the men go. Leave the women and children and leave your
and herds". And Moses said: "Not one single hoof of one single cow
shall stay behind." God had said "My son", and that
included the nation. Oh, how I'd like to go over the New Testament
with that, but we can leave that until tomorrow.
[ Previous Chapter ]
[ Next Chapter ]