Message given on July 24, 1966. Due to the poor quality of this recorded message, where a word/phrase was unclear or the audio faded out, we have noted this in [square] brackets.
Lord, Thou hast said: "Separated from Me ye can do nothing". We know it, we acknowledge it, and it applies to this very moment and hour. But Lord, we pray, close up the gap, remove every form and degree of separateness from Thyself. May there be such a oneness with Thee that Thou art able to bear Thine own fruit through this ministry, and so shall the Father be glorified, for this we ask in the Name of the Lord Jesus, amen.
I am afraid I must ask you to look at quite a handful of fragments of the Scripture, going back to the first book of the Kings. First book of the Kings, chapter 8, at verse 1: "And king Solomon, then king Solomon assembled the elders of Israel, and all the heads of the tribes, the princes of the fathers' houses of the children of Israel, unto king Solomon in Jerusalem".
Verse 22: "And Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven".
Verse 63: "And the king, and all Israel with him, offered sacrifice before the Lord. And Solomon offered for the sacrifice of peace offerings, which he offered unto the Lord, two and twenty thousand oxen, and an hundred and twenty thousand sheep. So the king and all the children of Israel dedicated the house of the Lord".
Now to the letter to the Ephesians, chapter 1:7: "According to the riches of His grace, which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known unto the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Him unto a dispensation of the fulness of the times, to sum up all things in Christ, the things in the heavens, and the things upon the earth".
Chapter 2: "And you, when ye were dead through your trespasses and sins, wherein aforetime ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that now worketh in the sons of disobedience; among whom we also all once lived in the lusts of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest - but God, being rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, quickened us together with Christ (by grace are ye saved), and raised us up with Him, and made us to sit with Him in the heavenlies, in Christ Jesus".
Chapter 3, verse 17: "Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; to the end that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge, that ye may be filled unto all the fulness of God".
Finally, chapter 5, verse 27: "That He might present the church to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish".
Now, as far as I'm concerned, we have come to the last of these particular messages, and I have to confess to you that it is far from the end of what I wanted to say! And into this brief hour, not to strive, but the dinner is the limit, and I am very much cast upon the Lord to get in an immense amount that He will decide we shall register in the Spirit whether it's enough.
We have been occupied with the greatnesses of the unsearchable riches of Christ, and we have been allowing Solomon to be for us an illustration and interpreter of Him who is the greater than Solomon - he, Solomon, being but a foreshadowing of Christ. The foreshadowing is always so much less than the foreshadowed, he helps us toward that 'Greater'.
We have contemplated aspects of that greatness, in the midst of the many aspects of Solomon's greatness: the greatness of his wisdom, the greatness of his riches, the greatness of his glory, the greatness of his food (that was one thing I wanted to have a whole hour on, but we're not going to) the greatness of his honour. In the midst of this many-sided greatness of Solomon there stand out, most prominently over all: the altar and the house.
The Altar and the House
What we have read just now (and you would do well to read the corresponding record in the book of the Chronicles) what we have just read about Solomon gathering all the people, the princes and heads of fathers' houses, the whole congregation to Jerusalem for the dedication of the house of God, you notice it's very closely related to the Cross. You were impressed perhaps, and if you were not you ought to have been startled by the number of the sacrifices. Just unimaginable! But notice before you go further with that, that these two supreme predominant greatnesses of the altar and the house, are focused in the person as king. Keep that in mind. It is the person himself, now as king, sitting upon the throne of David, high, lifted up, it is he as such who gives the significance to the altar and the house. They take their meaning and their character from him in his exalted position, in his glory. That's a statement I trust you will hold on to as we go on.
