[b]Abiding in Christ[/b]
[i]by George Warnock[/i]
We are talking about the realm of God's Temple known as the Holy of Holies. God is drawing a people into this realm where they will learn to abide in total union with Christ. We are not automatically in there just because the veil which is His flesh was torn asunder: for Paul exhorts us to "enter into the holiest" and to "draw near with a true heart"... because the way has been opened up by the blood of Jesus and the rending of the veil. (See Heb. 10:19-22). It is only by the ministration of the Holy Spirit that the work of the Cross is performed in our hearts and lives. And the Holy Spirit has been given a commission to bring this about in the "Church, which is His Body," to lead His people into all truth, and to take the things of Christ and make them real and vital within us. In an earlier day He was given a commission to prepare a Body for the habitation of the Lord Jesus in incarnation... and He was faithful in all that He did by way of conceiving, nurturing, protecting, and bringing that One unto birth and unto full stature. And now this enlarged Body (for the Church is not another Body, but rather a greater fullness of the one Jesus lived in when He was here), this enlarged Body that is in the process of formation shall be just as miraculously conceived of God, and just as carefully disciplined and nurtured as was the Only Begotten Son of God. And this Body shall reveal the full glory of the Christ in the same manner that the Lord Jesus revealed the full glory of the Father. ("And the glory which thou gayest me I have given them" [Jn. 17:22]).
We do not have any problem believing that the "fullness" (Gr. Pleroma) of the Godhead dwelt in Christ, fully revealing the character and nature of God. But so many have a problem with the statement that the Church is "his body, the fulness [Gr. Pleroma] of him that filleth all in all" (Eph. 1:23). Now this is not just a positional sort of arrangement, something beyond our attainment, and reserved for Heaven; for the apostle goes on to pray for the people of God that in union "with all saints" they might come to that glorious realm of immeasurable love, and immeasurable grace, even into that realm where they are "FILLED with all the fulness [Gr. Pleroma] of God" (Eph. 3:19). Is God able to do this? Let us read on. For Paul says He can do "exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think." And by what power? "According to the power that worketh in us" (vs. 20). Dear ones, let us recognize that this was not merely the prayer of an apostle in a moment of excitement, but that it was the burden of the Holy Spirit dwelling within him, inspiring him to pray this prayer, and earnestly longing over God's people that they might comprehend this immeasurable ocean of God. And the word "comprehend" is really much stronger than that. It really means to "apprehend," and to lay hold upon it!
In this day God is preparing the Body of Christ--which is not another Body, but a joining of His people unto the Lord Jesus, Who is the glorified Head, and our involvement is much of the same nature as it was when God "prepared" a Body for the Man Christ Jesus.
Preparation Of The Body Of Christ
No man could tamper with, or in any way meddle with, the creative Word that came forth to Mary. This would only spoil and completely nullify what God had in mind. Certainly human instruments were involved. Mary and Joseph were greatly involved: Joseph as the protector and guardian of the Holy Child, and Mary as the mother. Together they must bear the reproach of it all. Mary in particular had only to believe what the angel had declared; and her simple reply was, "Be it unto me according to thy Word" (Lk. 1:38). Simeon, a lowly old man with a great revelation, had only one small task. But oh, how grievous a task! Just to have to wait, and wait... perhaps year after year... and then just to catch a fleeting glimpse of the infant Messiah, hold Him in his arms for a moment, and declare Him to be God's light to the Gentiles and the glory of His people Israel. Then his responsibility was finished. He would go on his way, and perhaps very shortly pass off the scene. Anna, a very old widow woman, was involved. She must abide in the temple day and night in intercessory prayers for the redemption of Israel, and live to see the Redeemer when He was brought to the temple for dedication. John the Baptist was involved, as the one who would introduce Him to Israel in the waters of baptism.
All these had their particular responsibility... but their involvement was carefully planned and sovereignly overshadowed by the purpose and plan of God, and the brooding wings of the Holy Spirit.
In this day God is preparing the Body of Christ--which is not another Body, but a joining of His people unto the Lord Jesus, Who is the glorified Head, and our involvement is much of the same nature as it was when God "prepared" a Body for the Man Christ Jesus. And to those who are involved, there is a living hope that keeps them walking in His Way. But the Way is just as grievous as it was with the faithful remnant in Israel. We too must accept the reproach and the misunderstanding that comes our way as we seek to walk in God's will and God's way. To hear the Word that God has spoken, impossible as it may sound in the ears of men. To believe that God is yet to bring forth a virgin Bride for Christ, from sinful and corrupt humanity. To intercede in union with the Spirit of God for this great thing that He will do in the earth. To wait and wait and wait for this Body to come forth in the earth, without trying to manufacture one of our own by studying the blueprints of the New Testament Church. For let no one imagine that by gathering the people of God together into some kind of "New Testament Church" structure that they are in that manner helping to bring about the fulfillment of the prayer of Jesus. God has ordained ministry; but it is only as the ministration of Truth brings the people of God into that vital abiding union with Christ that the prayer of Jesus has been answered.
