The Scriptural Significance of Our Names.
Notes of an Address Delivered in Elim Hall, Glasgow.
THERE is no attempt in this series of papers to deal exhaustively with a subject so fruitful as the names called upon the family of God in this dispensation. In drawing attention to some of the principal names used, and indicating a few salient points in connection with each, it is hoped desires will be quickened to dig deeper into such a rich mine.
The term disciples is commonly used in the four Gospels, very frequently in the Acts of the Apostles, but never occurs in the Epistles or in the Book of the Revelation. This of itself is very significant. We read of the disciples of Jesus, and the disciples of John the Baptist, who questioned the Lord on the differing practices of themselves and His disciples. The Pharisees made it their boast that they were the disciples of Moses, and had their own disciples, whom on occasion they sent to question the Lord.
A consideration of the sixth chapter of John's Gospel will give some help towards arriving at the significance of the word itself. The whole scene and setting of this chapter is very helpful. The Lord has just wrought one of his most notable miracles, feeding the hungry multitude by a few loaves and fishes. The people were greatly impressed and excited and would by force have made Him a king. Jesus withdrew Himself and passed over to the other side of the lake. When morning came, the multitude, finding Him gone, took shipping and followed to seek Him on the other side. Having found and gathered round Him, Jesus, knowing what was in man, and knowing the motives moving the greater number of those who had thus followed Him, proceeded to try them, calling upon them to work the work of God, by believing on Him whom God had sent. This caused speculation and further inquiry, when the crucial test of all discipleship, having Christ for its object, was applied. The various stages are well marked:
1. True bread comes from heaven (verse 32).
2. "Jesus said . . . I am the bread of life" (verse 35).
3. "I am the living bread which came down from heaven" (verse 51).
4. "The bread that I will give is My flesh " (verse 51).
5. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you" (verse 53).
6. "As the living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father, so he that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me" (verse 57).
7. "This is that bread which came down from heaven" (verse 58).
Strange words these to fall upon the ears of a people whose minds were filled with thoughts of pomp and power as being the rightful possession of such a wonder worker, in the glory of which they doubtless thought to share. A crucified Christ has always been a stumbling-block to the Jew and foolishness to the Gentile; but it is Christ and Him crucified, the unfailing touchstone by which all profession must be tried. The immediate effect of these words on His disciples was that many said, "This is an hard saying (verse 60);" and again, "From that time many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him" (verse 66). The Lord was not taken by surprise. "For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray Him" (verse 64). And knowing in Himself that His sayings were murmured at amongst His disciples, He had said, "There are some of you that believe not" (verse 64). With infinite pity He looked on the crowd melting away, and turned to the twelve with the pathetic question, "Will ye also go away?" (verse 67), eliciting the memorable reply from Peter, "To whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life, and we believe and are sure that Thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God" (verses 68 and 69).
It is evident, therefore, that
A DISCIPLE IS BUT A FOLLOWER;
----he may, or may not, be a true believer. The same test as of old remains today----Christ and Him crucified. The offence of the Cross has not ceased, and its effects must ever be, "Whereby the world is crucified unto Me, and I unto the world" (Gal. 6. 14).
FROM the frequency with which the name is used in current speech, it would be inferred that it is to be found very often in the Scriptures. The command to believe, the promise to whosoever believeth, the records of individuals who had believed, are to be found all through the Bible; but the term "believers" occurs but twice in the Authorized Version. The Greek word so translated occurs, however, in many places, conveying in every case the thought of faith and trust. The only two places in which the name believers is found are Acts 5. 14 and I Tim. 4. 12. "Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not" (John 6. 44). "With the heart men believeth unto righteousness" (Rom. 10. 10). From these two texts we learn believing is a thing of the heart, and as the heart is known to God alone, it follows that He only knows who are believers.
We can never say assuredly who are or who are not believers. All believers are "added to the Lord" (Acts 5. 14). "The Lord knoweth them that are His" (2 Tim. 2. 19), draws the line between those known to Him who with the heart believe unto righteousness, and those confessing with the mouth; which may or may not indicate the true state of the heart.