Now consider the greatness of this altar. I haven't read the description of the building of the altar, if you do so, you will see that it was an immense altar. An immense altar, tremendously! The very thickness of it is said to be a hand's width in thickness; well that's something, if you've a big hand, but even if that's a hand of [brass] was the thickness, the wall of the altar, the whole thing when you get the full dimension which means that it must have been a tremendous thing, a very weighted [thing], not some light thing at all. Well that's the description given - makes you feel that it must have been an immense altar. And as for the sacrifices, two and twenty thousand oxen! Can you picture that? Coming, coming in a procession reaching almost to the horizon. Here they come, battalion upon battalion of oxen, all winding their way toward that altar, two and twenty thousand of them, and that's only the beginning! Following them there are the thousands of sheep. Sheep! It is almost unthinkable, unimaginable! You look and you see this vast line of oxen and sheep, reaching right away, as I have said, almost to the horizon, here they come.
How many days it will take to sacrifice all that, and what rivers of blood will be poured out as they are sacrificed day after day, from morning until evening! I have often felt that I would not have liked to have been of the priests and the Levites who had that job. They certainly needed a good many courses of Levites to slay that throng. My point is the immensity of this sacrifice, and the meaning of this altar, an altar that could contain all that, to put all that into effect! How great that altar was! And a greater than Solomon is here, a greater altar, a transcendently greater sacrifice is here in the Greater Son of David, the Lord Jesus.
You see, this was, after all, but a historical thing, a thing in time. It's written in the book, belongs to a long past day of long ago, it's a record in the story of something that happened long ago. It is way back there, and it stays away back there. In itself it was in the days of Solomon, and they are past and gone, and all that with it. A historical thing in the life of an earthly nation.
But when you pass from Solomon and his altar and sacrifice to the Greater, the Greater than Solomon, it is there that you find the first point of the superiority, the transcendence of the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is super-historical! That is, it outbounds all time it reaches from eternity to eternity. The Lamb was slain before the foundation of the world, and when all the ages pass in procession before our eyes through the Bible, Old and New Testaments, and we come beyond time, when time is no more and we in eternity, the Lamb in the midst of the throne is the object dominating everything. Super-historical! Outranging all time by reason of a virtue, a virtue that was never in the two and twenty thousand oxen and thousands of sheep offered by Solomon. A virtue!
Turn over to the letter to the Hebrews: "It is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sin". Read that letter again in the light of this. He, not by two and twenty thousand oxen and thousands of sheep, but by one offering went further than all, did more than all that they did, effected what they never could effect. It was a virtue in His sacrifice.
It is an impressive thing that in the earlier Christian literature, I mean the earlier narratives of the New Testament, the crucifixion is hardly mentioned. It is hardly mentioned, the crucifixion, but the death is everywhere! He died... He died... it is the death that is the prominent thing, not the crucifixion. The crucifixion is the historic aspect; it's just the thing that man did, but within that that man did, within that outward aspect of His death there was a virtue, a mighty virtue which was dealing with a force, an immense, unspeakably strong, deep force of evil that has accounted for all these centuries of this world's misery and will account for eternity's misery for men.
But behind and deeper down than the crucifixion was the death, a mighty, virtuous death. A virtuous death, something that, if you touch it or it touches you, means a registration of something awful, something terrible. You know, if you and I are at all spiritually sensitive and we touch certain things, we have to draw back; what brother Watchman Nee used to call 'the earth-touch'. If you touch that, if you become involved in that voluntarily, voluntarily involved in that in this world, if you are spiritually alive and sensitive, there is something there that stings you; you feel that you have been tainted, feel that you have been pulled out of position, and that you have got to get away and have a spiritual bath and wash yourself, and get before the Lord and take the mighty efficacy of the blood to get you back again into your proper realm as a child of God. Mark you, this is a real, real evidence that we are born again, and it becomes increasingly like that as we go on. The mark of growth is this deepening sensitiveness to what is Life and what is death, and it is the governing and deciding thing in guidance. Yes, the law of the Spirit of Life is the law of guidance. The mind of the Spirit is life and peace and that is a guiding law; but I must not be too detailed.
