Names and Titles of "Christ and His People."
Bible Readings To Christian Young Women.
By The Late Jeanie L. Ritchie.
THE following "Notes" contain the substance of simple Bible Readings and Evening Talks to Christian Young Women and Girls, newly converted, most of them feeling something of the roughness, as well as enjoying the brightness of the right road, that leads to glory and to God. There is no stage of Christian life so full of interest, as that of the young believer. Everything is fresh and green. The heart is happy in its new-found joy. Christ is everything to the soul. His Word and His service, are its delight. But the new life needs food, and the new path, light. Both are found in the Word of God. And there are trials and temptations, snares and pitfalls, by-paths and perilous places, of which God has warned us in that Word also. These, the young believer needs to know, and to be strengthened to bear, or to resist. The object of these simple gatherings—held after working hours, under our own roof, over forty years ago—had as their object the giving of such help in the Word, and to encourage these lambs of the Lord's flock to search, and meditate on the sacred Scriptures for themselves. Only rough "Notes" on the subjects were made, and these were not originally intended for publication. But since He who fed the multitude from "the five barley loaves and two small fishes," was pleased to bless them to encourage and to help the young believers of that early and happy time; He may still be pleased to use them as a word of counsel and of cheer, to some of our own time, who are just starting on the homeward journey, to the Heavenly City.
In the Word of God, especially in the New Testament Scriptures, many Names and Titles are given to the Lord Jesus. Each of these has its significance, and expresses some glory which belongs to Him by right, or which has been given to Him. Some of these tell us what the Lord Jesus was, in Himself, others what He has become, and is, for and to His people.
It is always a happy and profitable thing to be occupied with Christ, as He is presented to us in the Word, and to become acquainted with Him as He is thus and there revealed to faith. Feeding upon Him, the new life is strengthened, and gazing upon His beauty, the believer is being transformed into His image. And seeing the Lord Jesus thus, we see ourselves also; for as believers we are united to Him, made one with Him, and all that He is and has is ours, since grace has made us "heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ" (Rom. viii. 17). And just as He, the Risen Lord, has many glories and titles, so all who believe in Him, have many blessings and varied relationships.
There is no better employment for those who have been saved, than to "search the Scriptures" (John v. 39), there to learn what these are, and then to seek through grace to grasp them by faith, in their souls to enjoy them, and through spiritual strength thus derived, to give place to them in their daily lives.
Those who neglect to read the Word, to feed on Christ, and to appropriate what God has given them, soon [fall], and become backsliders, slipping back into the world, and becoming "like unto those that go down to the pit." May the blessed Spirit guide us into the truth, and bring Christ before us, in all His beauty and loveliness. I would ask that we may all turn up the passages and jot them down as we go along, for further personal meditation.
It is always profitable to the soul, to read and meditate personally and prayerfully on the Sacred Word of God, and thus to lay it up "in the heart" (Deut. xi. 18). And the Word so dwelling richly (Col. iii. 16) within, and ministering joy and gladness to the inner man, it becomes natural and easy to talk of these words, when "sitting in the house," and when "walking by the way" (Deut. vi. 7).
No. I.—THE SAVIOUR.
A SAVIOUR NEEDED.—The name JESUS means, "Jehovah the Saviour." By nature and by practice, we are sinners (Eph. ii. 2; Rom. iii. 19), and so we first need a Saviour. This is where a great many people err, and, like Nicodemus of old, speak of Jesus as a "Teacher come from God" (John iii. 2). But they forget, or ignore the fact, that they are already lost, and under condemnation (Rom. v. 16), and need first of all to be SAVED. This is the sinner's first and greatest need—a Saviour. And blessed be God, He has provided "a Saviour, even a great one" (Isa. xliv. 12) in His beloved Son. This tells how far gone we were, and how deep our ruin, when no one, short of the Son of God could reach and save us. As we sometimes sing—
"O how vile our low estate,
Since our Ransom was so great."
