Partakers With Christ
by Henry Varley
Notes of an Address at Kilburn Hull, on Easter Sunday.
IT is well to recall to-day some of the great truths which pertain to resurrection, and see them in the light of the believer’s fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord. To this end I select the word partaker, as found in some half-dozen passages of Scripture, and proceed to a brief examination of their import.
In 2 Pet. i. 4, the obvious meaning of the word partaker is that of a sharer in the DIVINE NATURE. How wonderful this expression! I am afraid we are disposed to associate ourselves too exclusively with the human side of our Lord’s nature. Do we sufficiently emphasize our partnership in His resurrection? Our fellowship is now mainly there. "Death hath no more dominion over us." With Him, we also are risen. Important as it is to show forth our fellowship in His death and burial, it is of still higher moment to know that the power which God wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, is the very same power which is now maintaining the life of faith in all the members of His body. Our apprehension of truth is one thing; the truth itself is another. Let us interpret ourselves rather in the light of the truth of God, than by appeal to our own consciousness. We have part in the possession of the holiness of God (a very distinguishing feature in the Divine character); also in the faith, the love, and the truth of God. Our faith, holiness, truth, and love are all of God. Having participation in the Divine nature, we know the Holy Spirit’s powerful operation, not only in view of the eternity before us, but in the experience that is ours in the time in which our earthly lot is cast.
Heb. iii. 1 gives another precious use of the word partaker. We have here participation in the heavenly calling. I am not sure that we are justified in calling Jesus Christ our Brother. It appears to bring Christ down to our human platform. I do not know any Scripture warrant for this. There is certainly no precedent in the Scriptures themselves. He calls us "brethren," but, observe, it is not until we are upon the plane of being, which partnership in the Divine nature gives. We are here described as partakers of the heavenly calling because we share the very life the Lord brought into the world, and which He has imparted unto us by His own Word and Spirit. I should be glad if the word conversion were less used than it is, and gave place to the better word regeneration. Conversion is a turning round; regeneration comprehends much more than this; it is the result of the operation of God. Hence we read: "We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath afore prepared that we should walk in them." It is upon this ground that the wonderful words have place. For "He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one; for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren."
2 Cor. i. 7: Here our partnership involves share both in our Lord’s suffering and consolation. We must be content at this present time to suffer rejection with our Lord on the part of the world, and to imitate Him "who made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."
It is at once a temptation and a snare to attempt to please everybody. This can only be done by sacrificing faithfulness to the Lord Jesus Christ. There must be a daily apprehension of dying to self-will, self-pleasing, the love of popularity, and the world’s applause. Observe, however, that where suffering abounds, the consolation will much more abound. The most costly seed, probably, which we sow is suffering, but the harvest of consolation likewise is the most prolific. Heb. xii. 8 yields another phase of the truth upon which I dwell. The proof that we really partake the relationship of children of God is that we all share His chastisement, which has no reference to the Divine pleasure merely----which is usually the case in earthly relationships—--but for our profit. Chastisement is the surest way to participation in the holiness of God, which none of us naturally love. It is the renewed heart which loves holiness. It is a remarkable fact that the electric light in public galleries and the world’s evening assemblies had to be abandoned because it made personal and other defects apparent. The fact is, that it was too intense. Even so, real holiness is too high, too intense, for human nature to love.
Col. i. 12 brings out another view of this suggestive word partaker. We could have no desire for the fellowship of the saints in light unless we were meet for it. If an unconverted man dies with his character unaltered, and there were a hundred doors open into heaven, he would never dream of setting foot therein. If, whilst residing in Cape Colony, I had been leading a degraded life, all you could lay at my feet would not have brought me inside this building to speak with you to-day; neither, had you knowledge of that degradation, would you listen to me. Unsaved man, if you die morally disqualified for the conditions and associations of heaven, you will never enter that holy place. Remember that it is not a question of the absence of the quality of mercy in God, but of the destitution of meetness in the man himself; therefore the glad refrain, "Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light." This participation evidently has reference to our association with the Lord in the coming Millennial glory. Before the arrival of the condition which we understand by the great word "eternity," there intervenes the thousand years during which Christ, as the blessed and only Potentate, will reign over the whole earth.
It is very noteworthy that our Lord prayed, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven." That is, the Father’s, or the eternal kingdom, as distinguished from that of the Son on earth. This petition could not refer to the Millennial age. The will of the holy Father will not be done on earth, even in the Millennial age, as it is done in heaven. In order to the fulfilment of that prayer, the Millennial kingdom of the Son must have taken place. He comes again to earth "in order to put down all rule and all authority and power." When, according to His Father’s will, who "sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved,"—-then, when our Lord’s competent power has fulfilled His splendid mission, He will deliver up the kingdom to the Father, and Himself become subject to the Father, that God may be all in all (1 Cor. xv. 28).
My fellow believers, let it be ours to become prepared for His coming and glory. Let us recall the fact that when our responsibility as sinners ceases, our responsibility as God’s children begins. I believe that our positions of honour in the Kingdom will be proportioned to our faithfulness during our Lord’s absence. Can we suppose the position of the dying thief in glory to be the same as that of the apostle Paul? May we not affirm that the former is identified with the lowest position, the latter with that of the highest? The unsaved in this assembly as yet have neither treasure nor friendships in the world to come. Who can fittingly describe the poverty of these, or tell out their eternal misery?
Finally, 1 Pet. v. 1 tells of participation in the eternal glory. What a fitting space the thousand years become for the education of God’s people! The wisdom, the training, and the adaptation to the eternal life, are, may we not add, perchance, a great necessity in view of the dignity and glory of the eternal ages. God has not only called us to the glory of the Millennial age, but to His eternal glory, and the glory of the ages of ages.
Thus I have shown that believers are (1) partakers of the Divine nature; (2) partakers of the heavenly calling; (3) partakers of the suffering and of the consolation of the Gospel; (4.) partakers of the chastisement of the holy Father; (5) partakers of His holiness; (6) partakers of the glory of the saints in light; and, finally (7), partakers of the eternal condition when we shall forever be with Christ. What a perfection of participation is thus made known!