To Whom the Arm of the Lord is Revealed
The third line radiating from the Cross, as we saw in our last chapter, takes us to the Letter to the Galatians, where we are shown the resultant life in the Spirit. The Cross produces a life in the Spirit: it brings about a true, spiritual Christianity, as distinct from a merely professional, formal or ritualistic kind of Christianity that is all on the outside. This mighty thing, a true spiritual Christianity - a life in the Spirit: how real, how effective it is! That is what we reach when we come to the Letter to the Galatians. It says that the Cross works out in a life in the Spirit, and that true Christianity is a spiritual thing.
Ephesians and Colossians
With that brief resume of what has gone before, we now turn to a few additional thoughts from the twin letters, 'To the Ephesians" (so-called), and "To the Colossians." It is quite evident that they are twin letters: you cannot read them without finding that you are covering very largely the same ground, only with a distinctive emphasis in each. And in them you come to some tremendous things.
Notice, first of all, that in these letters, as in all the others, the Cross is the foundation. In Ephesians, we are told that 'we who were dead in trespasses and sins were quickened and raised together with Him' (2.1, 5, 6): the Cross is there. In the Letter to the Colossians, we read of " ... the putting off of the body of the flesh, in the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with Him in baptism" (2:11, 12) - here you have the Cross again. The Cross is basic, that is the point. It is the foundation carried over from Romans.
Then, when you recognize that, you come upon what I think we may say are the two greatest things that have ever been disclosed by God. They are such wonderful things, that, if we really see them, not as in the Bible to be read, but as a reality in the heart, something is bound to happen to us.
Have you ever come upon something in the Word of God which has just overwhelmed you, carried you away? Perhaps I can illustrate this by a humorous little incident that occurred during ministry in the Far East. I was speaking in a meeting one day - of course by interpretation - when suddenly the dear brother at my side, who was interpreting for me into Chinese, went off into fits of uncontrollable laughter! There he was - he just could not stop laughing: and then the people caught it, and went off into laughter likewise! Well, this dear brother could not get back, he tried and struggled, but the more he struggled, the more he seemed to lose his control. I was not conscious of having said anything extraordinary - at least, nothing that would occasion such mirth. I had to wait, and wonder what it was all about - wondering what on earth I had said to cause this. And even a little later on, when he had recovered somewhat, and we had got away from that, the thing came back to him, and off he went again; and this happened more than once.
So afterward, when I had got him alone, I said: 'Look here, brother, what ever did I say? What did I say to cause you to go off like that, and all the people too? Did I say something so outrageous, so terribly funny to you?' He said: 'No, brother, no, nothing like that. It was just something we had never seen before, that is all; we had never seen that before!'
The point is this: it is possible to see something in the Word of God which carries you right away - it is so absolutely fresh, so new! The Lord deliver us from becoming so familiar with it all that it never provokes anything, it never stirs anything in us. It ought to be with us as it was with those dear Chinese friends. But that is by the way. When we come to these letters, if we have our eyes really opened, we come to things that are calculated to take our breath away, really to carry us right out of ourselves: for they are very wonderful things indeed. Perhaps when I mention them they will be so familiar that they will not stir you at all; but I cannot at any time reflect upon them without being tremendously moved. The language of them is indeed familiar, but may the Lord bring home to us something of the real impact and meaning of these words again. Let us, then, see what is the key to and the sum of this letter, that is called the Letter to the Ephesians.
Ephesians: "All Things In Christ"
Amidst all the wonderful fullness which is in this letter - and it is a very full letter indeed; almost every clause carries us out of our depth - there is a small fragment, which gathers the whole of the letter into itself; which really reveals what it is all about, what it all means. It is always very helpful to be able to get hold of something like that which contains everything. Here it is: "... the mystery of His will ... which He purposed in Him unto a dispensation of the fullness of the times, to sum up all things in Christ, the things in the heavens, and the things upon the earth; in Him, I say ..." (1:9, 10). "To sum up all things in Christ." That phrase "sum up' does not perhaps fully convey what the Apostle really meant and was saying. It goes as far as it can, but it might be better to say: 'to gather together (or better still: to subsume) all things in Christ.'
When sin came in through Adam, a great process of disintegration commenced. First of all, it began in the man himself: the man was no longer a single entity, he was a divided personality. And every child and son of Adam is a divided personality; there is civil war in his very nature, in his very constitution. He is a divided man, a man who is in conflict within himself. Is not that true of all of us? We know enough about ourselves to know that there is nothing in our natures, our make-up, our constitution, that speaks of complete harmony. There is war within us - war in our makeup; war in our temperament; war in our whole constitution. We are broken; we are divided; we are disintegrated. That happened in the man himself.
And then it happened between the first two - the only two - the man and his wife. You can discern the elements of disintegration and disruption between them: the man starts blaming the woman, and that is the beginning of a domestic schism. There had been a wonderful unity and harmony; they were "one flesh," it says (Genesis 2:24); but now - something has come in, and they are no longer like that. When they were driven out of the garden,c they were no doubt blaming each other, saying, "This is all your fault!" We are familiar with that sort of thing - recriminations and so on. Division has come between them; there is a strain in life.
And then what of the family which came through them? Here you have Cain and Abel, the first children, involved in schism, division, disintegration, even to the point of murder. And out from the family, the thing spread to the race, until thee ensued the great scattering, the dividing up of the race into its many, many parts, with all its diversity of languages, as we have it today. The whole race is broken to pieces, in a condition of utter disharmony. You pursue that through, and, before you are out of the Old Testament, you find the whole race divided into two irreconcilable sections, Jew and Gentile, hating each other with bitter hatred. The Jew will have nothing to do with the Gentile, calls the Gentiles 'dogs' - unclean things - and will have nothing to do with them. And the Gentile nations react against the Jews, as we know they have done all along and continue to do today. The present state of the human race is one of brokenness, scatteredness, discord, and hatred, quarrels and strife and conflict and war. From center to circumference it is all in pieces, and all the pieces are against one another. There is no harmony, no unity and no integration in the human race.
(continued with # 3 - "God's Secret")