A SAVIOUR SENT.—Now turn to John iii. 17, "God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." And again in 1 John iv. 14, "The Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world." When the angel came to the plain of Bethlehem to announce the good tidings of His birth, he said, "Unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord " (Luke ii. 9). For long ages, men and women of faith, had been waiting for the promised Saviour. One aged man of whom we read in Luke ii. 25, when the Babe was brought into the temple, took Him in his arms and said, "Mine eyes have seen Thy salvation." There was no need to wait longer. The Saviour had come, and He had only to be received by those who knew their need of Him. This is just how we all may become possessors of God's salvation. It is as simple as possible, and the simplicity of it stumbles many. It is just to "take" Jesus, as God's gift, and thank God for His salvation.
TO SAVE SINNERS.—"This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save SINNERS" (1 Tim. i. 15). This is the kind of people that Jesus came to save; not the good, but the bad; not saints, but sinners. We do not need to make ourselves better, in order to induce Him to save us. He saves sinners just as they are. You have heard the story of the ragged man, who was engaged by an artist to sit for a painting of "The Prodigal Son." He had himself washed, and his ragged clothes laid aside, and next morning so went to the artist's studio. But he was no use to him so altered, for his purpose. "I told you to come as you were," said the artist. When sinners come with their righteousness or their religion, they receive no welcome. But when they come as sinners and just as they are, Jesus saves them, for it is still true concerning Him, "This Man receiveth sinners " (Luke xv. 2).
A THREEFOLD SALVATION.—"The Salvation of God" (Acts xxviii. 28), is presented to us in a threefold aspect in the Word. The believing sinner is saved; he is being saved; and he shall be saved. From want of distinguishing these varied aspects of salvation, many become confused.
1. When the Philippian jailer asked the question, "What must I do to be saved?" he received from Paul and Silas the plain reply, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved " (Acts xvi. 30, 31). He did believe, he was saved. Of this aspect of salvation, the believer can speak with certainty and assurance, now. Paul wrote to Timothy, "God, who hath saved us" (2 Tim. i. 9), and to the Corinthians, "by which ye are saved" (1 Cor. xv. 4). This is salvation from sin's Penalty. It is complete and it is "eternal" (Heb. v. 9). This is the present possession of all true believers, who ought to be able at all times to sing, "The Lord is my light and my salvation" (Psa. xxvii. 1), and "Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid."
2. The believer is BEING saved daily, from sin's Power and Practice, from the temptations of the Devil, and the seductions of the world. It is of this aspect of salvation that we read, "He is able also to save them to the uttermost—or evermore— that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth" (Heb. vii. 25). "Reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life " (Rom. v. 10). This aspect of salvation is also referred to in the words, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God that worketh in you" (Phil. ii. 12). Some have used this verse as if it meant we have to work for our salvation. But you will notice it is addressed to "saints," that is, sinners already saved, who had a salvation which they could speak of as their "own salvation," and having it already in, they were to work it out.
3. Then there is salvation in prospect. Of this we read, "Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed" (Rom. xiii. 11). And this future and final aspect of salvation will be accomplished at the coming of the Lord, when He who once appeared to put away sin by His sacrifice on the Cross, shall again "appear the second time, without sin, unto salvation " (Heb. ix. 28). This will be salvation from the very presence of sin, and out of a world where He was and is rejected. Well may we praise God for giving to us such a Saviour, Who by His death on the Cross, saved us from the Penalty of our sins; by His risen life, daily saves us from sin's Power, and Who will—when He comes—save us from sin's Presence.
No. II.—THE DELIVERER.
BECAUSE we are sinners, we need a Saviour, and because we are slaves, we need a Deliverer. Like the people of Israel in the land of Egypt, who were Pharoah's bondmen, we, in our unregenerate state, are "bondslaves to sin " (John viii. 35). Of course, the devil blinds the mind of his captives to this awful slavery, and makes them think and boast of their freedom, thinking that Christians are prohibited the liberties they enjoy. But the only freedom a sinner possesses is, that he is "free from righteousness" (Rom. vii. 20)—a terrible freedom indeed. When the people of Israel were at their worst in Egypt, God sent them, in the person of Moses, a Deliverer (Acts vii. 35), to rid them out of their bondage, and to set them free to serve the God of their fathers.