Back of His sacrifice there was a virtue, a power, that was never in all the sacrifices of Solomon. It is not the crucifixion. You can wear the crucifix and make a lot of the crucifix and the earthly, physical suffering, but the New Testament puts its finger not upon that, but upon the mighty, mighty power of His death. It is a power that vetoes, a power that prohibits, a power on the one side that says to a whole system and order and realm and universe: 'No! No! The end!' To be united with Him in the likeness of His death is to become aware of what is and what is not acceptable to God, because that is the effect of the Cross of the Lord Jesus. The Christian life is that, is that!
Yes, it is super-historical. It reaches back to eternity past, it passes through all time, and reaches on to eternity to be, this mighty effectiveness and virtue of the death of the Lord Jesus. The crucifixion was less than forty years old when the epistles were written, and if something like this had happened within the last forty years of our life, we should be talking about the thing, shouldn't we? "Oh, that awful thing that happened, that killing; what happened there on that cross, on that hill..." we would be occupied with all that. But these apostles were not occupied with that. They are occupied with the inner meaning of the Cross and what it means in the spiritual realm; ours and all others. This is something tremendous.
It is the spiritual and inner meaning and power of the Cross that is the New Testament subject. You have this immense thing, of course, it is only a figure and type, and is given to us in Solomon to show us figuratively, symbolically, in type how great, immense and massive is the death of Jesus, the sacrifice of our Lord.
Now, you see, I can strive to find words to set this forth, but I know I am defeated when I start, because I know that it is going to take all the ages of the ages to tell this story. They will be singing the song of the Lamb forever! We know so little, but all we can say here at a time like this is that to seek if the Lord shall make an impression upon us.
This Cross, about which we talk so much and think we know because we have got the tones, the language, the phrasing - 'Identification with Christ', 'Union with Him, in His death, burial, and resurrection' - and all the rest of it, we think that we know it, when really we haven't, haven't begun to know the immensity of what Jesus was and did in His Cross!
Solomon is, after all, but a shadow and yet and yet - think! Two and twenty thousand oxen and thousands of sheep... trailing for days toward the altar, being sacrificed, all the land around saturated by their blood. Beasts, by relay after relay being exhausted to accomplish this thing. And it's a mere shadow of the reality of the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ! It is extra-historic, it is extra-terrestrial; we stumble at the language, for language will defeat us.
Extra-terrestrial, I have said, that is, it is above this earth, above this world, it reaches far beyond what is here. It is, and now here's another phrase, it is super-cosmic this Cross. This Cross, this death of the Lord Jesus not only takes in all that is here on this earth, but it reaches unto heaven. The heavens were defiled. The heavens were defiled - something happened in heaven before it happened on the earth. It began there when the "angels who kept not their first estate" were cast out in everlasting chains. The devil who led them lost his place and all the heavens were defiled. A great schism took place in heaven, the beginning of all schisms unto this day. That's where it began, and that's where it came from. It is a much bigger thing than this world.
Paul, in this letter so-called to the Ephesians, just gives us a glimpse, doesn't he: "Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but with principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, hosts of wicked spirits". That's the realm where the Cross has its range and its reach, what Paul calls "in the heavenlies". "In the heavenlies..." one of the most difficult phrases in the New Testament and the whole Bible to define and explain. We haven't time even to attempt it, but our point is it is the virtue of the death of the Lord Jesus which reaches through all ranges and all realms until it reaches the very throne of heaven itself, and there the Lamb is the testament to the universality of what was done at that spot at that moment in time here. How vast a range is the death of the Lord Jesus! Solomon's sacrifice, great as it was, didn't reach beyond the locality. The death of the Lord Jesus outbounds all locality. It is super-terrestrial.