When Jesus said, "Without me ye can do nothing" (Jn. 15:5), He was not implying that with His help we can do many, many wonderful things. What He said was, "Apart from me ye can do nothing." This is different. He is telling us plainly that severed from the flow of life and wisdom and knowledge and love and grace that proceed from Him, we can do nothing. The gifts may be there, and valid, and functioning. But apart from that constant flow of His own Life and Word and Spirit, NOTHING is accomplished that will stand the test of Him who sees with eyes "as a flame of fire." Too long has it been assumed that because we are enriched with spiritual gifts... or because we are apostles or prophets or teachers... or whatever... that we have been authorized of the Lord to go forth and make these gifts and ministries work, and build His Church. These gifts and ministries rather must come under such subjection to the Holy Spirit in our midst that He Who is the Truth will grip the hearts of men and cause them to become deeply rooted in Him, and so "grow up into him [Christ] in all things, which is the head" (Eph. 4:15). Then will the people of God be ONE... and then will they speak the same thing. Not because they belong to the same church or fellowship, or have subscribed to the same teachings, or have submitted themselves to the same apostles and prophets and pastors in the Church, but because they have been joined together in a vital abiding union with the same Lord.
I am persuaded that God is preparing such a people in the earth, and that through them He will demonstrate the very fullness of the Love and Light and Truth of God in the earth. There is a people hidden in the hollow of God's hand, unseen and unrecognized by the world, and throughout the Church, But in the Day of the LORD their mouth shall be as a sharp two-edged sword. "And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me" (Isa. 49:2). God is preparing the arrow of Truth, that He might send it forth in a clear, certain Word: "And [he] made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me" (vs. 2 cont.). God has determined that His Word will hit the mark, and do the work that He intended. It must not swerve, fall short, or go beyond what God intended. Therefore He polishes the shaft until there is a true and perfect balance in all things. There is a ministry in the hands of the One Who holds the "seven stars." They are learning to abide in His hands, so that when He stretches forth His hands to minister, they will stretch forth their hands. When He speaks, they will speak. When He is silent, they are silent. When He moves forward, they move forward. Like the wheels of the Cherubim that we mentioned earlier, they will move in harmony with God. No longer will they have doctrines of their own, for they have laid all that down... that they might have only His doctrine. They no longer have any plans and programs for enlargement, because they walk in union with Him Who is the Architect and Builder of all things. They only plan as they know His plan. They only build, as they build together with Him. They are not working for God, but like the apostle Paul said of himself, they are learning to be "labourers together with God" (1 Cor. 3:9). They are in His yoke, and are therefore learning from Him.
Now this is the way Jesus lived and ministered, is it not? But it was not in the plan of God that Jesus should stay here in the earth these two thousand years, and travel about in this kind of ministry. You and I know very well that had He done so, what we have said of the disciplined ministry would be totally true concerning Him. But we are a little hesitant to believe that it could be totally true of anyone else, no matter how well-disciplined they are. But let us remind you once again what Jesus said before He went away: "Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you" (Jn. 16:7). As clearly as any translation could tell us, it would be for our profit, for our good, and to our advantage if Jesus would go back to the Father, and send the Holy Spirit to abide in His people in the earth. For He would, in fact, be the same Lord Jesus abiding not only with us but in us.
God Is Justified In The Spirit
1 Timothy 3:16
When Jesus was here on earth He so beautifully manifested the character of God through the ministration of the Spirit in His life, that God was "justified in the Spirit." Again, because of the glorious accomplishment of the Cross, we are told that God was declared to be "just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" (Rom. 3:26). The Cross fully justified God as far as His holy and righteous character was concerned: in His dealings with sin, and in His forgiveness and justification for the sinner who believes in Christ. But has God been as truly "Justified in the Spirit" after the ascension of Christ, as He was when Jesus was here?
The beautiful work of Redemption has been accomplished, and the work of Christ is a "finished" work. But the work of the Mediator in the heavens is not a "finished work" as yet; nor will it be until the Holy Spirit dwelling in the Body of Christ in the earth has fully declared and revealed and manifested the victory of the Cross. The victory of the Cross is sure and steadfast and unchangeable, totally justifying God the Righteous One in justifying sinners who believe in Jesus. But only as God is "Justified in the Spirit," can that glorious victory of the Cross be revealed and manifested in the earth. For centuries preceding the Cross, God's great and holy Name had been blasphemed among the Gentiles because of God's people. Isaiah first laid the charge, and the apostle Paul reiterated it in his day. (See Isa. 52:5; Rom. 2:24). God was in trouble. God is always in trouble when His Name is dishonored, for God is very Jealous for His Name. One of God's great Names is "JEALOUS" (Ex. 34:14). God's priests know this; and that is why Moses reminded God of His reputation among the nations, and asked Him if He was not concerned about it. (See Ex. 32:12; Num. 14:15-16). "Your Name is held in great dishonor, Lord... what are You going to do about it?" God knew what He would do about it then, and He knows what He will do about it today. He promised Moses that He would forgive His people; but in doing that to an undeserving people, He declared that He would also fill the whole earth with His glory!
