Two Important Prayers.
Notes of an Address at Killburn Hall, on Easter Sunday.
THE Holy Spirit gives us in Ephesians, two prayers of great importance to the Church. They are both for believers, and they indicate a divine sequence and progress in our Christian life. Every believer ought to take them in order, pray them in the Spirit, and expect the answer not only for himself but for all fellow-believers.
In the first prayer (chap. i. 15-23), there are three petitions. The language we all know, the glorious things mentioned we all know about, but the practical knowledge of them, which the Holy Ghost desires for the Church, few, alas, possess. The hope of His calling—-that continued expectation of His return to receive us all to Himself----we know about it well. Do we know it in the sense that it is brought into our daily life, and practically tells upon it?
The full revelation of Christ spoken of in this prayer is in our version called "full knowledge" (verse 17). This translation does not very clearly express the meaning "epignosis"; it is rather "knowledge over and above" that which all believers have in the first principles of the doctrine of Christ.
For fifteen years of my Christian life, I knew very little, even doctrinally, of the knowledge referred to in this prayer—the "epignosis of Christ"—-and now, from much that can be seen around us, I fear that many true Christians have a clear enough head knowledge of the things spoken of without ever having had the prayer answered in their life experience. Practically, do we know the hope of His calling? If so, the result will and must be manifest separation from the present age, and not ecclesiastically merely, but from its ways and fashions and expectations. Ay, and there will be a very practical separation to God in a life of keen expectation of rapidly nearing events which most men deride.
If in any measure we have thus known the hope of His calling, the next petition of the prayer-—and I think the order in the prayer indicates the order in our progress----is, that "we may know the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints." Here it is not so much our own position and joy as the glory and joy that God the Father has, and is yet more fully to have, in us. Sometimes we selfishly forget this side of the future, and yet it is not the least wonderful. Our God is to find His grandest inheritance, His fullest joy, His greatest glory, in men SANCTIFIED IN CHRIST JESUS-—in Christ and the memhers of His wondrous body. Oh, brethren, to enter in some measure into a sense of the Father’s joy in us! would it not sweetly humble us to see this our wondrous exaltation? And in our separation from earth to His heart, would it not make us blessedly careless of the world’s esteem and treatment? For if these petitions are to be practically answered in our lives, we shall most surely be called to bear the cross with Christ; we shall increasingly know the meaning of our Lord’s words: "In the world YE shall have tribulation." And that leads to the third petition, "That we may know the effectual energy of the might of God’s strength," &c., Ah! those who in any little measure have had it given to them not to believe only, but also to suffer for His sake—"partakers of the sufferings of Christ"----know well that mere human heroism is useless here. Not our strength of mind or heart, not our patience, not our courage. Here, if anywhere, all things must be of God. For fifteen years of my Christian life, I did not know this, and, as a consequence, failure was stamped upon all my resolutions and efforts. Nevertheless, thus generally, He leads us up; for we must know our exceeding weakness that we may get to know the exceeding greatness of His power towards us who believe. Beloved, if you are passing through trial, little or great, get aside from all trust in self and look to God. Some of you in your daily work, conscious only of weariness and difiiculty and opposition, may be ready to give up, as you say, "I cannot go on any longer, these things are too much for me." Yes, but they are not too much for God—-for His mighty power. Let it be observed that we must believe in HIM for this----not merely for the salvation of our souls and the forgiveness of our sins, but FOR THIS. It is in the battle of life, day by day, where it is seen whether we believe in God or no; here it is we need thus to link ourselves with Him----
"To link our earthly feebleness
With His almighty power."
The question is not so much often between little faith and great faith, as between faith at all and unbelief. With ever so little faith on our part, the miracle-working Jehovah would be among us in a moment. There are great things to be done in the name of the Lord Jesus, but God only can do them. We shall never know the power if we are looking to self, or to the Church, or to some brethren for it. Does it not humble us sometimes when we find that we have been the channel of Christ’s blessing to others, in some little, word or deed which in itself is nothing? Only trust Him and we shall see greater things than these.
Now, as to the second prayer in Eph. iii. 14-19. We know that Christ is in the heart of every child of God, and yet there must be a sense in which it is not so, else, why the prayer? I think the word "dwelt" here is emphatic. In our Christian experience, sometimes it is WE, sometimes CHRIST. Our faith touches the hem of His garment for a moment, and we become conscious that virtue is flowing out of HIM; but, again, we forget so to touch Him, and there is nothing. We are there all the same-—we, with our own wisdom and understanding, and skill and experience, but not CHRIST. It is the "I, by myself," of Romans vii. My brothers, nothing can be a substitute for the living One, Jesus Christ Himself, for to Him only hath God committed power. Our intimate knowledge of the Word, yea, the very Word itself, is powerless apart from Christ, and for true power at any given moment, there must be acted faith in Him for that moment. When by grace we get into the habit of thus living on Him by faith, Christ is dwelling in our hearts by our faith, and we are able to say with Paul, "It is no longer I that live, but Christ that is living in me." Well, Christ is the full expression of love, the love of God; and this habit of believing in Christ is the being "rooted and grounded in love" here spoken of. Rooted and grounded in love; not our love, but the marvelous love of God as seen and known in Christ, "that we may comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, that passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God." Marvelous prayer! Yea, but do we expect the answer? Many will say, "Not till we get to heaven." Be sure of it, such will not receive the answer till then.
Unless we are roused to desire it and expect it, and believe for it, this prayer of the Holy Ghost for the Church will not be answered in our experience. When our Lord was about to raise the little maid from the sleep of death, with His beautiful "Talitha cumi," He first of all put out the laughing unbelievers. It has often been so since. The word "comprehend" in the prayer is expressive. The figure is that of a tree so thoroughly rooted and grounded in the soil (love of God in Christ) that it is taking constantly the soil unto its constitution.
Ah, let us be rooted and grounded in His love thus, and we shall become an expression of the love of God! There will be no disagreeable effort to try to love an unloving brother; but as we know our own poverty and weakness and want of love, we shall but take a firmer grasp of Christ and He will love them through us. This is the way also, really and truly-—not in name—to find ourselves "with all saints." Let us be more with Him, and let Him dwell in us, and we shall not feel love chilled by difference of path or social grade, or acquirement, or natural disposition. His love takes them all in, and if we are rooted and grounded in Him and filled with Him, we shall take them all in too. The Lord help us to abide in Christ.