A DELIVERER PROMISED.—Ever since the day of man's fall in Eden, God had promised that One should come to be the Deliverer. It was of Him that the aged Zecharias sang, "that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear" (Luke i. 74). And long ages before his day, we read of God saying concerning the sinner, "Deliver him from going down to the pit; I have found a ransom" (Job xxxiii. 24). This great Deliverer, is the Lord Jesus Christ. And the deliverance which He wrought on the Cross, is now proclaimed to all mankind, to sinners everywhere, in the Gospel. The believer can say, like the Psalmist, "The Lord is my Deliverer " (Psa. xviii. A threefold deliverance is made known to us in the Word, to which we may apply the words of Paul, "Who delivered us, and doth deliver, in whom we trust that He will yet deliver us." (2 Cor. i. 9). There is a past, a present, and a future deliverance, in which all true believers share.
A DELIVERANCE PAST.—There are at least seven things which the believer is said to have been delivered from, at the time of his conversion. Let us see what these are.
1. "From the lowest hell" (Psa. lxxxiv. 12).
2. "From the wrath to come" (1 Thess. i. 10). These are awful realities. Hell is the place of the sinner's punishment. Sinners deny, yet dread it. But Christ has borne the judgment of sin for all His people, and they now can truthfully sing—
"There is no condemnation,
There is no hell for me,
The torment and the fire
My eyes shall never see."
Nor will they ever know God's wrath, here or hereafter. "Wrath to come" there is upon sinners upon earth, but before a drop of it falls, all Christ's redeemed people will be safely housed in heaven.
3. "From the power (that is, the "authority of darkness" (Col. i. 13), under which as sinners we all lay, ruled by the rod of Satan, "the Prince of this world" (John xii. 31). What a mercy to be free from his grasp. But see what it cost! "That through death, He might destroy him that had the power of death, and deliver them, who through fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Heb. ii. 14, 15). The usurper's power has been broken, "the strong man armed" (Luke xi. 21) has been overcome, and his lawful captives have gone free. Praise be to God!
4. "From the Curse of the law" (Gal. iii. 13). This curse we had earned, and could not escape. The Lord Jesus bore it, and now "there is no more curse" for any of His people. Trial, persecution, and wrong, they may receive at the hands of men, but there is "no condemnation" from heaven, to any who are" in Christ Jesus" (Rom. viii. 1).
5. "From the present Evil World" (Gal. i. 4). Many who rejoice in deliverance from hell and wrath and the curse, do not see this further form of Christ's deliverance. Yet it is as real as the others, and due to the same cause. "Christ, who gave Himself, that He might deliver us from the present evil world" (Gal. i. 4). "The world lieth in the wicked one" (1 John v. 19, R.V.). It is opposed to God (Jas. iv. 4), its princes crucified the Lord of glory (1 Cor. ii. 8). The Lord Jesus says of His people, "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world" (John xvii. 14). And when the believer learns that he has been delivered out of the world, severed from it, and is dead to it, he joyfully accepts his position in separation from it, which God has given, and says, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world is crucified to me, and I unto the world" (Gal. v.. 20). As Israel were shut out of Egypt, never to return to it again, or to mix among its peoples, or share in their sins or follies, so by the death of Christ, is the believer separated from "the present evil world," and can sing—
"The cords that bound my heart to earth
Were loosed by Jesus' hand;
Before His Cross, I found myself
A stranger, in the land."
6. "Delivered from the Law" (Rom. vii. 6), as a power of condemnation, and as an iron rule by which to walk. Not to become lawless, or to "do as we like," but in order that we may "walk, even as He walked" (1 John ii. 6), who left us an example that we should follow His steps" (1 Pet. ii. 21). This is higher than law. It is to "walk in love, as Christ also loved us" (Eph. v. 2).
7. "Delivered from all our Fears" (Psa. xxxiv. 4), fear of hell, fear of death, fear of the curse, fear of the world, and all other fears. There is really no room for fear of any kind to a Christian, because God is for His people, and, if God be for us, who can be against us?" (Rom. viii. 31). Once, Luther was told that the Pope, the Cardinals, and all the princes of the world were against him and his doctrine. "Then," said the noble and fearless man, "God and I, will be against them all." And so we sing—
"My Friend the Lord Almighty,
And He who loves me—God,
What enemy can harm me,
Though coming like a flood?"