Never has God's Name been blasphemed in the earth as it is this day in which we live. The Christian's God is scoffed at, maligned, caricatured, flaunted on the stage, misrepresented as One Who cares nothing about sin and rebellion... One Who is sympathetic toward every evil cause that comes to the forefront these days in the name of human rights. And to aggravate the matter still further, there are men in the Church who come to the front as champions of perversion... all in the Name of God! God has long borne the reproach of a Name that is blasphemed among the nations. And all this goes on in spite of the fact that God has been totally justified because of the work of the Cross!
God cares! And He is doing something about it! By the mighty operation of the Spirit of God abiding in His Temple in the earth, once again God will be gloriously justified in the Spirit.
Israel's God was blasphemed among the nations because of His people. Yet so great was the operation of the Spirit of God in the Church that men and women all over the Roman Empire turned to God when they saw Him revealed in a people who walked in the steps of the lowly Nazarene, Who came to earth to reveal the Name, the character of the Father. How did God bring this about? He simply caused Grace and Glory to abound in such tremendous power that what God accomplished at the Cross became real and vital and operative in those who walked in the way of the Cross, and preached it! And it is said that within about 300 years after the birth of the Church, approximately one-half of the Empire had been won to Christ!
What Then Shall We Do?
When God indicates His will and declares His Word we are prone to take that Word and try to make it work. And so we bring forth our Ishmaels--the fruit of our own hands. This does not alter God's plan, but He does insist that we lay aside our Ishmaels that His beloved Isaac might come forth. We must know that basically our responsibility consists of getting out of the way, and letting God reveal His way. Let us stop meddling with the beautiful, creative work that God is bringing forth. Let the priests of the LORD continue to remind God of the dishonor of His great Name among the nations. Let God's people everywhere take upon themselves the "yoke" of Christ, and in so doing "learn from Him." And in learning from Him may we learn such captivity unto Him Who has liberated us, that as His bondslaves we may come to the place where we speak only what He is speaking, walk only where He is walking, do only what He is doing. Let us not hesitate to set our face as a flint to do the will of God, knowing full well that it might mean the end of all our ambitions and plans and visions. Let us understand that if the Master must lay down His life and ministry in obedience to the Father, it will also be required of His servants. Let every man prove for himself, "what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God," as he finds grace to dedicate himself wholly unto God, a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1-2).
It Is Harvest Time
I think most of God's people are aware that this is harvest time. But have we thoughtfully considered the many implications of harvest time? Well, of course we must get out there quickly and reap the harvest before it is too late. But what about waiting upon God for Him to prepare... and to send? Jesus said (and this is something that our churches often fail to recognize), "The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest" (Lk. 10:2). For unless the Lord of the Harvest sends, we send them in vain--and they go in vain.
If it is harvest time it is the time of the gathering of the grain. True, But if it is harvest time it is a time of division and separation. First the tares must be separated from the wheat. And as surely as this begins to happen we are going to hear loud cries warning the people of God to beware... "This thing cannot be of God because the people of God are being separated and divided!" God knows what He is doing. He will join together the people of God into one Body... but He will just as surely divide and separate the wheat from the tares. And only God can tell the difference!
If it is harvest time, then it is threshing time. All the chaff of religious activity, useful and necessary as some of it may have been in its time, will no longer be necessary or acceptable, and will be consumed in smoke in the Day when God's people are baptized with the Holy Ghost and with Fire.
If it is harvest time, then the Husbandman comes into His garden looking for perfect fruit, perfect grain. It must be like the Seed that was planted in the earth when Jesus chose the will of the Father rather than the fulfillment of a glorious Messianic ministry. Jesus' faithfulness unto death, in obedience to the will of the Father, is God's guarantee to you and to me--and to all the earth--that there will come forth in the Day of Harvest, perfect grain, wholesome grain, even like the seed that was planted. It is the Law of the Seed! The Seed must bring forth after its kind!
Once again, as in the early Church, there is a whole world out there that hates the Christian's God. But can we really blame them? For the only concept they have of God comes from what they see in God's people; and too often they are not at all impressed. A bumper sticker proclaiming that God is alive is a very cheap gimmick, and does nothing to impress people with what you've got. But when the Holy Spirit has fulfilled the charge that has been laid upon Him, and has joined the disciples of Christ unto their Lord in total, abiding union with Him, the world is going to know and believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Once again God will be justified in the Spirit! And the Spirit of God living and abiding in total fullness in this corporate MAN that is arising in the midst of the Church will show forth a God of total righteousness, and love, and justice, and truth in the earth. Christ will receive unto Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or blemish... or any such thing. And God will have found that habitation for Himself for which His heart has longed through times eternal.
"And I John saw the holy City, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband... And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the Temple of it" (Rev. 21:2, 22).
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon