Matt. xiii. 1-9; xiv. 20-23; xv. 12, 14; xvi. 18, 19; xvii. 1-6, 9.
Sowing, Feeding, Sustaining, and Building.
GOD could well have put everything in one verse, but He has been pleased to give us many chapters and verses. They are all interlaced and interwoven, so that if you were to read a passage and think it stood by itself, you would miss a great deal, because every verse is connected with what precedes and what follows. So much by way of apology for having read so many passages.
What I want to bring before you to-night, is the all-sufficiency of Christ. He began our salvation; He carries us on, and He will land us safely in glory. What should exercise our souls is the work of the Holy Spirit in us.
Christ has first of all done everything. We could never do without Christ who began the work, and we could never do without the Holy Ghost who carries on the work. The work of Christ is finished, but the work of the Holy Ghost will not be finished until He has carried us through to glory. You get a type of the work of the Spirit in Abraham's servant, when he is bringing Rebecca to Isaac. He does not set her down anywhere on the way. Figures fail, however, they come short. When Rebecca saw Isaac, she asked, "What man is this that walketh in the field to meet us?" We shall never ask such a question, for many of us have intercourse daily with Him whom we go to meet. So that the case in that respect is not parallel.
Well, when Christ comes for us, He does not come for an assembly with divergent views. In that large company, there will not be one who will have one diverse view from the others. Down here, one man has one view, and another has another, and so on. That is not what Christ is going to take to glory. So in Philippians iii. 21, "Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body.'' Then comes Thessalonians iv. 17, "Caught up." So whatever crooked views you or I may have now, they will all be gone then, and they should all be gone now.
I have taken up these passages to show you how all-sufficient Christ is; how He begins, sustains and carries safely to glory.
In the first place, sowing was a departure in the ways of God. There had been no sowing in Judaism; but Christ comes in as the Sower and sowed the Word of the kingdom—really the gospel. Psalm cxxvi. 6 says, "He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.'' So He sowed in tears, and He is going to bring every sheaf back to glory.
There were obstructions to the seed-bearing fruit—the world, the flesh and the devil. But some fell into good ground, into prepared ground. That is a figure of new birth. God had first worked in the soul. What we should therefore pray for in regard to the gospel is that hearts might be prepared for the receiving of the word. The preaching of the word is simply dropping the seed into the ground.
The sowing brought forth fruit, "some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold." Mark runs upward, “thirtyfold, sixtyfold, an hundredfold.'' Matthew is connected with Numbers xxix. On the first day of the feast, thirteen bullocks were offered, decreasing in number each day to seven bullocks on the last day. The energy of the millennial kingdom of Christ's reign on this earth will decrease—not Christ's energy, but man's energy. The sacrifice of the two rams and fourteen lambs went on throughout the seven days, that is, the perfect Sacrifice remains, but man cannot continue his energy to offer.
Then, having sown the word, Christ sets Himself to minister to that which He has sown, so that it should bring forth fruit. That is why I read two things in chapter xiv., "feeding" (the feeding of the multitude), and "sustaining'' (Christ goes up into a mountain to pray).
It is an interesting point in regard to the feeding of the crowds, that three times Christ blesses, and three times He gives thanks. He blessed as God; He received, and gave thanks as Man. I do not separate the blessed Person of the Lord Jesus. He could bless as God, and He also gave thanks as Man. He did not "ask a blessing,'' as some people say. He "gave thanks." "Every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving.'' (1 Tim. iv. 4.) When He gave thanks, He gave thanks to the Creator.
Now I want to guide your attention to the greatness, the bountifulness of the Lord Jesus. "They took up of the fragments that remained, twelve baskets full." Did you ever consume all that Christ had to give you? Could you say after having a feast with Christ, "He had nothing more to give me?" No; I am sure that He would give you more than you ever had the power to eat. He does not simply satisfy hunger; that is what any man could do—He gives infinitely more than hunger needed.
Our true food to-day is not eating bread. Our food is the "spiritual blessings in the heavenly places in Christ." The fruits of the earth are not our real blessings. For a Jew, they were. They cannot take the place of spiritual blessings in heavenly places. The fruits of the earth belong to the earth. They are good for us; they are the mercies of God; but the spiritual blessings are the true food.
