We are continuing along the line which we believe the Lord has indicated for us at this time. As there are those who were not with us earlier, in the briefest possible way, I will try to link them into this consideration and then go a little farther as the Lord enables.
We began with a fresh contemplation of the greatness of Christ. And then we went on to remind ourselves that everything which has to do with the realisation of God's great purpose in creating man and this world, and its universe, is a matter of knowing God in Christ, which, of course, means knowing Christ. Every aspect and detail of God's will and God's way and God's end for us, is a matter of knowing the Lord Jesus. All progress, as all Life, rests upon that: knowing Him. The knowledge of Christ.
This life here, the Christian life, is meant to be one of continuous growth and development and progress, but that only takes place as we come to know more, and still more, of the meaning of the Lord Jesus. This progress will not stop when we leave this world and when time gives place to eternity. "Of the increase of His kingdom there will be no end." Stagnation is no mark of Life, and life there will be ever manifesting itself in new and more wonderful fullnesses and forms. Therefore, the knowledge of Christ which will, in time and eternity, be the secret of growth and progress, will continue in heaven, and it will take eternity - not to exhaust, it will want a few eternities to exhaust the knowledge of Christ - but to know, even as now in the greatest degree we cannot know. Well, that was the next thing - all growth, progress, fruitfulness, rests upon this growing knowledge of the Lord Jesus.
That brought us to this, that seeing He is so vast, so immense, so many-sided, we can only see Him from one standpoint at a time; we have to move round to see Him from every angle. And at this time we are just looking at the Lord Jesus from one of the many angles, or points of view, this particular aspect of His significance: that He, in His Person and His work, stands related to an eternal, heavenly order. He Himself, in His wonderful, complex Person, is the very embodiment of all the principles and laws of a great heavenly order. But when everything is conformed to Christ and takes its character from Him, it will be one glorious, harmonious whole, perfected into one: everything, not two or three or ten thousand, but just one glorious unity. So that is what we are seeking to grasp at this time: the relationship of Christ to this eternal heavenly order.
We have, of course, laid our foundation in the Word of God. We have allowed that to come to us in one marvellous statement through the apostle Paul that "in the fulness of the times - the fulness of the times - God has determined to gather together (or, re-gather together) all things in Christ". Seeing that the very word contains that idea of re-gathering, it implies, if it does not declare, that there was a glorious order at one time when everything was as God meant it to be. All the sons of God shouted for joy as they beheld the marvel of His creation and His order. That "was" implies that that order has been lost, and in its place there has come disorder; and it declares that it is going to be restored in Christ. That is the great significance of the Lord Jesus from this standpoint. We repeat: He personally is the embodiment of that; and His work is related to that.
That led us to the place where the great river of revelation divides into four:
One: that God is the God of order. We dwelt a little while on that this afternoon, and though it altogether defeats us, it is so great and so full, this fact of God being such, is clearly revealed, firstly in His creative work, in His creation.
Secondly, in the great representation that we have in type and symbol in the Old Testament.
Thirdly, in His redemptive work.
Fourthly, in the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
In all these four ways there is a wonderful revelation that God is a God of order.
We think just for a minute or two on the first of those - revealed in creation.
While, of course, we are confronted with so much in this present world and system which seems to shout disorder, derangement, discord and confusion, even in nature, there is still discernible in nature a wonderful background of an ordered system. That is something that of course has engaged men for their whole life, and is a marvellous universe itself of instruction and of fascination. Here's a brief extract from a big work by one of the most outstanding biologists. He writes thus:
"The hosts of living organisms are not random creatures, they can be classified into battalions and regiments. Neither are they isolated creatures, for every thread of life is intertwined with others in a complex web. This is one of the fundamental biological truths, the co-relationship of organisms in the web of life.... No creature lives or dies to itself; there is no insulation in nature.... One organism gets linked on to others, and becomes dependent upon them for the very continuance of its race. Flowers and insects are fitted together as hand in glove..... When we learn something of the intricate give and take, supply and demand, action and reaction, between plants and animals, between flowers and insects... we begin to get a glimpse of a vast organisation in the creation."
Well, take it for what it is worth. You will see that that gathers up into a few sentences something that is capable of tremendous enlargement. You see it everywhere. Behind this creation there's a Mind, behind this creation there's a Mind that loves to have things properly ordered and related. Behind this creation there is a perfect, spiritual system. God is the God of order, and what is true in natural history is seen to be true everywhere else. God has arranged the year in seasons. God has arranged the co-operation of heaven and earth, in that the heavenly bodies govern the movements of the earth, the moon, the tides, and so on.