The Epistle to the Hebrews, chapter 31 supplies an object lesson. God had a house of old composed of the tribes of Israel. In this house, Moses was faithful as a servant in preaching the law. The law takes to do with acts, and all men's acts were transgression of and disobedience to God's law. "Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ," in contrast with the law which came by Moses. Grace takes to do not only with what a man does, but with what a man is. The law had demonstrated that man was ruined and lost. The grace that came by Jesus Christ brought "a great salvation," offered in and by the gospel to the obedience of faith" (Rom 16. 26).
Another house is thus formed, called "the household of God" (Eph. 2. 19) and "the household of faith" (Gal. 6. 10), this house being composed not of men in the flesh, but of all believers in Christ. The Hebrews addressed in this epistle had made profession of faith in Christ Jesus, and it is as if the Apostle had said, You will make manifest you belong to this new house; that is, that you really and truly believe in Christ Jesus, "If you hold fast the confidence and rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end;" but if you give up your profession, taking your place again amongst your brethren according to the flesh, over whose heart is the veil of unbelief, it will make plain you never with your heart believed on Christ, but are still in the house where Moses served, ministering as a preacher of law's condemnation and death. Then follows in this chapter the solemn warnings against the evil heart of unbelief, and the reminder of how their fathers in the wilderness, although having seen God's mighty works for them, yet did provoke Him, because with the greater number their hearts were not right within them, and so they knew not the ways of God. With Moses it was different; he saw "to the end of that which is abolished'' (2 Cor. 3. 13), and whilst preaching law, was also a prophet of the grace to come, of which grace he had an unfolding, leading him to worship as a true-hearted believer (Exod. 34. 5-8). Many in Israel were like Moses. Many others hardened their hearts, and so perished.
The attempt to prove from Hebrews 3. 6 that some believers form part of the house today, whilst others are outside, is to ignore the plain teaching of the whole section, which is one of the many contrasts with which this Epistle abounds, drawn between God's house composed of men in the flesh, many of whom never with their hearts believed in God, and the house today, over which is set the Son, and composed of all those who with their hearts have believed, and so known and spoken of by the Lord as "the household of faith."
THE circumstances under which this name first appears on the sacred page call for special attention. In Jerusalem and over Judea had the Gospel been preached. Samaria had also been reached through the ministry of Philip the evangelist. The word of salvation had been carried to the Gentiles, the household of Cornelius having received the Holy Spirit through the special mission of the Apostle Peter. In addition, an entirely new departure had taken place. Those who were scattered from Jerusalem by the persecution that arose subsequent to the stoning of Stephen had gone everywhere preaching the Word (Acts 8. 4). Some of these preachers had come as far as to Antioch, and as the result of their ministrations numbers of Gentiles as well as Jews professed faith in Christ, because to both Jew and Gentile was the Word fully preached. Led of the Holy Spirit, the Church at Antioch was thus formed. Tidings of this great work having reached the ears of the Church at Jerusalem, Barnabas was sent forth to investigate the matter, who, when he had come, and saw the grace of God so manifest in its working and results, rejoiced and was exceeding glad, exhorting them "with purpose of heart to cleave unto the Lord.'' Realizing the importance of this work, and possibly distrustful of his own ability to give all the help needed, he went to Tarsus to find Saul, bringing him down to Antioch, where they together laboured for a long time.
It was in these circumstances and in this place the disciples were for the first time called Christians. It has been advanced that this was a nickname or term of reproach called upon the followers of the Lord by the unbelievers, but an examination of the words "were called" dispels this idea, and shows clearly that "Christians" was a name given by God Himself. The Greek word "kreematizo" occurs nine times in the New Testament, and as the point is one of considerable importance, an examination of its use will be helpful.
Matt. 2. 12 Being warned of God in a dream.
2. 22 Being warned of God in a dream.
Luke 2. 26 It was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost.
Acts I0. 22 Was warned from God by a holy angel.
Rom. 7. 3 She shall be called an adulteress.
Heb. 8. 5 As Moses was admonished of God.
11. 7 Noah being warned of God.
12. 25 Who refused Him that spake on earth.
Acts 11. 26 The disciples were called Christians.
From the foregoing, it is a word only used when God speaks, and so the term Christians becomes in a very special manner the distinctive name of those composing the "new man"; (Eph. 2. 15). Here at Antioch is seen for the first time the Jew who was "nigh" and the Gentile who was "far off" (Eph. 2. 17) sitting side by side, with the middle wall of partition broken down (Eph. 2. 14), and with one mind and one mouth glorifying God, and both having access by one Spirit to the Father through Christ (Eph. 2. 18). Upon those who were no longer looked at by God as Jew or Gentile, but alike men in Christ, God calls this new name, so expressive of the relationship of each to each, and of both to Him who was made for them "Lord and Christ."
ln the order of time, the second occasion on which the word is used is found in I Peter 4 16. This apostle was especially the messenger to the circumcision, and writing to those who were Jews by birth, he calls upon them to suffer if need be for and in the name of Christian. It shows how on the one hand all racial distinctions were abolished, and on the other hand how they ought to glorify God in this new name, joyfully bearing reproach because of it, and refusing to shelter themselves from trial by denying it, having this exceeding comfort and encouragement, that in so suffering "the Spirit of Glory and of God rested (i.e., was refreshed) in them." Let us, then, on whom the ends of the age have come, take our stand before the world as Christians, declaring all other appellations as unworthy of our calling and our hope. What's in a name? has been asked. Not much if given by man, is a ready answer. A name given by men is as a rule originated in strife and division and continues expressive of difference and division. Any name, and this included, given of God, unites and binds, and should be valued for the sake of Him who gave it and for what it expresses, and contended for as one of our most cherished possessions.
The third and last time the name is found, is in the lips of King Agrippa (Acts 26. 28), when he said to the Apostle Paul, "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian." Here we learn that in a little over twenty years from the time it was first given of God, it had become the common name by which the early disciples were known amongst men.
Gathering together what we have thus cursorily gleaned, it would appear that this name, amongst the many called by God upon His own, was meant to be that which should especially distinguish them from the world in this present evil age.
HERE are various Greek words translated children and sons in the Authorized Version of the Scriptures, a consideration of which will throw considerable light on the significance of this name.
Teknon denotes descent from, and, when used, directs our attention specially to whose we are. It is this word that is used in 1 John 3. 1, 2: "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God, therefore the world knoweth us not because it knew Him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God."
"Ye must be born again" is like the flaming sword of Genesis 3. 24, "which turned every way, to keep the way of the Tree of Life." There is no getting over it, under it, or round about it. Only those who are born again (or from above) can see or enter the kingdom of God. There is a point of view from which this doctrine of the new birth can be viewed, wherein it is so plain a child can understand it. If to be born again is a necessity to eternal life, "Even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3, 14, 15 ). To be a possessor of eternal life is to be born again, so we read: "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. . . . And this is the Word which by the Gospel is preached unto you" (1 Peter 1. 23-25). From another point of view, there are depths here which the wisest confess they have not yet fathomed. It is not more true that "the Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee, therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God" (Luke 1. 35), than it is true in the case of every sinner passing from death unto life; there is the operation of the Holy Spirit by whom "of His own will begat He us with the Word of Truth, that we should be a kind of first fruit of His creature" (James 1. 18); "For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of One" (Heb. 2. 11). Hence both Christ and the saved sinner are of one begetting. "For which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren" (Heb. 2. 11).
"Soon as my all I ventured
On the atoning blood,
The Holy Spirit entered,
And I was born of God, "
This is absolutely true of every sinner the moment he believes in Jesus, and is always true, because "He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Christ" (Phil. 1. 6). Confusion of thought and a troubled mind result from not carefully distinguishing between Scriptures which deal with the aspect of Sonship and those dealing with our calling as servants. Sonship is unconditional, resting on the sure promise and will of our God, and all Scripture where we are considered in this relationship is absolute and without reservation. On the other hand, our calling and work as servants of the Lord are wholly conditional on faithfulness, diligence, and obedience, and it is possible for our service to be wholly or in great part disapproved of, whilst our relationship as sons resting alone on the perfect work of the perfect Saviour brings the many sons into glory. A man may have one of his sons in his business as his servant whom for good reasons he may discharge from his service, and yet on that same day dine with his son at his table, because he is his son, and the son goeth no more out.
Brephos is a word when used that refers to the very beginnings of life. "The babe leaped in her womb" (Luke 1. 41); "Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes" (Luke 2. 12); "As new-born babes" (1 Peter 2. 2).
Neepios brings us a stage further. The thought here is still childhood, when the speech is imperfect and the individual under tutelage. "Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child" (Gal. 4. 1). "Even so we, when we were children" (Gal. 4. 3). Here the Apostle is contrasting the by-past time, when the rudiments only were revealed, and but little comparatively was known or understood, with "the fulness of the time," when "God sent forth His Son," as a result of which there was clear knowledge and definite speech, by the Spirit of His Son in our hearts crying "Abba, Father."