Coming nearer, we read in Ephesians: we have redemption in His blood. Oh, what a lovely thing: redemption! We rejoice in redemption, we sing about it, it is one of our favourite words and topics, isn't it? Isn't it? 'I am redeemed!' You will notice that it is a compound word with a prefix - 're'-demption. Look again at all the words with that prefix: re-conciliation, re-storation, re-demption. Something was, and it was lost; something was, and it was forfeited; something was sold into the slave market.
Those of you who know your New Testament, know so much of it, but this Cross, this death, is a redemption, a recovery of all, not only man's condition and man lost, but more than that, a recovery of all that God lost in man of God's purpose, of God's intention, of God's destiny. It was for the time being lost to Him, and there is a very much larger context, of course, to our gospels. "The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost". These sheep if you like, sons, if you like, all that and more, but the loss, the loss that took place is almost indescribable when you trace it to God. You know, right there, right there where the Lord Jesus is speaking about the lost, and the Son of Man coming, coming for the purpose of seeking and saving that which was lost. He includes what we call the "Parable of the Prodigal" - it is wrong, a misnomer altogether, but you go on using it like that. But when He comes to this man, this son who is called the 'prodigal', he is far away, lost to the father, lost to the home, lost to the family.
Translate that into heavenliness, heavenly things. The Lord knows what He is talking about when He makes that man become alive to his lost condition, and the causes of it, when He makes him say, puts into his mouth these words in his return: "Father! Father..." what does he say? "I have been a bad boy; I made a mistake; I did the wrong thing, I brought a lot of trouble on myself. All this is because of my, my fault!" Did He make him say that? "Father, I have sinned against heaven and in Thy sight". The Lord Jesus is meticulously careful in how He puts things. This, this loss is against heaven! It is heaven that has lost, and sin is robbing heaven of its rights and the Father of His rights. That's sin! 'I have sinned against heaven and in Thy sight', and that is why there is joy in the presence of the angels over one sinner that repenteth, because heaven has got back that which was stolen from it. Heaven has recovered, recovered what heaven lost, and more than that, the angels are more concerned for the Father than even for heaven. The Father has got back that which is His right and was stolen from Him, by a great sin, great sin.
Well, you see, we have redemption. Oh, how great a thing redemption is! Isn't it? Not only to man, it is the universe, the universe is full of conflict, full of strife, full of controversy. In the very atmosphere of this universe they are contending. It is a terrible thing when in our spiritual sensitiveness we get into that atmosphere, that realm where the two things are clashing; that which is of the Lord, that which is of heaven, that which we know to be our real realm and life, we come into the atmosphere where there is antagonism, and hatred and malice. It is a terrible thing to feel the very hostility that is in the atmosphere in this world.
Many who have laboured in heathen countries know what I am talking about. If you go, go there, I have been to some of them, and I remember my first visit to India. My, I went out where there was idol worship, and where the idol was stuck up in a place with a fence around. And the people were furtive, afraid as they passed by, in terror, and it was not just something objective. You felt, as you feel in those temples, those heathen temples, something evil; something evil and you want to get away. I am going to say a thing now that could get me into a lot of trouble in certain realms: I felt that on my first visit to St Peter's in Rome. Of course when visiting Rome you want to see all that, I went to the coliseum, I went to this place and that, and then I wanted to see the Sistine chapel and I wanted to. And I went in. Dear friends, this is no fiction, or imagination, I went in innocently to see a sight. I was a Christian. And when I got in there, the stench of death, death, so overwhelmed me that I felt physically ill. I couldn't stay long. I looked round, I watched what was going on, and I had to get out. Not until I got right away did I feel better. See? Something there, the realm of a spiritual antagonism. [indecipherable]
They were in this very universe, there is this conflict because of what began at the beginning, coming from heaven through all realms and polluting all realms in the past, and registering its pollution upon this earth. It's there. But recovery has been, the death of the Lord Jesus has delivered from that! It's a glorious and wonderful thing to be delivered from that. I'm not talking of geography, this is where you need an hour of explanation of the meaning of the heavenlies. See, the heavenlies, oh, don't get a mentality of up there somewhere. I want to say to you that all that is in the heavenlies, good and bad, registers in your spirit. You are as near to the heavenlies in your spirit as you've ever been to your [indecipherable]. Oh Christian, you don't know what you're talking about.