Well, we wouldn't know where to stop if we were to allow ourselves to go on with this! It's like that. There is one hymn in our supplementary book that we haven't sung yet: "The spacious firmament on high...". You'll notice that the conclusion of that hymn is: "It all declares a Mind Divine". Well, if we wanted to go on with this we haven't to go far away to the celestial bodies or to objects outside of ourselves; we have only to have a little intelligence about our own human bodies, and to see that the human body, in health, is a marvellous system of related, dependent, inter-dependent, co-operating functions, principles and elements. It's just like that!
I think that anybody who really has any knowledge of the human body ought to be the greatest worshipper that there is; ought to be bowed before the wonder of this thing! Well, we could be held in the grip of a fascination alone, if we were to spend our time on it this afternoon. But there it is. It's a marvellous unity in diversity. It all speaks of this 'hand in glove' principle, of one thing fitting into another in perfect harmony and symmetry. There is another side to that, I know, and I am going to speak about that presently. But there it is.
We have done no more than stated a fact: that wherever you can trace the hand of God before the other hand comes upon it - either the hand of man or the hand of the devil – you'll find this beautiful harmony, this wonderful order.
We come into the Old Testament, and anyone familiar with it will not need an exhaustive proof of this great truth, the Old Testament representations of God's Mind. We begin with God bringing order out of chaos, where everything begins. God, who is the God of order, reacts against this state of chaos, and His reaction issues in a wonderful order, a beautiful order, a perfect order. And what is true as to God bringing order out of chaos as to the earth, is seen to be a principle that is working all through the Old Testament. You see it at work in a representative people - and here, dear friends, is the glory and the tragedy of Israel: taken out of the nations to be the embodiment and the manifestation of a heavenly order on this earth. That's the glory of Israel. The tragedy of Israel is that Israel has ended in chaos. However, there it is.
You see them in Egypt, and what was true in nature was true spiritually and morally of Israel in Egypt: chaos; no order; darkness; barrenness; frustration, confusion; hopelessness. That's the state of the people in Egypt. But see them! Exodus is the book of emergence from all that, and they are not a rabble, a crowd of refugees going out into the wilderness. They are ordered, they're ordered, ordered by their ranks. You can trace these marks as you read carefully. No, they are not just a mixed-up crowd, disorderly, running amok to get out of Egypt. See them marching like an army, in their serried ranks and their appointed order! It's order out of chaos. See them at Sinai, when God has given His pattern for their national life. No one ever looks at one of those pictures that we have of Israel assembled around the Tabernacle. And not to say that it was clearcut or as clearcut as that in reality, but there's no doubt about the explicitness of the ordering of the hosts in their tribes; there they are. It's marvellous symmetry, marvellous balance, a marvellous arrangement, the tribes under their own particular banners, in their own particularly appointed place in relation to that central object: the Tabernacle.
And then, the order of the service. Exodus sees them coming out from chaos to order, and there's the order established, there in the wilderness. Leviticus is the book of the ordering of worship. And what a marvellous system that book is of the order of worship! Now, dear friends, on that only you've got the rest of your life! It is not just that God said this, and that, and that is to be in the way of sacrifices and offerings and feasts; you'll notice that a marvellous sequence, an ordered sequence, that need is supplied at every point. It's a progressive, ordered development of worship, of approach to God, all under a specified and particularised government. It's a wonderful book, that book of Leviticus!
Moving to the book of Numbers, as you know, the very name of the book indicates what it's all about. This is the book of the marchings through the wilderness, and everything is numbered, everything is tabulated, everything is ordered. It's like that. You'll pick up the details I indicated.
Pass over the many years until you come to the Temple. And this is one of the things that almost overwhelms you: the marvellous, meticulous order about this Temple - every detail, every measurement, the size of everything, the place of everything, the material of everything. And what shall we say about the "courses of the singers" and the "courses of the priesthood" all in course around the clock. Everything is prescribed for. And when the Queen of Sheba came and looked at the order of the house there was no more breath left in her! That was the impressive thing. Everything is here so quietly, harmoniously and beautifully regulated. It all speaks of a mastermind, and that's God. He gave the pattern for that, He gave the revelation for that. And even though that was disrupted and the captivity came, when they passed their seventy years in exile, the return of the remnant, and the rebuilding of the wall and the house is again marked by this.