Paidion carries us still further. Boyhood and youthful days are now reached, but where knowledge of good and evil is as yet small. This is pointedly brought out in one Scripture (1 Cor. 14. 20) the meaning of which is very obvious when the thought of extreme youth is imported into the word children. "Brethren, be not children in understanding; howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men." Well for us if we always remain the youth in malice, frank and open, and without guile, whilst pressing on to mature age in enlightened understanding.
Huios speaks of mature years, and conveys the thought of conformity or likeness to our Father, manifesting in action, demeanour, and life from whom we have sprung. "Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in Heaven. . . . Be ye, therefore, perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect" (Matt. 5. 43-48). "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers; for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? and what concord hath Christ with Belia!? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? and what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the Living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore, come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you, and will be a Father to you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty" (2 Cor. 6. 14-18).
These two portions will serve to illustrate the force of this word. It is not to be understood that when we "love our enemies," or "come out from among them," that we become the sons of God. This, as we have already seen, is accomplished by the Word and Spirit of God; but when we fulfil these and kindred precepts, the expressed will of our Father, we are showing the family likeness. It needs not that we go up and down the street labelled "Sons of God," or bearing this testimony with our lips merely; but when our lives are so ordered to His pleasing, in accordance with His will, our brethren and the world even will testify of such. He is a child of God.
SONSHIP and brotherhood are intimately related and lie close together in the Word of God. As has been already pointed out, Christ Jesus is not ashamed to call those brethren who are begotten of God. In the recognition of this great fundamental truth is found the true meaning of this term. All must be brethren who by the Spirit of the Son cry, Abba, Father. To use this name as a party cry or symbol is to do despite to the Spirit of Grace, which ever leads us to willingly and gladly acknowledge the bond that has bound for ever in the bundle of life all who have believed in the Son.
There is here no question of obedience or faithfulness. The names brethren, believers, Christians, sons, are God-given, and include without exception all who have passed from death unto life. To limit them to any section of the children of God is analagous to the spirit of division so rife at Corinth, which called for the searching question, "Is Christ divided?" (1 Cor. 1. 13). Herein is shown the infinite wisdom of God, that all names given by Himself take in all the redeemed, and exclude only those still unsaved, whereas no name devised and used by men but links together saved and unsaved, and leaves outside its pale some who belong to Christ.
When Moses numbered the people at the bidding of God, their number was ascertained on the ground of redemption----each brought in his hand the atonement money. When David numbered Israel without a commandment from the Lord, Canaanites were counted in, and some of Israel were missed out. So it ever is, and must be, where aught but life in Christ is taken as the test of relationship.
The elder brother of Luke 15 would not acknowledge kinship with the younger, but spoke of him to his father as "thy son." It was the father who said "my son" and "thy brother'' of the wanderer just returned.
Shall we not vehemently desire to be so in fellowship with our Father, that like Him, we shall always be found willing and glad to recognize and own as brethren all who have named the name of Jesus to the salvation of their souls. Even if they have become" wicked persons" (1 Cor. 5. 13), and we cannot for the time company with them, they have not ceased to be our brethren, and as the father strains his eyes for the return of the prodigal, and the mother agonizes in prayer for her wayward boy, shall we not even in such circumstances call to mind the one begetting and the tie between that never can be broken. "What, therefore, God hath joined together, let no man put asunder" (Mark 10. 9), is true of more than the married state. Many things God hath joined together; woe betide us if we divorce them. Brotherhood and love are so joined of God, they go together hand in hand. These two are one. It is one of the tests of the possession of life. "We should love one another" (1 John 3. 18), and "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren; he that loveth not his brother abideth in death" (1 John 3. 14). "Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer" (1 John 3. 15). It needs not the positive activity of hatred to be a murderer; to withhold love, and all that springs from it, from my brother is to murder him, by withering and sapping his spiritual life.
It is idle to talk of love if there is not a corresponding manifestation. ''My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth" (1 John 3. 18).
"A little bird sat on a leafy spray,
Pouring its soul in its song away;
And this was the burden of its lay,
If you love me show it, show it.''