He said to his men who were sent up into orbit, first of all, "You look around and see if you can find this place the Christians call heaven." And they came back and reported. He said, "I asked them to look for this thing, they said of course they never found any such place." Poor man, poor man, if he'd become a Christian, he would know. He would know that there is something more than a geographical realm, when you speak of the heavenlies, you are speaking about super-cosmic forces of evil and antagonism, but blessed be God we have redemption through His blood. And that's going to be outside of that world, isn't it? For we are outside of it, some of the meaning of being outside where you have to go back but you need not go in, "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world".
And then thank God this creation itself is redeemed. Redeemed! And it's waiting now for the day when that redemption will be consummated, and "the creation" as Paul puts it, "shall itself be delivered from the bondage of destruction" when this earth as it is and this world, will have been burned up and a new heaven and a new earth... redeemed, redeemed. That was effected and secured in the death of Jesus Christ. In the death of Jesus Christ! Now you want an hour on 1 Corinthians 15, don't you? Wonderful revelation of redeemed, resurrected physical bodies.
The great question! I thought that I might have had some time to talk about this, a great question: how are the dead raised up and with what body do they come? Cremated bodies, a handful of dust taken out and scattered on the waves of the sea. The body burned to cinders in some far continent. How are the dead raised and with what body do they come? Well, here's the exceeding greatness of His wisdom, "Thou fools! Thou fools... you are governed in your ideas by your own natural wisdom - fools! The wisdom of man is utter foolishness." How are the dead raised up? And Paul answers, "You have got a spirit!" You have got a spirit. As believers that spirit has been born anew. In that spirit is the Divine Life, indestructible Life, incorruptible Life - that is the germ and God in your physical disintegration shows that spirit and then gives it a form as it pleases Him. Give it a form, you get the germ, and quicken it, and the body corresponding will follow. This is a mystery, of course, how? Oh, Paul says, "In this we groan, in this we groan waiting for our adoption, to whit, the redemption of our bodies" bringing back the body to what it was before this corruption, this seed of corruption was sown in it. Not fully perfected, but I believe, it was a glorious body then. Now, this is a point of dispute, but I think when Adam and Eve became aware that they were naked, that's symbolic language, that some kind of covering had been removed from them. I believe that covering was a covering of some glory, and they became aware that they had lost something glorious as their covering and they were naked.
You know the New Testament takes up that point and relates it, not to, not to physical, but to a spiritual state. Well, I'm getting you too deep, but to re-deem the body means to bring it back to something which it lost; which it lost. Have we anything to go upon to establish that? I think we have. I think we have. I have seen people pass from this life, and come very near to it myself in the compass of my own life. Well, a child of God who had lived, sacrificed, and suffered for the Lord, only for the Lord, through many years. The other? Had rejected the Lord persistently, consistently through the years. I've seen them both under my own eyes pass out. And as this one passed: oh, the radiance, the physical radiance, the glory on that face, the renewal of childhood almost! [Indecipherable] I say, that's not death! [audio fades out] The other passing out, reaching, reaching [audio fades out] oh there was such darkness I tried to [audio fades out] There it is. All those years had passed [audio fades out] oh it was death, not a ray of light in that; death, not Life.