Therefore, the Lord goes up on high to pray. He would not yet be a King to govern, but He would be a Priest to support and sustain. He has sown in our hearts; He has fed us, and now He goes on high as Priest. Priesthood is sustenance. It is not for the world, not for the unconverted. The sacrifice is for the unconverted. As Priest, He eclipses Aaron, because He is saluted of God as High Priest after the order of Melchisedec. The Melchisedec order was giving the bread and the wine and the ever-living Priest.
I would like to touch upon the present service of Christ. His present service is at the right hand of God. He finished His service upon earth. Christ is the Hebrew servant of Exodus xxi. If the Hebrew servant plainly said, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free, he was brought to the door and his ear was bored, and he became a servant for ever. Christ is the One who has undertaken the service of the house.
Now chapter xv. God does not judge what He sets up, but He supersedes what He sets up. God did not judge Judaism, but He brought in that which is higher and better. He will not judge Christianity, but He will judge Christendom—that is, what man has made of it. "In vain they do worship me," says the Lord, "teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." Ah! so to-day. More of men's commandments are taught than the word of God. People have degraded the truth by mixing it up with that which is of man. We want the word of God; we want the Holy Spirit present to make it clear to us.
When the taste of the Israelites became vitiated, they set to work to grind up the manna in mortars. They broke it up to suit their tastes. It was allowed of God, but they never did it until they became grumblers. If we are in a good state, we love the word of God.
I quote from this chapter (xv.) in order to shew you that Christ did not judge Judaism—He judged what man had made out of it. The disciples came to Him and said: "Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?" " Let them alone," He replies. How wonderfully wise the blessed Christ was. It is not for you to attack persons to-day. Do not turn out of the way either to the right hand or to the left.
Christ breaks down the old enclosure of Judaism. He sets aside the old fold and brings in grace. That is the line of chapter xv., and in chapter xvi., He becomes a builder, and He puts His plants inside. He builds a beautiful conservatory, if I may say so, and puts all His plants in. He Himself tends them, so that they may be a savour to God, as He Himself was.
"On this rock I will build my assembly," that is, upon the confession of His name as the "Son of the living God," not upon Peter. I will build. If we look at Christendom in all its diversified sects, we should say that all is going wrong. Man is having his way, and God does not interfere meantime; still Christ is building.
There are three truths in this connection which run very closely. "My assembly" (Matt. xvi. 18), ''holy temple" (Eph. ii. 21), "a spiritual house" (1 Pet. ii. 5). Those are three distinct aspects of the same thing—the body of Christ. And no man is building in any one of them. So it was not begun until Christ was at the right hand of God, but He laid the foundation of it here upon the earth, in His precious blood being shed upon the cross. He goes up on high in order to build.
Thus, we have sowing, feeding, sustaining, building.
Every believer belongs to that building. What else could he belong to? Do you suppose God recognizes any sects? He allows them, but He never sanctions them.
How can we be outside of sects to-day? ''If a man therefore purge himself from these (that is, the vessels to dishonour), he shall be a vessel unto honour . . . but follow righteousness, faith, love, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart." (2 Tim. ii. 21, 22.) "Follow with them," not join them.
Christ then gives the keys of the kingdom of heaven to Peter. Administration was given to Peter; "keys" (plural), to admit both Jew and Gentile.
As the fence is to a vineyard, so I apprehend the kingdom of heaven was to have been a protection to the assembly of God. The kingdom carries the thought of rule. It never means going to heaven. It is a sphere set up on the earth during the absence of the King. It is that which surrounds the body of Christ in order to protect it. It carries with it the thought of our responsibility, and alas! we have all been careless in regard to keeping up the fence, and the inroads of the enemy have upset the assembly in its outward bearing.
You do not think there is bad work in what God builds? There could not be!
Christ is the great Master, who walks in and out among all His plants and prunes them, in order to bring His own likeness to hear upon each one.
When all that is complete, then the coming of the Lord takes place, that is, we have the transfiguration scene. (Chap. xvii.) I am not saying it prefigures the coming of the Lord for His saints, or the coming of Christ with His saints; but it was God's recompense then to Christ for His rejection here upon the earth. What will be the great millennial day? It will be God's full recompense for all His rejection upon this earth!
Sowing, feeding, sustainment, building, and then being landed safely up in glory!
The Lord bless His word and make it clear and simple to each one. It is only a very brief and cursory glance at the passages; but it would be well if I could call your attention to the wonderful way in which Christ serves His own. It would shew that what is called the ''perseverance of the saints" is not in accord with scripture. It is Christ's own work from beginning to end.
Our responsibility is to walk according to what God has established.
“Mutual Comfort” 1918