We have read and we have studied the book of Nehemiah from other standpoints, perhaps we have not been impressed with this particular about it: the wonderful organisation. You notice one whole chapter is taken up with: "next unto him... and next unto him... and next unto him". It's all arranged, it's all ordered, it's all, if you like, organised. We can use that word in the Old Testament if we can't in the New. There it is! Nehemiah represents a master-organiser in the things of God. All this, all this is under Divine direction, and it all points to this: God is a God of order. We must be impressed with this, friends. It is not something to be contemplated objectively, historically. You and I have got to be tremendously impressed with this, seeing how God is very particular about how things are done, and what things are done, and who does these things, and the relationships that obtain amongst those who are employed.
God is very particular, and, as we have said, this is not just because God loves to have things 'just so', because He is made that way. We know quite well that real progress, and real fruitfulness, real achievement demands order. If we come into a place that is all upside down, and disturbed, and everything all over the place, and we've got a job on our hands, we begin by saying: "Well, we can't do anything until we have got this straightened out." That's God: "We cannot get on until we have got it straightened out! We shall never get anywhere until things are put straight." And that begins in the individual life. Well, we'll return again to that.
But I don't want to just be piling a lot of data upon you. This is something of a very vital spiritual consequence that we get it into us that God is particular, and He is not going to overlook, He's not going to slide past anything. He'll have it so, or He'll not have it at all. He'll be patient; He'll work; He'll wait; He'll do a lot to get it so; He may take years to get it so, but that's to our loss. If He could have it His way, He would get on with His job forthwith by having things according to His order. Frustration, delay, unfruitfulness, are always due to this absence of God's way of doing things, or God's object in things, or what God wants done, and the way in which He wants it done!
That is perhaps enough by way of emphasising the fact that God is the God of order. I have only opened to you a window through which you can see a universe.
We come to the next thing: the disruption and disorder. There is a sense in which the Bible throughout is occupied with the confronting of this long-drawn-out, obdurate, incorrigible disorder, and with the evil forces which are behind it. You meet it everywhere - the battle for this, the bringing it in or the preserving of it, the dealing with interfering forces, is found almost everywhere in the Bible. The Bible shows the source of this disruption and disorder. I'm not wasting time, dear friends, to gain your assent to the fact that disorder is, we are all too aware of it. Everywhere in this universe, in this creation, there is a disrupted order, there is a dis-order. There is a great schism everywhere. That's true, isn't it? Well, taking it that you agree that it is so, the Bible shows us where it came from, the Bible shows us the range of it, it shows us its entrance into this world, it shows us its development in this world, it shows us its nature and its effects, and it shows us its main cause. Oh, that is too much, but let us look at it.
This disorder, the Bible shows us, began in heaven. Isaiah tells us of a revolt that took place in heaven. It speaks of one who rose up to challenge the supremacy of God and of His Son, the Heir of all things. It shows us that there was a great complicity between that one and a vast host of angels who are said not to have "kept their first estate but are reserved in everlasting chains". This revolt in heaven, that's where it began. Then it entered into this world, entered through the door of man. We know the story of its entrance. It was a disrupting element that came in, it was a rebellion against God.
The first result, the first result: that man himself became a divided creature, a centre of civil war in his own nature. Man is, by nature, no longer a unity. He is himself a clash of two worlds. The Psalmist prays: "Unite my heart - unite my heart!" Our hearts are divided things. Man is a division, and man in himself is a conflict. It started then and spread. And when I speak of man, I am uniting the man and the woman, for with both in themselves individually this became true, and then, of course, it became true of them as two. To divide the husband and the wife - and he did it - he struck right home to that marvellous oneness. You see, the Scripture goes out of its way to describe, to emphasise the oneness: "They shall be one flesh... the twain shall be one flesh". It has so much to say about that oneness of husband and wife, but there this disruptive influence and power came in and divided them. It's a real lesson, a real lesson!
From the husband and the wife it reached to the family, and it's not long before you find the family disrupted. Cain and Abel - the one murdering the other, destroying the family life. From the family reaching out to embrace the whole race. You know how the book of Genesis contains the story of racial disruption and confusion. It's spread, it has become universal. It is in the lower heavens, the spirit of it: "The spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience" - it is in the air: "the prince of the power of the air"; you can breathe it, you can sense it in this world, the antagonism, hatred, malice, and much more like that. It has come right into the human life of the individual, and right into the human relationships, into the nearest two. It has come right into the family - and what a problem family life is now and what a key it is to so much more - until the race is shot through and through with this disrupting and dislocating spirit and power. Yes, it's here it's seen where it came from, how it started, how it came in, its range, its development, its nature and effects - to set every man's hand against his brother.
Its main cause, it's main cause - that perhaps is a very important thing, all important - but this, this is something that we must stay with for a moment, the main cause. Do remember that the Bible always regards this matter as a rebellion, a rebellion – it's the spirit of rebellion. The more we know of our own natures under stress, under trial, under pressure, the more true we know this to be, that right in our constitution there is something that rebels, and would even rebel against God and His ways, and question His wisdom and His love. It is in us. It's a terrible truth and fact that we are ready to face if we know ourselves at all. The seat of this rebellion is in man himself. He is a disrupted being, not only disrupted in his relationship with God, but disrupted in his own personality. Man is a divided creature in himself, we are that, we are that. The spirit of rebellion came in and that word "iniquity", which is such a characteristic word of the Old Testament, iniquity, has its roots in this very idea of rebellion. Rebellion!
Now, the real nature of this thing lies here - and perhaps we can illustrate this again best by looking at the physical body, because (any doctors can close their ears for a minute) those who know something about this physical, the laws of physical health and disease, they tell us that it is all a matter of the environment of the living cells. This is a quotation, not mine: "It is the cell environment that is responsible for whatever disease affects the human body, either in the immediate environment of the cells, the presence of a poison, or the absence of some essential ingredient." Is that too technical? Well, you can pass over, if you like, on the technicalities, but they have come down on this: all these millions of living cells are environed by this lymph stream, which provides what is necessary for their life. This lymph stream is their environment. If some poison gets into that stream, or if something essential to their life is lacking, then the living cells fall into disease, and the body in its whole order is upset. And sickness is only disorder, isn't it? It's disorder. Now, I have taken the illustration, God has written His spiritual laws in all His creation, and I think, pre-eminently in the human body.
You see, all this disorder and resultant sickness, all the pain and the agony by this, this disruption, is due to man leaving His environment. God is our Environment. God is man's true Environment. In Him there is no darkness at all, and no poison. In Him is all that we need for our life and for our health. But man left His Environment. He took himself out of the Environment of God, he took his life into his own hands, to say what he would do and not do, what he would have and not have. He became a law unto himself, rebelling against God as his law and his Environment. What happened? He entered into an environment of poison and of fatal lack of what is necessary to his very life.
Now friends, take up your Bible and start again with that thought. You see this whole Bible is about bringing man back to God, bringing man into God, restoring man to His Environment. "In Him we live and move and have our being" is the fundamental truth of the spiritual life.
There is one thing I suggest to you, or hint at, which, if you could grasp it, would be such a tremendous help to you. When the Lord says anything, when the Lord says anything it may look on the face of it to be something very simple, and not at all profound and wonderful; but anything that comes from the Lord, though it be apparently very simple, contains all the vast knowledge and understanding that the Lord has. And not to take account of that 'simple' thing (you may think) may bring you into a vast amount of trouble. When the Lord Jesus says: "Abide in Me" oh, that sounds so simple, it sounds so ordinary. "Abide in Me", it contains all this history, it contains this great principle and truth: "If you get out of your Environment, you are exposed to all the poisons and all that that creates spiritual disease. Abide in Me for your health's sake, for your life's sake, for the sake of everything! Abide in Me, and I in you!" Have you got that? You look again at any seemingly 'little' thing that the Lord says, and if you could see, you would find that you have got a universe of meaning in it.
Well, the main cause of it all is getting out of your rightful sphere in God, and that is what happened. The cure, as we shall see when we come to the redemptive work, is to get back into your place, back into your cover, in God. Forsake your wandering, which is away, which is outside. Leave your independence, and come in.
Now, you see, this carries with it the whole matter of the absolute, undivided, unquestioned supremacy and sovereignty of God in the life; for us now, in and through Jesus Christ. Put that another way: the absolute surrender, yieldedness, unquestioning acceptance of the authority of Jesus Christ as Head. It's the way of Life, it's the way of health, it's the way of fruitfulness, it's the way of progress. And we know, we know so well that frustration, limitation, arrest, barrenness and all that is because, because there's still some unyieldedness to Him in the life. As Adam took things into his own hands and said: "I will be the lord of my life, I will say what I will do and what I will not do", there was set up this independent mind and this independent will - the cause of all the trouble! We are like that by nature and I am afraid we haven't got so far away from it in grace. We meet one another, and what do we meet? We meet a man or a woman who have got a mind of their own, and a will of their own, and a way of their own, and will never be taught by you, or told by you what they should do. Unteachable, stubborn, mulish, knowing!