I'm not exaggerating, I'm giving an instance. It's like that you know, at times, I wish it were more true. You can see, sometimes you know the real enjoyment of the Lord, it makes a difference to our faces, even in poor bodies under much, that have undergone a great deal, there's something, something that speaks of the glory of the Lord in the face and in the eyes. You don't have to be introduced to a true child of God, [audio fades out] you know them by their faces, [audio fades out] by their very face you can say "You're a Christian, aren't you?" "Oh yes!" Others? There's nothing there. [audio fades out] The Lord is not [there]. This is simple truth [audio fades out] you know what I mean? Yes we have evidence now that there's a glory which belongs to this body, which sin has marred, taken away, and does take the glory out of the person. It does, but the re-demption, "having been made" says Paul "like unto His glorious body" - for a body of His glory. The Cross has secured it! Oh, how great is this Cross!
Again, it's the work of the Lord Jesus, His sacrifice, being so much greater than Solomon, is inclusive and final. Not all the blood of bulls on Jewish altars, but comprehending them from the day of Abel through all the sacrifices, from Abel up to Abraham, Abraham up: Israel and Moses - all of them. And then, throw in this bit: "two and twenty thousand oxen", thousands of them, throw it all in, throw it all in! I say the one Lamb comprehended all those [audio fades out] Does what all that never did and never could do. This one offering embraces all and it's final. It is one offering forever, "Having made one offering forever". [audio fades out] As far as His work is concerned, as far as His work is concerned as the Offering, it is finished. [audio fades out]
I may have said this before perhaps, when they brought the pascal lamb to the priest, after it had been laid up for fourteen days for scrutiny and examination, brought to the priest who was an arch critic, a master critic, [audio fades out] He looked it over, looked at it through and through with those trained eyes, to find some blemish - one blemish, one spot, one wrinkle - it was rejected. If, after its period of probation, the priest could absolutely find not one hair on that lamb that was another colour, he lifted his hand and placed it on the head of the lamb and pronounced the formula: "It is perfect" that is the words the Lord Jesus used on the Cross when He offered Himself. [audio fades out] "It is finished. It is perfect." The apostle tells us that He offered Himself without spot [audio fades out] Final. Blessed be God for this unspeakably marvelous [audio fades out] He "might present to Himself a glorious church without spot or wrinkle or any such thing"! [audio fades out] These are unsearchable riches. The finality of the Cross, of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus. I've only touched the Cross, you see, I told you I'm going to be beaten, I haven't started on the house!
"Solomon, my son, is yet young and tender", said David, "and the house which he builds is exceeding magnificent". It is for the Lord, and therefore it must be something very great and very wonderful. Will you suffer me a few minutes with this? For here we pass from the type, all magnificent.
I wonder what your conception of that temple of Solomon is? It was very great in itself, I'll ask you to go and measure it, and I think you would find that it was probably no bigger than this hall in dimensions. But the concentrated glory and majesty and realm in this thing, this thing! You come to the House that He is building, He calls your house, "My House, My House, My House".
"Whose House are We..."
This House which He is building is the embodiment of the concentrated values of the Cross of the Lord Jesus, because, you see, all this immense sacrifice was in the dedication of the house. It was the dedication of the house. The house takes its dimensions, the spiritual dimensions from the altar. If that altar is immense, like this and that sacrifice, incalculable... how great this house must be, if all that is required for its dedication! If it takes up all that into itself, takes its character from all that in the altar, what a house it must be! If this house cost all that, cost all that, then you must use your imagination, that procession of bulls and sheep [audio fades out] read the story in the context, people willingly offered, but it cost them, it cost them. It represents great cost! There it is. There it is. You imagine the sacrifice, the cost of all that sacrifice all concentrated in the House: Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it!
There is a world which is a field, and in that field is a treasure. He has espied that treasure, and, having found it, off He goes and sells all that He has. You get the picture of Philippians 2, don't you? This field of this world, this treasure, and a way back to heaven, heaven's throne, His rights in heaven, of equality with God, and He sells it all, divests Himself of it all; counts it not a prize to be held on to, but empties Himself of heaven, heaven's glories, heaven's rights, heaven's prerogatives, and everything He had as the eternal Son in ages past, sells, to have the church. "Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it that He might present it to Himself a glorious church".
