The Unveiling of Jesus Christ # 5
The Intimate Association of Christ with Conditions, continued
At this point we should sit back and allow ourselves to register the forceful impact of a serious fact. Taking not one whit from the Lord's command and commission to evangelize the whole world, it was after the world that then was had been evangelized that practically the entire New Testament was written to Christians who had responded. After "Acts" there is not one book of the subsequent twenty-six comprising the New Testament which was written to the unevangelized and unsaved. This surely is forceful enough (apart from the contents of the books) to convince us that the Lord is - at least - as much concerned with the 'follow up,' the saved, as He is to evangelize! The law of God, both in nature and in grace, is "full growth," and anything less than that is either abortion or stultification; it is sub-normal, or un-normal, and it speaks of defeat and frustration of purpose and design. God is not like that, and Himself suffers in any such condition. We shall come on this again later, but it must be from this consciousness that we begin. If that has impressed us sufficiently, and only if so, we can proceed, and in doing so we shall at once be confronted with:
God's Ultimate Standard
This is set before the Church, the churches, and individual believers ("He that overcometh," "Unto him will I give ..." etc.) in the full stature and characterization of Christ. John says, inclusively, "One like unto the Son of Man" (verse 13). The title, used some eighty-two times of Christ in the New Testament, has a double significance. It means representation; and it means identification. Not to be too detailed and ponderous, e do not include a study of these two aspects, but those who are following closely will at once see how true they are in this final presentation. Here, "Jesus Christ" represents Man as God intends him to be, and as he will be through grace, in Christ. And here "Son of Man" means the most intimate organic identification with His redeemed, so that He stands to lose something of Himself if they fail.
When the Ultimate Standard has been presented, we are very soon led on to see that the Lord is not willing to accept comparative standards. In the majority of the messages to the churches the comparative is noted. Good things are tabulated, such as "works," "labors," sincerity, zeal, hatred of falsehood and hypocrisy, orthodoxy, etc., but when all this is allowed for, warning, rebuke, severity, and entreaty are administered. The "garment down to the foot" (1:13), is not sleeveless, half-length, or even three-quarter length. It is full length, and all-covering. It is the "seamless robe" of John 19:23. It is of one piece and complete. Garments in the Bible speak of the measure and the character of the wearer. But here it is the garment of authority, the Judge. By it standards are judged, and criteria are fixed.
With God in Christ there are no substitutes for Divine fullness and no alternatives to the Person. This comes so clear in the confrontation of the churches. When all is taken into account the judgment is gathered into one word: "But."
This could be very disconcerting, discouraging, disheartening, but we must remember that the Lord puts His finger upon causes and reasons, and shows what can be done to make good the defects. Among the multitude of 'overcomers' doubtless there are many who were in the poorest state described in these Messages.
Let us go on, for about this 'seamless robe,' the perfect wholeness, there is a girdle of gold about the breasts. It is oriental symbolism, but it is eloquent. The breasts speak of the affections; here, the affections of Christ. Gold is ever the Divine nature. And the girdle, the symbol of strength and action. To His Church, His people, in their weakness, their decline, their failure, even in their apostasy, He comes in the energy, the strength, the activity of Divine love and affection to recover, to restore, to be faithful, to lift up. It is in love that He rebukes: "As many as I love, I rebuke" (3:19). This Divine love is not mere sentimentalism. It is very faithful love. It is parental love which for the child's good may slap, but in so doing feels the regret as much as the child. "Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it."
I think that perhaps we have something here to learn and to which to adjust. We criticize and harshly judge the Church. We take a very adverse attitude to what we deem to be the faults, weaknesses, deflections, and even evils in the Church. We must search our hearts to see why we do so. Is it really our suffering love and sorrow for the Lord that motivates our spirit and demeanor? Is it redeeming love?
Now, seeing that this is not a whole book, we must sum up thus far. What comes out as governing this contemplation is this: whichever school of interpretation may be ours - historicist, futurist, literalist, spiritual, or none of them - one thing governs the whole section (chapters one to three). It is that, whenever things have departed from the pristine glory, fullness, and power, and a decline to a lesser and lower spiritual measure and level has taken place, the Divine method of recovery is a fresh presentation and unveiling of Christ in His fullness and true character. Before there can be any hopeful dealing with the details of the situations which are wrong; that is, before taking a negative course of condemnation, judgement, warning, etc., the Lord presents, or represents the positive standard of His Son. This has always been the principle on which God has acted, as we could show from many instances. Unless we have a positive better to present, we have no ground for being negative in judgment, criticism, or attitude. There must be a Divine criterion by which all things are measured. People will only see the wrong and be ashamed if the right is set before them. "Show the house to the house of Israel that they may be ashamed" was the command of God to Ezekiel. The Lord would, in our time, have His prophets who can - like John - bring the fullness and significance of Christ before His people. So the whole book of the Revelation is governed by the initial unveiling and presenting of Jesus Christ in full stature and detailed character.
(continued with # 6 - The Foundation of Recovered Testimony