A man may say, "Deep down in my heart I love my wife." Well indeed if this be so, because there it must first have its spring and root; but if it remain there, his wife is not cheered and comforted; she thirsts for its manifestation in look and tone, and above all in deed. To prate of loving my brethren whilst withholding every proof of affection, is a mockery and a snare.
Christ loved His own which were in the world, and He loved them to the end, Their selfishness, their waywardness, their want of faith, their positive disobedience, and, not least, their want of receptivity----they were so slow to learn----were all a trial to Him; but He loved them none the less, and he showed it none the less. He bore with them in spite of all and used them with all their failings; and because He loved them perfectly, when need arose, He reproved and corrected them; but "even when He chideth, tender is His tone." He never was otherwise with them than tender and compassionate. Here, then, is our true pattern. May His love so fill our souls that we will be constrained thereby to imitate Him.
"And this commandment have we from Him, that he who loveth God love his brother also" (1 John 4. 20-21).
VI. THE CHURCH.
FROM whatever point of view this subject is considered, its paramount importance is beyond question. Within the limits of such a series of papers as the present, it is only some of the simplest points which can be touched.
The Greek word ecclesia is rendered in our Authorized Version of the Scriptures as "Church," or "Assembly," and as no other word is used, to gather its meaning from its use is comparatively easy. This word is never used in Scripture to denote a material building or place of meeting, but it is invariably used to describe a company of persons. It is so used in connection with the riotous mob which filled the theatre at Ephesus; and also of an official company to be convened in due order by the town-clerk (Acts 19. 32, 39, 41).
In contrast to such a Church or Assembly, the subject for our consideration is dignified by such expressions as, "Church of the Living God" (1 Tim. 3. 15); "My Church" (Matt. 16. 18). The Lord, when upon earth, gave intimation of great changes that were impending. Amongst others and elicited by the declaration of Peter, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God" (Matt 16. 16), Jesus said, "Upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it'' (Matt. 16. 18). In so saying, three things were announced concerning this Church----
1. It was a new thing and was not then existing.
2. Its creation would be the work of His own hand.
3. It would be indestructible in its nature.
Turning to Acts 2. 47, we read, "The Lord added daily to the Church such as should be saved." From this scripture, it is evident that the Church had now taken commencement, and that it was composed of saved people. It follows that, between the announced purpose of the Lord to build a Church and the record by Luke, above referred to, of the Church existing, there was a time when it began; and when it is remembered that although the apostles were duly commissioned by the Lord before His ascension, they were told to tarry at Jerusalem until endued with power from on high, it requires no stretch of imagination to believe that the descent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost saw the inauguration of this new creation of God.
It was not, however, until Paul was called that there was revealed, in all its fulness, the calling, character, and destiny of the Church, referred to in the Epistle to the Ephesians as being hid in God, and not made known in other ages. The first three chapters of this epistle have this mystery as their principal theme. A few of the outstanding features may be here noted:
1. God's purpose in choosing a people in Christ.
2. The sacrifice of Christ to redeem this people.
3. The seal and earnest of the Holy Spirit to the purpose of God and the work of Christ.
4. That by nature the people were dead in trespasses and sins, and the first act in fulfilling God's purpose was to communicate life.
5. That the people were not belonging by natural birth to any particular nation, but were either Jew or Gentile, the middle wall of partition between these being broken down and abolished, of the twain, a new man to be formed.
6. This new creation, called the "Mystery of the Church," in its formation being used of God as an object lesson to teach the principalities and powers in heavenly places His own manifold wisdom (Eph. 3. 10).
7. Its destiny being the vessel for the display of His glory by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end (Eph. 3. 21).
The Church, then, is the whole company of the redeemed from the day of Pentecost until now. For how much longer this work of God will continue is known to Himself alone. The hope of the Church is that moment when the Lord Himself shall descend into the clouds to welcome His saints and personally conduct them in their resurrection bodies to the realms of eternal bliss.
Our condition by nature is described in the words, "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3. 23). Our present standing in grace as saved and in the Church of God is "Rejoicing in hope of the glory of God" (Rom. 5. 2), and our destiny, in keeping with the Scripture already quoted (Eph. 3. 21), is seen fulfilled in the vision of John when called to view the "holy Jerusalem descending out of Heaven from God"----saw something in which God had set His glory, and so beginning his description, it is prefaced with the words, "Having the glory of God" (Rev. 21. 10, 11). The consideration of subsequent names will bring out other truths connected with this glorious subject.
IT is of great importance to notice that those designated the Temple of God are the very same people we have already seen, are called the Church of God.
Attempts have been made to prove that only a certain class of the saved are in the Church of God. In like manner, it has been sought to show that it is only a limited class who go to make the Temple of God. We have already learned that the Church of God includes all the redeemed, commencing with the day of Pentecost. A few well-known Scriptures will prove conclusively that those spoken of as the Temple of God are none other than those spoken of as the Church of God.
Bearing in mind that the First Epistle to the Corinthians is addressed to the Church of God, they are reminded in chap. 3. 16, 17, that they are the Temple of God. Then we find that the Second Epistle to the Corinthians is also addressed to the Church of God (chap. 1. 1). In this epistle, those thus addressed are exhorted in these words----"What agreement hath the Temple of God with idols? for ye are the Temple of the Living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people" (2 Cor. 6. 16). The same word of grace that had added them to the Church of God made them also part of the holy Temple.
Again, in Eph. 2. 19-22, speaking to those who were Gentiles by natural birth, but now born of God, the Apostle unfolds to them not only that they "are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints and of the household of God," but, that they "are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit." This building, which is still in progress, "groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord."
Having thus established that the names "Church" and "Temple" are synonymous, as far as embracing the whole company of the redeemed is concerned, it may now be asked, What special significance attaches to the name under consideration?
Of old, when David made known to the congregation of Israel that God had chosen Solomon to build the temple, he told them, "The work is great, for the palace is not for man, but for the Lord God" (1 Chron. 29. 1).
One outstanding truth connected with this temple reared at the bidding of God, according to His own pattern, was that, being for God, holiness should characterize it, and all connected with it. "Holiness becometh Thy house, O Lord, for ever" (Psalm 93. 5). From the belly of the great fish, Jonah said, "I will look again toward Thy holy temple"; and the admonition of Habakkuk was, "The Lord is in His holy temple, let all the earth keep silence before Him."
It is the thought of being a dwelling-place for God, and the consequent holiness, that should accentuate the lives of those who now compose His spiritual house, that comes out so clearly in the New Testament. Thy holy temple have they defiled (Psalm 79. 1), was the Psalmist's wail; and it is against defiling the temple of God. the special warnings of I Cor. 3. 16, 17 are directed. "Be ye holy, for I am holy," remains in all its force to-day, and finds an answer in every heart filled with adoring awe at the wondrous grace which has chosen saved sinners as His special habitation in this dispensation.
One more Scripture remains to be noticed, and has a searching significance in reminding us that what is true of the whole is true of every several part, that what is true of the whole vast building is true of every individual saved sinner composing it. The words are intensely solemn and reach into the inner lives of all. Quoting them in full will form a fitting close to this short paper, "Know ye not that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's" (1 Cor. 6. 15-20).
VIII. "THE HOUSE" AND "THE BODY."
"THE HOUSE OF GOD."
PUTTING aside the references in Scripture to the word house, where a material building is indicated, there are not many passages where it is used to describe a company of people. Our enquiry, therefore, as to the significance of this name when so used is brought within narrow limits.
The Apostle Peter on the day of Pentecost delivered his message as for "all the house of Israel" (Acts 2. 36), and Stephen reminded his hearers how God had spoken by the mouth of the prophets to the house of Israel (Acts 7. 42). Again, the Apostle Paul, writing to the Hebrews in chapter 3, reminds those whom he addresses as "holy brethren," that the tribes of Israel of old made up God's house then, and that in that house, Moses was faithful as the servant of God; a preacher of law----the law being the rule for the guidance of that house, but that in contrast, they belonged to another house, of which God was also the builder, and over which Christ, as Son, was Head, admittance to this new house, being not by natural but by spiritual birth.
A passage of the first importance in this connection is 1 Tim. 3. 15, where it is stated, "The House of God" is "the Church of the Living God." We have already seen that "the Church of God" is composed of all, without exception, who are saved; also, the same company called ''the Temple of God." And now we find that what is true of the Church, and of the Temple, is also true of the House of God, in that all three include the whole number of those who have believed.