You and I, dear friends, need to recover something beyond the truth of the church, the doctrine of the body of Christ, and recover its infinite preciousness to the Lord. If we did that, not, not just objectively as some wonderful idea, some wonderful teaching, but realised that that man there, that woman there, with all their faults, are part of that, so-loved by Christ that He gave everything to have it, every part of it, what a difference it would make, wouldn't it? What a difference it would make in our behaviour, and it is meant to do that. If it doesn't do that, with all that we know about the church, we don't know anything.
People talk to me on church doctrine, church truth, church ground - however you may put it - but I have yet to see how much they are embracing all that for which Christ died, and not excluding any, not becoming exclusive, but embracing all who are embraced by that sacrifice of Love. He gave Himself for it. You cannot be narrow, small, legalistic, exclusive, if you have seen the church really, because in seeing the church you have seen Christ. You cannot separate those two. If you see Him, you see the church, and you see the value of the church to Him because of its costliness.
I am thinking of the New Jerusalem, first of all the composition, of the constitution of it - all manner of precious stones, and the pearls, and the gold, transparent gold. What is all this? A beautiful picture to contemplate? No, it is not. It is a challenge to our hearts. This is the concentrated essence of the preciousness of the Lord Jesus, and the church is that! We sing our hymns, sing our hymns, and you know you sing a lot of things that are false doctrine. You sing a hymn about marching to Zion, and walking the golden streets of gold, it's false doctrine! There's only one street in that City, one golden street in that City, you've all got to live on the same street beside each other and live together. Oh, now, are you going to give up Christianity? You see what I mean? This preciousness of the Lord Jesus is going to make it possible for us at least to live together happily, it will be Christ and not ourselves. It's beyond our human nature, we will be one in Him; that's the pure gold.
This is the church, and we can never, never bound it, and never get beyond it, but we can get into it, the church. Again, super-mundane, and oh, how I do wish I could get this over to Christians. The biggest problems, I think, that many Christians have are connected with the church and what it is. What it is. Is this church? They bring it down to the local church, what is local, the local assembly. Is it what we see? What we see... in Christians who are supposed to be members of the body of Christ! What we see in local companies of believers. Oh, is this the church? Is this the body of Christ? Is this 'Ephesians'? Oh how impossible it is along that line of mentality, [to see] if the church exists at all according to the New Testament. Isn't that our trouble? It is my problem, how to get this over.
You see, dear friends, you and I in ourselves are not the church. We are not the church, and we are not parts of the church. We are excommunicated from the church; we are not in it. Therefore, therefore the church universal or local is not the aggregate of Christian bodies. The real, real church is the measure of Christ in every one of us. Be that when we come to the table this afternoon. Christ is the church, and it is just the measure of Christ that is in us that makes up the church. You can't join the church; transform again your phraseology! There is no such thing as joining the church. If you are not an organic part of Christ, produced by His Divine Life as different from your own, you are not in the church; but if through the new birth you have become inwardly an organic part of Christ, the church is there. It is when we meet, not in bodies, but in spirit. We can meet in bodies as congregations; but no church. We can call ourselves 'the church'; but no church. It is when we meet in spirit, in the Spirit that Christ is present, spontaneously, I may say: naturally, present. It just is; you don't make it, you don't form it.
It may shock you when I say that the apostles never had the idea that they had got to go out and form churches. Now let that get inside! They never conceived that they were called upon by the Lord to go and form churches. What they did was to go and preach Christ, and not only preach Christ, but bring Christ in their own person, and when people responded to and received Christ into their life, they spontaneously came together.
Paul and the other apostles never said: 'Now, let us go out and find these people, get them saved, and then collect them together and form them into a church'. Never! The church was, as our brother said: born. It was a spontaneous birth and it was the bringing together of Christ in a corporate way, and it's inward. You violate or leave the church immediately you get out of the Spirit. You sin against the church immediately you get onto natural ground. It is only when we abide in Him, abide in Him - what a lot there is in that - "Abide in Me", it's when we abide inwardly in the Lord, that the church is formed and grows. It is the increase of Christ Himself in us that makes it grow. That doesn't mean, of course, that after we leave we can behave any how, careless.
Let us get our true ideas, Peter is very clear about this, His spiritual House, His spiritual house. And it's impressive. You will note how Peter begins his letter, he is going to speak, mark you, about this spiritual house, God's spiritual house and the living stones. He begins by saying: "Unto the saints scattered abroad throughout Asia, Bithynia, Cappadocia", and so on. "Now, Peter, what are you talking about? Saints scattered all over the world, and you are going to say 'one house', one spiritual House? Do you mean that geography is not the first thing, being together in one place there is He?" No! It is wherever Christ is. Wherever Christ is, where there are two or three in any place with Christ in them, that is the church represented. He is the Church, it's His own Body, not ours. Oh, how impossible it is to get it over, but you may get an inkling, an inkling....
I will close, before I have finished. I'll close by reminding you that this thing, more than Solomon's house - magnificent and wonderful as it was - this thing is eternal, timeless; not only super-mundane (above the earth and all that belongs to the earth) but eternal: "chosen in Him before the foundation of the world... unto Him in the church... unto all ages for ever and ever". This is a timeless thing, and when we are called by Jesus Christ, that is not the beginning of things, that's not the beginning of things, it's only stepping into what began long, long ago, before we had a being. This is an eternal thing. And you say: "Why say that? We know that!" But thank God, I do thank God when I look at the history of the church and I see the forces against it, tremendous forces against it, even in the early days of the apostles and before the last of them had left this earth; millions of Christians were slaughtered and martyred. Oh, the great persecutions then, and all that has happened to Christians since then in many parts of the world... in the nations; in China and in Germany, and anywhere you like.
All that has happened, my, the gates of Hades, the council of Hades, have really, really been set against this thing! They have stood at nothing to wipe this thing out. Saul of Tarsus was a mere fleabite in the whole thing! Wipe this out! Nations, empires, councils, ideologies - to get rid of this, and it grows and it grows, and it goes on. Martyrs, yes, laid down their lives, but He goes on, His church. "The church of Jesus ever will prevail", and "the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it". Shall not prevail. It is timeless. We may go, but on He goes with His church, and we will all be caught up in the end in the great day when He presents us faultless, "faultless before the presence of His glory, without spot, in exceeding joy". I am quoting scripture; to present us a glorious church, we will be caught up into that, though we may have died in the martyrdoms and persecutions, or whatever has come in time. That belongs to time, He goes on with His church.
I will leave it there. It is big enough for you to contemplate. After all, dear friends, let me say again that all I had ever hoped would be the results of this ministry this week, I have been so much exercised about it, and not knowing if I was ever going to get it over, my expectation has only been that an impression would be left, and such an indelible impression, deep and strong, that you would not only remember it as something, a wonderful presentation of truth, but with an impression of the greatness of Him unto whom we have been called through the grace of God!
That is all true, God Has called you, [audio fades out] [so that you can say] "I am in no small thing, I am in the King above all ages, and all realms, above all enemies and adverse forces, across time. I am called... into something immense!"
Oh, how great our Christ is! How great His Cross is! How great His House is! God make this govern our conduct, our behaviour, our manner of life, our influence upon other people as we meet them, even. Oh, may this be there, that these people are people of dignity, people who represent something, not mean and contemptible, no; a dignity about that otherwise insignificant little man and woman - it speaks of another realm. The Lord give us significance, the significance of Himself!
Lord, of course it came from Thee, we believe; we hand it back to Thee; do what You can with it Lord, work upon it, keep it alive, watch over it to protect it, and we say through it all, through it all - "Unto Him be the glory in the church by Christ Jesus unto all ages for ever and ever".