A DELIVERANCE PRESENT.—Although now saved from wrath, and sure of heaven, there are many foes and snares on the way, from which the believer needs to be delivered. And this the Lord is pledged to do for him. It is of these that we read, "The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation" (2 Pet. ii. 9); "The Lord will deliver him in time of trouble" (Psa. xli. 1). When you are assailed by Satan, or when some strong temptation is suddenly sprung upon you, do not try to meet or overcome it in your own strength, but send up the cry, "Deliver me, O Lord. I flee unto Thee to hide me" (Psa. cxliii. 3). Thus you put the Lord, as it were, between you and the enemy, whoever or whatever this may be.
God alone knows how often we have thus been "delivered out of the mouth of the lion" (2 Tim. iv. 17). Sometimes the Lord allows His child to pass into trial, in order that He may give "great deliverance" (1 Chron. xi. 14), out of it. You remember how Daniel was permitted to enter the den of lions, but not one of them hurt him. The God whom he trusted, shut their mouths. At other times, and for wise purposes, God permits His children to suffer. We have a fine example of how faith commits its cause to God, even when uncertain what His will and way may be. When the three Hebrews refused to worship the golden image in Babylon, the king was very angry, and in giving sentence that they should be cast into the fiery furnace, he ended by saying, "And who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?" (Dan. iii. 16). That was a great threat and a big challenge, was it not? How did the three young men receive it? Were they frightened into submission? Did they bow to the idol on the plain? Nay! Hear their calm, deliberate, and noble answer. It rings out with the melody of true faith. "If it be so," they say, "our God whom we serve is able to deliver us, and He will deliver us out of thine hand, O King. But if not"—that is, if His will and His way for us be that we go into the furnace, and that He will manifest His delivering power in it, rather than it keeping us out from it—"be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up" (Dan. iii. 18). That was faith's reply to the threat of earth's greatest despot. And God made good His Word, and wrought a great deliverance in the furnace. They lost nothing; only their bands. And they gained a Companion in the fire. One whose form was "like unto the Son of God." Never fear to stand firm for God and His truth, even in the face of the fiercest opposition. God will never leave you in the enemy's hand, but always, somehow, and in His own time, make "a way of escape" (1 Cor. x. 13). Thus day by day and all the way, the Lord will deliver His own from "every evil work," and out of all their trials (2 Tim. iii. 11 ; iv. 18), so that they may boldly sing, The Lord is my Rock and my Deliverer " (Psa. xviii. 2).
A DELIVERANCE FUTURE.—A final deliverance awaits the believer, from the presence of sin, within and around, at the coming of the Lord. Then he shall be made "like Him," being perfectly conformed to His image (Rom. viii. 29). The weary earth, which has so long groaned under its load, shall then also be delivered from the bondage of corruption, and will enter upon "the liberty of the glory of the children of God" (Rom. viii. 21.
No. III.—THE REDEEMER.
THE Scriptures describe the sinner's state "as that of a bond-servant" (John viii. 34, R.V.), "sold under sin" (Rom. vii. 14). And he has no ability to rid himself of this, for he is "without strength" (Rom. v. 6). Nor can his fellow, who is in the same position, give him any help, for "none of them can by any means redeem his brother, or give to God a ransom for him" (Psa. xlix. 7). And this is true of all, no matter what their condition and character. We all need Redemption and a Redeemer.
The glory of the Gospel is, to announce that a Redeemer has been found, that Redemption has been accomplished, and, in virtue of that great work, DELIVERANCE and salvation are proclaimed to sinners.
A REDEEMER PROMISED.—When Adam and Eve sinned in Eden, God announced their redemption through the victory of the Woman's Seed over the great Adversary. This was the first promise of a Redeemer. Types and shadows of the Old Testament tell who He was to be, and what He was to do. Men of faith, believing God's promise, like Abraham, expected Him; they saw His day and were glad (John viii. 56). Job said, "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He will stand in the latter day upon the earth" (Job xix. 25). I n this hope, they lived and died. Still He came not.
A REDEEMER COME.—When the infant Saviour was born, some "who looked for redemption in Jerusalem," were glad to receive Him (Luke ii. 38), but most of the nation rejected and despised Him. Then He who "would have redeemed Israel" (Luke xxiv. 21), was by wicked hands crucified and slain. And they who boasted they were never in bondage to any man (John viii. 33), were left in the bond of their iniquity.
REDEMPTION BY BLOOD.—The language of the Old Testament types all tells, that a redeemer in Old Testament times, must be a kinsman, in order to redeem and avenge. So the Son of God took flesh and blood (Heb. ii. 14-15), in order that He might die and deliver. Redemption is by shed blood. The Paschal lamb, whose blood redeemed the first-born of Israel (Exod. xii. 13); the offerings of Leviticus i.-vi., and all the sacrifices slain and offered on Jewish altars told the need of "richer blood" than that of bulls or goats. None of these could take away sin. Then, in the appointed time, the "Lamb of God" appeared (John i. 29). In Him, all the types found their fulfilment. He was "without blemish and without spot" (1 Pet. i. 19)—God manifest in the flesh, so that His blood is said to be "precious blood," having infinite value. By the shedding of His blood, He procured Eternal Redemption (Heb. ix. 12). In one aspect, He purchased the field (Matt. xiii. 24)—and the field is the world (ver. 38)—but some, "denying the Lord that bought them" (2 Pet. ii. 2), refuse His salvation, and pass on to meet Him as their Judge (John x. 22-27). Others, believing on Him and confessing Him as their Lord, know the power of His redemption now. Of all such we read—"In whom we HAVE redemption through His blood" (Eph. i. 7). He obtained it by His death (Heb. ix. 12), and believers have it now. There is redemption by blood and by power, delivering from the penalty and from the dominion of sin. The Word of God tells what we have been redeemed from.
REDEEMED FROM THE CURSE.—"Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us" (Gal. iii. 13). Under condemnation and the curse, we were doomed. But "He was wounded for our transgressions" (Isa. liii. 5), and "He who knew no sin, was made sin for us" (2 Cor. v. 21). Now justified freely, "through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. iii. 23), there is therefore "now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus" (Rom. viii. 1).
"Death and the curse were in our cup,
O Christ, 'twas full for Thee;
But Thou hast drunk the last dark drop,
'Tis empty now for me.
That bitter cup, love drank it up;
Now blessing's draught for me."
REDEEMED FROM ALL INIQUITY (Titus ii. 14).—From all lawlessness, self-will, and all that as sinners we loved, our own will and way—to be purified unto God as "a people for His own possession," as the R.V. has it. God would have His people a sanctified, separated, and practically holy people, guided and ruled by His Word. "In the world," yet "not of the world" (John xvii. 14-15). This was God's object in our redemption; and the song of heaven shall ever be, "Thou hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood" (Rev. v. 9).
REDEEMED FROM VAIN CONVERSATION (1 Pet. i. 18, R.V.).—Not alone from what men of the world regard as sin, but from "vain conversation" —that is, "manner of life," handed down from their fathers, are believers redeemed. Bought out, and freed from our old ways of living, as well as from our sins, by the Cross, in order that we may worship and serve God as His Word has commanded. Many fail to see their deliverance from a religion of tradition according to the world, who gladly acknowledge their redemption from sin and iniquity in all their grosser forms.
REDEMPTION FUTURE.—There is a redemption yet to come, "the redemption of the body" (Rom. viii. 23), for which we wait, and unto which we are "sealed" (Eph. iv. 30) by the Holy Spirit. The believer's body is not yet delivered from the possibility of death, nor from the presence of indwelling sin. It will yet be from both, in virtue of the Cross. When the Lord Jesus comes, He will raise the bodies of His sleeping saints incorruptible, and change the bodies of those who are alive and remain on the earth, giving them immortality (1 Cor. xv. 12-29), so that death and the grave shall have no more dominion over them. "This is the redemption of the purchased possession" (Eph. i. 13)—"God's own possession" (R.V.). The complete redemption by power, of all that Christ purchased by the blood of His Cross, will then be manifested. And the triumph of the Son of God, the Redeemer and the Avenger, over sin and Satan, and all the ravages they have wrought, will then be complete. For Satan will then have nothing to show.
THE Lord Jesus, is spoken of in the New Testament Scriptures, as the Shepherd, under three Titles.
1. As "THE GOOD SHEPHERD" (John x. 11), Who gives His life for the sheep. This speaks of the Cross, and of His atoning death there for His people.
2. As "THE GREAT SHEPHERD " (Heb. xiii. 20), Who has been raised from the dead, to guide and preserve His sheep, all through their wilderness journey. This tells of His Resurrection, and of His present service for His own, in heaven.
3. As "THE CHIEF SHEPHERD" (1 Pet. v. 4), Who will come again in glory, giving rewards for faithful service, to all who have served Him, seeking, shepherding, and feeding His flock, while here on earth. This points onward to the future. To these three aspects of the Lord's Shepherd work, there are three beautiful Psalms, which seem to correspond. Psalm xxii. is the Psalm of the Cross, where "the Good Shepherd" is seen dying for the sheep. Psalm xxiii. is the Psalm of the wilderness, where "THE GREAT SHEPHERD "is seen leading on His sheep in "green pastures" and by "still waters," on through "the valley of the shadow of death" to "the house of the Lord," their everlasting home. Psalm xxiv. is the Psalm of the Kingdom and the Glory to come, where, through opened gates, He leads in triumph, those whom He has purchased by His blood and preserved by His power, into the everlasting Kingdom and Glory (2 Pet. i. 11) of the future.
In our unconverted days, we were as "sheep going astray" (Isa. liii. 6), wandering in self-will and folly, far from God and His truth, out in the wild and lone desert, seeking rest but finding none. In His love and pity, the Good Shepherd came forth to seek and to save the lost (Luke xix. 10), and although it cost Him the sorrows and sufferings of the Cross, He did not give up the search, "until," like the shepherd in the parable of Luke xv., "He found" the wandering sheep. The sheep did not seek the shepherd, nor go halfway to meet Him. He sought and He saved. He did the whole work Himself. So was it is with the Lord. Of Him it is written, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Tim. i. 15)—not saints, but sinners; not the good, but the bad. He finds the wandering sheep far out on the mountains, "sick and helpless and ready to die," and pick it up just as it is, He lays it "on His shoulder," and brings it home rejoicing. This is salvation; this is conversion. This is just what happens to each one, whom He saves by His grace (Eph. ii. 8).
Now, as saved, we know Him as "The Great Shepherd," who charges Himself with the care and guidance of all who are His, and pledges His Word that none of them can "perish," or be plucked out of His hand (John x. 27-28). At conversion, we are brought to this "Great Shepherd," and set under His care. The apostle says, "Ye are NOW RETURNED unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls" (1 Pet. ii. 25), to be fed and led by the Shepherd, who once bled for them.
It is just here that the individual believer learns to say, "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want" (Psa. xxiii. 1). With dangers and enemies, and the waste howling wilderness all around, he "fears no evil," because he has the living Shepherd going before, with His "rod" to rule and protect, and His "staff" to restore and uphold. The path of safety lies in hearing His voice, and following Him who goes before. His sheep "hear His voice"—this is their distinctive mark. And so long as they follow on in the path of obedience, they are safe. No lion can harm them there. But if for a moment the sheep take themselves out from the Shepherd's care, or walk in self-will and paths of their own choosing, the Lord has not promised to preserve them from falling there. Walking thus, they may fall an easy prey to Satan, "who goes about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Pet. v. 8). The backslider is allowed then to be "filled with his own ways" (Prov. xiv. 14), and thus He learns how evil and bitter a thing it is, to depart from the Lord.
When the Lord comes, He will gather from all parts of the earth, and from all the seas, His ransomed people. Not one will be missing, not one wanting. Then and thus, with "exceeding joy," He will present the flock for which He died, and upon which His care has been spent throughout all their wilderness days, "without spot" and "faultless" in the presence of His glory" with exceeding joy" (Jude 23). Even then, amid scenes of glory, He will still retain His Shepherd character, and guide His flock.