Dear friends, though it might be on a right matter that somebody is very firm and very strong, let us remember that there's a vast deal of difference between human strength, natural strength, and spiritual strength. A different kind of thing altogether. If you meet the person who immediately you touch them, begin to talk with them, let's you know that they're not going to take anything from you, they've got their mind made up, you may be meeting something that will disrupt the Body spiritual, the corporate Body. It may bring about real arrest, not only in their own life, but in the life of the community of which they're a part. Sweet reasonableness, openness to instruction, to counsel, preparedness to learn, that's the spirit of Jesus Christ who said, "I am meek and lowly in heart, take My yoke upon you and learn, and learn..." I hope you see more than I am able to say.
Here is the fact of this great disruption, here is the real nature of it. And moving out of God, we ought to check up. One does not want to make the Christian life difficult, over-difficult, but we ought, dear friends, to be more prepared, ready, to check up on this, "Did I say that in the Spirit or did I say that in the flesh? Did I do that in the Spirit or did I do it in the flesh?" You see the marks of real spiritual measure when you find a person like that. You've heard them, I have, people have said something and I knew when they said it and the way in which they said it that they were saying it in the flesh, and they come back a little while afterward and said, "What I said, I said in the flesh, please forgive me. I was not in the Spirit when I said that." Oh, you see, it makes a lot of difference, doesn't it? A lot of difference. There's a way for the Lord when it's like that, we shall get somewhere when it's like that. But it does mean meekness, it means humility, it means grace, to abide in Christ. Abide. In Christ.
Well, somewhere I must close this part. Perhaps you already know a very simple thing, that in the New Testament the word salvation is really the word help, or soundness. When the Lord Jesus said to the poor man in his helplessness, "Wouldst thou be made whole?" That word whole is exactly the same word as you will find elsewhere translated: salvation. Being saved is being made whole, it has this idea behind it of disorder in the body, now salvation is putting right spiritual disorder and making us whole, making us whole, making us complete, making us sound - it's a health matter. That's salvation. We mustn't stay with that.
Let me close with this: pain, pain, all pain, is because of disorder. Pain is nature shouting: "There is something wrong!" It is true in the physical. Now, you may kill pain, you may kill pain, there are lots of things provided for killing pain. Well, I am afraid I am one who says: "Thank the Lord for that!" Nevertheless, no sensible person knows that the killing of pain is getting rid of the trouble. No, you may kill the pain and silence the cry, and the trouble that is really there may work itself out in your death. The killing of the pain doesn't mean that you heal the disorder.
The world is trying to silence this cry of pain, to numb this ache, to kill it, and to go on as though there is nothing wrong; but it is there. What is true in the physical is true in the spiritual. Pain in our spiritual life, pain in our corporate life, pain in our corporate life is the cry that there's something wrong, there is disorder somewhere, things are not as the Lord intended them to be. There is a dislocation in the joints, there is a fracture in the fellowship, there is a disease of sin in the Body. Something's wrong if there's pain.
Dear friends, we can't just take something to numb the pain and silence the cry, and go on as though it were all right. No, the thing will work itself out. And God knows, and God knows we have got to stop, stop and say: "What is it? Where is the disorder? Where are things wrong? What is it that is against God's Mind?" Until we can get our hand upon that, there is no hope for clearing up the situation at all. That's the need: what is it? Disorder is a spiritual disease.
Well, I must stay there I think, and come back again later on. But have we said enough on the one side to show how God is committed to an order in man, in man's relationships, in His church (we've got to come to that later). God is committed to it, He will not move apart from it, He must have it. The cry of all the prophets, if rightly understood and interpreted, was the cry for recovery of a lost order. That lost order, that disruption, is due to one thing in the main, that is, man's life in God or man's life out of God. For us it's a matter of how much our life is in God. We have some life in God, we have some life in God but we have some life in ourselves, we have some life in men, in other people. On the one side we do seek a life with God by prayer and study of His Word, and then we get in the world amongst men of another mind who despise Christians, we are just ourselves to them. We hide it, like the chameleon we take their colour, the colour of our environment - the colour of our environment. Oh, to abide in the one Environment... whether in meeting, or in the secret place, or in the world, to abide in the Lord.