It has been suggested that to belong to "The House of God" is conditional, founding this contention on the use of the word "if" in Hebrews 3. 6. This matter has been touched upon in a former paper on ''Believers"; we would add thereto a remark on Hebrews 10. 21, where it is stated that Christ is "an High Priest over the House of God." If it be true that some believers are not in "the House of God," then it follows that such have no High Priest, seeing that He is only High Priest over the House of God. Is it conceivable that anyone could be reckoned among the saved who has no High Priest? There could only be one answer to such a question, and so the conclusion is inevitable that all those who have believed form part of "the House of God," as if they did not belong to it they could have no High Priest, and consequently could not be reckoned among the saved.
"The House of God" now is a spiritual house (1 Peter 2. 5), in contrast to His house of old, which included all Israel, and so many who knew not the Lord; and as any judgment on the spiritual must be now, that they might not be judged with the world, the same apostle adds, in chapter 4. 17: "The time is come that judgment must begin at 'the House of God,' in contrast to the doom of those 'that obey not the Gospel of God'," whose final punishment is deferred until the setting of The Great White Throne.
The "great house" of 2 Tim. 2. 20 demands a passing reference. The apostle refers, by way of illustration, to the many vessels necessary to, and used in, a great house, some more valuable than others because of the material of which they are made, but all alike vessels for use, more or less honourable in the use to which they may be put, but that in any case, the man who purges himself from the "profane and vain babblings" previously referred to in verse 16, he will always be a vessel "meet for the Master's use."
"THE BODY OF CHRIST."
There are at least two Scriptures which leave no shadow of doubt that those spoken of as "the Church of God" are also "the Body of Christ": "The Church which is His Body" (Eph. 1. 23, 24), "And He is the Head of the Body, the Church" (Col. 1. 18).
These, coupled with "The House of God which is the Church of the Living God" (1 Tim. 3. 15), establish conclusively that the names "the Church of God," "the House of God," "the Temple of God," and "the Body of Christ," are synonymous terms as far as they indicate that all who are in the one are in the other. We must not suppose, however, that the names are used indiscriminately; each of them has its own special teaching.
"The Church of God" tells us of the dignity of the great assembly on which God has indelibly stamped His name.
"The Temple of God" reminds us of the holiness becoming in the ways of those amongst whom God dwells.
"The House of God " reminds us that we are brought into a position which demands a whole-hearted allegiance to Christ, whom God has set over His house as Lord to rule supreme therein.
"The Body of Christ" is the Name above others that gives most comfort and stay to our hearts. It speaks of the complete identification of the Head with every member of His Body, because "by one Spirit are we all baptized unto one Body" ( 1 Cor. 12, 13). A tie and link is thus formed that can never be broken. We are members of His Body (Eph. 5. 30), and this being so, we are assured of His unwearied care, and the nourishing and cherishing without which we must have perished in this evil world.
It follows that if we are members of Christ's Body, "we are members one of another" (Rom. 12. 5). If we are assured of the unchanging love of our Lord by such words as, that no man hate his own flesh, we in like manner should so love and care for each other as part and parcel of each other. To seek the comfort and happiness of a member of the Body of Christ is to seek my own highest good.
The broken and divided state of Christians does not abrogate the great truths so feebly touched upon. Circumstances change, but divine principles are unchangeable, and the infinite wisdom that unfolded them for us in the Scriptures, knew all about the changed circumstances that have come. Any attempt, however feeble, on the part of any, be they few or many, to approve themselves to God must proceed on the lines indicated or result in yet another failure and another faction. The platform we assume must be broad enough to include all whom God acknowledges in the names He has called over them, and for any to assume exclusively to themselves what is the portion of all who belong to Christ, they are but cultivating the noxious weeds of intolerance, bigotry, and cant.
IX. THE BRIDE.
"EVERYONE of us shall give account of himself to God" (Rom. 14. 12). This Scripture establishes a great foundation truth. The individuality of the believer is never lost. As individuals, we have to do with the Saviour. As individuals, we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and as individuals, we shall be manifested before the Judgment-Seat of Christ. The white stone, and the new name, given to the overcomer (Rev. 2. 17), tell of a personal knowledge of each individual by the Lord, in His coming kingdom and glory.
While this is beyond dispute, we have already seen that various names embracing the whole of the redeemed point to relationships with the Lord, and with each other, where individuality is so far merged in collectivity.
The essential difference between the name at the head of this paper and those already considered, is that while the individuality of each believer is carried into Heaven, so also is our corporate character. The names church, temple, house, and body speak of different truths connected with our corporate character while yet on earth, but "The Bride" tells of the corporate character to be borne in Heaven.
It has been argued that the truth taught in Ephesians 5. 22, 23, is that of the married relationship, and the reference to the love and care of Christ for the Church is the model or illustration of what this closest tie on earth should be.
It is exactly the other way about. "This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the Church" (verse 32), proves conclusively that what is taught here is something concerning Christ and the Church of which the married relationship between husband and wife was the most fitting illustration.
At present, we are members of His body. This symbol will yield to another when we take up our place in the courts of Heaven. At present, names teaching us relationships to the Lord and each other whilst in the body, will cease to have any significance when glorified together with Him, and there will remain the last and most expressive of all.
Our present position is that indicated in 2 Cor. 11. 2. "I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you a chaste virgin to Christ."
The Church of God is betrothed to the Christ of God, and Revelation 19. 6. 9 shows us, the days of betrothal being over, the time for the marriage has fully come. Previous to this, the Church had been caught up at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, glorified and made like Him, confessed before the Father and holy angels, and passed the Judgment-Seat of Christ. She now appears as the bride, and the marriage is celebrated in Heaven with great rejoicings, just previous to the Lord coming forth to earth as Son of Man to judge the world, His wife accompanying Him to share in His triumphs and the glories of His reign.
This is still further opened out by the invitation of the angel to the seer in the words, "Come hither, I will show thee the bride, the Lamb's wife, and he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of Heaven from God, having the glory of God" (Rev. 21. 9, 10, 11).
Earlier in the visions shown to John, he had been invited to behold "the lion of the tribe of Judah," and when he looked, lo! he "beheld a lamb." So here he is asked to see the bride, the Lamb's wife, and when he looks, his gaze is arrested by the sight of a city. The change of symbol is as instructive as it is interesting. As the full glory of the city bursts upon him, the first part of his description is, "Having the glory of God." In this we have one of the strongest proofs that what he did see was none other than the Church of God.
"Unto Him be glory in the Church by Christ Jesus, throughout all ages, world without end, Amen" (Eph. 3. 21), was revealed to the Apostle Paul as part of the mystery of the Church, this being its completed destiny to be the chosen vessel for the display of the glory of God to the ages of the ages.
Again, in one of the glimpses given of the eternal state, the imagery is the same.
"And I John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God, as a bride adorned for her husband" (Rev. 21. 2).
We see here, after a period of at least 1000 years has elapsed since the marriage took place, that the dew of eternal youth is upon the bride, the wedding garment being still the clothing; truly there is then neither change nor decay.
Able ministers of the Word have tried hard to rob the Church of the fruition of her hopes, and laboured attempts have been made to prove the nation of Israel to be the bride of the Lamb. It might be asked, where is the sentence that promised to Israel a place in Heaven. Her calling, hopes, and promises are all earthly, whereas the bride is seen in Heaven, the marriage takes place in Heaven, before the millennium. Again, she is seen coming forth from Heaven. If the nation of Israel is the bride, when is the nation taken to Heaven?
In the pleadings and entreaties of God with His ancient people, they are all based on a married relationship existing between Jehovah and the nation. Over and over in the prophetic Scriptures is Israel charged with the sin of adultery. Notwithstanding which His love for this people was so great that we have such words as, "Thus saith the Lord, Where is the bill of your mother's divorcement?" (Isaiah 50. 1). The sin of Israel was of such a nature as would have justified God in utterly cutting her off, but this He did not do. No one could produce the bill of divorcement. On the contrary, we hear such words as follow:
"Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord, for I am married unto you" (Jeremiah 3. 14). And again: "But as a wife that committeth adultery, which taketh strangers instead of her husband" (Ezekiel 16. 32).
Jehovah has chosen Israel in the relationship of wife to Him.
The Church is presently espoused to Christ, and will be His wife in the coming day of His glory.
In drawing this series of papers to a close, one great truth emerges from all that has been looked at. Whether past, present, or to come, all the names called over the children of God in this dispensation, embrace without exception the whole company of the redeemed, whether looked at as individuals or collectively, and as rigidly exclude all who are not born of God. Our safety will be to be content with the God-given names, and to seek to approve ourselves to God in giving effect to their all-embracing and all-excluding character.
"The Believer's Pathway" 1898 & "Feed My Sheep"