V.—OUR GREAT HIGH PRIEST.
WHEN the people of Israel were brought out of Egypt, into the wilderness, and were being led on their way to their Canaan home, God appointed Aaron as their high priest, and gave him garments of glory and beauty, in which to appear before Him on their behalf, in the holy place of the Tabernacle. On his shoulders, he had two stones, upon which the names of the twelve tribes were engraved according to their birth (Exod. xxix. 9-12). And on a golden breastplate, which he bore upon his heart, their names were engraved on twelve precious stones, "according to their tribes" (Exod. xxviii. 21), all set in [sockets] of gold. Thus they were borne on his shoulder—the place of strength, and on his heart—the place of love, before the Lord continually, never forgotten, by night or by day. The Priesthood of the Lord Jesus is for His redeemed people; not for the world. To the world, He is proclaimed as the Saviour (John iii. 17) now, and by and by, He will be known as its Judge (Acts xvii. 31). When a sinner receives Him as Saviour (John i. 12), and confesses Him as Lord (Rom. x. 9), he is no longer of the world, but is given to Christ (John xvii. 6) out of it, to become one of "His own" (John xiii. 1). They are in the world, as the place of their pilgrimage, yet not of it, as being part of its great system, "all of which lieth in the Evil One" (1 John v. 19, R.V.). Saved by grace and sure of glory (Rom. v. 1-3, with Titus ii. 11-13), yet compassed with infirmity, liable to go astray, and to be assailed by the great adversary, from whose service and dominion they have escaped by redemption; they need Christ's succour and His strength to enable them to overcome in trial, and to endure in temptation. This is where the priesthood of the Lord Jesus comes in, to meet His people in their weakness and liability to sin, while on the way home to God. This priesthood of Christ, began at His resurrection. This is the "To-day" spoken of in Heb. v. 10, in which He was "made" or "greeted" High Priest. By His sacrifice on the Cross, He brought His people nigh to God (Eph. ii. 13), and by His priesthood now in heaven, He keeps them near. The place in which he exercises His priesthood is "in heaven itself," in the Divine presence, before the face of God.
"No temple made with hands
His place of service is,
In Heaven itself He stands,
A heavenly priesthood His."
There are no human priests on earth now, except in the sense in which all believers are priests (1 Peter ii. 5), able to draw near to God (Heb. x. 22), to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God (Heb. xiii. 15), to praise and pray for themselves, and for others. There is only one "Great High Priest," and He is the Son of God, a priest forever, "after the order of Melchizedek." He is well fitted for His office, for He passed through all the scenes of earth in which His people now are. He suffered all the temptation common to them, was tempted in all points, as they are—apart from sin. This He never knew in Himself, but felt the power of it in the world around, and saw its dire effects in others. Hence He is perfectly able to sympathize because He is perfect man, able also to succour, because He is the Mighty God (Heb. iv. 14). He will never cease to save all the way, to the very "uttermost" (Heb. vii. 25) those whom He is bringing to the rest beyond. Aaron died in the wilderness, and another had to fill his place. But the Son of God "abideth a priest continually." No day will ever dawn to find us, like Israel in the desert, without a priest, as when Aaron died on Mount Hor. For "He ever liveth to make intercession for His people."
We little know, how often or how fully we are indebted to this priesthood of Christ, for our deliverances from temptation, for strength imparted to us in conflict, for sympathy and succour ministered in testing, and for preservation in the hour of danger. As in the case of Simon Peter, in that hour of his "sifting" (Luke xxii. 31), the Lord had "prayed" for him, that his faith might not fail, so now His "intercession for us" (Heb. viii. 34) avails in "every dark, distressing hour," in which the powers of evil assail us, ever seeking to cast us down, or to decoy us through subtilty, from "the right way" of the Lord, into some by-path, in which we may deny or dishonour His holy Name. It is due to Christ's priesthood, that strength is given to "stand fast in the faith" in the hour of testing, and strength to cleave to the Lord, in times of weakness, when the wiles and subtleties of the enemy would surely often overcome us, were we left to our own wisdom or strength.
VI.—AN ADVOCATE WITH THE FATHER.
THE advocacy of the Lord Jesus is for His redeemed people. It is carried on for them in heaven, and is said to be "with the Father." And this views believers in family relationships. "The priesthood of the risen Lord," is said to be "with God." He is a Great Priest over the house of God (Heb. x. 21, R.V.). As Advocate, He is with "the Father" (1 John i. 1). As children, our relationship is eternal, it cannot be broken. Nor can it ever cease to exist, in the case of any "born again" child of God. But, while the relationship remains, communion with the Father as a child, may be temporarily lost in experience. And it always is, when sin is yielded to, or trifled with. Here it is, that the advocacy of Christ comes in. "If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous" (1 John ii. 2). The word Paraclete here rendered "Advocate," is the same as is used of the Holy Spirit in John xiv. 26. And thus we learn, that the child of God has two "Advocates"—one with the Father for him, and another, "the Holy Spirit," in him, who "maketh intercession in him," always according "to the will of God" (Rom. viii. 27). Thus, and through the ministry of these two Paracletes, which the word "Helper" means—both ever ready to aid the child of God, so that he may be kept in communion with the Father, or have it restored when it fails. For while a true believer may be "overtaken" in a fault (Gal. vi. 1), there is no need for continuing in that condition, but making use of the Advocacy of the living Christ for him in heaven, and the ever-present Holy Spirit in him here on earth, to have the sin-stained feet washed clean (John xiv. 10, with 1 John i. 9, 10), the broken communion restored, and a "right spirit" renewed. It is of the first importance to the child of God, that no time be lost in dealing with such failures as come into his life, and becloud the light in which it is his privilege to walk habitually with His God, in all the phases of his Christian life. For, when he "sins," as 1 John ii. 2, tells, he can and will as God's beloved child (Eph. v. 1), lose the light of his Father's "countenance" (Psa. iv. 6; lxxxix. 15), and the sense of His presence with Him. To keep "short accounts" with God as Father, and never allow unconfessed sin to remain on his conscience, and darkness to settle down on his path, is the sure and only way to maintain the soul in the Father's love (John xv. 10) and in the path of fellowship with Him. It is just here, where many fail, and their failure brings them under the Father's "rod" of correction (Heb. xii. 11), in His parental discipline (1 Pet. i. 17). If this be neglected, the enemy seeks to use it in leading them from "the paths of righteousness" (Psa. xxiv. 3), into a self-willed way, where walking in "the light of sparks of their own kindling," they "lie down in sorrow" (Isa. i. 11), many alas! never to regain "the right way of the Lord," or walk on in the path of obedience and enjoyed communion with the Father and the Son (John xiv. 23). Allowed and continued sin in a child of God, is always a sad and serious matter, and should never be trifled with. When the indwelling Spirit is "grieved" (Eph. iv. 30), He ceases to minister of His strength (Eph. iii. 16) to the sinning saint until, as God's child, he yields to the pressure of the Father's hand, makes full and unreserved confession of his sin, and as a child in this relationship, receives the Father's forgiveness (1 John i. 9), is restored in soul, and cleansed from the "unrighteousness" into which his fall has led him, to walk more "carefully" and watchfully, than he had been doing before his fall (compare Prov. xvi. 18 with Luke xxiii. 33).
The process of true restoration of soul is well marked out in the Word. From 1 John ii. 1, it appears to be that the Advocacy of Christ for him, take the precedence. He presents his case to the Father, while the other "Comforter" in him acts on his conscience, convicting him of his sin, leading him to confession of it (1 John i. 9), which should be very definite and full, keeping back nothing, never excusing himself for his fall, but owning it before God (Psa. Ii. 4), then renouncing it in practice, and unhesitatingly forsaking it (Prov, xxviii. 13). Then the living Lord brings the Word to bear upon him, and by its means "cleanses" him (Eph. v. 24), to again enjoy fellowship with his Father, and to walk in a clean path, "taking heed thereto according to the Word" (Psa. cxix. 9). With such full and gracious provision having been made for restoration, there is no need, nor any excuse for remaining out of fellowship with the Father, by any child of God.